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22
Nov

The “so what” question: Integrating and communicating gender research

The CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network held its annual meeting at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) headquarters in Cali, Colombia earlier this month. The meeting was attended by gender specialists and coordinators from across the spectrum. All the sessions were interactive and participatory.  Gender Research Coordinators gave flash talks of 5 minutes. An interesting series of talks were on how gender research is being used to influence the way CGIAR Research Programs conduct research to be gender responsive. The Gender Network will cease to be after 31 December 2016.  It will take on a new form from January 2017 as a CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research coordinated and hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies,...
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20
Oct

Open source PhenoApps pave the way to efficient data collection in plant breeding

In an effort to introduce new technology into plant breeding programs, members of the Poland Lab at Kansas State University have developed several free PhenoApps for collecting data with Android smartphones and tablets. By fundamentally designing these tools for plant breeders and geneticists, the group hopes to improve specific areas in the plant breeding process where data management remains difficult. Field Book, developed to replace paper field books, gives breeders a simple interface to collect data on field research plots. It was created because other digital note-taking tools were too complex, didn’t allow for fast and flexible data entry, or were prohibitively expensive. Field Book reduces transcription errors, seamlessly collects metadata, and allows for rapid data analysis. Data collected is...
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20
Oct

Listening to people and getting a response is like physics

Mrs Salamatu Garba is the Executive Director of Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), an NGO in Nigeria that coordinates the activities of smallholder farmers to help them practice sustainable agriculture. Agathe Diama in a freewheeling conversation spoke to her about the role of rural women in agriculture.  Q: What is your vision of sustainable agriculture? Salamatu Garba: Sustainable agriculture and development is a holistic approach that addresses the welfare of the farmer and his importance to society. Society has made the farmer feel that his is a vocation that you take up when you are not important or when you fail in school! Sustainable agriculture is about giving the farmer a voice that will make him more relevant across the...
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16
Oct

Biofortified pearl millet varieties to fight iron and zinc deficiencies in India

Full article Micronutrient malnutrition because of iron and zinc deficiencies is a serious public health problem in low-and middle-economy countries worldwide.  In India alone, about 80% of the pregnant women, 52% of non-pregnant women, and 74% of children in the 6-35 months age group suffer from iron deficiency.  About 52% of children below 5 year are zinc deficient. Iron deficiency causes varying degrees of impairment in cognitive performance, and learning ability, lowered work capacity, and pregnancy complications (e.g., maternal mortality, and babies with low birth weight). Zinc deficiency in children causes stunting, makes them vulnerable to diarrhoea, pneumonia, and can lead to death from these infections. Crop biofortification, which refers to the breeding of cultivars with higher levels of micronutrients,...
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13
Oct

Crop simulation models: predicting the future of pulses

This post was featured in IYP2016.org. From the past to the present, pulses benefit agricultural systems Pulse crops have always been playing a beneficial and central role in crop rotations. Even the Romans and ancient Chinese already knew the benefit of using peas and soybean. When pulses are used as a ‘break crop’ for pests or diseases, wheat yield has been shown to increase by up to 1.2 tons per hectare [1] and the benefit even lasts for an additional wheat crop. Pulse crops have the natural capacity to fix nitrogen gas from the atmosphere, thanks to an association with soil bacteria called rhizobium, something that other crops like rice, wheat or maize cannot do. This brings ‘free’ nitrogen fertilizer...
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09
Aug

Climate-smart crops for Myanmar’s dry regions

A research study in Myanmar seeks to identify crops with the lowest risk options for intensifying dryland cropping systems. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is one country where vast tracts of rice fields span as far as the eyes can see. The abundance of natural resources and low labor costs favor the agriculture sector, which contributes 45% of the country’s gross domestic product. It comes as no surprise then that this sector is the primary livelihood source to 70% of the country’s population. However, Myanmar’s agriculture depends highly on monsoon rains. The country’s Central Dry Zone (CDZ) area, which makes up about 13% of the total land area, and contributes 20% and 54% to the country’s total rice and pulse production, respectively, receives...
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08
Aug

Reverse engineering innovation for impact

I recently spent a week talking to scientists at ICRISAT about innovation and how ICRISAT and the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial and Research Organization (CSIRO) could form an alliance to understand how we can get better at it. I saw a number of clusters of work where ICRISAT is doing something different and distinctive and achieving tangible impacts. Surely it is possible to reverse engineer these experiences, extract lessons on how these processes have succeeded and use them to perfect the innovation and impact thing that we are all talking about? But first let me share some of my worries about the global obsession with innovation. Has innovation become the new participation, a normative tyranny where the journey has become more...
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20
Jun

Identifying climate-smart sorghum lines for Mali

I am a PhD student from the Universite des Sciences, des Techniques et des Technologies de Bamako, Mali, working on the integration of crop modelling and crop screening methods to better identify drought-tolerant traits in Malian sorghum genotypes. This will help crop improvement programs develop progenies with highest value in terms of productivity and yield stability in the face of dwindling resources, especially water. To do so, different but complementary objectives were set. As a first step, a crop simulation modelling approach is being used to characterize the sorghum production environment in Mali to identify the major types of stress patterns and the frequency of their occurrence, experienced by two representative genotypes (CSM335 and CSM63E). The model is being allowed...
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20
Jun

On gender and plant breeding

This blog post is one of several in which we aim to tell the story of how plant breeding research and variety development makes a difference to the lives of the rural poor, especially women.  Whilst a majority of the world’s smallholder farmers are women, gender norms often prevent them from being recognized for both their role in and contributions to agriculture. In simple terms, what this means is that women farmers tend to have less rights than men, and thus lack equitable access to resources such as seeds of new varieties, productive land, markets, or even information and networks for agricultural innovation systems. Plant breeding involves many areas of science and technology development, from genetics and bio-informatics to seed...
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06
Jun

Our crops and croplands feed livestock

Can Africa’s growing demand for red meat be met by better utilizing cropland resources and the available feed/forage technologies produced in the mixed crop-livestock systems of the dry Semi-Arid Tropics? The answer came to me when I recently undertook an extended trip in southern Africa  where I visited farmer and National Agricultural Research Systems or NARS collaborators of ICRISAT scientists Martin Moyo in Zimbabwe and  Sabine Homann-Kee Tui in Mozambique. In Jambezi district, Zimbabwe, we were hosted by Chief Shana and farmers, Augustine Sibanda and Phillip Tshuma, in the dry Natural Region V. Here farmers were provided with climate forecasts and sorghum and pearl millet varieties, crops that they had grown in the  past before converting to maize. Chief Shana...
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