For more and better-quality food production, take care of pollinators

The evidence is clear: For big gains in crop production, our landscapes must become more hospitable to some of the planet’s littlest creatures— its pollinators.

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Coffee pollination by carpenter bee (Xylocopa sp.). Photo by Dino Martins

Bees, birds, butterflies, moths and some small mammals transfer pollen from flower to flower, causing fruit to set. This environmental service of pollinators is what secures the harvest of a huge proportion of the world’s food production.

At an invited talk at the Nairobi headquarters of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) on 8 January 2016, Kenyan naturalist and entomologist Dino Martins, the Executive Director of the Mpala Research Centre and Chair of the Insect Committee of Nature Kenya, delved into the intimate links between the world’s food security and pollination. Read more. ..

First ‘fruit tree portfolios’ established in Kenya, in a novel approach to improved year-round nutrition

World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) researchers have launched a novel approach to tackle the problem of micronutrient deficiencies, also known as ‘hidden hunger.’ The fruit tree portfolio approach involves cultivating a set of fruit trees on farms, which is carefully designed to supply nutritious fruits to eat throughout the year, for diverse diets and improved health.

The fruit tree portfolio for a particular locality gives the optimum number and combination of ecologically suitable agroforestry tree species to provide for year-round fresh fruits for households’ requirements of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A, both essential nutrients. Because the trees in the portfolio have different harvest seasons spanning the entire calendar year, they provide a year-round supply of at least one fruit species per month for the household. Read more…

More money and less risk for African eco-farmers

Rose Koech at her farm in Kembu, Kenya. She has a mixed farm with trees, crops, fodder species and vegetables. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF
Rose Koech at her farm in Kembu, Kenya. She has a mixed farm with trees, crops, fodder species and vegetables. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF

A Greenpeace study in Malawi and Kenya has revealed that chemically-intensive farming hurts the bottom line of small-scale farmers; agroecological farming is more profitable.

Agroecology refers to a suite of sustainable farming practices that use few or no external chemical inputs. The approaches, often rooted in traditional farming techniques, include sustainable land management, water harvesting, agroforestry, biological control of pests and weeds, intercropping, organic farming, permaculture, and several others. Read more..

Easier and faster processing of njansang heralds opportunities for local development

Ricinodendron heudelotii, locally known as Njansang (or njansa), is a forest tree found in Cameroon and other countries along Africa’s tropical belt. Women and children traditionally collect njansang fruit in the forest and undertake the labourious, time-intensive job of extracting its precious kernels for sale or home use. Njansang kernels—which are ground into a paste used to flavor and thicken a wide array of foods— are in high demand throughout the region and all year round.

But even with a large, ready local market, njansang’s slow and difficult processing stands in the way of unlocking its potential to generate more income for local communities; traditional processesing takes anything from 6 to 8 weeks to go from harvest to kernel, and a woman earns around $50 from the sale of njansang kernels annually. Read more. . .