Traditional African leafy vegetables are valuable for many different reasons. They hold cultural importance, are well adapted to the environments they are grown in, and often have much higher nutritional value than more widely known crops such as lettuce and cabbage, with many being rich in iron, vitamin C and vitamin A. Some vegetables are even used for their medicinal benefits or as nutritional supplements (nutraceuticals), and they are also important sources of income.
In Benin, Bioversity International has been working with national research partners to further investigate the nutritional value of different species such as wild African black plum (Vitex doniana), African eggplant (Solanum macrocarpon) and waterleaf (Talinum triangulare).
India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan along with China account for nearly half of the world’s total groundwater use and these regions are expected to experience serious deficits, says the UN World Water Development Report (WWDR 2015), Water for a Sustainable World 2015 released ahead of World Water Day on 22 March.
Ever since 1959/60 with ‘World Refugee Year’ we’ve seen all manner of‘International Years of’ (IYO). These global ‘observances’ are endorsed by the United Nations, an international organisation established after the Second World War and whose noble and worthy objectives include maintaining international peace and security, promoting human rights, fostering social and economic development, protecting the environment, and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict. Developing the notion that global problems require global solutions and action – and few issues are more pressing and global than food security – 2015 is the IYO (or on…) Soils (or IYS at it is officially abbreviated).
United Nations News Centre – Cost of deforestation in Kenya far exceeds gains from forestry and logging,
Kenya: Study – Kenya Loses 5.6 Million Trees Daily
According to the study by Green Africa Foundation, a non-governmental agency, Kenya loses an astonishing 5.6 million trees daily, despite relentless campaigns on environmental conservation.
The research findings reveal that 64.6 percent of all Kenya’s 8.7 million households (based on the 2009 national population census) depend entirely on firewood as their cooking fuel, where each harvests between 10kgs and 20kgs of firewood daily.
The deforestation problem in Kenya captures the situation on the entire African continent.
Studies show that at the end of 1990, Africa had an estimated 528 million hectares, or 30 percent of the world’s tropical forests. In several Sub-Saharan African countries, the rate of deforestation exceeded the global annual average of 0.8 percent.
While deforestation in other parts of the world is mainly caused by commercial logging or cattle ranching the leading causes in Africa are associated with human activity.
Developing countries rely heavily on wood fuel, the major energy source for cooking and heating. In Africa, the statistics are striking: an estimated 90 percent of the entire continent’s population uses wood fuel for cooking, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, firewood and brush supply approximately 52 percent of all energy sources.
A bag garden in Kenya Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT
Why work to promote home gardens in Africa needs a rethink
Research on home gardens in Africa must rewind and refocus on the grassroots, according to a new report published today by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). It explores the available knowledge and lessons learned from past experiences in promoting home gardens in Africa, with a special emphasis on water management.
It also emphasizes the need for researchers to focus on more inclusive assessments. In this respect, the report urges fellow researchers to break away from the conventional approach of treating home gardens in isolation. Instead, they should be viewed as part of a bigger picture that takes into account agriculture, water supplies and prevailing health, social and economic systems. Follow-up of research results is seen as the critical missing link in actually making use of research results.
West Africa: Can ‘Down to Earth’ Innovations Keep Hunger At Bay in the Sahel?
by Jerome Bossuet
Poor soils means poor farmers
Echoing the Montpellier Panel conclusions in their “No ordinary matter” report, sustainable soil management is urgently needed because land degradation is a huge burden, particularly in developing countries. Nearly 3.3% of agricultural GDP in sub-Saharan Africa is lost annually because of soil and nutrient losses, estimated at over 30 kg/ha/year.
Malian agricultural policies do not precisely state preservation of soil fertility as a priority. The high population growth rate (2.9% per year) means the land under cultivation is continually expanding, but this cannot continue.
Inclusive innovation platforms
Whatever the strategies to adapt and restore soils, it is important to work through farmers’ organisations. Innovation can stem from NGOs, academics, the private sector and farmers themselves.
“Given that soil is the cornerstone to food security, better rural livelihoods and agricultural development; its conservation, restoration and enhancement must be a global priority,” says Ramadjita Tabo, Director of ICRISAT’s West and Central Africa Regional Hub and member of the Montpellier Panel.
“This problem of soil erosion is precisely the reason why introducing tractors into the agriculture of the Sahel is a really, really bad idea. Look at any tractor-ploughed field and compare it to neighbouring hand-worked land, and you will see an immediate difference: tractor ploughed fields typically have no perennial vegetation left at all, and thus no protection for its top soil.
My conclusion is that desertification in the Sahel is currently far more man-made than climate-made. Rainfall since the 90’s onwards has been reasonable again, and the growth potential of trees and shrubs can easily be observed. But on most of the land, this growth is being suppressed by A) poor land management (keeping fields clear for annual crops), B) overgrazing (in pastoral zones one can see how many trees are clearly stunted from browsing, whilst for bigger trees, grazing animals provoke erosion around the tree trunks, exposing roots and provoking the trees to fall over with time), and C) firewood collection.”
‘Smart Tree-Invest’ Promotes Climate-Smart, Tree-Based Agriculture in Viet Nam
Local government agencies in Viet Nam have expressed support for the ‘Climate-Smart, Tree-Based, Co-Investment in Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia’ (Smart Tree-Invest) project, co-funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the CGIAR Consortium Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, during a visit from the regional project team from Bogor, Indonesia, that took place from 11-14 March 2014.
Following research activities carried out in the first year of Smart Tree-Invest, the second and third years will focus on: identifying threats to farmers’ resilience, including changes in ecosystem services, climate patterns and other environmental and socio-political changes; and developing co-investment schemes that promote climate-smart, tree-based agriculture, enhance the provision of ecosystem services in the watershed and improve smallholders’ livelihoods.