Success factors for land and water management in Africa

At present, large expanses of land in rural Africa are degraded as a result of over extraction of trees for timber, firewood and charcoal. The problem is exacerbated by poor crop and animal husbandry practices, such as growing crops in unsuitable ecological zones and on steep slopes, as well as unplanned grazing on Africa’s vast rangelands. Soils in degraded landscapes erode and lose their biodiversity and fertility, and the hydrologic functions of surrounding watersheds are diminished, leading to loss of water quantity and quality; land and water management, after all, are two sides of the same coin.

Immaculée Nyirahabimana is a farmer from Cyuve district-CIAT
Immaculée Nyirahabimana is a farmer from Cyuve district-CIAT. Photo by Stephanie Malyon / CIAT. www.ciatnews.cgiar.org/?p=7981

A side event convened by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) at the seventh Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW7) sought to share knowledge on how to better manage the continent’s water and land resources, as a means to support higher and more sustainable agricultural productivity and better livelihoods for people. The session contributed recommendations to the just-ended conference convened in Kigali by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, FARA, the apex continental organization responsible for coordinating and advocating for agricultural research-for-development. Read more. . .

Same shore, different scales

While in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast recently, I got up super-early to catch the rising sun (on camera).

Close to shore was a small ‘glass boat’ – ready to take tourists later in the day to look at colourful reef fish through its see-through floor.

At first I missed the flicker of distant lights beyond the reef, but with a zoom lens and slow shutter, two commercial liners came into view. They moved slowly towards one another, then crossed paths.

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Oil cake from biofuel extraction further supports India’s ‘smokeless’ villages

In partnership with the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) in Bangalore and the District Panchayath of Hassan in India, a program to support the integration of oil-bearing trees in agricultural landscapes1 is contributing to energy security amongst communities in five villages in more than one way.

The Biofuels project, led by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is providing smallholder farmers in energy-stressed villages with quality plant material and technical assistance to grow native or locally adapted oilseed trees such as pongamia (Pongamia pinnata), simarouba (Simarouba glauca), mahua (Madhuca longifolia), neem (Azadirachta indica), and other suitable species. The oil-bearing seeds are extracted for their oil, a biofuel which is used to run generators and other machinery. Expelling oil from seeds leaves behind an oil-rich fibrous mass known as an oil cake. Read more. . .

The A to Z of soil biodiversity

The soil is the “living, breathing skin of our planet.” It is the basis of food production and essential for clean water, health, greenhouse gas capture and numerous other functions that support life on earth.

Soil biodiversity is intimately connected with all terrestrial life. Thanks to advances in technology and global scientific cooperation, huge strides have been made in our understanding of the dazzling diversity of life forms beneath our feet; and especially that of microscopic bacteria, fungi, and nematodes that are invisible to the naked eye. Read more…

While raising crop yields, African thorn tree Faidherbia albida captures large amounts of carbon

A large, old Faidherbia albida tree with a metre-plus diameter stored the equivalent of the CO2 emitted by 8 cars over one year. These useful trees play an important role in carbon sequestration, a critical part of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.

People in many areas of Africa gain numerous benefits from the leaves, branches and trunks of the dryland thorn tree Faidherbia albida. Read more. . .

Translate research into action for inclusive development, say GCARD3 conference speakers

The third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3) opened on with a clarion call to translate research results into usable innovations. This way, research will better serve both African countries’ sustainable development aspirations and the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

GCARD3 opening ceremony. Photo by IISD/Kiara Worth
GCARD3 opening ceremony. Photo by IISD/Kiara Worth

Among the most pressing issues is conquering hunger and malnutrition while sustaining environmental health. The conference’s theme: ‘No One Left Behind; Agri–food Innovation and Research for a Sustainable World,’ also points to the need for inclusive development. Read more..

An artist with something to say about ‘the teachers’ cry’, courage, and Kenyans’ bumbling sense of art: Meet Dickens Otieno, Kenya’s metal weaver par excellence

Mixed media artist Dickens Otieno has been at the Manjano Visual Arts Exhibition in Nairobi March- April 2016.

We talked metal school uniforms, books that don’t open, and why Kenyans are always peering into art pieces looking for a picture they can hold on to. The Godown Arts Centre artist had some good advice for educators and for people too timid to pursue their dream.

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Living textiles

How human hands can turn a cotton boll or silk cocoon into thread, and then turn that thread into cloth is, to me, the epitome of ingenuity. And I’m intrigued by hand-decoration and embellishment of cloth, which breathes life into fabric and turns it into a work of art and beauty.

As a huge fan of handcrafted textiles, I’ve been consciously and unconsciously collecting functional and decorative pieces for nearly two decades.

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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.

bee-coffee
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. ..

Immense benefits from agroforestry in rural Cameroon

Yaounde — Commercial agriculture has received a major boost and the impact of climate change minimised in Cameroon thanks to the adoption of agroforestry techniques by thousands of farmers.

Seedlings of traditionally important food trees in Louis-Marie Atangana’s home nursery in Nkenlikok, Cameroon. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF
Seedlings of traditionally important food trees in Louis-Marie Atangana’s home nursery in Nkenlikok, Cameroon. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

The World Agroforestry Centre introduced agroforestry methods to rural farmers in the central African country some 20 years ago.

Also known as agro-sylviculture, it a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland. These techniques aim to ensure smallholder households increase their use of trees in agricultural landscapes to improve food security, nutrition, income, health, shelter, social cohesion, energy resources and environmental sustainability. Read more. .