Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The right tree for the right place

On 11 November 2015, the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya, HE John Feakes, visited the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) campus in Nairobi.

He used this opportunity to learn more about the projects implemented by ICRAF for ACIAR in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Of note are the two projects, “Trees for Food Security,” and “Value Chains for Innovation Platforms,” that are implemented in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Zambia.

Dr Aster Gebrekirstos explains to HE John Feakes the activities carried out in the Dendrochronology (Tree Ring) lab. Aster is a climate scientist (Source: ICRAF)

The Trees for Food Security project, underpins the message of planting “the right tree for the right place” and this project has been active since 2012. The project is supported with activities from national agricultural and forestry institutes in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi and has already established rural resource centres where the farmers are trained in grafting and nursery establishment. Farmers are already enjoying the benefits of diversifying varieties and they are choosing to plant trees that go beyond food, into fuel, fodder and fertilizer. The project has led to the implementation of a new project in 2015 in Uganda and Zambia that will use collective action to help farmers enter and play a role in tree value chains for income and nutrition.

John was also briefed on projects in Southeast Asia and Nepal, which are implemented in partnership with the University of Adelaide. ICRAF staff were keen to stress their interest and experience in working with the private sector and their willingness to support the Landcare International movement to regenerate forests and build a culture of intercropping with trees to restore degraded lands.

To support the presentations, ICRAF scientists and technicians took John for a tour of the labs, including the Tree Ring lab, the Soil lab, the soil and plant lab, the seed lab and the African Consortium lab. John was able to appreciate the extent of research that ICRAF undertakes at their labs, as well as in the field, for the benefit of small-scale farmers and to support the development of rural economies in Africa.

He was then invited to plant a tree, the Grevillia Robusta (Australian Silver oak).

HE John Feakes plants the Grevillia Robusta at the ICRAF campus. Immediately behind him is the DG ICRAF, Dr Tony Simons (Source: ICRAF)

By Liz Ogutu, Regional Manager Africa, ACIAR 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Linking Beef Smallholders to Markets

This month ACIAR and ARC South Africa announced a new partnership on a project we are simply calling “Linking Beef Smallholders to Markets.”

Following discussions between partners, including the project leaders from the University of New England, Dr Gary Griffith and Dr Heather Burrow, at the ARC Irene Campus with the project’s industry and scientific council on 3 November, an official launch and “cook fest” was held on 4 November.

In launching the project the Australian High Commissioner to South Africa, HE Adam McCarthy, noted the close linkage between the two countries and the shared challenges in Agriculture.

Participants at the launch were treated to a cooking demonstration by MasterChef © winners, Kamini Pather (South Africa) and Renae Smith (Australia) who were guests of the Australian High Commission in Pretoria. Renae made cheese centred beef burgers while Kamini made beer and soy beef with pak choi and jasmine rice. Both dishes highlighted the value of quality beef product and were enjoyed by all in attendance. Participants were then treated to presentations by the project scientists, including a talk on the veld (rangeland) management, breeding programs, and germplasm conservation and reproductive technologies using a mobile clinic.

Project partners with the two Chefs. (L to R: Joel - DAFF, Liz - ACIAR, Adam - DFAT, Renae Smith - MasterChef winner 2014, Australia, Kamini Pather - MasterChef winner Season 2, South Africa, Norman – ARC, Kennedy - ARC and Simphiwe -NAMC. Missing from the picture are Baldwin Nengovela - the project coordinator, South Africa and Gary Griffith and Heather Burrow - University of New England). Source: ACIAR

Thursday, 19 November 2015

IFPRI celebrates forty years

This week the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) celebrates its 40th Anniversary. IFPRI was established 40 years ago with a mission to provide research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. IFPRI and the Australian Government are longstanding partners in the commitment to global food security and international agriculture and together support cutting-edge research and measurable targets for increasing agricultural productivity.

In wishing IFPRI a happy 40th anniversary, ACIAR’s CEO, Dr Nick Austin said: 
“IFPRI and ACIAR have a long association. I’d like to recognise IFRPI’s successes and achievements in the broader areas of sustainable food production, the key and recognisable role that IFPRI has played in markets and trade, but also within that, improving investments in social protection….and successes around closing the gender gap. For Australia and for ACIAR these are important areas of focus. May the next 40 years be as successful and impactful as the last 40 years.”

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Sorghum crop simulation model for Ethiopia reaching fruition

Ethiopian and Australian scientists gathered at Melkassa Research Station in Adama (Ethiopia) to progress development of the “Sorghum Crop Model”, as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) - ACIAR supported research project between University of Queensland (UQ) and Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) “A targeted approach to sorghum improvement in moisture stress areas of Ethiopia”. During the week 26-30 October 2015 the group gathered to review and analyse data from field experiments designed to progress and test model development specifically for Ethiopian sorghum lines.

Source: Graeme Hammer

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Award puts Pacific Island cocoa on the world chocolate map

David Kebu is convinced that humans are just like cocoa trees.  This is because David Junior has clearly inherited his late father’s superior cocoa growing talents.  David Senior was commonly recognised as the best grower in Solomon Islands.  His cocoa trees frequently produced more than 200 pods per tree each season, while most growers could scarcely manage 50.

Now David’s cocoa has been judged a ‘Cocoa of Excellence’ – among the best in the world – in a competition organised by Bioversity International as part of the recent Salon du Chocolat in Paris.

Salon du Chocolat in Paris. Photo: Grant Vinning

Friday, 30 October 2015

We're going MAD for digital data!

The plight of paper based surveys and data collection is well known to many researchers out there, where data written on paper needs to be later entered into a digital spread, such as excel. This duplicates that number of times and people handling the data before it is analysed and reported on. This can introduce errors into the data and it can be months after the data is collected before the researcher or project leader can see what is actually happening in the field.

A farmer having his photo being taken using Survey CTO. Source: Jack Hetherington

Monday, 26 October 2015

Soil building for fun and profit in Kiribati and Tuvalu

“Coral gravels are soils too, you know”

We are gathered in South Tarawa, the main town of the Republic of Kiribati, to launch an ACIAR-funded project on solving the challenges facing food crops on coral atolls of Kiribati and Tuvalu.

The project is part of a package that includes an International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) project, 'The Outer Islands Food and Water Project', aimed at improving food security and livelihoods on the atoll islands.

The ACIAR project 'Improving soil health, agricultural productivity and food security on atolls', “soil health” for short, is a partnership between the Ministry of Environment, Land and Agricultural Development (Kiribati), the Secretariat for Pacific Communities (SPC), the University of Tasmania, the University of Adelaide, and the Department of Agriculture (Tuvalu).

Photo of Tokintekai Bakineti directing implementation of a trial in Kiribati. Source: Siosiua Halavatau