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newsletter week 24th of March 2014

2014 March 24
by bvancampenhout

copyright els lecoutere

copyright els lecoutere

Welcome to the IFPRI Uganda Strategy Support Program’s weekly news digest.

This week’s news reports on ‘The fight against coffee twig borer’. Under agricultural and food policy related research, we provide links to papers and publications on:

Thank you, and enjoy.

News

Big data comes to Africa
This is Africa, March 3, 2014

Collecting and interpreting big data can provide businesses with unprecedented insight. As Mr Wiegert , IBM’s director for software product management puts it, “companies become more informed and they make better decisions and wiser investments.” While African businesses are tapping into big data, the region has lagged the global trend. An IBM report focusing on Nigeria and Kenya reveals that 40 percent of businesses are in the planning stages of a big data project, in comparison with the global average of 51 percent. Twelve percent of Kenyan and Nigerian firms have big data projects live, just shy of the 13 percent global mean. Although the majority of firms in Nigeria and Kenya claim to be capable of having such projects, formal training in management remains low, according to the report, suggesting that the adoption curve has yet to hit a serious upward trend.

Closing Africa’s Agricultural Gender Gap
Project Syndicate, March 21, 2014

This gap is not about the number of women farmers. In fact, roughly half of Africa’s farmers are women. The gap is one of productivity. Across the continent, farms controlled by women tend to produce less per hectare than farms controlled by men. The world has had evidence of this gender gap since at least 2011, but only limited data about its scope, shape, and causes. To help us better understand the problem, the World Bank and the ONE Campaign recently conducted an unprecedented analysis of the challenges facing women farmers. Their report highlights one stark fact from the start: The gender gap is real, and in some cases it is extreme. When we compare male and female farmers with similar land sizes across similar settings, the productivity gap can be as high as 66%, as it is in Niger.

Climate-hit Zimbabwe farmers opt for traditional crop varieties
Unearth News, September 24, 2013

Hybrid seed varieties are produced from controlled cross-pollution of two different varieties of parent plants, and their seeds cannot be stored and saved for use the following year. Hybrids can produce bigger crops, and commercial seed companies prefer to sell them as farmers need to buy new supplies each year. But as farmers try to find the right mix of resilience and reliable yields to combat changing climate conditions, plenty believe that traditional seed varieties – not just high-producing hybrids – are part of the answer. Owing to their resilience in harsh conditions, farmers have for generations saved part of their harvest each farming season to plant the next season. Researchers agree this type of seed does not offer yields that compare to hybrid seed grown in good conditions. But traditional seed has much wider genetic variety, which can be beneficial when fields face unexpected challenges.

Levelling the field: Improving opportunities for women farmers in Africa
One, March 18, 2014

African agriculture has the potential to spur growth, reduce poverty and transform millions of lives. Yet a wide and pervasive gender gap in agricultural productivity has hindered the sector's development and broader growth. Women farmers face numerous economic, cultural and institutional disadvantages, and consequently produce less per hectare than their male counterparts. Investing in women farmers and instituting policies that close the gender gap in African agriculture could yield enormous benefits, not only for women themselves, but also for their families, their communities and their entire countries. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that if women worldwide had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%, lifting between 100 and 150 million people out of hunger. Furthermore, when a woman gains more control over her income, she gains more say over important decisions that affect her family, especially her children. Families where women influence economic decisions allocate more income to food, health, education and children's nutrition, thus benefiting Africa's next.

Rice experts roll out new stress-tolerant rice varieties for Africa under ARICA brand
Africa Rice, March 14, 2014

The Africa-wide Rice Breeding Task Force, convened by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), has recently nominated six varieties with improved tolerance to environmental stresses as ARICA, which stands for Advanced Rice Varieties for Africa.  “This is the second series of nominations since the ARICA brand was launched in 2013 to offer farmers a new generation of high-performing rice varieties for Africa,” said Dr Moussa Sié, AfricaRice Senior Breeder and Breeding Task Force Coordinator. The ARICA varieties are selected through a rigorous multi-environment testing process including regional and national trials as well as participatory varietal selection involving farmers. To be eligible for nomination as ARICA, a variety must have a significant advantage over the benchmark in a region over 3 years and must be backed by solid data. Improved rice varieties that are approved for release by countries are also considered. Based on these criteria, the following six stress-tolerant ARICAs were nominated, one of which is particularly notable as it combines tolerance to two stresses – iron toxicity and cold.

The fight against coffee twig borer
Daily Monitor, March 18, 2014

Robusta coffee farmers over nearly all of the country are currently faced with a new pest to fight. It is the coffee twig borer and it will substantially reduce coffee production unless a solution is found quickly. Estimates by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority indicate a reduction of 3.7 per cent in total national coffee export and a loss of $18m was registered in 2010/2011 to the disease. However, the loss is far higher now since the severity of CTB infestation is higher at between five and 10 per cent nationwide.

Conservation Agriculture as Bloat?
The Campaign for Boring Development, March 17, 2014

It's now been decades since no-till farming became the first line of defense against top-soil erosion and land fertility degradation, especially in the Western Hemisphere. Hot on the heels of No-Till's success in North and South America, Conservation Agriculture (CA) has quickly grown into development orthodoxy. The idea is simple but revolutionary: don't plough, keep crop residues in place as mulch and, in general, organize your farm around the overarching need to prevent top soil erosion. From FAO to any number of USAID contractors, Development Agencies have taken on the role of Conservation Agriculture evangelists, spreading the good news to the unenlightened peoples of Africa and South Asia. Work less, improve your soil, get better yields: who wouldn't want to farm that way? The thing is, when first world methods meet African realities, trouble is never far behind. Issues that just don't show up in a large mechanized farm in Kansas or Rio Grande do Sul turn out to make a big difference in Malawi and Senegal.

Unsustainable use of groundwater may threaten global food security
IFPRI Blog, March 2014

Interim results from the study currently led by IWMI and IFPRI on the role of groundwater in global food production present a worrying picture. A significant share relies on the unsustainable use of groundwater; in many regions groundwater is being extracted for irrigation in volumes exceeding the pace of natural replenishment. This is particularly the case in semi-arid areas with intensive food production. In fact, the current scale of the Earth’s groundwater reserves’ decrease is so big that it can be observed by satellites. This loss of water is not just significant; it may bring about such consequences as sea level rise and exacerbated droughts in those areas where groundwater has historically played a role of natural buffer against fluctuations in rainfall. This will adversely affect groundwater dependent ecosystems and human communities, hitting the most vulnerable hardest: poor people in arid and semi-arid regions, densely populated areas, and small-holder farmers heavily dependent on irrigated food production. Both climate change and food security and resilience issues come to bear here.

RESEARCH

Climate Variability and Crop Production in Uganda
Francis M. Mwaura, Geofrey Okoboi - Journal of Sustainable Development, 2014

In this paper, the relationship between climate variation and crop output in Uganda for the period 1981 to 2008 is examined. The time-varying ARCH model of the crop production function is used to estimate the relationships. Analysis of the incidence of rainfall and temperature variation from the long-term average indicates that it is insignificant. Estimates of the trend of rainfall and temperature suggest a gradual decline in volume of rainfall and record of temperatures in Uganda in the present and near future. ARCH model estimates show that a variation in rainfall and temperature from the long-term mean has significant effects on crop output, while exponential increase in rainfall has detrimental effect on crop output. It is recommended that the government should support farmers to adopt small-scale irrigation systems; and capacity of weather forecast agencies should be strengthened to monitor and educate the public on present and potential near-future climate variations.

Multiple Knowledges for Agricultural Production: Implications for the Development of Conservation Agriculture in Kenya and Uganda
Keith M. Moore, Jennifer N. Lamb, Dominic Ngosia Sikuku, Dennis S. Ashilenje, Rita Laker-Ojok , Jay Norton - The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 2014

This article investigates the extent of multiple knowledges among smallholders and connected non-farm agents around Mount Elgon in Kenya and Uganda in order to build the communicative competence needed to scale up conservation agriculture production systems (CAPS). Our methodological approach examines local conditions through the analysis of farmers and non-farm agents’ perceptions of agricultural norms and practices or technological frames across four sites. The findings indicate that there is a fundamental gap between the perspectives framing the knowledge of farmers and those of the service sector/community agents with respect to agricultural production norms and practices.

Renegotiating customary tenure reform – Land governance reform and tenure security in Uganda
M van Leeuwen - Land Use Policy, 2014

In academic and policy debates on how to effectively secure land tenure, an uncompromising Belief in the need to formalize and title landownership has increasingly given way to an acknowledgement of the contributions non-state, ‘customary’ or otherwise local institutions may make in securing tenure. However, the question remains as to how different tenure systems may most effectively complement each other. This paper argues that the debate needs to give more attention to the local dynamics and politics of tenure reform, and how reforms are locally renegotiated as part of local institutional competition. It reflects on the case of Uganda, where legislation and policies over the last 15 years have promoted formalizing land titles and modernizing land law in combination with recognizing customary ownership and land governance.

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