Crop diversification finds home for ‘orphan crops’

Farmer from Teso. Knowledge of orphan crops should conserved © Bioversity International/ Y.Wachira

Farmer from Teso, Kenya. Indigenous knowledge of orphan crops should be conserved © Bioversity International/ Y.Wachira

The term ‘orphan crops’ refers to plant species and varieties that of recent decades have been ignored by governments, seed companies and scientists due to their limited importance in global markets. Instead, only a few major staples have been of interest. From fruits and vegetables to grains and nuts, many orphan crops are highly nutritious, resilient to climate extremes and are well adapted to marginal soils. They are therefore of great significance for food security and the generation of income to the world’s poorest communities.

Read more of this post

Could Food Insecure Africa Have Found a Saviour in Farming God’s Way?

Proponents term it the long awaited messiah that food-insecure Africa has been yearning for! ‘Farming God’s way’ promises to end fertilizer woes of resource-poor farmers in the continent by providing a cheaper and less labour intensive farming method.

Elizabeth showing how high and dense her "Farming God's Way" - farmed maize has got (A Rocha Kenya)

Elizabeth showing how high and dense her “Farming God’s Way” – farmed maize has got
(A Rocha Kenya)

Food security remains the number one major challenge that citizens across the African continent contend with. While the Green Revolution of the 1960s allowed erstwhile food deficient regions of Asia and Latin America to triple crop yields, food production in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has remained stagnant and in many instances it has even declined. According to IFPRI, among the factors fuelling the continent’s low agricultural outputs include poor resource endowments, minimal use of inputs (fertilizer, improved seeds and irrigation) and adverse policies undermining agriculture. Additionally, continuing environmental degradation, crop pests, high population growth and low levels of investment in agricultural infrastructure has further aggravated the resource limitations of agriculture in Africa.

Read more of this post

New Video: Interview with Plant Doctor Kija Edith, Tanzania

KijaPeter

Contributed by Stefan Toepfer, CABI Switzerland with Peter Karanja, CABI Africa

Tanzanian frontline agricultural extension workers had an opportunity to refresh and improve their skills in diagnosing crop health problems of small holder farmers during a practical training course in Morogoro, Tanzania. This was part of a set of trainings provided by Plantwise Tanzania, which certifies extension workers as plant doctors, enabling them to operate local plant clinics. Kija Edith is one of the trained plant doctor who has been running a plant clinic over the past year in a village market in Kiroka, Central Tanzania. She explains her experiences identifying pest problems and advising farmers to one of Africa`s most experienced Plantwise trainers, Peter Karanja from CABI Africa. Watch the video and find our more at www.plantwise.org

Agroecology – benefiting farmers around the world

Farmers is Malawi are realising the benefits of acroecology © CIMMYT ( CC BY-NC-SA licence)

Farmers in Malawi are realising the benefits of acroecology © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA licence)

This week, the UK Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, David Heath, has announced his support for the use of agroecological farming methods which are seen as the foundation of sustainable agriculture. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology (IAASTD) define agroecology as “the science and practice of applying ecological concepts and principles to the study, design and management of sustainable agroecosystems”. In practice, this means simulating natural ecosystems and using low inputs to increase productivity.

In 2011 the UN reported that by using agroecological methods, projects carried out in 20 different African countries were able to double crop yields in 3-10 years. The projects also recorded a reduction in the use of pesticides, leading to savings for the farmers. The agroecological approach has multiple benefits, beyond these economic gains. It also takes into account social and environmental issues, including soil fertility, water availability and climate change.  Read more of this post

Is sustainable agriculture the answer to climate change?

Drought can have devastating effects on crop yields (Credit: USAID Africa Bureau)

Drought can have devastating effects on crop yields
(Credit: USAID Africa Bureau)

As the most recent set of climate change talks draw to a close, the focus is once again on the policies that could help in the resolution of this global issue. There has been little faith in the outcomes of these talks before, with targets continuously missed. The conference aims to secure a new treaty by 2015, replacing the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which has seen a range of success and failures. The current talks are being held in Doha, Qatar, which has the highest per capita carbon emissions and gets the majority of its income from the sale of fossil fuels.

Read more of this post

Earthworm-farmer friendship, redefined

Earthworms suppress fungal diseases in the soil © pfly (Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 license)

Earthworms are known as farmers’ best friends because of the multitude of services they provide that improve soil health and consequently plant health. The density of earthworms in the soil is considered to be a good indicator of a healthy soil because they improve many soil attributes like structure, water holding capacity, moisture content etc., and also increase nutrient availability and degrade pesticide residues. As scientists understand these ‘ecosystem services’ provided by earthworms, they discover that this earthworm-farmer friendship is a lot deeper than previously imagined! Read more of this post

Ecosystem services and the need for sustainable intensification

Our first guest blog is from Professor Tim Benton. Tim is Professor of Ecology at the University of Leeds, where his research interests focus around agriculture-ecological interactions.  He also currently has a role as “Champion” for the UK’s Global Food Security programme which aims to coordinate food security related research across the major public funders. Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,186 other followers