New, high-quality, drought-tolerant forage grasses could boost milk production by up to 40 percent

 

Photo credit: ILRI CLIPPINGS

Cattle grazing on Brachiaria grass at the ILRI campus in Nairobi, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Collins Mutai).

Recent drought-induced livestock losses in East Africa mask deeper problem of animal feed scarcities

The following excerpts are taken from an opinion piece published by An Notenbaert, a former scientist with ILRI for 11 years who now serves as the tropical forages coordinator for Africa at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

‘With the onset of the rains, livestock farmers around Kenya might breathe a sigh of relief. But they have come too late for the thousands of cattle that have already died, hit by the drought that led President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare a national disaster in February this year. . . .

Yet this phenomenon is one which will not be solved by rain alone. It is down to a few, fundamental challenges which go deeper than drought.

Across east and southern Africa, livestock farmers routinely face the same hurdles in increasing meat and milk production: low availability of good quality livestock feed, especially during the dry season.

Our research shows that new, high-quality, drought-tolerant forage grasses could boost milk production by up to 40 percent, generating millions of dollars in economic benefits for struggling East African dairy farmers.

‘Some of these new varieties of a grass called Brachiaria, are high-yielding, nutritious and, because they are easier for cows to digest, animals produce far less of the greenhouse gas methane per liter of milk produced.

‘These benefits make it the most extensively used tropical forage in the world, with seed production already commercialized in big cattle-producing countries like Brazil. Yet Brachiaria grass originates in Africa. . . .

Read the full article: ILRI CLIPPINGS

Project: To strengthen sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet value chains in East Africa

 

Photo credit: ICRISAT

Farmers attend a sorghum field day in Kiboko, Kenya, conducted for the Sorghum for Multiple Uses (SMU) value chains in Kenya and
Tanzania project. Photo: ICRISAT, file photo

NEW PROJECT BRINGS HOPE TO FARMERS WAITING TO BUILD ON PREVIOUS SUCCESSFUL VALUE CHAIN INITIATIVES

 

To strengthen sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet value chains in East Africa, a new project was launched. The four-year program will target resource-constrained smallholder farmers and agropastoralists in Kenya and Tanzania and will build on the successes of earlier projects. At the launch, farmers, especially women, spoke of their entrepreneurial achievements through the previous projects and their expectations of the new project. (See box)

The project – Strengthening sorghum and millet value chains for food, nutritional and income security in arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya and Tanzania (SOMNI) – will build on the work accomplished by previous projects, particularly Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) 1 and Sorghum for Multiple Uses (SMU). It will upscale the deployment of production technologies and development of value-added products of sorghum, millets and suitable dryland legumes for household and commercial uses.

The project will specifically focus on:

  • Improving productivity of sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet and increasing their capacity to adapt to environmental variability in smallholder farming systems in Tanzania and Kenya;
  • Increasing access to sorghum and millet food, feed and fodder by the poor, especially rural women and children;
  • Increasing consumption of nutritious dryland cereals by the poor, especially among nutritionally vulnerable women; and
  • Increasing income from marketing dryland cereal grain, fodder and products by low-income value chain actors, especially smallholder women farmers.

Read the full article: ICRISAT

Climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security,

 

IPCC Special report on climate change and land: Call for experts- Outline of the Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.

IPCC Special report on climate change and land: Call for experts

At its 45th Session (Guadalajara, Mexico, 28 – 31 March 2017), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approved the outline for “Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems”. For this special report he IPCC has now opened a call for nomination of authors and review editors.

Applications should be submitted via the IPCC national focal point latest by Wednesday, 17 May 2017 (midnight CEST) using the online portal.(list of IPCC focal points) (call for authors and review editors)

The 45th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-45) concluded with the adoption of several decisions that will significantly shape the outcomes of the sixth assessment cycle, including the outlines of two special reports. The meeting’s achievements were somewhat overcast by funding concerns, and the IPCC established and adopted the terms of reference for an Ad Hoc Task Group on Financial Stability of the IPCC.

IPCC-45 convened from 28-31 March 2017, in Guadalajara, Mexico, and brought together approximately 320 participants from over 100 countries. Having adopted the outline of the special report on global warming of 1.5°C at its previous session, IPCC-45 turned its attention to the special reports on climate change and land, and on oceans and cryosphere in a changing climate. Delegates adopted the outlines for both of these reports.

Read the full article: Knowledge. UNCCD

Food Insecurity and Urban Growth in Africa

 

Photo credit: Foodtank

Food Insecurity a Pressing Issue Amidst Urban Growth in Africa

According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), more people are relocating to African cities from rural areas than ever before. UN-Habitat reports that “the global share of African urban dwellers is projected to rise from 11.3 percent in 2010 to 20.2 percent by 2050.” A new study by Dr. Takemore Chagomaka entitled “Food and Nutrition Insecurity Mapping (FNIRM) in Urban and Periurban Areas in West African Cities” seeks to “understand and map the dynamics of household food and nutrition insecurity in urban, periurban and rural settings.” Chagomaka, lead author of the study, conducted the research in two growing sub-Saharan African cities.

While the study draws some broad conclusions across the two localities, such as finding that households that grow crops and keep livestock tend to be more food secure than those that do not, the study highlights far more distinctions. Future policy to effectively address food insecurity will have to take into account each locality’s unique aspects.

The study examined two sub-Saharan African cities and their surrounding areas: Tamale, Ghana, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. For each locality, the area was transected into four sections and then divided into three zones. Using the city market as the center point, urban zones were defined as those within 10 km of the center; periurban zones were within 10 km to 40 km of the center; and rural zones between 40 km and 70 km from the center. Researchers surveyed a total of 240 households in each area through questionnaire and interviews, with questions focused on production, access, and consumption of crops and livestock, as well as food coping strategies. Additionally, researchers took anthropomorphic metrics of children under five years present in the household.

Read the full article: Food Tank

 

To be compared with the proteins of pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan)

 

 

Dairy ‘excellent’ source of protein for children, new study deems

Date:
April 26, 2017
Source:
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Summary:
Researchers are using pigs as a model to study the best way of evaluating protein quality in foods eaten by children.

Read the full article: Science Daily

Two decades ago we recommended container gardening as one of the best practices

 

Photo credit: FAO

The 156th session of the FAO Council runs from 24-28 April 2017.

Famine in the spotlight at FAO Council

Graziano da Silva: 20 million people could starve to death in next six months

Urgent action is needed to save the lives of people facing famine in northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, FAO Directory-General José Graziano da Silva said today at the opening of the UN agency’s Council.

“If nothing is done, some 20 million people could starve to death in the next six months,” the Director-General said in his opening address. “Famine does not just kill people, it contributes to social instability and also perpetuates a cycle of poverty and aid dependency that endures for decades.”

Council members will be briefed on the extent of the hunger crises, and the steps required to prevent catastrophe, during the week-long session.

Making funds go further

Council will also consider for approval FAO‘s Programme of Work and Budget 2018-2019. The budget prioritizes areas where FAO can deliver the greatest impact to Member countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable agriculture production, water scarcity management, and building the resilience of poor family farmers.

Food and agriculture are central to the sustainable development agenda, and FAO’s work is projected to contribute to the achievement of 40 targets across 15 of the 17 goals.

Voluntary contributions vital now more than ever

Council will also discuss a new scale of assessed contributions, which are the annual payments made by Member countries to FAO. Under the proposal, most countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will be required to pay less and other countries to pay more. The Director-General urged OECD countries to continue to contribute at the same level by making additional voluntary contributions.

If only they had some support for container gardening

 

Photo credit: FAO

Extreme hunger is hitting north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

UN food agencies warn against ignoring famine alarm

FAO and WFP urge swift action to prevent hunger deaths in four countries hit by conflict

The leaders of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have called on the international community to urgently step up action to prevent further hunger deaths in four countries stalked by famine: north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

“Many people have already died,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said at a briefing on the sidelines of FAO’s Council – the executive arm of FAO’s governing body.

“Peace is of course the key to ending these crises. But even in times of conflict, there is much we can do to fight hunger and avoid famine… I visited Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria and saw myself how powerful agricultural support can be in a humanitarian crisis,” he said.

A famine has been formally declared in parts of South Sudan, while north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen are on the brink of famine. Combined, 30 million people are grappling with finding enough food each day.

“We need to reach hungry people to prevent them from dying,” said WFP’s new Executive Director David Beasley.

“We have the strength, logistical capacity and technology to get the job done. What we need is access to the people who are on the brink of famine and resources, now not later. Without this support, we will have to make life-challenging decisions over who will receive food and who will not.”

The heads of FAO and WFP stressed that both agencies’ famine response operations are severely underfunded, and there must be an immediate and substantial increase in resources to save lives and livelihoods.

Conflict is the common thread across the four affected countries. FAO and WFP are working quickly and closely in these emergency zones to prevent famine spreading further.

Read the full article: FAO

How to end chronic hunger cycle in Africa ?

 

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Panos

Africa Analysis: Ending Africa’s chronic hunger cycle

Speed read

  • Africa is home to three of four nations that could be hit by famine in 2017
  • African governments must invest in sustainable water supply to boost farming
  • Governments should learn from other nations such as China, India and Sri Lanka
For Africa to end chronic hunger, governments must invest in sustainable water supplies, writes Esther Ngumbi.

The fields are bare under the scorching sun and temperatures rise with every passing week. Any crops the extreme temperatures haven’t destroyed, the insect pests have, and for many farmers, there is nothing they can do. [1] Now, news about hunger across Africa makes mass media headlines daily. [2]

Globally, hunger levels are at their highest. [3] In fact, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, over 70 million people across 45 countries will require food emergency assistance in 2017, with Africa being home to three of the four countries deemed to face a critical risk of famine: Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen. [4]

“Many African smallholder farmers depend on rain-fed agriculture, and because last year’s rains were inadequate, many farmers never harvested any crops.”

Esther Ngumbi, Auburn University in Alabama. United States

African governments, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and humanitarian relief agencies, including the United Nations World Food Programme, continue to launch short-term solutions such as food relief supplies to avert the situation. Kenya, for example, is handing cash transfers and food relief to its affected citizens. The UN World Food Programme is also distributing food to drought-stricken Somalia. [5] And in Zambia, the government is employing every tool including its military to combat insect pest infestation. [6]

But why are we here? What happened? Why is there such a large drought?

Reasons for chronic hunger

Many African smallholder farmers depend on rain-fed agriculture, and because last year’s rains were inadequate, many farmers never harvested any crops. Indeed, failed rains across parts of the Horn of Africa have led to the current drought that is affecting Somalia, south-eastern Ethiopia and northern and eastern Kenya. [7]

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Improved sweet potato varieties in West Africa

 

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: International Potato Center

Sweet potato project improves nutrition and incomes

by Samuel Hinneh

Speed read

  • 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

 

And yet they could apply container gardening

 

 

Nearly two billion people depend on imported food

Date:
April 13, 2017
Source:
Aalto University
Summary:
Researchers show empirically: when population pressure increases, food is imported. The big issue, say authors of a new report, is that people may not even be aware that they have chosen dependency on imports over further investment in local production or curbing demand.

Earth’s capacity to feed its growing population is limited — and unevenly distributed. An increase in cultivated land and the use of more efficient production technology are partly buffering the problem, but in many areas it is instead solved by increasing food imports. For the first time, researchers at Aalto University have been able to show a broad connection between resource scarcity, population pressure, and food imports, in a study published in Earth’s Future.

‘Although this has been a topic of global discussion for a long time, previous research has not been able to demonstrate a clear connection between resource scarcity and food imports. We performed a global analysis focusing on regions where water availability restricts production, and examined them from 1961 until 2009, evaluating the extent to which the growing population pressure was met by increasing food imports,’ explains Postdoctoral Researcher Miina Porkka.

Read the full article: Science Daily

Urban malnutrition has evaded policymakers and researchers for a long time since it is a unique continuous process

 

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Panos

Undernutrition rampant in urban Sub-Saharan Africa

by Calvin Otieno

Speed read

  • A programme is facilitating local assessment of undernutrition
  • It provides a platform for key actors to identify and address undernutrition
  • An expert cites limited funding as a challenge to tackling urban undernutrition

A programme is helping address undernutrition — insufficient quantity and quality of food intake by a person — in Sub-Saharan Africa through creation of a local platform to assess and discuss challenges.

According to UNICEF, about 28 percent of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are underweight. But experts say existing nutrition assessment such as household economy approach face challenges such as lack of in-depth assessments and situational analyses.

To help address these challenges, Action Against Hunger (AFC), a humanitarian non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in France has developed a programme called Link Nutrition Casual Analysis (Link NCA).

“Urban malnutrition has evaded policymakers and researchers for a long time since it is a unique continuous process.”

Esther Mogusu, Nairobi County

“Link NCA is a local process that tries to understand what’s happening across different regions by providing independent nutrition survey and analysis and providing multi-sectoral tailor-shaped nutrition security programmes to the communities and stakeholders,” said Blanche Mattern, AFC and Link NCA technical advisor, during the Link NCA Learning Event held in Kenya on 28 February.

Mattern explains that compared to other nutritional analysis programmes, Link NCA uses people-centred approach.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

The increasing use of groundwater for irrigation poses a major threat to global food security

 

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Panos

Groundwater overuse rising, could hit food prices

Speed read

  • The world has been increasingly extracting groundwater to support agriculture
  • Most of these go to rice, wheat, cotton, corn, sugar and soybean crops
  • Water use efficiency needs to be improved as also monitoring and regulation

The increasing use of groundwater for irrigation poses a major threat to global food security and could lead to unaffordable prices of staple foods. From 2000 to 2010, the amount of non-renewable groundwater used for irrigation increased by a quarter, according to an article published in Nature on March 30. During the same period China had doubled its groundwater use.

The article finds that 11 per cent of groundwater extraction for irrigation is linked to agricultural trade.

“In some regions, for example in Central California or North-West India, there is not enough precipitation or surface water available to grow crops like maize or rice and so farmers also use water from the underground to irrigate,” the article says.

“When a country imports US maize grown with this non-renewable water, it virtually imports non-renewable groundwater.”

Carole Dalin,  Institute for Sustainable Resources at University College, London

The article focused on cases where underground reservoirs or aquifers, are overused. “When a country imports US maize grown with this non-renewable water, it virtually imports non-renewable groundwater,” Carole Dalin, lead author and senior research fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Resources at University College, London, tells SciDev.Net.

Crops such as rice, wheat, cotton, maize, sugar crops and soybeans are most reliant on this unsustainable water use, according to the article. It lists countries in the Middle East and North Africa as well as China, India, Mexico, Pakistan and the US as most at risk.

Read the full article: SciDevNet