Published on 21
In the Senegal River Valley, haphazard harvesting and rudimentary post-harvest handling of rice led to post-harvest crop losses of up to 35 per cent. To combat the inefficiency of manual threshing, a partnership between the Africa Rice Center, national agricultural research systems and private sector organisations in Senegal developed an improved rice thresher, specifically for the region. Named after the three partners, the ASI has reduced labour requirements and eliminated back-breaking tasks for women, sped up post-harvest processes, produced a higher quality product and increased the marketability of local rice in the face of imports.
An impact study conducted in 2009 showed that ASI continues to be one of the most important improved post-harvest technologies for rice in the Senegal River Valley (SRV). More than 50 per cent of the total paddy produced in Senegal is now threshed with the ASI, and the proportion of grain threshed is increasing in neighbouring countries, where similar partnerships have developed machines to suit local needs and capacities. AfricaRice is now developing a small and affordable combine harvester. >>>more
Published on 10
Tomato yellow leaf curl disease (TYLCD) is caused by a diverse group of plant viruses called begomoviruses that are transmitted by the whitefly (Bemisia tabaci). Tomato leaf curl virus (ToLCV) and Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV) can wipe out an entire tomato crop if the infection occurs at an early stage. Pesticides are often misused in the tropics and subtropics in an attempt to control whitefly. As a result B. tabaci has developed resistance to many insecticides.
By using gene pyramiding - combining multiple Ty genes into existing tomato lines - AVRDC breeders have produced tropical tomatoes with resistance to several whitefly-transmitted begomoviruses, allowing farmers to reduce pesticide use, thus reducing the costs of production, increasing net profit and protecting the health of farmers, consumers and the environment. From 2010 to date, AVRDC has sent 1,176 seed packets of the multiple Ty lines to 118 recipients in 46 countries around the world. AVRDC continues to develop and distribute new improved TYLCD-resistant lines today. >>>more
Published on 12
In the early 1990s, scientists in Kenya noticed that traditional ALVs were rapidly disappearing from farmers’ fields and people’s tables. Bioversity and its partners in Kenya set out to reverse this trend. Between 1996 and 2004, work was undertaken to collect, characterise and analyse the nutritional values of ALVs before identifying priority species, enhancing genetic material, and improving horticultural practices, marketing and processing of ALVs.
About 12 additional ALV species were introduced into the formal market in Kenya. Seeds were made available and over 450 farmers were trained on proper growing of ALVs. As a result, the area under ALV cultivation increased by 69 per cent. An impact assessment study in 2007 showed that nearly two-thirds of households surveyed growing ALVs increased their income, with women being the main beneficiaries. In almost 80 per cent of households surveyed, it was the women exclusively who kept the income from sales of ALVs. The percentage of farmers planting at least one species of ALV increased by almost 23 per cent, while nearly half of the households surveyed had increased their consumption of leafy vegetables. Today, farmers and local groups are continuing to spread knowledge of diversity and share seeds, showing the sustainability of the programme. The impact of this long-term programme is evident on farms, on tables and in markets, where production and use of ALVs has increased. >>>more
Published on 21
African indigenous vegetables (AIVs) have traditionally been a significant contributor to food security and nutrition for smallholder farmers in East Africa and are also important in providing incomes, particularly for women. However, farmers’ capacity to meet a growing demand for these vegetables has been limited by lack of good quality seed.
After testing three farmer-led seed production models, the project team - facilitated by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and led by CABI - concluded that a ‘contract’ model is the most effective, with farmers earning on average US$4,500 (up from US$1,500) per year. Under this system, farmers are linked with the private sector and are guaranteed to receive high quality seed that meets regulations and market requirements, while also being assured of a market. For farmers with no formal contracts with seed companies, a ‘research mediated’ model was found to be the most appropriate in countries with a strict regulatory seed system, and where regulations are more flexible, a ‘quality declared seed’ model worked well.
Plans are underway to upscale this work in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda and begin tackling marketing challenges, to provide and sustain the demand for high quality AIV seed.>>>more
Published on 12
In 1985 the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) embarked on bean research in central Africa, covering the Great Lakes region. Started as a CIAT project, the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) has developed a highly inclusive and effective approach to collaborative research for the development of improved beans.
Breeding efforts have paid close attention to disease resistance, bean size, shape and colour, as well as post-harvest attributes such as cooking time, which helps to conserve the environment by saving fuelwood. These qualities ensure that bean producers are able to accept the new varieties and sell them in the market. PABRA, with strong support from CIAT, also devised a new seed sector model (the Wider Impact Program) to address problems such as limited supplies and high costs of quality seeds. Ongoing activities - including plant breeding, integrated crop management, technology delivery, and market access - promise to expand the successful outcomes achieved so far. >>>more
Published on 12
A partnership between IWMI and Sri Lankan Government agencies dates back to a national ‘Water for Food’ conference in 2009. After presenting research on the impacts of climate change on water resources and agriculture in Sri Lanka, the Institute was invited to attend workshops organised by the Ministry of Environment, provide information and comment on draft government reports.
Through this collaboration, IWMI has made a significant contribution to the development of Sri Lanka’s climate change adaptation policies. IWMI research findings have been incorporated in the country’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2011-2016 and Sri Lanka’s Second National Communication on Climate Change, which was submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2011. IWMI’s findings are being used in a number of new projects, including a 2012 UNDP initiative aimed at building climate resilient activities into national household food security improvement and rural infrastructure programmes. >>>more
Published on 1
Globally, more than half of all cropland is low in plant-available phosphorus, posing a serious problem for poor, remote, rice-farming communities that must manage without fertilisers. But with support from the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (GCP), a partnership of researchers in developing and developed countries has isolated a gene that increases the uptake of phosphorus in rice, thereby increasing production.
In field tests under moderate stress, rice with a specific tolerance gene called ‘Phosphorus Starvation Tolerance 1’ - PSTOL1 - yielded up to 20 per cent more grain than rice varieties without the gene. Under severe stress, even higher yield advantages can be expected. Using conventional breeding methods, the team of scientists is already breeding rice plants with the PSTOL1 gene to help farmers improve their yields. The development of gene-specific molecular markers means that rice breeders will be able to breed new varieties faster and more easily. The first varieties should be released to farmers within three to five years. >>>more
Published on 21
Micronutrient malnutrition, also known as ‘hidden hunger’, afflicts billions of people worldwide, and can lead to blindness, stunting, impaired cognitive development in children, increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, and even premature death. Since 2004, HarvestPlus has been breeding staple crops consumed by the poor - and often malnourished - in Asia and Africa that provide more vitamin A, iron and zinc. These have been developed through conventional breeding techniques, drawing on many thousands of plant samples held in existing germplasm collections.
More than 60 per cent of farmers in Uganda and Mozambique adopted vitamin A-rich varieties of orange sweet potato (OSP). The intake of OSP among children and women increased by two-thirds or more in both countries when OSP was available, leading to a significant rise in vitamin A intake. Notably, for children aged 6-35 months, OSP contributed 78 per cent of their total vitamin A intake in Mozambique and 53 per cent in Uganda. In 2011, vitamin A-rich cassava varieties were released in Nigeria, and in 2012 iron pearl millet was commercialised and sold to farmers in India, iron-rich bean varieties were released in Rwanda and vitamin A-rich maize was released in Zambia. Breeding is underway for zinc rice in Bangladesh and zinc wheat in Pakistan. >>>more
Published on 21
ICARDA’s research project focused on practical low-cost technologies to improve dairy goat production, including re-stocking, vaccination and de-worming, improved milking and dairy processing, and cultivation of fodder plants.
Between 2006 and 2009 the programme worked with 546 women from 14 villages in two rural provinces. Project-trained basic veterinary officers provided advice and treatment; women facilitators based in target villages disseminated information and linked the communities with other project partners. The women’s groups continue to operate profitably, with government agencies and NGOs using them to implement other community developmental activities.
Results from the programme include improved animal health and productivity, higher milk yields, improved dairy products, better market access for women, higher incomes and better nutrition. The project approach (simple technologies, large-scale training programmes and community participation) provides a model that is ready to be scaled out to many other developing countries. >>>more
Published on 21
Researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and national agricultural and forestry institutions in Africa have been evaluating and promoting the use of fertiliser trees and shrubs since the late 1980s. Results from a study by the Conservation Farming Unit in Zambia found that unfertilised maize yields in the vicinity of Faidherbia trees averaged 4.1 tonnes per hectare, compared to 1.3 tonnes per hectare nearby but beyond the canopy. In Malawi, analysis of 140 farmers showed that plots with Gliricidia sepium, Tephrosia candida or Tephrosia vogelii generated between 1.4 and 2 tonnes per hectare more of maize grain compared to other maize plots on the same farms.
The success of EverGreen Agriculture has prompted national governments to deepen their support for the expansion of the practice. There has also been vigorous political action at the continental level. A broad alliance is emerging of governments, international donors, research institutions and international and local development partners, in order to expand EverGreen Agriculture. >>>more
Published on 13
Over the last ten years, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has been promoting conservation agriculture (CA). The number of smallholders practising some form of CA in Zimbabwe increased from 5,000 in 2005 to more than 150,000 in 2011, with cereal yields rising 15 to 100 per cent across different regions.
Published on 12
Yam species are a staple food for at least 60 million people in West Africa, particularly those in poorer income groups. However, production of yam is severely constrained by the cost and availability of healthy seed yam planting material, with farmers traditionally keeping back around a third of their harvest for planting the following season. In response, a series of research projects in Nigeria during the last ten years have developed an effective and affordable technique for farmers to produce their own seed yam.
Beginning in 2003, and led by researchers from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) with the Natural Resources Institute, University of Reading and Diocesan Development Services (DDS), a project in Kogi and Ekiti States in Nigeria used on-farm and on-station trials to develop, test and promote the Adapted Yam Minisett Technique (AYMT). The technique involves cutting yam tubers into approximately 80g pieces, treating them with a fungicide/insecticide dip and allowing the cut surfaces to dry before planting. The technique was found to produce seed yams that were both healthier and up to six times higher yielding than farmers own methods. Continuing the research, a 2011 project found that commercial production of seed yam, using the AYMT, could be a viable and profitable option for smallholder farmers; with gross margins potentially double those from growing yam as a food crop. >>>more
Published on 1
grass has become the most important fodder crop in Kenya, but 20 years ago head smut disease began to have a devastating impact, turning valuable fodder into thin, shrivelled stems. With the cost of disease control using systemic fungicide beyond the means of most smallholder dairy farmers, KARI began work to select smut-resistant varieties.
With access to Napier grass germplasm from ILRI’s genebank, KARI developed two resistant varieties - Kakamega I and Kakamega II. Favourable laboratory results were confirmed in farmer’s fields and work began to multiply planting material. Within a year, cuttings were distributed to over 10,000 smallholder farmers. The new varieties are not quite as productive as the best of Kenya’s local Napier grass varieties, but have still proven popular in smut-affected areas. By 2007, 13 per cent of farmers were using Kakamega I for zero grazing systems in smut prone areas.
The chance of head smut resistance breaking down in the new varieties is high, so KARI is screening more materials from ILRI, which is continuing to build its Napier grass collection to have germplasm available to screen for new resistant varieties. In 2012, ILRI provided the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, Embrapa, with Kakamega I and II to enable researchers to use them to develop higher yielding and more nutritious resistant varieties. >>>more
Published on 13
Every year it is estimated that 500,000 new tube
wells are sunk in India - that’s one every 60 seconds. Some commentators
have branded this trend a new ‘anarchy’, fearing that overexploitation
could irreversibly deplete water tables beyond their capacity to
recharge through rainfall.
But research by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) presents a more nuanced picture. Some drier areas in India urgently need to regulate groundwater to make its use more sustainable. Other wetter areas, however, could do more to help poor farmers boost their incomes through improved groundwater access. Evidence from Gujarat in the semi-arid west, and West Bengal in the monsoon soaked east, are demonstrating that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in groundwater management - and India’s policymakers are taking notice. >>>more
Published on 12
Reputable advocacy work must be founded on facts and sound scientific evidence. An annually updated Global Hunger Index (GHI) is published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in partnership with two non-governmental organisations - Ireland’s Concern Worldwide and Germany’s Welthungerhilfe - to make the challenge of hunger more transparent and to report to policymakers, civil society and the media about progress and regress in tackling hunger. Designed to help mobilise political will and promote effective policies for combating hunger in developed and developing countries, the Index captures three dimensions of hunger: insufficient availability of food, shortfalls in the nutritional status of children and child mortality. The 2012 GHI shows that hunger has declined since 1990, but not dramatically, and remains at a level characterised as ‘serious’.
Four influential European NGOs (Welthungerhilfe, Concern Worldwide, ACTED and CESVI) currently use the Index as part of their advocacy work. The GHI has also served as a model and intellectual framework for country specific indices. In 2008, the India State Hunger Index was constructed to compare hunger levels between states within India and as a result has considerable penetration in policy debate. In 2009 the World Food Programme (WFP) used the GHI model to develop a sub-regional hunger index for Nepal. In 2013, NGOs from the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands will use the Index at a national level. >>>more
Published on 12
Published on 12
Aflatoxins are highly toxic chemical poisons produced mainly by the fungus Aspergillus flavus in certain food crops. The fungal toxins suppress the immune system, impede growth and development and cause liver disease and death. Women, children and the poor are particularly vulnerable.
Biological control has proved to be a practical and effective method of reducing aflatoxin in the field. IITA, in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) developed aflasafe™, which uses native strains of A. flavus that do not produce aflatoxins. These atoxigenic strains are applied to ‘push out’ their toxin cousins so crops are less contaminated, in a process called ‘competitive exclusion’. Field testing of aflasafe™ in Nigeria has produced extremely positive results: aflatoxin contamination of maize and groundnut was consistently reduced by 80-90 per cent. A demonstration-scale manufacturing plant for aflasafe™ is under construction at IITA and other countries are now pursuing biocontrol research. >>>more
Published on 12
Traditionally, rice is grown in continuously flooded fields but water for agriculture is becoming increasingly scarce. Scientists have estimated that by 2025, 15-20 million hectares of irrigated rice will suffer some degree of water scarcity. Aware of the precarious state of water resources, the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC) has worked to explore, develop and promote strategies and technologies for farmers to help them improve water management and boost yields.
Established in 1997, IRRC provides a framework for partnership between the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), national agricultural research and extension systems and the private sector in 11 Asian countries. Working together, Consortium members developed a technique known as ‘alternate wetting and drying’ (AWD). By implementing a cycle of alternate low-level flooding and periods when the soil is allowed to dry out, water requirements can be reduced by up to 30 per cent, with no yield reduction. To enable farmers to avoid over-drying the soil and determine when re-flooding is required, a simple ‘level gauge’ - PaniPipe - was devised, eliminating the need for complex tables or charts. IRRI is researching the potential of AWD to reduce methane emissions from paddy fields. >>>more
Published on 12
Rice is a major cereal crop in Nigeria but in the northern guinea savannah (NGS), low soil fertility contributes to low yields. Farmers are aware of the importance of fertilisers to replace nutrients removed in harvested crops, but can little afford them from the revenues provided by subsistence farming.
After three years of activities, SSA CP - facilitated by the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA) and supported by the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) - designed an innovation platform (IP) to bring together a variety of actors involved in the rice value chain to identify constraints and jointly develop solutions to address soil fertility issues. By the end of the project, an innovative planting method and site-specific fertiliser recommendations had been developed, doubling paddy yields. The participatory nature of the project has also increased the skills and knowledge of farmers. Connectivity to networks has also facilitated access to farm inputs, agricultural extension and opportunities from public and private agricultural organisations. >>> more
Published on 12
In 2009, WorldFish initiated a 15-month project aimed at improving the capacity of a network of fishing communities to engage in collective action at local and provincial levels, in support of equitable governance arrangements to better anticipate and manage competing uses of aquatic resources.
Outcomes included important shifts in fishery access rights (transfer of a large commercial fishing concession to community access) and resource management authority (resolution of disputes over fishing access between neighbouring provinces). Motivated by such successes, the main national grassroots network representing fishing communities has worked to replicate and adapt stakeholder facilitation in other areas, strengthen and formalise links with NGOs, and improve its capacity to collaborate with and influence the Government. Project lessons are being incorporated in initiatives elsewhere in the Mekong basin and in Africa (Lake Victoria and Lake Kariba basins), Bangladesh and the Soloman Islands. >>> more
More than 50% of the total paddy in Senegal is threshed with the ASI rice thresher (© R.Raman/AfricaRice)
Demand of ALV began outweighing supply in Nairobi supermarkets
(© S. Mann/Bioversity International)
Over 8 million smallholders grow improved beans, developed through the PABRA network
(© Neil Palmer/CIAT)
Napier grass is the most important fodder crop in Kenya (©ILRI/ Dave Elsworth)
Inspecting a drip irrigation device in Gujarat
(© Sharni Jayawardena/IWMI)
The GHI is designed to help mobilise political will
aflasafe™ is natural, safe and cost-effective (© IITA)