Forest inventory: Unmanned helicopters on a data collection mission
October 3, 2016
Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt | Graz | Wien
In many forests, the collection of information pertaining to the wood remains neglected, due to a shortage of specially trained personnel, specific expertise, funding, or appropriate technology. A new project aims to put small, unmanned helicopters to work, measuring the parameters for the forest inventory.
South Africa is presently experiencing one of the worst droughts in 45 years, with the lowest ever rainfall since 1904. In 2015, South Africa received only an average of 403 mm, which is merely 66% of the annual average rainfall.
This matter has to be urgently addressed, with food sources under severe strain and still household food security being a major concern. However, a clear solution would be Superabsorbent Polymers (SAPs). SAPs absorb and carry about 300 times its weight in liquid relative to their own mass. When a SAP is cross-linked with polymerization, the product is water retaining hydrogels that act as a reservoir of collected water in soil.
However, these SAPs are not biodegradable, costly and full of acrylic acid, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals. During more research in the topic, I found that natural occurring polymers exist in most citrus fruits. Orange peels contain over 64% of polysaccharide making it a candidate for biodegradable polymer. However, the polymer has to be cross-linked usually requiring chemicals such as Sulphur and Hydrochloric acid. I have explored an organic cross-linking method using UV light and heat. Emulsion polymerization was then conducted by using natural oil found in avocado peels and adding it to boiled orange peels. The product is then left in the sun, utilizing photo polymerization. The product should be able to retain large amounts of water and combat the effects of drought on crops by retaining soil moisture, whilst still recycling waste products of the juice manufacturing industry.https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/13HdJVVs_cbbI4OeftrRiD8oqtDuCVRAOpn6IqKbqLfw/preview
The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Bureau for Food Security in Washington DC has announced funding for a second 5-year phase of the Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING) program beginning October 2016. Funded through the agency’s Feed the Future initiative the second phase of Africa RISING will focus on ensuring farming communities within target feed the future zones of influence in Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana and Mali get access to the best-bet/best-fit improved farming practices identified by the project’s research team during the first phase of the project.
“Farmers need access to improved agricultural technologies that have gone through an iterative research process to establish suitability and quality if they are to sustainably optimize the productivity of their farms in a way that lets them benefit from existing and future markets and add value to their crops and herds. This is the goal we aim to achieve through programs like Africa RISING that will now in this new phase have significant focus on ensuring farmers get their hands on improved technologies that have gone through this process,” said Jerry Glover, the USAID Bureau for Food Security’s Senior Sustainable Agriculture Advisor.
The goal of the Africa RISING program is to create opportunities for smallholder farm households to move out of hunger and poverty through sustainably intensified farming systems that improve food, nutrition, and income security, particularly for women and children, and conserve or enhance the natural resource base. The program which brings together over 100 research and development organizations teaming up to achieve this goal is led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (in West Africa and East and Southern Africa) and the International Livestock Research Institute (in the Ethiopian Highlands). The International Food Policy Research Institute leads the evaluation and impact assessment.
Satellite mapping is helping to monitor and raise awareness of India’s rapid loss of agricultural land. (Credit: University of Omaha)
Satellites Observe India Desertification at Alarming Rate
A new analysis of satellite images shows that nearly 30 percent of India’s agricultural land is turning into desert, and the rate of soil degradation is increasing at an alarming rate. The report by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) says that land degradation now affects 96 million hectares (237 million acres), or 30 percent of India’s agricultural lands.
SIAC mid-term workshops are an attempt to stock take funded studies, and through discussions provide feedback on analysis approach and preliminary results. The 30th July workshop focuses on the seven (7) studies funded under SIAC 3.1 – these are a rather diverse set of studies, some quite macro in nature, that assess the adoption and impact of a number of technologies that have apparently spread widely. Description of these studies (including the CGIAR innovation under study), early results and snapshot of discussions follow.
C88, for instance, which is a late blight resistant variety has been claimed by CIP as one of its most successful varieties. Considering the extension efforts in China to promote potatoes – the study focuses on Yunnan province which accounts for 10% of the Chinese potato production – and, expert estimate that 33% of potato varieties in China can be traced to CIP germplasm, this study carefully examines the adoption (including through DNA fingerprinting), the determinants of adoption, and consumer/producer surplus through household and community surveys. Data from another SIAC activity suggests that C88 is an important crop in the (main) early spring season (around 16% of all cultivated varieties, 400K ha), and a significant winter crop variety (around 50%, 60K ha). So, what is the story of C88 as revealed by this study (so far)?
The focus of DNA fingerprinting (leaf or tuber samples, SSR marker) was not to identify the range of potato varieties – it was to confirm that the potatoes grown by households that self-identified the variety as C88 was indeed C88. 137 of the 141 fresh samples were confirmed to be C88 suggesting that C88 self-identification by farmers is not an issue. What we don’t know yet is the varietal identity of potatoes in households that do not self-report C88 – are they growing C88 and are we underestimating C88 diffusion in Yunnan? What are the varieties that C88 has not replaced or have that replaced C88 following dis-adoption? There are also questions about the dynamics of adoption over time: for instance, farmers recycle seeds and seed degradation could be an issue. While preliminary analysis suggests that current disease pressure and adoption is related, farmers who value blight resistance are less likely to continue growing C88 over time – plausibly suggesting that farmers are constantly looking for resistant varieties and dis-adopt C88 over time as seed degeneration occurs. Seed degeneration might also account for up to 25% of yield loss. Location is also found to be critical for adoption: farmers close to urban areas are likely to have grown C88 at some point in the past, but much less likely to grow it now. There are also some interesting issues raised by value chain providers – chip manufacturers prefer C88 because of its quality, but are forced to source other varieties from other provinces because high quality C88 potatoes are not available.
World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June
“Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.(See PRESS RELEASE below).
Willem Van Cotthem:We keep hoping that success stories and best practices will be applied at the global level. Priority should be given to methods and techniques providing daily fresh food to the hungry and malnourished. It cannot be denied that hunger and malnutrition are constantly undermining the performances of people. Application of existing success stories in local food production (kitchen gardens, school gardens, hospital gardens, …) would positively influence the efforts to combat desertification (limiting erosion, stimulating reforestation, etc.). We keep hoping.
Reply: Willem Van Cotthem: Hello Friends at the UNCCD Secretariat: It will be my pleasure to select a series of success stories in the literature. However, I am convinced that the UNCCD secretariat has the necessary documentation to compile even a book on this subject (to the best of my knowledge the documents, e.g. presentations at COPs and meetings of CST and CRIC, have been there during my active period in the CST and in Bonn). Please consider a consultancy to achieve top class work that would serve all member countries, the CST and the CRIC. To be presented at the next World Day June 17th 2016.
UNCCD’s Monique Barbut Calls for Long‐Term Solutions Not Just Quick Fixes To Drought Bonn, Germany, 22/02/2016 –
“Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People. This is the slogan for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June. I am calling for solidarity from the international community with the people who are battling the ravages of drought and flood. Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The droughts and floods beating down on communities in many parts of the world are linked to the current El Niño, which is expected to affect up 60 million people by July. In some areas, including in North Eastern Brazil, Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Namibia, the El Niño effects are coming on the back of years of severe and recurrent droughts. It is impossible for households that rely on the land for food and farm labor to recover, especially when the land is degraded.
What’s more, these conditions do not just devastate families and destabilize communities. When they are not attended to urgently, they can become a push factor for migration, and end with gross human rights abuses and long‐term security threats.
“We have seen this before – in Darfur following four decades of droughts and desertification and, more recently, in Syria, following the long drought of 2007‐2010. It is tragic to see a society breaking down when we can reduce the vulnerability of communities through simple and affordable acts such as restoring the degraded lands they live on, and helping countries to set up better systems for drought early warning and to prepare for and manage drought and floods,” Barbut said.
Ms Barbut made the remarks when announcing the plans for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification, which will take place on 17 June.
“I hope that World Day to Combat Desertification this year marks a turning point for every country. We need to show, through practical action and cooperation, how every country is tacking or supporting these challenges at the front‐end to preempt or minimize the potential impacts of the disasters, not just at the back‐end after the disasters happen,” she stated.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 17 June as the observance Day to raise public awareness about international efforts to combat desertification and the effects of drought.
Ms Barbut thanked the Government and People of China, for offering to host the global observance event, which will take place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
“China has vast experience in nursing degraded lands and man‐made deserts back to health. This knowledge can and should benefit initiatives such as Africa’s Great Green Wall, the re‐ greening in southern Africa and the 20 X 20 Initiative in Latin America. We can create a better, more equal and climate change‐resilient world,” she noted.
“I also call on countries, the private sector, foundations and people of goodwill to support Africa when the countries meet later in the year to develop concrete plans and policies to pre‐ empt, monitor and manage droughts,” Ms Barbut stated.
The 2016 World Day campaign is also advancing the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September last year. The Goals include a target to achieve a land degradation‐neutral world by 2030. That is, a world where the land restored back to health equals to, or is more than, the amount degraded every year.
Back in 2007, I have read with interest the following text published in Development Gateway’sdgCommunities :
“Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa”
“This collection of essays by key experts in the field of international development looks at the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa. This year has seen an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest. The report of the Commission for Africa, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Our Common Interest, set out the themes that dominated the G8’s discussions at Gleneagles over the summer, while a mass movement, in the form of the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, affirmed that the political agenda was matched by a widespread public demand for action. Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies.”
Calestous Juma, ed. The Smith Institute, London, November 2005.
Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
ISBN: 1 902488 97 0
Document Length: 129 pp.
For more information about this publication please contact:
Contributor: John Daly – Published Date: February 7, 2007
Going for Growth in Action: Smith Institute Report’s Ideas Applied to Africa’s Mining Industry
“Science, Technology, and Globalization Project Director Calestous Juma has sparked a serious debate about education, entrepreneurship, and Africa’s mining industry in Dr. Chris Hinde’s “Comment” column which appears in Mining Magazine. Juma is the editor of Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa (.pdf), a collection of essays published by the Smith Institute, a British think tank. “Going for Growth” emphasizes building Africa’s capacity to solve its own problems.
Juma starts his essay with “Most African economies have historically been associated with natural resources and raw materials. There is growing recognition, however, that a transition into modern economies will involve considerable investment and use of new knowledge.”
He has since called for the mining industry to fund and lend expertise to a school of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy — and be located in the African country that makes the best case for hosting it. The school would have places for approximately 100 students per year and would serve as a model for similar centers of learning all over Africa. See “African Lessons” (.pdf) by Dr. Chris Hinde in Mining Magazine (February 2006) for the complete interview.
A later issue of Mining Magazine continued the discussion, focusing on the need for the proposed schools to teach how both the international risk-capital markets operate and mining ventures are financed. African mining operators and investors must be trained on how and where to obtain capital. See “Money Matters” (.pdf) by Dr. Chris Hinde in Mining Magazine (June 2006).
On June 22, 2006, Professor Calestous Juma resumed the discussion by addressing the Human Rights & Business Roundtable in Washington, D.C. The Roundtable is comprised of representatives of the extractive industry (oil & mining companies), human rights organizations, and development agencies. They meet regularly in invitation-only, confidential sessions to discuss issues of common cause and concern — specifically the promotion of the rule of law and open societies. Over the last few years the group has focused increasingly on community and economic development projects and issues surrounding community engagement.
This session, entitled “Bain or Blessing: Can the Extractive Industry Help Reinvent African Economies?”, focused on how resources can be utilized to “extract growth” for Africa, as well as other developing countries. Professor Juma discussed how the extractive industry, which is becoming dominant in many African economies, can be used as an engine of sustainable growth, breaking the widely held view that natural resource extraction is associated with corruption and environmental non sustainability. The Roundtable explored the direct links between community/development activities, including corporate partnerships with international donor agencies and the larger strategy of economic development. As companies invest to increase the local content of their work and managerial force, they are promoting (and could further promote) higher technologies in the fields of business, communications, engineering, and the environment.
MY VIEWS ON “GOING FOR GROWTH IN ACTION” (Willem Van Cotthem)
What an interesting text about “the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa”!. This is what we were looking for since long: “a problem solving approach development cooperation in Africa”, and all other developing regions of course, in particular when entering a period of “an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest” (Make Poverty History campaign).
It sounds like a dream-come-true when we read:
“Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies”.
Let us go a bit deeper into the “serious debate” about education, entrepreneurship, and Africa’s mining industry, sparked by Director Calestous Juma (see above) when he starts his essay with …
“Most African economies have historically been associated with natural resources and raw materials. There is growing recognition, however, that a transition into modern economies will involve considerable investment and use of new knowledge.”
We learn that Juma “has since called for the mining industry to fund and lend expertise to a school of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy — and be located in the African country that makes the best case for hosting it. The school would have places for approximately 100 students per year and would serve as a model for similar centers of learning all over Africa.
That is the turning point where I am not following anymore the heartbeat of the “serious debate”. Looking for “a problem solving approach development cooperation in Africa”, a continent where drought, desertification, hunger, poor public health and poverty are the main obstacles for a swift development, shall we now turn to funding and lending expertise to schools of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy?
I would rather think that transfer of Science, Technology and Innovation should first concentrate on funding and lending expertise in agriculture, horticulture and health sciences, used as drivers for sustainable economic growth and as “as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies” in those basic fields mentioned above.
I can never believe that it will be possible to educate good entrepreneurs in schools of excellence (100 students a year!), as long as the stomachs of those students will be empty or only partly filled. But maybe we are not speaking about the same students, members of the poor rural communities?
Let us not put the horses before the carriage of the rural population!
If we really want to focus “on community and economic development projects and issues surrounding community engagement”, it will be necessary to first solve the problems of the community’s primary needs, like food and health care, before spending mountains of financial resources on creating “top managers for the mining industry”.
Instead of discussing “…how the extractive industry, which is becoming dominant in many African economies, can be used as an engine of sustainable growth, breaking the widely held view that natural resource extraction is associated with corruption and environmental non sustainability”, it would be better to discuss possibilities to create first an engine for sustainable growth in agriculture and public health, where environmental sustainability can be the crux of the matter.
If it is really true that “… companies invest to increase the local content of their work and managerial force, they are promoting (and could further promote) higher technologies in the fields of business, communications, engineering, and the environment”, I would rather invite those companies to promote higher technologies in the fields of agricultural and environmental engineering, without thinking too much at “extracting or mining natural resources”, because that almost never happens with the clean objective to improve the daily life of the local people.
In Zambia, The SIMLEZA-Africa RISING Research and Development project tested a range of improved technologies such as conservation agriculture (CA), soybean agronomy, improved and stress-tolerant germplasm, maize-legume systems, inoculum and improved utilization of legume products with farmers.
Farmer Agness Phiri has had her first experience with use of herbicides for weed control. She highlighted great labour savings for for women and children who usually carry out weeding activities in the farms in Zambia
To help scale-out these technologies, the project revived “mother-baby” trials, a participatory methodology pioneered by CIMMYT over a decade ago to test stress- tolerant maize in Africa and subsequently adapted for diverse agronomic practices. The approach has now been adopted by researchers worldwide. Comprising field experiments grown in farming communities, mother-baby trials feature a centrally-located “mother trial” set up with researchers’ support, supplemented by “baby trials” composed of subsets of the mother-trial treatments that are appealing to farmers. The babies are grown, managed and evaluated by interested farmers, who host them and may talk to fellow farmers, researchers and other visitors about the results.
Moving beyond trials to farmers’ fields
In 2014/2015, the SIMLEZA-Africa RISING project team identified scalable technologies in its project portfolio and encouraged farmers to choose those that could be practiced on their own farms using the mother baby trial approach. The menu of practices included crop rotations, intercropping, herbicide use and improved drought-tolerant maize varieties. Interest was high amongst farmers, 807 of whom volunteered to grow “baby trials”. Some farmers even extended their plots beyond the designated areas in the excitement of trying something new.
Forest researchers in Viet Nam use laser technologies to measure tree height and thickness.
Google and FAO partner to make remote sensing data more efficient and accessible
Partnership enhances ability to assess changing forest and to estimate greenhouse gas emissions
Google Maps and FAO have agreed to work closely together to make geospatial tracking and mapping products more accessible, providing a high-technology assist to countries tackling climate change and much greater capacity to experts developing forest and land-use policies.
Digital technology tapping into satellite imagery is revolutionizing the way countries can assess, monitor and plan the use of their natural resources, including monitoring deforestation and desertification.
“For FAO, this is not just a partnership. This is a strategic alliance,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, noting it combines FAO’s global effort to combat climate change with Google’s commitment to help on the climate data science and awareness fronts.
The three-year partnership between Google Maps and FAO is designed to foster innovation and expertise and sharply broaden access to easy-to-use digital tools. It ushers in a major ramping up of existing collaboration between the two organizations and will boost the visibility and implementation of efforts to encourage sustainable environmental practices around the world.
“This partnership is powerful because it unites the complementary strengths of UN FAO and Google,” said Rebecca Moore, Director, Google Earth, Earth Engine & Earth Outreach. “FAO has decades of hard-won experience working on the ground in hundreds of countries on thousands of projects. Meanwhile, Google technology is at the cutting edge of big data, cloud computing, and transformatively-simple mapping tools. The FAO Collect Earth application brilliantly builds on top of Google Earth and Earth Engine to provide a simple but powerful global and national forest carbon monitoring tool, empowering countries as diverse as Chile, Panama, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Tunisia and Bhutan. We look forward to further strengthening this partnership in support of global climate action and sustainable development.”
Concretely, Google Maps will provide 1,200 trusted tester credentials on Google Earth Engine to FAO staff and partners, while also providing training and receiving feedback on users’ needs and experiences.
Women, tech key to curbing food insecurity in Africa
Focusing on identifying and harnessing these social advantages could help in tackling the technological challenges faced by African women.
by Pauline Okoth
Every time I hear about hunger and malnutrition, my thoughts drift to the millions of African women who toil on farms, but see their children remain hungry.
At such moments of reflection, I often wonder how vulnerable African women and children can be rescued from this vicious cycle of food insecurity and malnutrition.
When I attended the 6th Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security in Uganda last week (28-30 October), the discussions around the theme “empowering our women, securing our food, improving our nutrition” gave me some insight into what needs to be done to address this issue.
I realised that while the solution to the perennial food security and nutrition problem lies in the hands of women, major obstacles remain, particularly land security tenure.
I spoke to Josephine Kiamba, a senior technical adviser of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) — which organised the meeting — and the UK-based Partnership for Child Development, Imperial College, London.
“I think technology is an even bigger hindrance for women than land,” Kiamba told me, reasoning that more women have access to land for food production even if they don’t have ownership.
Kiamba says access to technology reduces the time women spend in farm-related activities, allowing them more time to take better care of their children.
However, as technology improves, she adds, the men tend to take over, noting that in the food system, technological innovations such as bio-fortification, mechanisation and information and communication technology do more than saving time: They produce better quality and quantity outcomes.
Results from a cost-benefit-analysis of fifty-nine Africa RISING technologies in Tanzania show that almost all of the technologies being tested by the project are better than the base technologies currently used by farmers.
The analysis looked at three economic indicators: the gross margin (Tanzania shillings (TZS)/ha) (GM), benefit-cost ratio (BCR) and returns to labour (TZS/person day) (RL).
For instance, the mean benefits-cost ratio of the technologies was found to be 1.7 indicating that the farmers earned 70% more, over and above their total expenditures when using the Africa RISING technologies.
The research team considered fifty-nine technologies under trial in Babati and Kongwa-Kiteto Africa RISING research zones. They include crop diversification through intercropping, soil fertility management, post-harvest management, and integrating high value crops (vegetables) into the production system.
Technical innovations for small-scale producers and households to process wet cassava peels into high quality animal feed ingredients and aflasafe™ substrate
Nigeria, the world’s largest producer of cassava, harvests 54 million metric tonnes (Mt) of cassava tubers annually. More than 95% of cassava used in Nigeria requires peeling, which generates up to 14 million MT of peels annually. Most of it is wasted due especially to challenges related to drying. With traditional techniques, sun drying is practically impossible during the wet season, and takes three days in the dry season to reduce moisture content of fresh peels from about 70% to 20% or less, to achieve a marketable state.
RTB has funded cross-continental, multi-centre and multi-disciplinary research work to improve cassava-processing systems, developing models to downscale and transfer the efficiencies of large starch driers to small scale, especially for Africa.
In West Africa, RTB collaborated with the CRPs Livestock and Fish (led by the International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI) and Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA) to develop innovative processing and drying of cassava peels for animal feed, potentially removing up to 14 million t of peels from the waste stream in Nigeria alone, and adding value to the feed value chain.
Ongoing work is showing great potential and has so far dramatically reduced cassava peels moisture content to 12–15% within six sunshine hours using only equipment in current use by small-scale processors and households. The considerably shorter processing time and use of freshly peeled/discarded materials is resulting in high quality cassava peels products (pellets and mash) that are appealing to the livestock and fish feed milling industry as a versatile and new energy source, low in aflatoxin contamination.