Farmers in Pakistan’s drylands love it, African farmers too ?

Photo credit: CGIAR


Please read:

A Prickly Cactus Journey in Pakistan

CGIAR Dryland Systems


Since the 1980s, scientists at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in collaboration with a host of partners and stakeholders have been documenting lost knowledge of how indigenous communities used cacti in the past, and identifying the potential uses of cacti, such as:

  1. Forage for livestock and animals;
  2. Fruit and vegetable where young cladodes are consumed fresh or cooked;
  3. Source of natural red dye accepted by health authorities worldwide;
  4. Processed foods where a potential market for cacti-based concentrated juices, liquors, semi-processed and food supplements is viable;
  5. Cosmetics industry, which might be a significant source of income;
  6. Medicinal applications: promising results for the treatment of gastritis, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and for obesity.


ICARDA and ILRI scientists, in collaboration with the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council and the National Agricultural Research Center of Pakistan, supported by the CGIAR Research Program Dryland Systems and the USAID-funded Agriculture Innovation Program for Pakistan have been conducting a series of on-farm demonstrations and farmer field days in the Chakwal research action site in Punjab Province  to showcase the multiple uses of the cacti crop, including feeding livestock on chopped cactus pads.

The cactus pear was introduced to Pakistan in recent years through Cactusnet, an international technical network on cactus established back in 1993 through an initiative led by FAO and ICARDA. Network members from several countries shipped cactus cladodes to first to India, where different cultivars are being evaluated against criteria of suitability and adaptation to local conditions. Based on preliminary findings, the most prominent varieties are being identified and then shared with farmers in both India and Pakistan.

Many varieties of offspring cactus cladodes have been already produced and shared amongst local dryland farming communities. The farmers are now focusing on letting their cactus plants grow larger so that more cacti crop can be harvested annually.

It is hoped that in time, the cactus pear crop will be utilized as green forage to reduce the feed gap during the driest part of the year, when other crops fail to survive, and livestock mortality is the highest. The use of these high-energy, nutrient-rich cacti plants is not only helping to reduce risks associated with extreme climate variability and depleted natural resources; it is also providing farmers with an alternative source of income through the sale of cacti fruit and cacti seed oil to cosmetic companies. Cooked cladodes are also appropriate from human consumption, therefore contributing to increased food security for Pakistan’s dryland communities. As knowledge of the benefits of the cactus pear spreads from one community to another, scientists are helping farmers refine the cultivation, harvesting, and processing practices for this game-changing crop that has been resurrected from a mythical hellfire.

This research is being conducted in the framework of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems under the South Asia Flagship and supported by the CGIAR Fund Donors.

For more information, please contact:

Mounir Louhaichi, Senior Rangeland Scientist, International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas and ICARDA Focal Point for the FAO-ICARDA Cactusnet at

Read the full article: CGIAR Dryland Systems

Farmers embracing prickly pear cactus as a multipurpose, income-generating crop

Photo credit: CGIAR Dryland Systems

Farmers Day at cactus field managed by the National Agricultural Research Center of Pakistan, Photo:ICARDA

A Prickly Cactus Journey: From Hellish Plant to Farmers’ Darling

Farmers in Pakistan are now embracing cactus as a multipurpose, income-generating crop to reduce risks associated with climate change


Today, the reality is very different. Farmers have not only changed their mind and beliefs about the cactus pear; they have actually increased their demand for its production.

Adapted to extreme conditions, the cactus pear can grow and survive in severely degraded soils and areas, where not much of anything else will grow. Given its high water efficiency and content, the cactus pear can sustain livestock through the driest of seasons. Compared to many other common crops and fodder, the cactus pear is easy to establish, maintain, and utilize. Its well-developed root system, which avoids wind and rain erosions, makes it an ideal feed crop in the face of climate change conditions.


ICARDA and ILRI scientists, in collaboration with the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council and the National Agricultural Research Center of Pakistan, supported by the CGIAR Research Program Dryland Systems and the USAID-funded Agriculture Innovation Program for Pakistan have been conducting a series of on-farm demonstrations and farmer field days in the Chakwal research action site in Punjab Province  to showcase the multiple uses of the cacti crop, including feeding livestock on chopped cactus pads.

It did not take long before farmers started to ask cactus pads to be planted in their fields. The farmers’ change of heart towards the cactus pear has generated a new problem. There is not enough supply to meet the demand.

Food crisis in Zimbabwe ?

Photo credit: IRIN News

Impact of a long dry spell on maize in Mhondoro-Ngezi district, about 160km south of the capital, Harare

Zimbabwe plunges towards a food crisis


Many more farmers in the drought-prone south of the country are facing the same situation, with the April/May maize harvest – Zimbabwe’s staple crop – reportedly written off in entire districts.

An initial assessment in February estimated that 23 percent of cultivated land failed to produce a crop. But a new report by a UN and NGO consortium called the Food and Nutrition Survey Working Group says more than half of Zimbabwe’s farms could be affected.

Rural households in the south could produce “next to nothing this season,” according to the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Network (FEWS NET).

“In the absence of any assistance, households will likely be in ‘crisis’ [defined as at least 20 percent of households facing high or above usual acute malnutrition] from July through September,” FEWS NET warned.

Confirmation of the extent of the problem will come with the release of the joint government-UN agency Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment, due possibly as early as next month.

“We don’t have precise figures, but we do have indications of a looming food crisis,” World Food Programme spokesman David Orr told IRIN.

According to the Food and Nutrition Survey Working Group report, maize prices in the drought-hit south are already climbing – up 44 percent from February to March in Gwanda, Beitbridge and Mangwe.

After a good season last year, Zimbabwe’s farmers have been hit by a string of unfortunate weather events. First, the rains were late in coming, then there was bad flooding in western Mashonaland, and now an extended dry period in the south.

Trying to cope

With little to harvest, farmers in Mhondoro-Ngezi district hang around the town centre. The conversation inevitably revolves around how to make ends meet for the rest of the year.

Read the full article: IRIN News

CIAT’s agroforestry project on biodiversity and other ecosystem services

Photo credit: CIAT Blog

Juan Delgado, a farmer in Chalatenango, is collecting beans growing on trees within his Agroforestry system

Agroforestry systems: Preliminary lessons learned with small farmers in El Salvador


“Smooth sailing” is the way to describe the progress made by CIAT’s agroforestry project on biodiversity and other ecosystem services.

The project aims to promote the adaptation and dissemination of agroforestry production systems as options that can eco-efficiently respond to climate change, while restoring the provision of key ecosystem services. The project collaborates with the farmers and local organizations in northern El Salvador.

It is supported by the Salvadoran Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN, its Spanish acronym) and sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It works in close collaboration with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, La Montañona Community, the Salvadoran Research Program on Development and Environment (PRISMA, its Spanish acronym), and CIAT’s Soils Research Area.

Read the full article: CIAT Blog

Educating community members on climate-smart agriculture strategies


USAID awards grant to FSM college

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s Pacific American Climate Fund awarded a grant to the College of Micronesia-FSM on March 25, 2015, at the Marine and Environmental Research Institute of Pohnpei office.

The college will receive $556,264 for its Climate Resilient Adoption and Mainstreaming project. The project involves educating community members of climate-resilient agricultural methods in on the island of Yap. Accepting the grant was college researcher Dr. Murukesan Krishnapillai.

According to Krishnapillai, the objective of this project is to “enhance the climate resilience of target communities in Yap; by educating community members on climate-smart agriculture strategies to cope with climate changes and to promote livelihood and food security.”

Krishnapillai said that through a model successfully developed in the village of Gargey on Yap, communities will be trained in small-plot intensive farming, micro-gardening, container home gardening, agroforestry, and integrated farming with livestock.

The Pacific American Climate Fund or PACAMA is a grant-making facility funded by USAID that assists 12 Pacific island countries, including the FSM, to reduce long-term vulnerabilities associated with climate change.

PACAM awards grants to civil society organizations in support of climate change adaptation measures and related “co-benefits,” such as livelihoods enhancement, improved health, food security, improved health, disaster risk reduction, or sustainable natural resources management.

Home gardens are promoted as the backbone of poor rural households, but …

Photo credit: IWMI

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.

Onions on a bag - Photo Ville Farm - 1381604_213004272206571_304135207_n.jpg
Onions on a bag – Photo Ville Farm – 1381604_213004272206571_304135207_n.jpg

The report, which is part of the USAID-funded Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Small-Scale Irrigation (ILSSI) project, highlights the lack of research directly involving the rural home gardeners at the grassroots level. It points out that research needs to be framed around actual home garden practices, as well as issues and opinions of the gardeners.

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.

Read the full article: IWMI-CGIAR


Securing Water for Food

Photo credit: Pixabay

Africa: Securing Water for Food – a Grand Challenge for Development Announces Third Call for Innovations

United States Agency for International Development (Washington, DC)

9 MARCH 2015


Competition seeks innovations to improve water and food security, gender equality to receive up to $3 million in funding and acceleration support

Today at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (MFA-NL) announced the third call for groundbreaking innovations under Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development.

This $12.5 million global call for proposals has an increased focus on cutting-edge, advanced technologies and business models, as well as innovations that prioritize the engagement of women. As part of USAID’s new Middle East Water Security Initiative, an additional $2.5 million will be available for innovations implemented in the MENA region.

“By 2050, Global water demand expected to increase by 55 percent, and 70 percent of global water use occurs in food production,” said Christian Holmes USAID’s Global Water Coordinator. “Through a catalytic use of aid, Securing Water for Food will be able to capture and support the implementation of innovative ideas and new technologies for better water efficiency and sustainable development.”

Read the full article: allAfrica


Family farming in Mali


Photo credit: Google

Traditional agriculture in Mali


Investing in agri sector top priority:

Mali President Stresses on food sovereignty and family farming

The basis of our economic takeoff is certainly in agriculture and this is clearly a priority,” said His Excellency Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita, President of Mali to Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, when the latter called on him while on an official trip to Africa.

In countries where an overwhelming majority of the population relies on rain-fed agriculture, drought can have serious consequences. -
In countries where an overwhelming majority of the population relies on rain-fed agriculture, drought can have serious consequences. –

President Kéita said that 15% of the government’s budget was allocated to agriculture. “We are pleased that many compatriots have understood the importance of investing in the agricultural sector as a source of income and many ‘conversions to agriculture’ are happening to demonstrate this interest,” he said.

The Malian President also discussed climate change and challenges to land and water resources management. “Food sovereignty is important for a country and we appreciate ICRISAT’s work on family farming to help households improve their productivity, nutrition and livelihoods,” he emphasized. Dr Bergvinson spoke about translating the watershed management experience gained from India in West and Central Africa, especially in Mali, to target challenges with regard to water and land management issues.

Dr Bergvinson reiterated ICRISAT’s commitment to support smallholder farmers through a demand-driven research for agricultural development to improve their livelihoods through a close partnership with Institut d’Economie Rurale, NGOs and the private sector. “As ICRISAT delivers science findings to farmers, nutrition of farming households, especially of women and children remain a key driver,” he said. He also stressed on the importance of strategies like Inclusive Market-Oriented Development that could enable better inclusion of youth and women in the agricultural sector.

Read the full article:  ICRISAT


Low rainfall in Namibia

Photo credit: Google

Tok Tokkie desert in Namibia

Namibia: Below-Average Rainfall Could Hamper Grazing

The low rainfall figures recorded in Namibia this year could lead to reduced grazing in some parts of the country.

The latest Food Security Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) Agromet Update Bulletin – issued and prepared in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) last month – indicated that rainfall was generally low in the north-west and north-central parts of Namibia in November and December.

Heavy rainfall was, however, received in some areas in early December.

“The low rainfall has led to reduced grazing in parts of the country, with satellite images of vegetation also indicating below-average conditions in some of the northern areas.

With the national seasonal forecast predicting normal-to-below normal rainfall for the period January to March 2015 in some of these areas, close monitoring will be required,” it cautioned.

The low rainfall was associated with a delayed and erratic onset of rains. In many of the affected areas, the seasonal onset of rains was delayed by 30 to 40 days, according to the bulletin.

However, it warned that the delayed onset and subsequent late planting could shorten the time available for crops to grow and mature before the end of the season, or before the mid-season dry spells set in.

This will potentially result in reduced crop yields and delayed harvests.

Read the full article: allAfrica

Climate change vulnerability assessment

Photo credit: eldis

Senegal Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Options Analysis

In May 2012, upon the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the African and Latin American Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC) program began planning for a climate change vulnerability assessment and options analysis in Senegal. During a scoping visit in Dakar that October, ARCC and USAID/Washington staff, in consultation with USAID/Senegal, the Government of Senegal, and other interested parties, decided that, in order to produce an in-depth assessment, the study would target a limited geographic area and focus on only one sector. Of the various regions under consideration, Eastern Senegal was selected to be studied.

This region of the country was selected due to its high level of food insecurity and because it was a potential location for future USAID investment. Further, an initial scoping suggested few, if any, projects specifically focusing on climate change had been implemented in this area. Much of the selected area also falls in the Sahel, potentially making the study more broadly applicable to activities elsewhere in this region. During the research design process, the study was more precisely defined to involve the rural pastoral and rain-fed farming areas of four departments in Senegal: Matam, Kanel, Goudiry, and Bakel.

The study area straddles several different agro-ecological zones, with livestock raising playing a greater role in livelihoods in the more arid North. In the more humid South, communities rely more on crop farming and forest resources. Research elsewhere in Africa suggests that livestock production, given its inherent mobility, is better adapted to a changing climate than crop agriculture. With these and other characteristics of the study zone in mind, during the months following the scoping mission, the ARCC team developed the following research framework in consultation with USAID:

Read the full article: Eldis

Grabbing land and seeds of Africa

Photo credit: Pixabay

Africa’s Land

Africa’s Land and Seed Laws Under Attack

Fahamu (Oxford)


The lobby to industrialise food production in Africa is not only pouring money into plantation projects on the ground, it is changing African laws to serve foreign agribusiness as well. This is the main finding of a new report from the civil society organisations Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) and GRAIN.

The report, “Land and seed laws under attack”, documents who is pushing what changes in these two battlegrounds across Africa. Washington DC, home to the World Bank, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the US Agency for International Development, stands out the biggest source of pressure to privatise African farm resources right now. But Europe, through the European Union and various donor mechanisms, is also deeply involved, providing funds and legal frameworks like the plant patenting scheme known as UPOV.

Privatising land and seeds is essential for the corporate model to flourish in Africa. With regard to agricultural land, this means pushing for the official demarcation, registration and titling of farms. It also means making it possible for foreign investors to lease or own land on a long-term basis.

With regard to seeds, it means having governments require that seeds be registered in an official catalogue in order to circulate.

Read the full article: allAfrica


%d bloggers like this: