Happy New Year 2015, the International Year of Soils

Sharifa Juma digs terraces to stop soil erosion
Sharifa Juma digs terraces to stop soil erosion in Lushoto, Tanzania. Photo credit: Georgina Smith / CIAT.

Greetings and a very Happy New Year 2015! As we begin yet another new year, we say goodbye to 2014, the International Year of Family Farming, and usher in 2015, the International Year of Soils.

The 68th United Nations General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been nominated to implement the International Year of Soils within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with governments and the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The International Year of Soils aims to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.

The specific objectives are to:

  • raise awareness among civil society and decision-makers about the importance of soil for human life;
  • educate the public about the crucial role soil plays in food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and sustainable development;
  • support effective policies and actions for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources;
  • promote investment in sustainable soil management activities to develop and maintain healthy soils for different land users and population groups;
  • strengthen initiatives in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals process and post-2015 agenda; and
  • advocate for rapid capacity enhancement for soil information collection and monitoring at all levels (global, regional and national).

Visit the 2015 International Year of Soils website to find out more.

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African Development Bank and IFPRI publish report on the status of agri-biotechnology in Africa

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, a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the African Development Bank 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.

The authors provide information about the region’s limited financial, technical, regulatory, and legal capacities while additionally focusing on the role of trade concerns and conflicting information as limiting factors that affect adoption.

The authors also identify several initiatives that could help overcome these obstacles, such as increasing public investments in agricultural biotechnology research and development; improving regulatory frameworks and regulatory capacity; and developing an effective and broad-based communications strategy.

These and other recommendations should be useful to policymakers, development specialists, and others who are concerned about the potential role that biotechnology could play in Africa as an additional tool for sustainable agriculture development.

Access the report, GM agricultural technologies for Africa: A state of affairs

Farmers in Kenya to gain from new facilities aimed at controlling aflatoxins

An article in SciDev.Net by Esther Nakkazi reports on the recent opening of a new laboratory and biopesticide processing plant in Kenya. The two facilities will help research, monitor and control aflatoxin contamination in staple crops.

Read the full article on SciDev.Net, Farmers to gain from projects to combat aflatoxins

Happy Farmers’ Day, Ghana!

While scrolling through my Twitter feed this afternoon, I found out from a Tweet by a Ghanaian photographer that today is Farmers’ Day, a national holiday, in Ghana.

I think it’s quite remarkable that Ghana would set aside a special day to honour and celebrate the millions of farmers who work so hard to provide food and nourishment for the country.

It got me thinking… which other African countries celebrate their farmers with a national holiday? If you know of any, please let me know by posting a comment in response to this blog post.

Meanwhile, I wish the people of Ghana a very Happy Farmers’ Day!

Call for papers: 9th JKUAT scientific, technological and industrialization conference

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has announced its 9th annual scientific, technological and industrialization conference to be held on 13-14 November 2014 at the JUKAT Main Campus in Juja, Nairobi, Kenya.

The theme of the conference is Science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship for sustainable development. 

The objectives of the conference are to:

  1. Provide a forum through which the university will disseminate the ongoing contributions it is making to the society.
  2. Create a forum for constantly improving the university’s approach to development-oriented scientific research, as it strives to remain a leader in this area.
  3. Provide a forum for research peers from local and international institutions to discuss, share and publish vital information.
  4. Provide an opportunity for the industry to interact with researchers and innovators through exhibitions.
  5. Provoke policymakers to appreciate the need for substantial and long-term investments in scientific research, innovation and industrialization.

For more information and to find out how to register, please visit the conference website.

Nissin Foods and JKUAT develop the world’s first instant noodles with sorghum

I recently came across a news item on the Bioversity International website on how the Japanese instant noodles manufacturing company Nissin Foods and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) have developed an instant noodle product using a local crop, sorghum, as an alternative to white wheat flour.

According to the managing director of Nissin Kenya, Daisuke Okabayashi, these are the first instant noodles with sorghum in the world.

Check out the blog post, Sorghum makes its way into Africa’s first instant noodles, to read more about the development of this unique food product.

Kenyan farmers add value to sweet potato and sorghum

Man holding sweet potatoes
Man holding orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Photo credit: USAID/Natasha Murigu

Farmers in Busia County, western Kenya, are processing and packaging flour made from vitamin A-rich, orange-fleshed sweet potato. Through the Siwongo Processors company, farmers are processing around 1.2 t of flour each day. Some is sold locally while the rest is bought by food companies based in Nairobi to fortify other foods.

“Orange sweet potatoes are very profitable,” explains farmer Florence Naliaka. “I have educated my first born and I have managed to build a permanent house, and bought a dairy cow. Life is good.”

Farmers growing a high-yielding, fast-maturing sorghum variety, known as gadam, are also selling their crop commercially. East African Breweries Limited is buying the cereal to use it as a substitute for barley, enabling farmers to earn more from their crop.

Both of these ventures are part of the Commercializing Traditional Staple Crops project, implemented by the Cereal Growers Association, Smart Logistic Solutions and the Pan African Agribusiness and Agro-industry Consortium, with the aim of improving household food and nutrition security.

Source:  Spore (CTA)