A decade of neglecting the National Institutes of Health budget has left a sector of science scrabbling to survive
diana buja's insight:
Grim assessment from a responder: "There certainly is a need for research, and the NIH essentially funds research about human health and disease and there has been progress, but now we essentially have an aging population which requires much higher medical costs as well, so money will probably end up going to patient care rather than research...
"Information on climate change and its links with forests are not readily available in Central Africa. The concept of climate change and its processes evolve so quickly that decision makers are hard pressed to keep up. In addition, most of the available information is disseminated through very selective channels (scientific journals, articles, newsletters, websites, etc.) that do not always reach a wider audience.
Radio remains the most accessible means of communication, because it is available to everyone and is relatively inexpensive.
"Changing seasons" is a CIFOR-COBAM radio program that adopts a debate format. It is broadcast monthly by the national radio station, Cameroon Radio and Television (CRTV), which has nationwide coverage,exchanging information on climate change and its links with forests...
PHOTO: Cleared trees and groundcover to grow bean crops is quickly denuding vast areas of eastern Burundi. As rain has decreased over the last decade+, natural growth simply does not regenerate. Photo credit: dianabuja
diana buja's insight:
The use of radio as an extension and communication tool can be an excellent method of linking up with local people and with extension and other relevant workers. In much of rural Africa there is an information gap that, as here in Burundi and in the Congo, is pervasive due to war, unrest, and poverty.
However, to make it work, there are some necessary inputs - chief of which, as pointed out in the last blog post, is ongoing support for the project *beyond* the 2 or 3 years of a grant. Part of this work must involve networking and bringing on board relevant experts and policy folk in ministries of agriculture (etc) as well as government offices. Without that, sustained operation may not occur.
In northern Sudan, I have seen villagers enjoying an excellent radio program focused on gum arabic trees (Acacia senegal & A. sayel) and related ground crops. It was very much appreciated in the gum Arabic regions (south of El Obeid) in which I was working.
Here in Burundi, several years ago an international donor funded and mounted an educational radio station with links to about six major areas of the country. I collaborated in developing a series of programs on small ruminant husbandry, an important topic given losses during the fighting, plus inbreeding and diseases – a logical next step after having completed a major assessment of the role of restocking and small ruminants in post-conflict reconstruction. We received funding for this applied research program from AARNET-ILRI (the Animal Agriculture Research Network of the International Livestock Research Institute).
However, because key policymakers were apparently not committed to an educational radio station, and perhaps more importantly, because the country was not yet sufficiently at peace, the programming lapsed primarily into popular music. A good lesson on the need for both interactive project design and for ongoing followup.
Africa and Europe: Partnerships in Food and Farming.
We are seeking increased and enhanced European government support for productive, sustainable, equitable and resilient agricultural development in Sub-Saharan Africa, focusing in particular on the needs of smallholder farmers.
We are calling for European leaders to move the debate beyond summit statements and political rhetoric, and focus on the practical implementation of their commitments to Africa.
Giant meteors, an expanding sun, the retirement of Barbara Walters, and more
diana buja's insight:
Cheery thoughts, folks -
"Gerta Keller, paleontologist, Princeton
Four of the five mass extinctions in history were driven by volcanic eruptions that flooded entire continents. Our world could quite possibly end with the explosive eruption of Yellowstone, which is past due.
A failed maize crop in Ghana. A report by CCAFS is advising Africa's farmers and policymakers to adapt to climate shifts now to ensure communities are protected from climate change devastations (ph...
diana buja's insight:
"Kinyangi and his fellow author laud ‘Kenya’s recent move to launch a national climate change action plan’, which sets out ‘a policy roadmap for reducing the country’s vulnerability to climate change’. Kenya’s plan, they say, is an example of the actions African nations can take to protect themselves against climate change devastations."
Well and good for countries such as kenya to launch such action plans - however for many countries - such as here in Burundi, in war-torne Mali, etc. - such actions appear very far in the future. And in the meantime...
We are not biologically identical to our Paleolithic predecessors, nor do we have access to the foods they ate.
Even if eating only foods available to hunter–gatherers in the Paleolithic made sense, it would be impossible. As Christina Warinner of the University of Zurich emphasizes in her 2012 TED talk, just about every single species commonly consumed today—whether a fruit, vegetable or animal—is drastically different from its Paleolithic predecessor. In most cases, we have transformed the species we eat through artificial selection:
Indigenous communities in Namibia possess a rich indigenous knowledge expressed within many practices of these communities.
56.3% of the respondents reported that indigenous fruits were declining. Only a 42.2% indicated that the indigenous fruits populations are increasing. Regarding to the management practices to improve the production of these indigenous fruit trees; 38.6% reported that there are some efforts on management practices; on the other hand 61.4% reported there are no management practices on the indigenous fruit trees in their areas. Four species were found to be the most frequently used and mentioned fruits which need to be given high preference in terms of conservation are: Berchemia discolor, Hyphaene petersiana, Sclerocarya birrea and Diospyros mespiliformis. .
"But scientists are finding it hard to pinpoint which factors in particular are the most responsible for the rise in pollinator mortality. That’s because a lot of different things have gone wrong lately. For one thing, wild habitats such as meadows and grasslands that the pollinators depend on for a varied diet are shrinking, as urban sprawl and the spread of monoculture agriculture encroaches upon them. The introduction of non-native species has also reduced the numbers of native pollinators in the U.S. and elsewhere. The European honey bee, which is the one that commercial beekeepers raise, is actually an invasive species which is competing with American insects for limited resources. In some areas, moreover, there is evidence that erratic weather and shifts in rainfall patterns due to climate change may already be a factor in the decline of certain species.
Something else that has been getting a lot of attention, especially in Europe, is the impact of agro-chemicals on both wild and domesticated bees. In a landmark move late last month,
“Landscape approaches” seek to provide tools and concepts for allocating and managing land to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives in areas where agriculture, mining, and other productive land uses compete with environmental and biodiversity goals. Here we synthesize the current consensus on landscape approaches. This is based on published literature and a consensus-building process to define good practice and is validated by a survey of practitioners. We find the landscape approach has been refined in response to increasing societal concerns about environment and development tradeoffs. Notably, there has been a shift from conservation-orientated perspectives toward increasing integration of poverty alleviation goals. We provide 10 summary principles to support implementation of a landscape approach as it is currently interpreted. These principles emphasize adaptive management, stakeholder involvement, and multiple objectives. Various constraints are recognized, with institutional and governance concerns identified as the most severe obstacles to implementation. We discuss how these principles differ from more traditional sectoral and project-based approaches. Although no panacea, we see few alternatives that are likely to address landscape challenges more effectively than an approach circumscribed by the principles outlined here.
"Grabbing of pastoralists’ traditional land to put it under the commercial farming system, which has widely been adopted as a development and investment strategy in Sudan, is creating a cruel dilemma of increasing both resource conflict and environmental degradation. This is one of the fundamental reasons that the country has earned the reputation as a home of bloody civil wars and the country is unlikely to see lasting peace until such issues have been addressed. My aim in this research is to provide evidence-based information by mapping out the encroachment of large-scale agriculture into transhumance migration routes in Gadarif State (eastern Sudan), with a two-fold approach. First, I tracked the land-use/land-cover (LULC) change using satellite imagery. Second, I interviewed transhumant pastoralists to obtain information about their perspectives on major problems facing them along the routes in their seasonal journey. It is clear that state policy has failed to provide support to pastoralists. Animal mobility in space and time are severely constrained. The average of the annual encroachment of mechanized farming along the routes is 3 percent. The most substantial LULC change occurred after 1999. Other challenges facing the routes are: lack of water resources, design of the routes and degradation of rest places. Due to the abolition of their native administrative system and lack of education, pastoralists have no way of influencing any decisions that impacted their system."
By Jonathan Finnighan Helping the most vulnerable farmers adapt to climate change – lessons from a Farm Africa project The first thing that strikes me about Mwangangi’s farm is that it looks abando...
...The impact evaluation found that two-thirds of the farmers in the project are now using new micro-catchments on their farms, and about half started cultivating drought tolerant crops that they weren’t before. Crop yields from zai pits greatly improved, especially for farmers with very arid soils: many reported that their yields tripled or more. And on average, farmers estimated that their families had an additional month of food from their harvests after using the new farming methods, and that this allowed them to spend more money on things other than food – such as buying animals and farming inputs and improving their home.
diana buja's insight:
The zai pits described in this piece are indigenous to parts of the Sudanese Sahel. They work quite well in water-stressed areas, and I'm glad to see them being introduced in Kenya.
Farm Africa has been doing some interesting work in east Africa. More than many other NGOs, their follow-up over the longterm is generally quite good. And that's where many of the problems of improvements or new technologies being continued are located - lack of ongoing assessment and assistance.
he Montpellier Panel, a group of African and European experts in the fields of agriculture, sustainable development, trade and policy, define sustainable intensification as “the goal of producing more food with less impact on the environment, intensifying food production while ensuring the natural resource base on which agriculture depends is sustained, and indeed improved, for future generations.”
Every three years, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) convenes a continental gathering of its stakeholders. The purpose of the event is to create an open space for networking and exchanging knowledge.
Whether it’s swapping coffee for cocoa in Central America or bracing for drought in Sri Lanka with a return to ancient water storage systems, findings from a new report from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food...
"...The authors also explore how, in other parts of the world, adaptation planning must consider long-term changes that exceed historical experience and require “wholesale reconfigurations of livelihoods, diets, and the geography of farming and food systems.” For example, while various climate models offer different assessments of changes expected in Central America, they agree that over the long-term, higher temperatures are likely to render Arabica coffee production unsuitable at lower altitudes. “No regrets” strategies could involve shifting some production to higher altitudes and, at lower altitudes, switching to a different, but similarly lucrative crop, like cocoa.
diana buja's insight:
Moving from massive plans such as proposed here and elsewhere - to specific implementations in a country - is the step that's not (yet) addressed.
"For a long time, primates stuck by the old restaurants--leaves and fruits--but by 3.5 million years ago, they started exploring new diet possibilities--tropical grasses and sedges--that grazing animals discovered a long time before, about 10 million years ago," Cerling says, when African savanna began expanding.
"Tropical grasses provided a new set of restaurants. We see an increasing reliance on this resource by human ancestors, one that most primates still don't use today."
Grassy savannas and grassy woodlands in East Africa were widespread by 6 million to 7 million years ago. A major question is why human ancestors didn't start exploiting savanna grasses until less than 4 million years ago.
diana buja's insight:
Sedges were an early grass species eaten in the Nile Valley, which I discuss in this blog:
Nutsedge – perhaps the oldest managed ‘weed’ in Predynastic Egypt
Research in the lab aims at acquiring knowledge on the structure and functioning of livestock species genomes, with particular focus on the Pig, small ruminants (sheep, goat) and various avian species (chicken, duck, quail ...). We contribute to the characterization of the genetics underlying complex traits (production, robustness ...), in particular to help improving breeding methods and managing livestock populations. Our missions are:
to provide tools to develop genetic, cytogenetic and physical maps of animal genomes.to contribute to the characterization of animal genomes in terms of structure, sequence, expression and polymorphism.to study the present structure of livestock populations and infer the history that led to this structureto localize and eventually identify causal mutations influencing complex traits.to identify individuals carrying favorable gene-forms (alleles) in livestock populations.
On 24th April 2013, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released the report Agricultural Innovation: The United States in a Changing Global Reality authored by University of Minnesota researchers...
New measures for global spillover potential presented in the report include:
Agro-technological distances – identifying global similarities in agro ecologies and globalsimilarities in agricultural productionCumulative home-grown knowledge stocks, by region and countryPotential spill-in leverage versus world share of knowledge stock, by country
The following datasets contributed to this analysis:
Developed countries’ contributions to agricultural R&DGlobal productivity growth trends (how much of R&D is going towards productivity growth, and how much is dedicated to other areas)Public and private contributions to global R&D and productivity growthTotal spending on science-related R&D (looking beyond just agricultural R&D to other sciences, in recognition that there are spillovers from other types of R&D investments)
diana buja's insight:
How technology-driven is this report? What are "home-grown knowledge stocks"?...
A lot of questions here, and have downloaded to read. Is this 'just another desk-study'?
To add - pix of traditional locals with cell phones (cover of the report, above) seems the new-wave method of juxtaposing tradition with modernity. that they somehow can become comfortable bed-fellows.
The chart below shows student enrolments in higher education in three subject areas in the OECD or advanced industrial countries in 2010, with Britain and the United States identified separately. The data refer to the percentage of students enrolled in higher education who study science, engineering and also social science, business and law. The latter category is rather broad but the UNESCO data does not allow a finer distinction to be made between these subjects. The data are very relevant to the debate about the importance of science and technology as opposed to the arts, humanities and social science in stimulating investment and growth in Britain.
... the world is increasingly farming on the margins, with most of the last few remaining near-pristine ecosystems now being invaded and destabilized. Just as inexorable is the move to rapidly growing cities of poor rural people, who are bringing their livestock with them. The resulting losses of biodiversity, and the rise of genetically improved, and thus similar, animal populations, also increases the risk of a pandemic emerging. Climate and environmental changes are generally making matters worse.