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Newsletter week of November 9th 2015

2015 November 13
by bvancampenhout

Hello, 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 Uganda: hunger in regional 'food basket'. In addition, there is more news, such as Govt agency, Chinese firm fight over $5m fish project and Pay-offs from paddy. There’s also news on, Eaten sweet potato? Then you’ve had a GM meal. And among others, Drought-tolerant maize improves yields in 13 countries.

Under agricultural and food policy related research, we provide links to papers on:

Thank you and enjoy!


Uganda: hunger in regional 'food basket'

Technocrats describe 10 percent of Uganda's population as being 'food stressed' households. They struggle daily to find adequate food. Statistically, they lie between the 89% of the population who are "food secure" and the 1% that are "food insecure". In Uganda, food insecurity or plain hunger is mainly a rural issue. But as more and more people move into towns, urban hunger is becoming a major concern.

Govt agency, Chinese firm fight over $5m fish project
The Observer

A government research institute is locked in a protracted fight with a private Chinese company over the control of a multi-billion shilling fish farming demonstration facility in Kajjansi, along Kampala-Entebbe road. Documents obtained by The Observer indicate that the Chinese company, Huaqiao Fenghuang Group, should have handed the Aquaculture Research and Demonstration Centre (ARDC) facility back to the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) by April 2014. However, in what is seen as a breach of a protocol signed when the Chinese government donated $5 million (about Shs 18.3 billion) to upgrade and run the centre for three years as part of a skills transfer initiative, the Chinese company retains control of the facility 18 months after they should have left.

Pay-offs from paddy

Rice farmers in Eastern Uganda are expanding production and profits, thanks to technologies and market linkages through the Netherlands-funded CATALIST-Uganda project.
Previously, rice was not widely grown in these districts. Constraints included waterlogging, use of traditional varieties, direct seeding rather than transplanting, poor weed control and traditional practices (e.g., broadcasting seeds). Project interventions were designed to address each of these issues.

UBIC conducts maiden forum on agri-biotech at Bukalasa Agricultural College

The subject of genetically modified organisms remains as intriguing as it is controversial for the general Ugandan public. With the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill currently before parliament for deliberation, the seemingly interminable debate GMO debate continues to rage on with unabated ferocity. However, the widespread furore has given fertile ground for misconceptions and urban myths about modern biotechnology to take root and flourish. Thus, Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) partnered with the Centre for Life Sciences to conduct a ‘Students' Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology' at Bukalasa Agricultural College

East Africa: scientists accused of carrying out research that favours seed companies
The East African

The European Union's stringent laws on maximum residue levels could threaten agricultural exports from Kenya and Uganda. Maximum residue levels (MRLs) are the upper legal levels of pesticide residues in food or feed. MRLs are meant to ensure the lowest possible consumer exposure.

Integrated development: lessons from the field

As the global development community begins to implement the new Sustainable Development Goals, many look to the promise of integrated development approaches as a means to provide effective solutions to complex, multifaceted development challenges.  Insights from the field, including Uganda, are presented which demonstrate how the process is being operationalized effectively.

Drought-tolerant maize improves yields in 13 countries

A new project has begun following the end of a related initiative that has provided more than 200 improved maize varieties for farmers in 13 Sub-Saharan Africa countries.  The Drought Tolerant Maize for Africaproject launched eight years ago under the Global Maize Program of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has produced hybrids varieties which withstand drought and pests while boosting yields.

In agriculture, we can tame the youth unemployment in Africa
Daily Monitor

Last week, the MasterCard Foundation, a global philanthropic organisation, brought together nearly 300 young people from across sub-Saharan Africa to South Africa to deliberate and craft strategies that can arrest the unemployment problem among the youth and perhaps explore how African countries can harness the opportunities that exist within the agricultural sector.

Nuclear tech helps increase crop yields in Africa

Climate change has prompted some African countries to use nuclear applications in water and soils management, thereby increasing crop yields by up to five times while improving irrigation water-use efficiency sixfold.  The countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania and Uganda, are using a technology that uses radioactive material for measuring soil moisture, enabling them to design appropriate irrigation systems and boost water use efficiency, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Cultivating more female plant scientists
Crop Life

Only 25 percent of agricultural scientists in Africa are women. Increasing this number is critical to Africa’s food security, says Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, director of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), a career development program for top female scientists. So far, more than 400 women in 11 countries across sub-Saharan Africa have earned AWARD Fellowships and a significant number of them are focused in the fields of plant biotechnology or crop protection.

Eaten sweet potato? Then you’ve had a GM meal
The Guardian

The sweet potato is a familiar vegetable on our supermarket shelves and it is indeed an achievement to grow the sweet potato in the UK (British farmers crack the sweet potato, 18 October). The sweet potato is eaten by some billion people worldwide and is high in vitamins A and C and fibre as well as starch.

New technologies at the service of Africa’s agricultural transformation

Farmers are effectively using mobile telephone technologies to eliminate middlemen distorting the market prices of farm produce and access better seeds, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Akinwumi Adesina told delegates at the African agricultural transformation conference, which entered its second day on Thursday in Senegal.

Solving malnutrition: public money for public problems

The global community must all get involved with tackling malnutrition, but those who pin their hopes on the private sector will have their expectations “tremendously dashed in the future,” says Bjørn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.  While it’s important to secure the involvement of the private sector, Lomborg asserted that public money must be spent to solve a public problem like malnutrition.

A new leaf: seaweed could be a miracle food
The New Yorker

Seaweed, which requires neither fresh water nor fertilizer, is one of the world’s most sustainable and nutritious crops. It absorbs dissolved nitrogen, phosphorous, and carbon dioxide directly from the sea—its footprint is negative—and proliferates at a terrific rate. Kelp can grow as much as three-quarters of an inch a day.  Every year, between thirty and sixty tons of it are harvested, about the same per-acre yield as a potato farmer.  As industrial land-based agriculture becomes increasingly untenable—environmentally destructive and at the same time vulnerable to drought and changing weather—we are being pushed out to sea.


The Relationship between Livestock Ownership and Child Stunting in Three Countries in Eastern Africa Using National Survey DataEmily M. Mosites, Peter M. Rabinowitz, Samuel M. Thumbi, Joel M. Montgomery, Guy H. Palmer, Susanne May, Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, Marian L. Neuhouser, Judd L. Walson - Plos One, 2015

Livestock ownership has the potential to improve child nutrition through various mechanisms, although direct evaluations of household livestock and child stunting status are uncommon. We conducted an analysis of Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) datasets from Ethiopia (2011), Kenya (2008–2009), and Uganda (2010) among rural children under 5 years of age to compare stunting status across levels of livestock ownership. We classified livestock ownership by summing reported household numbers of goats, sheep, cattle and chickens, as well as calculating a weighted score to combine multiple species. The primary association was assessed separately by country using a log-binomial model adjusted for wealth and region, which was then stratified by child diarrheal illness, animal-source foods intake, sub-region, and wealth index. This analysis included n = 8079 children from Ethiopia, n = 3903 children from Kenya, and n = 1645 from Uganda. A ten-fold increase in household livestock ownership had significant association with lower stunting prevalence in Ethiopia (Prevalence Ratio [PR] 0.95, 95% CI 0.92–0.98) and Uganda (PR 0.87, 95% CI 0.79–0.97), but not Kenya (PR 1.01, 95% CI 0.96–1.07). The weighted livestock score was only marginally associated with stunting status. The findings varied slightly by region, but not by wealth, diarrheal disease, or animal-source food intake. This analysis suggested a slightly beneficial effect of household livestock ownership on child stunting prevalence. The small effect size observed may be related to limitations of the DHS dataset or the potentially complicated relationship between malnutrition and livestock ownership, including livestock health and productivity.

Assessment of impact of climate change and adaptation strategies on maize production in Uganda
Duncan A. Kikoyo, Joel Nobert - Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C, 2015

Globally, various climatic studies have estimated a reduction of crop yields due to changes in surface temperature and precipitation especially for the developing countries which is heavily dependent on agriculture and lacks resources to counter the negative effects of climate change. Uganda's economy and the wellbeing of its populace depend on rain-fed agriculture which is susceptible to climate change. This study quantified the impacts of climate change and variability in Uganda and how coping strategies can enhance crop production against climate change and/or variability. The study used statistical methods to establish various climate change and variability indicators across the country, and uses the FAO AquaCrop model to simulate yields under possible future climate scenarios with and without adaptation strategies. Maize, the most widely grown crop was used for the study. Meteorological, soil and crop data were collected for various districts representing the maize growing ecological zones in the country.

Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications of Imposed Innovation for the Wellbeing of Rural Smallholders
Neil Dawson, Adrian Martin, Thomas Sikor – World Development, 2015

Green Revolution policies are again being pursued to drive agricultural growth and reduce poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. However conditions have changed since the well-documented successes of the 1960s and 1970s benefitted smallholders in southern Asia and beyond. We argue that under contemporary constraints the mechanisms for achieving improvements in the lives of smallholder farmers through such policies are unclear and that both policy rationale and means of governing agricultural innovation are crucial for pro-poor impacts. To critically analyze Rwanda’s Green Revolution policies and impacts from a local perspective, a mixed methods, multidimensional wellbeing approach is applied in rural areas in mountainous western Rwanda. Here Malthusian policy framing has been used to justify imposed rather than “induced innovation”. The policies involve a substantial transformation for rural farmers from a traditional polyculture system supporting subsistence and local trade to the adoption of modern seed varieties, inputs, and credit in order to specialize in marketable crops and achieve increased production and income. Although policies have been deemed successful in raising yields and conventionally measured poverty rates have fallen over the same period, such trends were found to be quite incongruous with local experiences.

Experimental Evidence on the Drivers of Index-Based Livestock Insurance Demand in Southern Ethiopia
Kazushi Takahashi, Munenobu Ikegami, Megan Sheahan, Christopher B. Barrett – World Development, 2015

While index-based microinsurance has attracted considerable attention, uptake rates have been weak in many low-income countries. We explore the purchase patterns of index-based livestock insurance in southern Ethiopia, focusing on the role of accurate product comprehension and price. We find that randomly distributed learning kits improve subjects’ knowledge of the products; however, we do not find strong evidence that the improved knowledge per se causes greater insurance uptake. We also find that reduced price due to randomly distributed discount coupons has an immediate, positive impact on uptake, without dampening subsequent period demand due to reference-dependence associated with price anchoring effects.

Principles of Designing and Implementing Agricultural Extension Programs for Reducing Post-harvest Loss
Paul E. McNamara, Joyous S. Tata – Agriculture and Rural Development, 2015

Post-harvest losses represent a significant threat to food security and farmer incomes worldwide. It is an inefficiency in the global food production system that is avoidable. In deducing principles of designing and implementing agricultural extension programs to reduce post-harvest losses, valuable lessons can be gleaned from the handful of previous extension projects and programs addressing post-harvest loss. Abstracting principles from previous experiences and using this to inform future post-harvest loss prevention programs is an evidence-based approach to arrive at solutions to this problem. This paper reviews extension programs for post-harvest loss prevention, before presenting key principles abstracted from the review that should be taken into consideration for future post-harvest loss prevention programs. This paper aims to contribute to knowledge on the role of agricultural extension in the design of post-harvest loss reduction efforts in developing countries.

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