Diversifying Agriculture for Better Lives

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25 June 2013 Add Comments

A Memorandum of Understanding signed on 21 June 2013 between Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC) and the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) marks a new chapter in our drive to form strategic alliances with key players in international agricultural research.

CCARDESA is a not-for-profit sub-regional research and development organisation operating from Gaborone, Botswana. With support from member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and agricultural stakeholders and development partners in the region, CCARDESA aims to increase smallholder productivity and competitiveness through initiating or collaborating on research and development projects.

The agreement between CFFRC and CCARDESA follows positive discussions between the two organisations on the way forward for collaborative research.  Drawing on their joint strengths and experiences, it outlines the basis upon which these organisations will co-operate in the development of novel agricultural technologies especially in relation to underutilised crops.  Under the memorandum, the organisations undertake to co-operate in a number of areas including;

  1. Research on underutilised crops for food and non-food uses;
  2. Technology development and transfer practices;
  3. Biotechnology;
  4. The development of products and supply chains from underutilised crops;
  5. The promotion of sustainable agriculture;
  6. The contribution of underutilised crops to improved human and animal wellbeing.

Collaboration will include exchanges of staff, resources and knowledge, joint research proposals and staff training and development.

  1. Memorandum Of Understanding - CFFRC & CCARDESA

    Prof. Timothy Simalenga of CCARDESA (left) and Prof. Sayed Azam Ali of CFFRC (right) at the signing of the Memorandum Of Understanding

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19 February 2013 Add Comments
The Horticulture CRSP Trellis Fund

The Horticulture CRSP Trellis Fund

The Horticulture CRSP Trellis Fund provides small-scale, in-country development organisations access to U.S. graduate student expertise, providing benefit to both the student and the in-country institutions.

Organisations in 18 selected developing countries are invited to identify a horticultural problem facing local farmers and the type of expertise they seek in a U.S. graduate student. Interested organisation are requested to submit a project proposal with their intended objectives, activities, gender program and a $2,000 budget

Graduate students from UC Davis, Cornell University, North Carolina State University and University of Hawaii at Manoa are invited to submit applications to participate in this programme. Selected students will travel to meet their partner organisation and, upon return, will support their organisation’s outreach programme via email.

Deadline to both organisations and graduate students applications closes on 04 March 2013. Please visit the official website of the Horticulture CRSP Trellis Fund 2013 for more information or direct your enquiries to email hidden; JavaScript is required.

31 December 2012 Add Comments
biotrade-wiki.net Logo

biotrade-wiki.net Logo

In collaboration with UNCTAD, GIZ and other partners, CFF has recently completed this wikibook on biotrade. Biotrade concerns the local, national and international trade in physical goods derived from native biodiversity, including agricultural species. The wikibook covers concepts relevant to biotrade, explores the benefits and risks associated with it, as well as the frameworks and factors enabling it.

What surprised us in putting together the wikibook is the complexity and enormous economic importance of biotrade, which is under-reported because of biotrade’s multi-faceted, dispersed and oftentimes informal nature. Compiled data suggest that global biotrade is a multi-billion US$ industry, probably in the middle double-digits.

Another issue that caught our attention is the growing share of agriculturally produced biotrade materials, in particular from the farming of wild-type species, as described in the wikibook. There is no shortage of standards and guidelines for the sustainable extraction of biotrade materials from natural habitats, but typically the combined effect of relentless market demand, unscrupulous traders and poor gatherers and hunters, depletes the resource base. Thus, many herbal and other plant and animal materials are becoming scarce from the wild and need to be farmed.

17 August 2012 3 Comments

Our colleague Ms Mei Jiun Kwek from the CFF Secretariat just came back from Wikimania 2012, an annual conference of Wikipedians that took place 12-14 July 2012, at George Washington University, D.C. We are grateful to Wikimedia Foundation for providing Mei Jiun with a full travel grant, in recognition for her efforts over the last 10 months to add content to Wikipedia on underutilised crops and related topics. CFF has learned a lot from her experience with editing articles and placing high-quality images in the public domain. Wikimania was a tremendous opportunity for her to liaise with fellow Wikipedians from all walks of life, and she came back fully confirmed in her strong belief that Wikipedia, despite its success, is still an underused tool for knowledge dissemination in our community.

Despite the problems Wikipedia is currently facing, the encyclopaedia is ever more becoming the premier entry point for the world’s knowledge. Google for any crop name, scientific or vernacular, and it is rather unlikely you will not be referred to the Wikipedia article on the subject in the first place. It is here where references to your work will be noticed, and where you can contribute content read by more people from diverse backgrounds than on most corporate or personal webpages. Instead of writing the umpteenth fact sheet on crop x, should we not consider improving the relevant Wikipedia article? Rather than keeping our opinions and the knowledge in our publications to a close circle of specialists, have we considered adding that knowledge to Wikipedia? We are here not arguing to use Wikipedia for personal or corporate promotion, a futile undertaking in any case, since the encyclopaedia has processes in place to prevent such abuse.

The challenge for CFF will be to further learn how as a community of crop diversity specialists we can use Wikipedia and other Internet tools to facilitate the access to dispersed but relevant knowledge and also make it available to the general public, which are major institutional objectives for CFF. We will need to communicate to our stakeholders how contributing knowledge to Wikipedia can result in considerable benefits for those engaging in that activity. In future issues of this newsletter we will also share with you news about specific skills, training modules and resource pages to help future agrobiodiversity Wikipedians to engage in collective knowledge management. Stay tuned!

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23 September 2011 Add Comments
Physalis peruviana (WikiCommons)

A consortium led by UC Davis with CGIAR partners and the private sector plans to sequence the genomes of neglected African crops, with the ultimate goal of developing “new varieties [...] that are more nutritious, produce higher yields and are more tolerant of environmental stresses, such as drought”. Genomic information generated through the project will be freely available to scientists around the world. Of the US$ 40 million needed by the project, US$7.5 million have already been raised. A list of 96 species has been developed, which will be narrowed to 24 food crops and tree species whose genomes will be sequenced. Candidate species include amaranth, marula, cocoyam, Ethiopian mustard, ground nut tree, African potato, acacia, baobob, matoke bananas, African medlars, African eggplant and Cape tomato. We were intrigued by the latter name but unable to associate it with a taxon. Could this be the pictured Physalis peruviana, a native of South America, which is now globally distributed with much export-oriented production taking place in South Africa under the trade name of Cape Gooseberry?

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