Knowledge for better food systems

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The 54 countries in Africa – from the dry northern African nations, through those in deserts and rainforests, all the way to the temperate parts of South Africa – are hugely varied in their ethnic, cultural, climatic, geographic, and economic aspects. The continent’s population of over a billion inhabitants, with a median age of 19.7 years, is the youngest in the world. Due to both its localised epidemics of hunger and its huge untapped agricultural potential, Sub-Saharan Africa specifically is a key focus area for many NGOs and development agencies interested in food production and security.

18 February 2014

On January 22nd USAID’s  online knowledge sharing platform Agrilinks held a seminar on Scaling-up Re-greening Solutions in Africa to Boost Smallholder Yields. It discussed a recently released report by World Resources Institute (WRI)  on “Improving Land and Water Management”.

14 February 2014

Abstract

There is an urgent need to increase agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa in a sustainable and economically-viable manner. Transforming risk-averse smallholders into business-oriented producers that invest in producing surplus food for sale provides a formidable challenge, both from a technological and socio-political perspective.

6 February 2014

A growing imbalance between phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer use in Africa could lead to crop yield reductions of nearly 30% by 2050, according to a new study from researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

19 December 2013

This blog-post in The Economist, written by Sir Gordon Conway and Katy Wilson, describes their views on sustainable intensification.  They argue that, to ensure food security in ways that maximise both agricultural output and the health of the environment and ecosystem, we need to redesign our innovation systems to aid multidisciplinary and collaborative research.

21 November 2013

IFPRI (the International Food Policy Research Institute) has released an issue brief on genetically modified crops in sub-Saharan Africa and their role in agricultural development. The report argues that many policy makers in sub-Saharan Africa lack information about GM crops’ potential, benefits, costs, and safety.

21 October 2013

Aquaculture is an issue that rarely attracts the attention it deserves.  These short filmed interviews made by the  International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI feature researchers and practitioners in livestock and fish ‘value chains’ in Uganda who came together during a conference on AgriFood Chain Toolkit Conference-Livestock and Fish Value Chains in East Africa, in September Sep 2013.

21 October 2013

This briefing paper was produced by Sir Gordon Conway together with colleagues from the Agriculture for Impact program at Imperial College London and researchers from Harvard Kennedy School and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). The briefing paper argues that African food production remains well below its potential and that innovation for sustainable intensification can help smallholder farmers produce more food with less impact on the environment while also improving agriculture’s sustainability.

15 October 2013

Resilience is currently at the centre of the development agenda and many states say they have resilience policies. But SIANI stresses that initiatives are often criticised for being too vague and lacking in real understanding of what resilience is and how to act to ensure it in crisis situations. This SIANI Policy brief outlines some key concepts of socio-ecological resilience and illustrates them using three case study examples from Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya.  It concludes with some key recommendations for policy makers and practitioners on how to build resilient systems.

24 June 2013

Cassava is a "survivor" crop, able to thrive in the expected higher temperatures caused by climate change. An alliance of scientists has recently been formed to help promote cassava cultivation. The 300 scientists attending the second International Scientific Conference of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century, held in Kampala Uganda presented a new initiative called Global Cassava Modelling Consortium. The Consortium aims to help researchers share information on this increasingly important crop, to better understand the physiology of the plant and to explore avenues for protecting it from attacks.

18 March 2013

A new study suggests that enriching crops by adding a naturally-occurring soil mineral to fertilisers could potentially help to reduce disease and premature death in Malawi. Dietary deficiency of the mineral selenium plays a vital role in keeping the immune system healthy and fighting illness and is likely to be endemic among the Malawi population.

26 November 2012

Continuing with this theme, EurActiv.com posted an article, “EU’s food imports pose ‘tricky balance’ for hungry Africans,” which discusses the difficulty of creating economic development and food security throughout Africa. A drought that hit East Africa in 2011 exposed this difficulty as European markets had plentiful supplies of African agricultural exports. In fact, the EU imports 40% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural exports. 

26 November 2012

A new World Bank report says that Africa’s farmers can potentially grow enough food to feed the continent and avert future food crises if countries remove cross-border restrictions on food trade within the region. The report goes onto say that Africa has enough fertile farm land, water, and favorable climates to feed itself, yet it is forced to import ever-larger amounts of food from outside the region to keep up with rising demands across the continent.

14 October 2012

The Hershey Company recently announced it will source 100 percent certified cocoa for its global chocolate product lines by 2020 and accelerate its programs to help eliminate child labor in the cocoa regions of West Africa.

31 July 2012

A new study finds that Tanzania is one developing country that could actually benefit from climate change by increasing exports of corn to the U.S. and other nations. The study, published in the Review of Development Economics, shows that Tanzania has the potential to substantially increase its maize exports and take advantage of higher commodity prices with a variety of trading partners due to predicted dry and hot weather that could affect those countries' usual sources for the crop.

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