Sweet potato project improves nutrition and incomes
by Samuel Hinneh
A three-year project has improved sweet potato varieties in West Africa
The project combats vitamin A deficiency and boosts yields and incomes
But an expert says a major challenge being addressed is post-harvest losses
[ACCRA] Farmers and entrepreneurs in West Africa are benefiting from a project that offers improved sweet potato varieties and market access.
The US$4 million project that began in April 2014 and ended last month (March 2017) was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria.
“Post-harvest experts and food scientists are working with us to develop [new orange fleshed sweet potato] varieties.”
Ernest Baafi, Crops Research Institute, CSIR, Ghana
The other partners include Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles in Burkina Faso, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)–Crops Research Institute in Ghana, and the National Root Crops Research Institute, Nigeria.
The project called Jumpstarting Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato in West Africa through Diversified Markets aimed to establish commercial sweet potato seed systems to provide clean planting materials throughout the year, and develop formal and informal markets for the varieties through participation of farmers in the value chain.
The development and commercialisation of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes would help tackle micro nutrients deficiency, according to the International Potato Center (CIP), the lead organisation of the project, during a field visit to project sites in Ghana on 7 February. Read the full article: SciDevNet
“Recognition of the true value of ecosystem services, and of the opportunities they offer, will enable better planning and realization of the full economic potential of dryland ecosystems, rebutting the common perception that drylands are ‘economic wastelands’” (IUCN, 2009).
Table of Contents
China: Boosting biodiversity for benefits to people and the environment 9
Jordan: Sustainable land management 15
Nicaragua: Nutrition security in the Dry Corridor in the face of El Niño 21
Senegal: What a little freshwater can do 27
Swaziland: Grass-roots governance beats overgrazing and gully erosion 32
A step towards better nutrition for African children
by Alex Abutu
A cassava staple is consumed by more than 130 million people in Nigeria
Fortifying it with soy could help address protein deficiencies
An expert urges Africa to embrace the move to address malnutrition in children
Fortification of foodstuffs could be one of the most cost-effective health interventions for addressing micronutrient malnutrition, especially among children in low-resource settings, experts says.
At a workshop hosted by the Nigeria-headquartered International Institute for Tropical Agriculture last month (4-6 October) in Nigeria, experts added that fortified gari — a creamy white or yellow flour with a slightly fermented flavour and a slightly sour taste made from fermented, gelatinised fresh cassava tubers — could ensure the success of the school feeding programme in the country.
“Fortifying it will increase the number of children who survive to five years of age.”
Francis Aminu, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
Francis Aminu, country director of Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, said that that gari is consumed by over 130 million people in Nigeria, thus serving as complementary foods for children aged 6 months to 2 years.
They added that gari, if not fortified, has high levels of carbohydrates but lacks essential nutrients such as protein, fat, vitamins and minerals needed in adequate supply by the body.
Photo credit: WVC 2005-12-DRARIA WOMEN-41.jpg – with Gérard RUOT (SOS Village d’Enfants Draria, Algeria), Raymond JANSSENS (Representative of UNICEF ALGERIA) and Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University, Belgium)
Within the framework of UNICEF’s project “Family gardens for the Saharawis refugees in S.W. Algeria” in 2005-2007, a workshop was organized in December 2005 to prepare a group of women for the construction of their own kitchen garden in the Sahara desert and in the Village d’Enfants of Draria.. They learned how to apply the water saving and fertilizer saving soil conditioner TerraCottem (www.terracottem.com). With some 2000 small family gardens in the Tindouf area (Algeria) constructed at the end of 2007, UNICEF’s project was a remarkable success.
About brown and green food revolutions, grasses and food crops
by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (University of Ghent, Belgium)
If the lives of a group of people are at stake, “Women and children first” implies that the lives of women and children are to be saved first. If the lives of hungry and malnourished people are at stake, those of women and children are to be taken care of first. That was one of my thoughts after reading Shannon Horst’s article entitled: “Africa needs a brown (not green) food revolution” in The Christian Science Monitor on July 6, 2010 :
Africa’s long-term food security will come from nurturing the soil, not manipulating expensive seeds
First of all I want to confirm that I agree with most, but not all, of Shannon’s excellent points. One of my remarks is that some of her views are too generalized:
I do not believe that all Western initiatives to help Africa risk to cause more damage to that continent. Not all these initiatives are ‘grounded in manipulating seeds and increasing synthetic fertilizers to improve production’.
It is my sincere conviction that nowadays not all the aid groups ‘put more money, more science, or more business savvy behind the same old approach’. If this were the case, it would mean that ‘all scientists are looking in the wrong direction’. If Shannon Horst is a scientist herself, she certainly feels accused as much as I am by that statement.
Not all the scientists ‘are focusing on how to grow bigger, more, and disease- and pest-resistant plants’.
Not all the scientists ‘focus on how to manipulate the plants rather than how to produce both healthy plants and healthy soil’.
I therefore take for granted that Shannon Horst is aware of the content of my contributions on three of our blogs:
While manipulating seeds and increasing application of synthetic fertilizers to enhance plant production can be qualified as ‘looking in the wrong direction’, these two points do not cover fully the content of what is called the Second Green Revolution. There are no strong arguments to sustain the idea that the totality of this agro-industrial model ‘would further destroy Africa’s soil and water in the long run and exacerbate the problems: food insecurity, bare land, soil erosion, increased drought and then flooding when the rains finally do come; increased pests and invasive plants; and the collapse of the river systems and groundwater stores’.
Even at an overripe apple there may still be some tasty pieces!
So, let us not blame all the ‘Western’ scientists to be part of what Shannon is seeing as some destructive machinery, called the Second Green Revolution, described as exclusively using technologies to boost farm yields.
Very fortunately, we all know numerous people, men and women, scientists, aid workers, members of international, national and non-governmental organizations, who are not looking in the wrong direction. They are working continuously hand-in-hand with the rural and urban population on the African continent, like on all the other continents. By the way, we certainly know many respected scientists, whose research work has been contributing or still contributes to the improvement of the living standards of the poorest human beings. Many of them developed excellent and constructive methods or models, successful practices and inputs, applied in all kinds of development programs for the welfare of farmers and townspeople.
Grassland or farmland, or both?
Grasslands are dominated by grasses. Grassland with scattered individual trees is called savanna.
Savannas cover almost half the surface of Africa (not 70 %). They are characteristic for warm or hot climates with an annual rainfall from about 50 to 125 cm (20-50 inches), concentrated in 6 or 8 months of the year, followed by a dry period when fires can occur. The soil of a savanna is porous, rapidly draining water. It has only a thin layer of humus, which makes them inappropriate for agriculture.
Farmers sometimes cut down small parts of forests, burn the trees, and plant crops for as long as the soil remains fertile. When the field is abandoned a couple of years later, grasses take over and a savanna can be formed.
Elephants can convert woodland into grassland in a short period of time. Shannon Horst is right in saying that ‘Africa’s once vast, healthy savannas were produced by the hoofs and manure of vast herds of grazing animals and pack-hunting predators’.
Some activities are seen as environmental concerns regarding savannas: poaching, overgrazing and clearing of the land for crops. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine that people aiming at a Second Green Revolution would ever plan to turn all those grasslands (half of Africa!) into crop fields, risking the creation of another Dust Bowl or the collapse of all the grasslands.
As savannas are covering half of the African continent, the rural populations of these savannas are indeed ‘pastoralists or agropastoralists who do not farm’, although many of them do have a small garden. Do we really suspect the international organizations or the big agri-business to plan the transformation of these pastoralists into farmers?
If half of the rural populations of Africa are pastoralists, the other half must be farmers. If half of the continent is covered with savannas, the other half of Africa’s landscape must be farmland in tropical or temperate climate, humid, semi-humid, arid or semi-arid climate zones.
I can’t believe that neither ‘Millions have already been spent by US and European aid organizations throughout Africa on unsuccessful farming programs’, nor that ‘these approaches to increasing food security focus on production without considering the social, economic, and biological consequences’.
To the best of my knowledge, many successful programs and projects with contributions of numerous famous international scientists, with expertise in their different disciplines and belonging to highly qualified institutes, have been set up in collaboration with the very best national experts, to improve agricultural and horticultural practices in almost every African country. It is not even thinkable that all these programs merit the qualification ‘destructive’.
On the other hand, I gladly take Shannon’s point on the interesting aspects of Allan Savory’s work on the role of livestock for animal husbandry. My high esteem and appreciation go to his remarkable findings.
However, I must admit that I have a lot of difficulties to understand how Savory’s findings on
‘educating local people in practices that blend some older pastoral knowledge and techniques of animal herding with new understanding of how grazing animals, soils, plants, and organisms coevolved and function in a healthy state’ are applicable on Africa’s 50 % of farmland, an ‘ecosystem’ that is so completely different from grassland that the two impossibly can be compared.
Finally, I want to congratulate Shannon for her closing remark:
‘Does this mean we should not support technological innovation? Of course not.
But what we must do is find and support those technologies that not only solve a problem or achieve an objective, but also maintain or enhance the social, financial, and biological fabric of the whole system over the long term’.
If we accept that farmland and grassland are two different entities, with their own intrinsic finality, having a natural tendency to pursue their own good, one should treat them differently according to the traditional (local) knowledge. That knowledge can be optimized by combining it with modern technologies, aiming not only at improving the live of ALL the rural people, farmers and herders, but also that of the urban people, who will participate in the success of a revolution, be it a brown or a green one, ‘enhancing the social, financial, and biological fabric of the whole system over the long term’.
Honestly, considering all this, I strongly believe that one should first improve the live of women and children in Africa. Women deserve it to get a better live, because they play a key role in the ‘social, financial, and biological fabric’. Children deserve it, because they carry the future of a continent in themselves. Therefore, child malnutrition is a real shame.
The most important challenge for Africa is to improve food security, both on farmland and on grassland. I am convinced that container gardening will play an important role in the achievement of that food security goal. All over this beautiful continent women and children should sit first at the table and their daily fresh food on that table will undeniably come from their own kitchen garden and/or school garden, if only we really want to change nutrition as rapidly as the climate.
This text has already been posted on my desertification blog in 2010:
“Wow, that is interesting. My “yes – but” – is that growing food plants in containers in villages is an adjunct to improving the grasslands. There is much to be said for a paleo diet. I am diabetic and must follow it to be healthy. Some but not much fruit, mostly green vegetables and meat must compose my diet. I am looking to send Patrick Harry in Malawi some seeds of trees that grow well under arid circumstances and produce fruit without much or any care. “
(2) Frank Ziddah:
“Tons of “super” seeds of rice, maize, cassava and other local staples in various parts of Africa are made available by international development agencies every now and then. The problem with their programmes is that those agencies and their regional or local partners fail to effectively market and convince farmers [mostly educated] to make the switch. Hence, a year or so later adoption and usage rates are not surprisingly [very] low. In short, their efforts fail. Going forward I would suggest a 2-prong approach: better soils + better seeds. “
Frank Ziddah: Having read the post at Scribd, I must agree to your concluding remarks “the most important challenge for Africa is to improve food security,” using solutions suited to Africa’s soil and ecosystem.
(3) Tony Simeone:Very informative exchange that clearly articulates your interest and philosophy on land use – AND recipients of benefits.
The Policy Round Table of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), meeting in Rome on 17 Oct 2016, discussed the report on Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition: What Roles for Livestock? The report had been launched on 1 July in Rome and is now available in all of the UN languages.
Delia Grace, a scientist and program leader at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), served as a member of the High-Level Panel of Experts that produced the livestock report that was finalized this week at the Rome CFS meeting; other ILRI researchers made other substantive contributions.
The Plenary Session of the Committee endorsed a set of recommendations, drafted during preliminary negotiations led by Ambassador Yaya Olaniran (Nigeria).
Proposed draft recommendations
on sustainable agricultural development
for food security and nutrition,
including the role of livestock