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Newsletter of weeks of 17th and 24th of Nov 2014

2014 November 26
by bvancampenhout

2012-05-18 17.27.06Hello, and welcome to the IFPRI Uganda Strategy Support Program’s weekly news digest.

This weekly collection of recent news articles related to agriculture is compiled from online news sources. We also include links to recent publications on agricultural and policy-related research topics pertinent to Uganda.

In news this week, we report on Ugandan scientists create bean strains to fight anaemia. In addition, there is more news such as Africa Agriculture Status Report 2014: Climate change and smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa and among others, The darker side of green. Plantation forestry and carbon violence in Uganda: the case of Green Resources’ forestry-based carbon markets. Under agricultural and food policy related research, we provide links to papers on:



Thank you and Enjoy


Civet cat coffee: can world's most expensive brew be made sustainably?

The Guardian

The story of kopi luwak has a certain repulsive charm. A shy cat-like wild creature wanders out of the Sumatran jungle at night onto a coffee plantation and selects only the finest, ripest coffee cherries to eat. Only it can’t digest the stone (the coffee bean) and craps them out, its anal glands imparting an elusive musky smoothness to the resultant roasted coffee.

Kopi luwak has become hugely popular worldwide, and as a result wild luwaks (palm civets) are being poached and caged in terrible conditions all over South East Asia, and force fed coffee cherries to produce commercially viable quantities of the precious coffee beans in their poo.

Agroforestry, livestock, fodder production and climate change adaptation and mitigation in East Africa: issues and options

World Agroforestry

This working paper argues that both agroforestry and livestock-keeping have the potential to promote anthropogenic climate change resilience and support each other in this context.

The paper discusses relevant issues in East Africa, where recent agroforestry interventions to support livestock keeping have included the planting of mostly-exotic tree-fodders, and where most parts of the region are expected to become drier in the next decades, although smaller areas may become wetter. It argues that wider cultivation and improved management of fodder trees provides adaptation and mitigation opportunities in the region, but these are generally not well quantified and there are clear opportunities for increasing productivity and resilience through diversification, genetic improvement, improved farm-input delivery and better modelling of future scenarios. The paper offers, with the example of current - and future - climate tree species' distribution modelling, important areas for future research.

Prada, Dior and Nike are finding a fashionable new purpose for fish skins

The Guardian

During the past three decades, capture fisheries production has increased from 69m to 93m tonnes, while aquaculture fish production has skyrocketed from 5m to 63m tonnes, the World Bank reports. With one tonne of fish fillets generally resulting in 40kgs of discarded skin, that’s thousands of tonnes of fish skin that could be put to productive use.

And much of it already is. Fish leftovers are often ground up and turned into fish meal for animals. But there are more glamorous uses for this byproduct than an ingredient in fish meal paste. With their layered patterns, fish skins possess an elegant quality, and they’re flexible too. Increasingly, they are finding a new life as leather.

The Global Nutrition Report

Food Security Portal, IFPRI

A consortium of nations, organisations, researchers, and academics has released the first-ever comprehensive narrative on global health and country-level progress toward reducing malnutrition across the globe. The Global Nutrition Report provides a global profile and country profiles on nutrition for each of the United Nations’ 193 member states, and includes specific progress for each country. It will be a centerpiece of the Second International Conference on Nutrition in Rome on 19-21 November, organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization.

Humble spud poised to launch a world food revolution

The Guardian

In a small army field-hut Dr Arjen de Vos shows off his irrigation machine with pride. Pipes lead out to several acres of muddy field, where only a few stragglers from the autumn harvest of potatoes, salads, carrots and onions are left. The tubes are lined with copper to stop corrosion because – in a move that defies everything we think we know about farming – de Vos is watering his plants with diluted sea water.

Last week the project beat 560 competitors from 90 countries to win the prestigious USAid grand challenge award for its salt-tolerant potato. “It’s a game changer,” said de Vos. “We don’t see salinisation as a problem, we see it as an opportunity.”

Smallholder farming and achieving our development goals


A thriving smallholder farm sector can be an engine for rural development that is more equitable, sustainable, and productive than one based on a large-scale farm model. A number of factors need to be considered when assessing the benefits of smallholder farming. This issue brief addresses those factors and suggests steps to help ensure that smallholders can increase their agricultural production and thereby assist countries in achieving food security, poverty reduction, and rural economic development goals.

Africa Agriculture Status Report 2014: Climate change and smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa


This year's Africa Agriculture Status Report shows that climate change is already taking place, and it is affecting the growth and potential yields of staple food crops and cropping systems, as well as the volatility and vulnerability of the dominant farming systems.

The role of soil fertility and plant nutrition in strengthening the vigor of farming systems and making them less vulnerable to climate change is explicitly addressed. In addition, the possibilities and limitations of the various farming systems are illustrated and analyzed. The Report also highlights the many differences between systems and how they may be improved such that smallholder farmers can both adapt to a changing climate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For ICN2 to succeed, we need a new food system paradigm


By 2050, the world’s population will reach 9 billion — and all will need nutritious diets. Yet despite the intrinsic relationship between the food we grow and the food we eat, the agriculture and nutrition sectors are only just now beginning to overcome decades of mutual isolation. The high rates of malnutrition among farming communities are a stark reminder that the link between agriculture and nutrition is not as it should be.

ICN2 is a critical opportunity to develop a sustainable food system that delivers healthy, nutritious, affordable food to those that need it most. If we are to become the generation that ends malnutrition nothing short of a new food system paradigm will do.

The biggest study so far finds that GM crops have large, widespread benefits

The Economist

On November 4th voters in Colorado rejected a ballot initiative that would have required special labels for foods made with genetically modified (GM) ingredients. As The Economist went to press, voters in Oregon seemed likely to say no to a similar proposal there, though the count was not complete. Regardless of the outcome, however, the referendums indicate the strength of feeling generated by GM crops: the Oregon vote was the costliest ballot in the state’s history. By chance, the day before the poll saw the publication in PLOS ONE of the largest review yet conducted of the crops’ effects on farming. It concludes that these have been overwhelmingly positive.

West Africa: fertilizer micro-dosing - a profitable innovation for Sahelian women


Localized application of small quantities of fertilizer (micro-dosing), combined with improved planting pits for rainwater harvesting, has generated greater profits and food security for women farmers in the Sahel. Women are 25% more likely to use combined applications, and have expanded areas of food crops (cowpea, millet, sorghum) under micro-dosing and water harvesting. Farmers' access to fertilizer has been improved by an innovative 'warrantage' credit scheme, that has enabled over 1,000 farmers (30% women), to purchase and use more fertilizer on food crops.

GM agricultural technologies for Africa: a state of affairs


Agricultural biotechnology has been used to address constraints in agriculture and has the potential to make a major contribution to the overall goal of sustainable intensification. The adoption of agricultural biotechnology, and specifically genetically modified (GM) crops, by many African countries has been quite limited to date, however. To further inform the debate over agricultural biotechnology, this report collects current information on the status of biotechnology in Africa—with an emphasis on GM crops—and assesses the opportunities offered by and constraints on adoption.

Ugandan scientists create bean strains to fight anaemia

The East African

Ugandan scientists have developed new bean varieties that are rich in iron and zinc. The beans will help reduce anaemia in pregnant mothers, as well as improve food security. The scientists behind the research say the beans could provide an affordable alternative to meat for of most of the country’s households.

New rules for chilli exports after pest attack

The East African

Uganda has introduced new rules for chilli exporters as it seeks to save the fresh produce sub-sector, now threatened by substandard inputs. Authorities suspended exports of hot chilli to the European Union a fortnight ago following a widespread infestation of the crop by the codling moth. Farmers blamed counterfeit pesticides, with exporters saying the country’s fresh produce is often intercepted by EU health inspectors. The codling moth is a pest that lays its eggs on the fruit or leaves of the hot chilli trees, and the larvae burrow into the fruit.

Reviving indigenous crops: the return of millet in Gutu

IDS Blog

A new report makes the case for the revival of indigenous crops – notably finger millet – as a way of tackling food security. The author, Chidara Muchineripi, is a management consultant in Harare, but also the son of a chief in Gutu, Zimbabwe. Since 2005, he has encouraged the revival in millet growing across Gutu as a response to drought and economic crisis.

This has all been done without external support and finance, and demonstrates what's possible when the motivation is right. According to the report the growing of a core crop of millet has resulted in the accumulation of some 20,000 tonnes of stored grain, across 40,000 households. This provides a source of resilience against future shocks, improving the sustainability of livelihoods in the district.

The darker side of green. Plantation forestry and carbon violence in Uganda: the case of Green Resources’ forestry-based carbon markets

The Oakland Institute

In recent years, there has been a significant trend toward land acquisition in developing countries, establishing forestry plantations for offsetting carbon pollution generated in the Global North. Badged as “green economic development,” global carbon markets are often championed not only as solutions to climate change, but as drivers of positive development

outcomes for local communities. But there is mounting evidence that these corporate land acquisitions for climate change mitigation—including forestry plantations—severely compromise not only local ecologies but also the livelihoods of the some of the world’s most vulnerable people living at subsistence level in rural areas in developing countries.

This report examines the acquisition of land in Uganda by Green Resources, a Norwegian-registered plantation forestry company.

Ebiyau looks to pass on his sorghum genius

The Observer

Close to his retirement age, Johnnie Ebiyau still lights the torch of breeding Epuripur sorghum and its four other sister strains. Ebiyau strikes a visitor as an earnest, passionate scientist, keen on making a difference among sorghum farmers. In a country where scientists are hard to get, Ebiyau prides himself as the third-best scientist when it comes to breeding cereal crops on the continent.

India air pollution 'cutting crop yields by almost half'

The Guardian

Air pollution in India has become so severe that yields of crops are being cut by almost half, scientists have found. Researchers analysed yields for wheat and rice alongside pollution data, and concluded significant decreases in yield could be attributed to two air pollutants, black carbon and ground level ozone. The finding has implications for global food security as India is a major rice exporter.

Report vouches for smallholder farmers

The Observer

Negative bias by policy makers, financiers, and extension workers against smallholder farmers is one of the reasons behind the stalled efforts to commercialise the agricultural sector, a document that was launched recently noted.

The Agricultural Finance Year Book 2013/14 has revealed that many agricultural households do not have that much land to farm, which could pose a threat to food security. “It is likely that a significant proportion of agricultural households are now virtually landless, farming only small plot(s) of land if any,” said the yearbook, comprising papers by Bank of Uganda, German Cooperation, GIZ, USAID, aBi Trust, and Economic Policy Research Centre.

Agricultural impact evaluation is failing to measure up


New technology that enables sustainable and profitable production of food is critical for both food and nutrition security and economic development. Yet, recent research suggests assessments of the productivity gains farmers realise from new technology are routinely flawed methodologically and hence unreliable as a basis for decision making. As a result, opportunities to support this key aspect of agricultural performance and more equitable benefits from it have been missed. This briefing explains why and highlights measures to stimulate demand for methodological quality in evaluations and reinforce their contribution to strengthening systems of innovation.


How pastoralists perceive and respond to market opportunities: The case of the Horn of Africa

Peter D. Little , Dejene Negassa Debsu, Waktole Tiki – Food Policy, 2014

This article examines how pastoralists of the Horn of Africa negotiate the need for herd mobility (production) under conditions of variable rainfall and grazing conditions, with the necessity to market animals at fixed market locations. It addresses a set of related questions: (1) are herder mobility and other production decisions being altered by improved market opportunities; (2) what roles do markets play in pastoralist drought and drought recovery strategies; (3) which groups of producers are taking advantage of and/or benefiting from which market chains; and (4) what factors other than price help to explain why and when pastoralists sell livestock? The article concludes that macro-economic forecasts about supply response in the region may be overly optimistic and off target, because they fail to appreciate the non-price factors that influence pastoralist households’ decisions to sell livestock.

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