Category Archives: In the Media

Africa and Asia will propel the world’s population towards 10 billion – but are their food systems ready?

Improving access to other key inputs like water and fertilizer, as well as wider technical services such as agricultural machinery, would help to boost resources, but change needs to happen fast

Talk of the global population reaching 10 billion by 2050 has been around for some time. Yet, this statistic actually hides the real source of this growth, and its implications.

Only two regions – sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia – will contribute the lion’s share of this new headcount. Indeed, elsewhere in the world, populations will mostly either plateau or even decline.

With food systems predominantly local in nature, Africa and Asia face a potentially catastrophic food shortfall unless they can boost productivity dramatically.

This hefty goal is complicated further by the fact that even current farming practices are being compromised by the climate crisis. Disastrous droughtsrecord-breaking heatwaves and weather-related natural disasters are already causing havoc for farmers worldwide.

At the same time, the global agriculture sector is being tasked with reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least one gigatonne per year by 2030 (out of around 7-8 gigatonnes total) in order to stay within the 2C of warming agreed by the UN Paris Agreement.

This presents a colossal task, for which we all are responsible, and the available resources are already stretched.

Continue reading the article by Elwyn Grainger-Jones on Independent

FoodSTART+ featured in the latest iMPACT magazine issue

FoodSTART+ Principal Investigator, Diego Naziri, and CIAT Market Access Specialist, Brice Even shared how the partnership between grant projects and investment projects can facilitate taking innovations to scale. From the experience of FoodSTART+, the success of the project highly depends on the outcome of the partnership with investment projects — who are the primary drivers of activities to the farmers and end-users. Major lessons learned from the partnership and project implementation are further discussed in the article.

The iMPACT magazine is quarterly published by the Asia Society for Social Impact and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) Asia and shares information and stories about the development work of NGOs, the civil society, CSRs, social enterprises, and philanthropists.

Read the full feature here.

University of Florida Researchers Develop Model to Help Keep Crop Seeds Healthy

Credit: Photo courtesy, Paul Rachkara, Gulu University

Working with international researchers, University of Florida scientists have developed a model that will help protect good seeds, which are necessary to plant healthy crops and determine what areas are at higher risk for unhealthy seeds.

In many parts of the world, people lack adequate access to nutritious food because there aren’t enough quality seeds for food production, said Karen Garrett, a plant pathology professor at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“We model where the disease is likely to move next and the management strategies that are likely to be most helpful,” said Garrett, a co-author of a new study on how good and bad seeds get from one place to another.

In the newly published research, Garrett and one of her doctoral students, Kelsey Andersen — the lead author on the study — led a team of UF/IFAS researchers and colleagues in Uganda and the United Kingdom. The research team studied seed systems in Africa. Seed systems are composed of people and businesses that make seed available, and farmers who use that seed.

As a result of the research, scientists developed a model that will help them find seed-borne pathogens and provides recommendations for how to stop the pathogens from spreading.

“Good seed systems provide high-quality, disease-free seeds of good crop varieties, but good seed systems do not exist in many countries,” said Garrett, a faculty member in the UF/IFAS Institute for Sustainable Food Systems. “Seed systems are critical for making new, improved crop varieties available to farmers, but also can serve as major conduits for the spread of seed-borne pathogens if pathogens are not controlled.”

For the study, researchers investigated the seed system for several varieties of sweet potatoes in Uganda, where sweet potatoes are a reliable staple food and can be an important source of Vitamin A.

Continue reading the article by Brad Buck on Newswise. 

Calling On Nature To Combat Insect Pests In Vietnam’s Cassava Crop

“Good bugs, huh?” –farmers and homeowners alike all too often give a blank stare when questioned about the beneficial insects that occur on their respective farm, backyard or flower patch. Though insects abound within natural and agricultural ecosystems across the globe, and a fair share of them provide vital services to humanity, we as human beings rarely pay attention to them. Aside from honeybees and the occasional colorful butterfly, we routinely regard these ‘creepy crawlies’ with disinterest, ignorance or even outright fear.


Yet, many of the insects that assume concealed lifestyles in the undergrowth are natural-born killers – specialized in combating pests through a process called ‘biological control’; a cost-free service provided by nature that’s worth $4-17 billion annually to US agriculture. Biological control thus constitutes a most lucrative alternative to pesticide-based measures for crop protection, helps protect the environment and is a core component of sustainable food systems.

One particular type of biological control, so-called ‘importation biological control’, is tailor-made to tackle invasive species problems. More specifically, invasive pests are managed through the careful selection and subsequent introduction of a highly effective, specialized beneficial insect (or ‘natural enemy’) from the pest’s region of origin. By doing so, scientists reconnect insect ‘friend and foe’ and thus restore balance in invaded ecosystems…

Continue reading the article by Dr. Kris Wyckhuys on Science Trends.

World Potato Congress highlights scientific advances

Tubers were the talk of the town in Cusco, Peru during the week of May 27, when the 10th World Potato Congress (WPC) and the 28th Congress of the Latin American Potato Association (ALAP) were held together for the first time.

The event drew more than 800 participants from 50 countries to the potato’s center of origin for four days of scientific presentations, networking, field trips and celebration of the potato’s cultural and economic importance. 

The WPC is the most important international event for potato scientists and businesses. It is held every three years in a different country and is organized by the non-profit World Potato Congress Inc. and local partners.

Continue reading on Potato Pro. 

Tanzania: Banana Experts Meet to Discuss Hybrid Varieties

An international project whose goal is to boost banana production in Tanzania and Uganda brings together a team of international researchers to deliberate on delivery of hybrid varieties to farmers.

The team will starting today to Friday gather at Arusha-based Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) to review their progress and plan for next years’ activities. “The Breeding Better Banana project is focused on breeding varieties that farmers like and with resistance against the key problems.

However, bananas are difficult to breed because they are sterile and do not produce seeds. “Breeders deal with this (challenge) by using fertile parent varieties that produce seed but the process takes long time,” Lead Banana Breeder at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and project’s team leader Prof Rony Swennen said.

Continue reading on All Africa.

New mobile app diagnoses crop diseases in the field and alerts rural farmers

Researchers who developed a new mobile application that uses artificial intelligence to accurately diagnose crop diseases in the field have won a $100,000 award to help expand their project to help millions of small-scale farmers across Africa.

Cassava brown streak disease is spreading westward across the African continent and, together with cassava mosaic disease, threatens the food and income security of more than 30 million farmers in East and Central Africa. Likewise, banana is threatened by fungal and bacterial diseases, including the devastating banana bunchy top virus, while late blight still plagues potato farmers.

Farmers often are unable to identify these diseases properly, while researchers, plant-health authorities and extension organizations lack the data to support them.

To stop the spread of these diseases, a team under the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) has developed a revolutionary app to accurately diagnose diseases in the field, which will be combined with SMS services to send alerts to thousands of rural farmers.

Continue reading on 

BASICS targets sustainable seed system to transform cassava production

Stakeholders in the seed sector have been advised on the need to work towards a sustainable seed system in Nigeria. Project Director, Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS), Hemant Nitturkar, who made the call at a national stakeholder conference on cassava seed system, held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Oyo State, reminded participants that Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world with a production of about 54m tons, but its yield per hectare of cassava roots is about eight tons, less than half of the realisable yields of more than 20 tons per hectare.

Researchers say one of the factors responsible for the low yield of cassava is the low adoption of clean and healthy seeds of improved varieties of cassava by farmers.“We have to start with the right planting material and nurture it with good agronomy and weed management practices.  Each of these three components has the potential to raise the productivity of cassava by 30 per cent. If we do not improve our practices in seed, weed and agronomy, we are incurring a lost opportunity of about N200b annually from each of the three issues,” he explained.

Continue reading on The Guardian Nigeria

Uganda: Search for Ways to Improve Cassava Shelf Life

Millions of Uganda rely on cassava not only for food security but as a means of livelihood. However, an issue of concern is its shelf life.

To address this, a research is being conducted on technologies to enable longer storage of cassava as well as the economic feasibility.

Known as RTB-Endure, the project is implemented in Uganda by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas. It is led by International Potato Center (CIP) and is part of a wider three-year EU-funded project with technical support of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“First, we screened several cassava varieties to identify the ones characterised by slower post-harvest deterioration,” says Harriet Muyinza the principal investigator for the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) team on this project…

Read the full article on