El Niño, conflicts and food crisis


Photo credit: SciDevNet

Credit: European Union, 2016. Click image to enlarge.

El Niño and fighting leave 80 million in food crisis

Speed read

  • Conflicts in places such as Syria and Yemen have led to food shortages
  • El Niño has caused severe droughts in Africa, Asia and the Americas
  • A total of 240 million people are in ‘food stress’

Armed conflict and the droughts caused by the El Niño effect have left 80 million people around the world in acute food crisis this year, reveals afood security report.

The report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme adds that a total of 240 million people are in food stress.

This corresponds to level two on a five-level international classification of food insecurity; food crisis is level three and famine is level five.

The situation is more serious than in previous years, coauthor François Kayitakire tells SciDev.Net. “Ethiopia, for example, was relatively fine in 2015,” he says. “But this year there are ten million people who are in food crisis, in the most severe drought in decades.”

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Drought: New Ways of Growing Cotton



VIDEO: Amid India’s Drought Crisis, New Ways of Growing Cotton Helps Small Farmers


More than three million farmers in India’s Maharashtra state depend on cotton. In India, two consecutive years of weak monsoons have left some 330 million people — a quarter of the country — in the grip of drought. In Maharashtra, one of the worst-hit regions, nine million farmers have little or no access to water. Deepening the crisis, farmers are taking their lives. Now new ways of growing drought resistant cotton are not only alleviating debt but are also protecting the environment.

Watch now the video now.: https://youtu.be/4_N6uVsgVYI

Women and sack gardening


Photo credit: Takepart

Residents of the Kibera slum in Kenya tend to vegetables planted in sack gardens. (Photo: Tony Karumba/Getty Images)


Across Africa, a New Kind of Container Garden Is Changing Women’s Lives

Growing food in sacks uses fewer resources and less labor and provides high yields too.

by Sarah McColl sarahmccolltpbp

Some people have the talent to take a simple idea and adapt it into a solution with far-reaching benefits. Take Veronica Kanyango of Zimbabwe, a grassroots organizer who works in home-based health care and hospice for people with HIV/AIDS. She’s managed to take a couple of bags full or dirt and turn them into an agrarian movement.

“You show her a sack garden, and she’s turned it into a network of women who are producing lettuce and tomatoes for the Marriott hotel,” said Regina Pritchett of theHuairou Commission, a nonprofit that works on housing and community issues for women across Africa.

Using bags of the sort you stuffed yourself in for a race on field day—which are filled with manure, soil, and gravel—sack gardening or farming has been successfully adopted in areas of Africa where agriculture faces distinctly different challenges. It’s proved an effective way to grow food in regions with drought as well as areas prone to flooding, in rural communities and in urban slums. At the Grassroots Academy coordinated by the Huairou Commission in the spring of 2014, Pritchett said, the concept exploded.





A dryland cereals improvement project ‘HOPE Phase 2’ aimed at improving productivity of sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet will be launched in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the Harmony Hotel on May 11, 2016. The initiative, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims at helping farmers in six sub-Saharan Africa countries – Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda, cope with the effects of drought, and reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Given the severity of intermittent drought in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and especially in eastern and southern Africa the past three years, this project will work towards promoting sorghum and millets, which are the most inherently drought tolerant of all major staples. They are also highly valued as nutritious food due to their high levels of vitamins, protein and micronutrients that provide multiple health benefits. Finger millet, for example, has exceptionally high levels of calcium (10-40 times more than other cereals) and relatively lower energy content, making it ideal for weaning children, and for pregnant and nursing mothers. It also has a low glycemic index and so good for those suffering from diabetes.

“These crops are drought tolerant and give a good yield even with very little rain when other cereals fail. They are also nutritionally superior compared to other crops which mean that even the affected communities during drought can still get excellent nutrition that is available with the reduced harvests,” said Dr. Moses Siambi, Regional Director, ICRISAT, the lead implementing center.

Read the full article: ICRISAT

To end hunger in Africa by 2025


Photocredit: SciDevNet – Copyright: Jackie Opara


Initiative to end hunger in Africa by 2025 launched

by Jackie Opara

“What TAAT will be doing is providing a bigger platform [and] technology with a market focus.” – Sidi Sanyang, AfricaRice

Speed read

  • The initiative targets priority areas such as cassava, rice and fish farming
  • It aims to impact the livelihoods of smallholders through existing technologies
  • Experts call for policies that could create enabling environments for farmers

A major initiative aimed at transforming the agricultural sector to aid food sufficiency in Africa has been launched.

The initiative known as Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) is focusing on eight priority areas — self-sufficiency in rice, intensification of cassava, food security in the Sahel, transforming savannas as a breadbasket, restoring tree plantations, expanding horticulture, increasing wheat production and expanded fish farming.

It is being spearheaded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

The initiative was launched during experts meeting at IITA campus in Ibadan, Nigeria, last month (12-14 April) that was called to brainstorm on how to transform agriculture in Africa to feed the continent and end hunger by 2025.

The experts resolved that the TAAT will work with existing structures,technology and innovation, and vigorously transform agriculture through the eight priority areas.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Shifting sands: putting carbon back into soils


Photo credit: CGIAR

A scientist conducts soil testing at the Selian Agricultural Research Institute, Arusha, Tanzania.Photo Credit: Georgina Smith/CIAT

Evaluating the effectiveness of soil carbon sequestration

The world has a carbon problem, and we all know it. Tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere every day, contributing significantly to climate change. But slowing the rate of emissions will be no easy feat. In order to mitigate its effects, scientists are looking at alternative ways of dealing with the issue, such as carbon sequestration.

A moving target

In recent years, carbon sequestration has gained tremendous momentum and national andinternational initiatives have been taken up. But as to exactly how much of this carbon can be mopped up through sequestration is up to debate. Some scientists believe that indeed all anthropogenic emissions could be offset in such a way, while others believe only a few percent can be.

Certain key factors contribute to this uncertainty amongst the scientists. In soil carbon sequestration specifically, where organic matter such as manure, and compost are added to the soil, there are three major factors that influence its potential:

  • The dynamic nature of soil from place to place and over time
  • Variances between agricultural practices that influence the soil’s ability to act as a carbon sink
  • The significant changes to agricultural management practices that would need to be undertaken such as no-till agriculture. Globally, the adoption of such practices by farmers will take time.

Soil carbon? There’s an app for that!

To address these issues, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) created an app to help farmers and scientists calculate a soil’s current amount of sequestered organic carbon, as well as the quantitative impact of soil conservation practices on sequestration over time and at different scales.

Read the full article: CGIAR-THRIVE

Cassava: Is this crop about to rock the world?


Photo credit: IFAD

In this AgTalk, Professor William Otim-Nape demonstrates that cassava is not only nutritious and drought resistant, but may just be the world’s next superfood.



VIDEO: AgTalks – William Otim-Nape: Dr. Cassava

In 2010, Times Magazine cited cassava as one of the most dangerous crops in the world, to be eaten at one’s own risk if cooked improperly.

In this episode of AgTalks, Professor William Otim-Nape not only demonstrates that cassava is a nutritionally sound crop, but he also explains that the gluten-free, starchy tuber is drought resistant and does very well on marginal soils, making it a natural choice for farmers facing the impacts of climate change.