Category Archives: development

Innovation in Africa

Article written by Stanley Kowalski from the  International Tech Transfer Institute, “Why America must advance innovation in Africa” tackles the issues behind why “An innovative African economy is in the best inter­ests of the U.S.

This is an interesting debate at a time when all public funding is being questioned.

Kowalski’s article says (emphasis added):

“The infrastructure, systems and resources that promote innovation will be the foundation for sustainable, knowl­edge-based economic development in Africa in the 21st century… Stulti­fied policy agendas must yield to dynam­ic strategic planning and coherent program implementation. Ad­ditional discussion and more money alone will not create a solution. In­stead, partnerships and programs must focus on promoting long-lasting outcomes, prioritizing capac­ity-building that generates a steady flow of essential innovations.

As Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and father of the Green Revolution, stated, “The destiny of world civilization depends upon providing a decent stan­dard of living for all mankind.” We must therefore stop viewing Africa as a chronic burden and start viewing it as the key partner in development for this century.” (…)

For full article download the PDF here

Today’s youth: tomorrow’s leaders – Agriculture through the eyes of the under 40s

Cross posting item from the CGIAR Consortium Office “Today’s youth: tomorrow’s leaders – Agriculture through the eyes of the under 40s”

Growing Talents: Youth in AgricultureThese days, more than ever, we are reminded of the growing need for food security and improved livelihoods in many of the world’s developing countries. This is not just a task for those presently at the helm of agricultural research for development (AR4D) endeavors; it will surely also be a priority for many generations to come. As such, it is vital that we don’t think in terms of passing the baton onto the next generation sometime in the future – we need to include young people in every aspect of AR4D from the outset.

When experience, knowledge and wisdom meet the different perspectives and fresh ideas that many young people can bring to the table, there’s no telling what we can achieve in our efforts to reduce rural poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and health, and sustainably manage natural resources. Unfortunately, the supply of new young scientists, as well as youth willing to work on farms, is lagging behind demand. If we are to tackle the challenges of tomorrow, it is imperative that we attract talented young men and women into our organizations, and then train and retain them.

As the 2010 United Nations’ International Year of Youth draws to a close, and the CGIAR celebrates 40 years in agricultural research, we feel it is appropriate to acknowledge both these events by highlighting the work of several talented individuals; young people under 40 who have already made their presence felt in the field of AR4D.

Our Growing Talents: Youth in Agriculture booklet brings together 13 diverse interviews that showcase the work, perspectives, experiences and aspirations of some of the youth we have been fortunate enough to encounter over the last 12 months.

We hope that the youth highlighted in the booklet will encourage other young people to make a lasting difference in AR4D. We also hope their stories will help to underscore the importance of giving youth a platform so that their voices may be heard. The future is truly in their hands.

We invite you to read their stories and download the booklet

Nobody should go to bed hungry anymore, anywhere…

I am cross posting this item, it was from the CGIAR Consortium website, posted on August 16, 2011.   A message from CEO Lloyd LePage.

Delivery of food aid is essential and urgent, …‘But as we proceed, we must not forget we have seen crises like this before. First comes a severe drought, then crops fail, livestock perish, food prices soar, thousands of people die from starvation, most of them children, and thousands more pick up and move. Every few decades, the cycle repeats. And it would be easy to throw up our hands and blame it all on forces beyond our control, but this cycle is not inevitable. Though food shortages may be triggered by drought, they are not caused by drought, but rather by weak or nonexistent agricultural systems that fail to produce enough food or market opportunities in good times and break down completely in the bad times.’  Were the words U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pronounced in her address on 11 August at IFPRI ‘From Famine to Food Security’

“And while some might say that this is a conversation for another time, that we should worry about preventing food crises only after this one has passed, I respectfully disagree. Right now, when the effects of food security are the most extreme, we must rededicate ourselves to breaking this cycle of food shortages, suffering, and dislocation that we see playing out once again in the Horn of Africa”

This is the same sense of urgency we feel at the CGIAR. We need to act now, to avoid future crises not only to cure the current problems.

I said it before, and IFPRI’s Director General, Shenggen Fan eloquently reiterated on his opening remark to Secretary Clinton’s address, while important research results are available  ‘we are deeply concerned about the slow transmission of research into policy actions on a local, national, and international scale. IFPRI and its partner research centers within the CGIAR can provide the evidence needed to guide sound policies and build strong programs in the Horn of Africa’.

Mrs Clinton confirmed that ‘We do have the know-how. We have the tools. We have the resources. And increasingly, we have the will to make chronic food shortages and under nutrition a memory for the millions worldwide who are now vulnerable’ and  ‘ We need that commitment to long term solutions and we need to develop it together’

We are converting that sense of urgency into action by convening an event in Nairobi on September 1st to increase the understanding and awareness of the underlying causes of the current crisis, to highlight solutions, innovations and recommendations for mitigating the effects of future extreme weather events. Details on the event will be available soon.

With partners from the region we will be exploring how to turn that evidence into policy and action. Together we can break that vicious cycle Secretary Clinton was referring to in her address, so that nobody will go to bed hungry anymore, anywhere in the world.

You can watch recording of this special event at

Lloyd LePage

Can agricultural research help eradicate famine?

This post appeared on the CGIAR Consortium blog yesterday afternoon.  It’s an important message from the CEO, Lloyd Le Page.  With reference to the current crisis in the Horn of Africa, he asks ‘“what could we have done to prevent this?” And, even more importantly, “how can we prevent this from happening again?…..”’

Please share with your networks. Thank you

Every day, we see images of refugees fleeing a drought-ridden Somalia, crowding into camps along the country’s borders, desperate for food and shelter to stay alive. Tens of thousands of people have already died in the region, livestock, essential to the wellbeing of the local populations, suffer the same fate.  Yet, as more than half a million children teeter on the brink of starvation, we ask ourselves “what could we have done to prevent this?” And, even more importantly, “how can we prevent this from happening again?”

No matter how severe, droughts do not have to lead to famine. Droughts are natural events, famines are not. Famines happen when countries and regions are not equipped to deal with extremes in weather. This current famine results from an extended drought and political instability, but it also reflects the long term vulnerability to food insecurity that is endemic in the Horn of Africa. As Oxfam recently pointed out, food aid alone does not help people to withstand the next shock:  “Much greater long-term investment is needed in food production and basic development to help people cope with poor rains and ensure that this is the last famine in the region.” We at the CGIAR, the world’s largest partnership of international agriculture research, could not agree more.

Recent research by our climate change, agriculture, and food security research program has identified future “hotspots” of climate vulnerability– areas where climate change impacts on food security are expected to become increasingly severe by 2050. Not surprisingly, some of the same countries being affected by the current drought where identified in the report as “hotspots” for climate-induced food insecurity.

Meeting the challenges of ensuring food security for the world, especially those is more remote and marginal locations and the poor in both rural and urban locations, as well as averting future famines, require us to act with an urgency. We must develop new ways of thinking more holistically about natural resource and farmland management, as well as revitalized water management practices, and the development of drought-tolerant crop varieties and hardier livestock breeds. Investment in such research is highly cost-effective:  for every US$1 dollar invested in international agricultural research, US$ 9 dollars worth of additional food is being produced in developing countries.

What more can we do to ensure our research helps avoid future famines?

Good research is not enough
Even the best agricultural research can only realize its potential if it is used on the ground. For this to happen, it must be delivered under a benign policy environment, into agricultural systems with sufficient infrastructure and access to viable and predictable markets, and with the extension support needed to secure farmer adoption. Because of this, we need to work  closer with funders, local and regional governments, national research institutions, universities, non-governmental organizations, aid agencies, farmers, civil society organizations and private sector companies. Only by mobilizing such collective strength, can we find and deliver the effective solutions at the scale needed to avert future famines and food crises.

The way ahead: working in partnership for better research outcomes
The good news is that agricultural research finds itself in a new era of opportunity. Rapid scientific progress has been made in genetics, ecology and information technology, offering a multitude of new ways to improve agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability. The CGIAR is using the latest scientific approaches and technologies in a series of new global research programs aimed at improving food security and the sustainable management of the water, soil, and biodiversity that underpin agriculture in the world’s poorest countries.

What is more, the reformed structure of the CGIAR opens the door for stronger collaboration and partnership with other research and development actors. The 11 new research programs approved in the last year, bring together the broadest possible range of organisations, combining the efforts of multiple CGIAR centres with those of many and diverse partners from across the research and development spectrum. Working in partnership on such a large scale, makes this new CGIAR effort unprecedented in terms of its size, scope and expected impact on development.

The work of the aid agencies is vital to provide the emergency aid that is desperately needed right now, but even aid agencies this time appeal for more to be done. We at CGIAR are doing our best to ensure that such famines never happen again. I was once told that the CGIAR is the best kept secret in agricultural research. We must make sure that our work remains a secret no longer, because agricultural research really is the key to better global food security and a sustainable, famine-free future.

Lloyd Le Page
Chief Executive Officer, CGIAR

Message from: “Can agricultural research help eradicate famine?

Food security and the need to educate the public

In the May/June issue of Foreign Policy, Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute writes about The New Geopolitics of Food.

Brown’s launching pad:

Already in 2011, the U.N. Food Price Index has eclipsed its previous all-time global high; as of March it had climbed for eight consecutive months. With this year’s harvest predicted to fall short, with governments in the Middle East and Africa teetering as a result of the price spikes, and with anxious markets sustaining one shock after another, food has quickly become the hidden driver of world politics. And crises like these are going to become increasingly common. The new geopolitics of food looks a whole lot more volatile — and a whole lot more contentious — than it used to. Scarcity is the new norm.

The bottom line?  Consumers in the North will be the last to feel the impact of increasing commodity prices, while – as we know from food riots over the last few years – consumers in the South feel these impacts immediately.  Positioning the acquisition of agricultural land in Africa by countries like China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, Brown argues persuasively that we have now entered an era in which the food supply, rather than oil, will be the key geopolitical driver of the global economy.

Food Ark (National Geographic, July 2011) addresses a more mainstream audience and approaches the same challenge.  Its tight focus is, however, on the increasing threats to biodiversity and on the key role of seed.

The headline for this comprehensible primer:

A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. Luckily we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply—but we must take steps to save them.

What is of note is that both articles address non-scientific audiences and both explain the role of agricultural research, underlining the need for more of it.  As “food security” hits the mainstream, it seems important that consumers understand the issues and the critical role that research plays.  This may be a good time for the ag research community to get involved in further increasing public awareness.  It’s not just about money; an informed press and public can create an environment in which challenges to progress can be more easily navigated.  It’s called public relations.

Post written by Peter Bloch

Do-it-yourself civilisation kit; all open source

Great TED talk from Marcin Jakubowski about his Open Source Ecology project.  It’s just 4 minutes and well worth watching.

In the blog post “Open Source Ecology: Global Village Construction Set” the Climate Crocks blog said (of Jakubowski):

“In the course of solving his own dilemma as a startup sustainable grower with limited resources, he realized that his problems were the same as those faced by subsistence growers across the planet.  There was no bottom rung for getting a foothold in a modern society without huge economic resources. So of course, he decided to build just that.

Enter, the Global Village Construction Set & Open Source Ecology, transcending artificial scarcity with a do-it-yourself civilization kit – the fifty most important machines that it takes for modern life to exist.”

(Thanks to Peter Bloch for sending me the link)

CALL FOR PAPERS: Learning from Existing Evaluation Practices on the Impacts and Effects of Intellectual Property on Development

An e-newsletter yesterday first brought this call for papers to my attention (thanks PIIPA who sent it out). 

WIPO are organising a seminar in October at their HQ in Switzerland entitled: “Learning from Evaluations of the Impacts and Effects of Intellectual Property (IP) on Development

Deadline for submission is 24th June, 2011.

The WIPO communication states:

“The main focus of the 2011 Evaluation Seminar is sharing good practices in Evaluation of Intellectual Property.”

and they go on to list a number of possible topics:

  • Evaluation of the effects of intellectual property aimed to promote innovation and technology
  • Evaluation of the effects of intellectual property on traditional knowledge
  • Evaluation of the impact of intellectual property capacity building
  • Evaluation of the effects of safeguarding creative heritage
  • Evaluation of the effects of global IP protection systems
  • Evaluation of the impact of programs aimed to modernized and improve infrastructure of IP offices
  • Evaluation of the effects of the implementation of IP international treaties
  • Evaluation of the impact of IP awareness raising programs
  • Evaluation of the effects of IP technical assistance including to SMEs
  • Evaluation of the effects of public and private partnerships to promote the use of the IP system
  • Evaluation of the results of existing cooperation among UN, bilateral and multilateral bodies in the area of intellectual property
  • Evaluation of the impact of the assistance provided by UN, bilateral and multilateral organizations to enable local innovators and research institutions to use IP as a means of owning, protecting and exploiting their research results.
  • Evaluation of the impact of intellectual property -related policies and initiatives aimed to promote the transfer and dissemination of technology
  • Evaluation of the impact of intellectual property -related policies and initiatives aimed to support entrepreneurs and in particular start up businesses in the information technology and web based areas
  • Evaluation of the impact of intellectual property -related policies and measures aimed to promote transfer and dissemination of technology to developing countries
  • Evaluation of the impact of intellectual property rights aimed at the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology
  • Evaluation of the impact of intellectual property activities on gender or human rights

The deadline for evaluation abstract submissions is June 24th, 2011. Visit the WIPO site for more details for application.  An honorarium and basic travel costs will be covered by the organisers.

UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. De Schutter begins a new term

Earlier this month it was announced that the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Oliver De Schutter, begins a new term.  To accompany this announcement he delivered a message drawing conclusions from his first term, and looking forward.

“Prof. Olivier De Schutter officially begins a new term as UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. The UN Human Rights Council renewed his mandate for the next 3 years”

Read the full item “New mandate: message from Olivier De Schutter

 “…the 2007-2008 scenario is playing out again. Last summer, prices on international markets soared again, and the increase continued for eight months. According to the World Bank, global food prices are now 36% above their 2010 levels and remain extremely volatile, close to their 2008 peak. Poor consumers are severely hurt. Due to their political marginalization and their lack of bargaining power, most small-scale farmers are not benefiting from the current price spike. And the wages of agricultural workers are not rising suddenly because the prices of commodities increase.”

OA’ (OA Prime): bringing OA resources to low connectivity areas

“Horses for courses” was my take-home message after reading this month’s newsletter from Peter Suber.  It certainly pays to allow room for pragmatism.  SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #157

“Imagine a body of literature that is OA in every respect except that it’s offline.  It’s still digital, free of charge, and allows unrestricted use, but it’s on a thumb drive rather than a network.  If you had that thumb drive in your pocket or plugged into your machine, you’d have free *offline* access rather than free *online* access to that literature.  If OA literature must be online, then this isn’t OA.  But it’s interesting enough to name and discuss in its own right.  Let’s call it OA Prime (OA’).”

Suber then goes on to list x10 advantages and disadvantages of offline OA.  One that I wanted to highlight here is:

“You won’t always have stable or adequate connectivity.  You may be in an undeveloped region of the world or an underdeveloped region of the developed world.  Offline access can be your deliverance. 

Since 2000, WiderNet and the eGranary Digital Library have been delivering OA’ on CDs and other physical media to bandwidth-poor parts of the world where OA itself would be impractical or useless. …

eGranary is far from obsolete or out of business.  It recently delivered 2 TB of OA’ literature and software to institutions in Zambia, and installed an OA’ library in Liberia running on a 12 volt battery.”

Very interesting initiative from Iowa University! 

The eGranary Digital Library – also known as “The Internet in a Box” – provides millions of digital educational resources to institutions lacking adequate Internet access. Through a process of garnering permissions, copying Web sites, and delivering them to intranet Web servers INSIDE our partner institutions in developing countries and other places aroung the globe, we deliver millions of multimedia documents that can be instantly accessed by patrons over their local area networks at no cost.

To read the whole newsletter visit: SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #157

Call for papers: Food security, Health and Impact Knowledge Brokering Event

Interesting event coming up.  1st Africa College International Conference
Food security, Health and Impact Knowledge Brokering, 22nd – 24th June 2011, Devonshire Hall, University of Leeds, UK

The organisers have put out a call for papers (deadline = 2nd May) and they invite poster submissions (deadline = 31st May).

For full details and registration visit the Africa College website.  The goal of the event is stated as:

“…to demonstrate and share lessons on how to translate research results into impact on food security and human health in sub-Saharan Africa. It has two objectives:

  • To determine how the results of basic science and inter-disciplinary research lead to impact on food security and human health.
  • To explore how partnerships between research and development organisations deliver innovation and impact.”

There is a great line up of speakers announced, including a lecture from Dr Monty Jones, Executive Director, Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa(FARA).