Wednesday, 30 March 2011

How local innovation, coupled with scientific insights and principles, can help improve yields without harming the land, water and the rest of the environment

Documentary film series: the ingenuity and grassroots expertise of small farmers in developing countries

Organisation: Prolinnova and TVEAP

A new documentary film series highlights one way forward: tap the ingenuity and grassroots expertise of small farmers in the developing countries. They have long mastered the art of resilience and survival against formidable odds.
The 4-part series, produced by TVE Asia Pacific (TVEAP), shows how local innovation, coupled with scientific insights and principles, can help improve yields without harming the land, water and the rest of the environment.

TVEAP, a non-profit media foundation, produced the series in partnership with Prolinnova, a global learning network that promotes local innovation led by small-scale farmers in sustainable agriculture and management of natural resources.

The film series were premiered at the 2011 Prolinnova International Partners Workshop, on 21 March 2011 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (see related blog spot:
 International Forum on the Mainstreaming Participatory Approaches into Agricultural Research and Development

Filmed during 2010 in four countries on three continents, the short film series begins with an overview of the global agricultural research and development challenges tackled by Prolinnova partners. It shows how this work improves farmers’ ability to feed a world that’s both crowded and warming.

It also showcases the processes and products of participatory innovation development in three countries: Cambodia, Niger and South Africa. 

The examples featured in the series cover both technological and social innovation. Among them: an improved fish smoking oven and the use of millet glumes as cassava fertiliser in Niger; how goat rearing strengthens the economics of poor families in South Africa; and more efficient rice farming that uses considerably less water in Cambodia.

All four films illustrate how Prolinnova operates: bringing government, academic and civil society groups together with small farmers to work as equals.

Prolinnova partners are pleased with how the film series has turned out.

“The whole project -- which involved making three short films in Cambodia, Niger and South Africa, and an overview film covering the global programme -- was done within the span of a year. It was most challenging and exciting,” says Chesha Wettasinha, Coordinator of the film project of on behalf of Prolinnova at the ETC Foundation in The Netherlands.

She adds: “It was no small feat to capture in film concepts and approaches espoused by Prolinnova, but TVEAP did remarkably well in showing in a nutshell what we had written in reams of publications. Hats off to TVEAP for a job well done!”

The series was researched and scripted by TVEAP Director Nalaka Gunawardene, a science writer with wide experience in covering development issues in the print, television and online media.

“Many researchers and development professionals talk among themselves, usually in their own technical language,” says Gunawardene. “They don’t reach out enough to the policy makers, business leaders and the public. Films like these can bridge this gap, and make a difference.”

The series was conceptualised and produced by TVEAP under commission from the Prolinnova Network. It comes in two languages: English (original) and French (version). Interviews have been conducted in several local languages.

Says TVEAP’s Series Producer Manori Wijesekera: “Our challenge was to distil the essence of nearly a decade of field work by dozens of Prolinnova partners. We had to tell their story in an engaging and authentic manner – and in a nutshell.”

The series was filmed with local video crews in Cambodia, Niger and South Africa – as well as at the 2010 international partner meeting held in Wageningen, The Netherlands. Prolinnova partners at each location provided technical guidance and logistical support. The series was edited and post-produced in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where TVEAP is anchored. 

Both Prolinnova and TVEAP are firmly committed to the principles of open content. Thus, the video film series is being released and distributed without any copyright restrictions. The films may be used, adapted, versioned or copied without license fees or royalty payments, as long as the original sources are acknowledged.

The films can also be viewed online, in their entirety, at the TVEAP website:

PROLINNOVA Niger: Arid Land, Fertile Minds

Friday, 25 March 2011

Africa agriculture experts brainstorm in Cameroon

"23-25 March. Yaoundé, Cameroon - 250 participants, including agriculture experts, development partners, researchers, scientists and other stakeholders from across Africa and beyond attended the seventh Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme(CAADP) Partnership Platform (PP) conference. The AUC officials included Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, NEPAD Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Abebe Haile Gabriel of AUC and Head of CAADP-NPAC, Mr. Martin Bwalya.

Farmers, experts and global partners
in attendance at the 7th CAADP PP
The theme for this year’s meeting was: ”Mutual Accountability in the formulation and implementation of country CAADP investment plans”.

The first two days were devoted to sharing-learning from CAADP Partners and members. The meeting was about the implementation of CAADP plan, sustaining the gains achieved over the years and giving attention to the management of resources. The meeting also reviewed the ongoing efforts in the regional and country-level.

Promises made by African leaders to increase their investment in agriculture to ten per cent of their national budgets have been met by only eight out of 53 countries. But annual international donations to agricultural research capacity in Africa have soared from US$25 million annually to US$120 million in the period 2005–2010.

CAADP implementation will focus on post-compact implementation and more specifically on the 2011 implementation support’’ considering the National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans as a central instrument for attracting increased private sector investment financing into agriculture.
“CAADP is about advancing the common vision of Africa for development. It is about sharing experience on CAADP implementation; facilitate dialogue and mobilizing efforts and energy for implementing Africa Agricultural development. It will pay attention to local ownership, issue around financing, private sector involvement and accountability”, Head of CAADP-NPAC, Mr. Martin Bwalya said. (Related an interview with Mr. Martin Bwalya in Brussels, dated 24/10/2007)

German Development Cooperation representative and current Chair of Development Partners for CAADP, Sonja Palm, while reiterating the readiness of the group to continue to support the growth of agriculture in Africa, identified some challenges that need to be addressed.
She said, “to ensure that we can build on existing momentum and that these plans translate to concrete coordinated and harmonised programmes that deliver results, policy-makers need to transfer ownership and understanding of their investment plans and detailed programmes to those who will take forward implementation. We strongly believe that technical and political support needs to target these people and organisations.”

Dr Mayaki’s interview on Morning live

Dr. Mayaki's interview on "Hello Cameroon" (the interview starts at 4:05)

Dr. Mayaki's interview on "Hello Cameroon" - Part B (interview ends at 5:55)

The other relevant links are:
Pictures , VideosDocuments 

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Mushroom production using coffee waste

Het Proces
GRO (green recycled organics) (The Netherlands)  has begun mushroom production using coffee waste from the La Place range of restaurants in a closed transport network with Vroegop-Windig transporters
  • La Place restaurants collect coffee grounds into re-used sealable plastic buckets. 
  • Vroegop Windig transports this to GRO where the coffee is used for the cultivation of mushrooms.
  • Vroegop-Windig takes the harvest back to La Place, where mushrooms are used in many dishes. 
220 tons of coffee waste is produced a year at La Place, now this residue is a basis for new products, making full use of logistics at no extra mileage. Possible developments are to also use spent grains from breweries for the cultivation of mushrooms, to begin producing cleaning products using citrus waste, and as production expands, to employ disadvantaged youth. Thus different partnerships within a chain can implement responsible and sustainable production and use of residues. GRO has won the first Horecava Sustainabilty Award 2011.

Chido Govera (Zimbabwe)
GRO (green recycled organics) was established in the Netherlands, inspired by projects in Zimbabwe, and with cooperation with the Ten Foundation.

The method of using agro-waste to farm nutrient rich mushrooms only working with biomass left-overs has been demonstrated in Zimbabwe, Colombia and India. UNDP supported the original work in Africa.

The backbone of this project was the knowledge and experience of Ms Chido Govera and the support structure originally provided by the African University in Mutare, Zimbabwe and researcher Mrs. Margaret Tagwira in particular. The program started with technical support of Prof. Dr. S. T. Chang from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a grant from the ZERI Fondation. Chido started her work with agro-waste as an orphan from the countryside some 40 km outside Mutare, Zimbabwe. She received her mushroom farming training at the age of 12, after surviving for 5 years scavenging waste food and working for a bowl of milo after her mother succumbed to the AIDS virus. Now at the age of 28 she has a rich experience in training and supporting women and orphans in Zimbabwe, Colombia and India. (see: ZERI Southern Africa)
An excerpt from an Article by ZERI Pan-Pacific; Chido Govera: The Orphan who Discovered Mushrooms:
Margaret Tagwira
Margaret Tagwira set out to test water hyacinth as a substrate for mushroom growing and presented a first scientific paper outlining the results of her findings with the peer review of Prof. S. T. Chang and Prof. Dr. Keto Mshigeni (then Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Namibia) . She discovered that on one hundred kilograms of dry base water hyacinth, she could harvest up to 240 kilograms of fresh mushrooms, known as a biological efficiency of 240 percent. Margaret felt that there was a great need to quickly move beyond the academic exercise to determine the biological efficiency; she wanted to ensure that the recent findings would empower a growing number of vulnerable citizens. In the fall of 1996, Margaret organized the first mushroom farming training for 15 orphans at Africa University. Chido Govera was amongst the first to participate in this program. She was barely 12 years old though keen to learn how to feed her family nucleus without having to scavenge the fields, and how to convert this generative capacity of natural systems into a permanent resource for their local community.
Now fast forward to 2011, Chido Govera is now organizing hands-on trainings in villages around the world. Chido plans to maintain a small research base in Zimbabwe. Learning from her teacher, she takes an “approach to sharing solutions in a way that is easily understood and accessible to the poorest since she knows how to survive with little.”
The ZERI Foundation’s innovative pulp-to-protein project received SCaa’s 2009 Sustainability award, while the program benefits farmers’ livelihoods and the environment. Zero Emissions Research & Initiatives (ZERI) is a global network of creative minds seeking solutions to world challenges. The common vision shared by the members of the ZERI family is to view waste as resource and seek solutions using nature's design principles as inspiration. Please read HERE

Future of Pastoralism

March 21st – 23rd, 2011. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This international conference debated the future of pastoralists in Africa.

The future of pastoralism in Africa is uncertain and radical changes are affecting Pastoralist areas in terms of access to resources, options for mobility and opportunities for marketing. These changes bring new possibilities for making pastoralist livelihoods stronger but many questions remain about the sustainability of these changes: Is there opportunity for a productive, vibrant, market-oriented livelihood system or will pastoralist areas remain a backwater of underdevelopment, marginalisation and severe poverty? How can pastoralist ‘drop-outs’ be supported after they leave the livelihood but continue to interact with the livestock sector?

New Policy brief

Report_darkinnovation_worksInnovation works: pastoralists building secure livelihoods in the Horn of Africa

Pastoralist areas of the Horn of Africa are experiencing rapid change. Markets are opening up, helping to improve livelihoods and generate substantial new wealth for local and national economies. Political and constitutional changes are creating opportunities for pastoralists to influence decision-making around the allocation of public resources as well as laws and practices affecting their rights. New technologies such as mobile phones as well as improvements in roads are opening up pastoral areas to greater movements of people, goods, and ideas. And new ways of delivering services to mobile and remote pastoralist populations have improved their access to healthcare, veterinary services and education.
Pastoralist Innovation: a critical comment
Beside its many valuable characteristics and despite its determination to go in the opposite direction, the pastoralists’ innovation approach also lends itself to tick several boxes on the list of the ‘dismissed and undesirables’ in pastoral development.
For a start, the focus appears to be limited to the ‘latest news’. There seems to be no attempt to track and study the development of innovations that might have been introduced in the past. This is probably a feature of any ‘innovation’ approach as such, and would pose no problem if we looked at, say, mobile communication or green combustion. However, in the case of pastoralism, the emphasis on ‘new’ is too easily read in contrast with deeply rooted images (from the pastoral development legacy) of a ‘traditional’ pastoralism, uninteresting and ineffective. In the wrong hands, and obviously contrary to the intentions of the ‘pastoralists’ innovation’ approach, this might just confirm the fictional opposition of ‘old’ and ‘new’ (traditional and modern) that has already costed so much to dryland producers and to their countries.
To make things worse, ‘innovation’ is often defined against specialised pastoralism itself, as a diversion from ‘tradition’. Yet, we know for example that specialised dryland pastoralists have developed (and surely aredeveloping) strategies for exploiting the heterogeneity of the drylands for animal production. One would think that pastoralists’ innovation could therefore be defined against other, less sophisticated or simply different ways of using the environment, rather than against a mythical ‘traditional pastoralism’. In the same light, innovation could be sought at the core of pastoral production (rather than at its edges) and in the continuous development and adaptation of its characteristic strategies. Can we look (also) at the specialised producers rather than only at those who are have fallen out or are opting out of specialised dryland strategies?
After all, as one of the authors did not fail to emphasise when I asked him during the coffee break, these ‘innovations’ are just small-scale practices that depend, for their existence, on the continuation of specialised pastoralism. Innovative ‘town camels’ need to be sent back to the bush at the end of lactation or when they cannot take town any longer. Similarly, the herds of cattle used by pastoralist innovators who have shifted from breeding to trading, still need someone to breed them first. Without those guys in the bush none of this would be sustainable. Securing their requirements as specialised dryland producers would be, indeed, a fine innovation.
Mr. Saverio Krätli, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex

Mobile Pastoralists and Education: Strategic Options

Details: 68 pages (Report) The paper reviews successful and innovative approaches to education provision around the world that can inform and inspire new approaches to nomadic education. 


Science, Technology and Innovation among Ethiopian and Kenyan pastoralists - a new FAC Occasional Paper

While there has been much discussion of the importance of innovation in African agriculture, remarkably little has focused on mobile pastoral systems. Everyone agrees that science, technology and innovation must be at the centre of economic growth, livelihood improvement and development more broadly. But it must always be asked: what innovation - and for whom? Decisions about direction, diversity and distribution are key in any discussion of innovation options and wider development pathways. In March 2009 over 50 pastoralists from across southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya from a dozen ethnic groups gathered in the Borana lowlands at the ‘University of the Bush’ to debate key pastoral development issues. This week-long event was hosted by the Oromia Pastoralist Association and organised by the Democracy, Growth and Peace for Pastoralists project of the Pastoralist Communication Initiative.
Pastoralism videos
Hereunder you can view a selection of short videos, in English or French language, exploring the impact of climate change on drylands pastoralists. For more information and downloadable publications, see also:
Diffa: the morning light

Ngaynaaka: Herding Chaos
Ngaynaaka: Herding Chaos, by Saverio Krätli

Ngaynaaka: L'élevage et le Chaos, by Saverio Krätli

Those Wild Bororo, by Saverio Krätli

Ces Bororo Farouche, by Saverio Krätli

Meeting at the Intusa school (WoDaaBe) June 2008, by Saverio Krätli

Réunion à l'école d'Intusa (WoDaaBe) Juin 2008, by Saverio Krätli

Scenario Planning with African Pastoralists
Scenario planning with the WoDaaBe in Niger 2008, by Saverio Krätli

La planification par scénarios avec les WoDaaBe au Niger, by Saverio Krätli

Scenario planning with Boran and Somali Herders (Kenya)

La planification par scénarios avec éleveurs Boran et Somali (Kenya)

Peace, Trade, Livelihoods and Adaptation to Climate Change in Africa's Drylands
Peace, trade, livelihoods and adaptation to climate change in Africa’s drylands