Call for abstracts: Kenya’s 2015 National Science Week

Kenya’s National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology have issued a call for abstracts for the fourth National Science Week to be held on 11-15 May 2015 in Nairobi.

The event consists of an exhibition, robotics contest and a conference. The aim of the conference is to share and identify practical, evidence-based solutions to science and technology development in the post-2015 agenda in line with Kenya’s Vision 2030 national strategic development plan.

The conference will bring together academia, researchers, scientists and practitioners working in universities, research organisations, industry, civil society, government and other stakeholders.

The theme of the conference is The role of science and technology in the post-2015 development agenda. The sub-themes are:

  • agriculture and food security
  • energy and climate change
  • environmental and natural resource management
  • water, sanitation and health
  • knowledge management and technology transfer

Visit the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology website for more information on how to submit abstracts.

The deadline for submission is 31 March 2015.


New book features case studies on climate-smart agriculture in Africa

Earlier this year, I came across a newly published book, Evidence of Impact: Climate-smart Agriculture in Africa. It features 11 case studies on various climate-smart agriculture practices across Africa’s diverse farming systems and climatic conditions.

Climate-smart agriculture is all about increasing agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner in the midst of the challenges of a changing climate and environmental degradation.

Among the projects highlighted in the book are the East Africa Dairy Development project in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania; the Great Green Wall of the Sahara and Sahel Initiative; the Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa project in 13 countries of eastern, southern and West Africa; and the Sustainable Agricultural Development of the Highlands project operating across North Africa in Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

The publication “aims to inspire farmers, researchers, business leaders, policy makers and NGOs to take up the mantle of climate-smart agriculture and accelerate the transformation of Africa’s agriculture into a more sustainable and profitable sector”.

Improving water management for agricultural production: International forum on water and food takes up the challenge

Water reservoir at Tsinkanet, Mek'ele, Ethiopia
Water reservoir at Tsinkanet, Mek’ele, Ethiopia (Photo: ILRI)

The Third International Forum on Water and Food (IFWF3) currently underway in Tshwane, South Africa  (14-17 November 2011) brings together partners from the CGIAR Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) as well as water and food scientists and other key stakeholders to assess how a research-for-development approach can address water and food challenges through a combination of process, institutional and technical innovations.

The CPWF carries out research in six different basins, dubbed Basin Development Challenges:

  1. Andes system of basins to increase water productivity and reduce water-related conflict in selected basins through the development of more equitable benefit-sharing mechanisms.
  2. Ganges basin to reduce poverty and strengthen livelihood resilience through improved water governance and management in coastal areas of the Ganges basin.
  3. Limpopo river basin to improve integrated management of rainwater to improve smallholder productivity and livelihoods and reduce risk.
  4. Mekong river basin to reduce poverty and foster development through management of water for multiple uses in large and small reservoirs.
  5. Nile river basin to strengthen rural livelihoods and their resilience through a landscape approach to rainwater management.
  6. Volta river basin to strengthen integrated management of rainwater and small reservoirs so that they can be used equitably for multiple uses.

A bit about CPWF (from the CPWF website)

The Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) was launched in 2002 as one of the reform initiatives of the CGIAR, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. Phase 1 ran from 2004–2008 and Phase 2 runs from 2009–2013.

Over the last six years, and based on more 68 projects carried out throughout the world, the main lesson learned is that improved water productivity is only one piece of the puzzle. Equally important are equitable access to water and better water governance. Taken together and integrated across scales, these can reduce poverty, improve livelihoods resilience, and boost ecosystem services.

The CPWF represents the largest, most comprehensive investment in the world on water, food and environment research. Through the paradigm of water productivity – developing ways to produce more food within limited water availability – it offers a new approach to natural resources management research within the CGIAR. The CPWF works together in with institutions, NGOs and community groups in partnerships which seek meaningful impact for the people who use the new innovations developed by scientific research.

Check out the IFWF3 blog for more on the workshop activities or follow #IFWF3 on Twitter.

Towards lasting solutions to drought in the Horn of Africa: What role for agricultural research?

Arid lands

The current drought situation in the Horn of Africa is the worst ever in 60 years, so the experts tell us. Millions of pastoral livelihoods have been lost, and the situation remains precarious in the face of  the attendant famine and food shortage plaguing the region.

Calls continue to be made for governments and policymakers to put in place longer term, sustainable solutions to the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.

But seeing as drought is a natural phenomenon that is known to recur at periodic intervals which, with the help of technology, can be predicted with fairly reliable accuracy, the question arises: What role can research play towards finding long-term solutions to drought and famine in the Horn of Africa?

A new blog by the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres seeks to answer this question by documenting the important role that agricultural research is playing as part of long-lasting solutions in the fight against perennial drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.

Improved drought-tolerant crop and seed varieties, better livestock early warning systems, and novel technologies for land and water management in dryland areas are just a few examples highlighted in the blog.

For more, you can also check  out their  Twitter page @CGIARConsortium or follow the Twitter hash tag #Ag4HoA.

FARA week underway in Burkina Faso

The 5th African Agriculture Science Week and General Assembly of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is currently underway at the Ouaga 2000 International Convention Centre in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The FARA week meeting which runs from 19 to 24 July 2010 brings together over 700 prominent agriculture researchers, policymakers and development experts from around the world along with the President of Burkina Faso and ministers of Agriculture, Science and Foreign Affairs from several African and European countries.

Key issues for discussion include:

  • Increasing and sustaining public and private sector investments in African agriculture in the wake of the global financial crisis;
  • Delivering innovations and building capacity at the local level that will enable farmers to adapt to the challenges posed by globalization and climate change;
  • Assessing the resilience of African agriculture trade to domestic and external shocks that include: protectionism and subsidies, the short and long-term trade-offs between biofuel production and food security, and access to agriculture commodity markets; and
  • Embracing importance of biodiversity to African environmental and agriculture health in addition to social and economic development.

For updates on the happenings, check out this conference blog.

Intervene now to minimise climate change effects

Kenya needs to seek practical ways to adapt to climate change immediately so as to minimise the effects of the current trends of global warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that if no intervention is taken, average temperatures will rise by 6°C by the year 2100 and by 2020, Mt Kilimanjaro will have completely lost its ice cap.

“We need to adapt our local indigenous knowledge and find out how our communities coped in the past to changes in climatic conditions like drought and flooding,” said Prof Christopher Oludhe of the Department of Meteorology, University of Nairobi.

Prof Oludhe was speaking at a media workshop for Kenyan science journalists held in Nairobi on 9 December 2008.

Some of the practical interventions that individuals and institutions can take to slow down the trends of climate change include the use of renewable sources of energy (e.g. solar and wind energy), use of early-maturing seed varieties and planting of trees. The media also has a role to play in awareness creation.

Kenya has not been left behind in experiencing the global effects of climate change. These have been characterised by decreasing rainfall trends and rising average temperatures. Prolonged dry spells have led to famine and subsequent loss of livelihoods that depend on agriculture, with significant impacts on household food security.

Climate change refers to a permanent shift in the long-term average weather patterns in a specific location. Global average trends in climate change have seen rising temperatures and sea levels, melting of glaciers, shrinking of lakes and an increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

New project links indigenous rainmaking knowledge and scientific weather forecasting

Indigenous knowledge on changing weather patterns will be used to inform Western scientific weather forecasting in a new Sh 18.8 million project that was launched recently in Kenya.

The 2-year project, funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) aims to help local communities adapt to climate change.

Scientists from the Kenya Meteorological Department and the National Museums of Kenya will work with Western Kenya’s Nganyi community that is renowned for its traditional rainmaking prowess.

The project also hopes to demystify the rainmaking practices of the Nganyi people who predict rainfall patterns by noting various environmental changes, e.g. changes in air currents, the pattern of flowering and shedding of leaves from certain trees, changes in behaviour of safari ants and the different songs of some birds, as well as croaking of frogs and toads.