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).
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.
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.
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:
Provide a forum through which the university will disseminate the ongoing contributions it is making to the society.
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.
Provide a forum for research peers from local and international institutions to discuss, share and publish vital information.
Provide an opportunity for the industry to interact with researchers and innovators through exhibitions.
Provoke policymakers to appreciate the need for substantial and long-term investments in scientific research, innovation and industrialization.
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.
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.