In the frame: fighting the scourge of parthenium weed in Pakistan

Parthenium in Pakistan
CABI scientists get to grips with the ‘superior weed’ Parthenium which in India costs around USD 6.7 billion per annum to clear from pastoral land.

CABI has recently shared its expertise in a new parthenium evidence note which highlights a list of recommendations to fight the highly-invasive weed can cause severe allergic reactions in humans and livestock, may harbour malaria-carrying mosquitoes, displace native plant species and reduce pasture carrying capacities by as much as 80% to 90%.

In this picture special, we commissioned photographer Asim Hafeez to capture CABI scientists in the field as part of research which is investigating whether or not the parthenium leaf beetle (Zygogramma bicolorata) can act as an effective biological control for parthenium which is threatening food security and livelihoods in Pakistan.

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How countries around the world are leveraging agriculture to improve nutrition

By Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch

This blog post is the third in a 3-part series accompanying the release of the book Agriculture for Improved Nutrition: Seizing the Momentum, co-edited by Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch (co-published by CABI Publishing and IFPRI). The book was launched at a Feb. 28 event at IFPRI headquarters in Washington.

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Bean varieties at the CIAT gene bank in Colombia. The gene bank sends its seeds for conservation at the Global Seed Vault in Norway. Photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 Neil Palmer / CIAT

At times, engaging the agriculture sector to improve nutrition seems like an uphill battle. In many countries, agricultural policies tend to favor staple foods like wheat and rice, because these crops have traditionally staved off hunger and famine. Government officials overseeing agriculture and nutrition often work in isolation, with their funding, capacities, and even technical languages obstacles to close collaboration. Against this backdrop, it can be daunting for policymakers to contemplate formulating nutrition-driven agriculture policies and strategies that can be implemented at the national scale.

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Growing agriculture: nutrition community points the way to achieving SDG2 by 2030

By Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have launched a race to transform our world for the better little more than a decade from now. The goals are idealistic, setting a high bar for every aspect of quality of life, from health and education to gender equality and climate action. SDG2 seeks to eliminate global hunger by 2030. But as we move closer to that deadline, achieving SDG2 seems further away. Recent years have been particularly disheartening, with the number of undernourished people continuing to rise annually. In 2015, there were 784 million hungry people in the world; in 2016, 804 million; and in 2017, the most recent year for which data was available, that number reached 821 million people. Adult obesity also continues to worsen in rich and poor countries alike: More than 1 in 8 adults, or 672 million people around the world, are now considered obese.

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A woman examines and sorts iron beans in Rwanda. Nutrition-sensitive agricultural programs, such as biofortification or homestead food production systems, may be well suited for increasing people’s consumption of high-quality diets. Photo courtesy of IFPRI (Mel Oluoch/HarvestPlus)

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There’s a new goal post for agriculture: it’s nutrition

By Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch

Agriculture is the single most important innovation in human history. Over the course of thousands of years, it has staved off hunger, allowed populations to leave their hunter-gatherer lives behind, and freed up time for other pursuits (like inventing writing and the wheel!) that have propelled societies forward. As recently as the 1970s the Green Revolution – a global push to improve and produce more wheat and rice – brought India back from the brink of mass famine. The Green Revolution improved the lives of one billion people around the world. This number is all the more impressive when considering that the world population was four billion at the time.

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A global push to produce more rice brought India back from the brink of famine in the 1970s.

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Can a ‘diet’ of digital data really help feed the world?

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Last week (29 January 2019) CABI was awarded a $1.49 million grant from the Gates Foundation to work with them to help increase food security in India and Ethiopia through better access to data on soil health, agronomy and fertilizers.  In this blog Communications Manager Wayne Coles looks at whether or not the use of digital data in agriculture can have a real impact on our need to feed the world….

The facts are clear; if we’re to stand any chance of feeding a global population of around 9.1 billion by 2050 we must make better use of ‘digital data’ to unlock the potential of more than 570 million smallholder farmers around the world.

The complexity of Africa’s growing food problem, which is exacerbated by social and climatic factors, should not be underestimated. Its population, for example, will exceed 42 million a year over the next three decades while a rise in extreme weather events will wreak havoc on farming communities already grappling with threats to crop yields from a range of agricultural pests and diseases.

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Fertilizer Optimization Tool helps return son to teacher training school

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FOT pays off for Charles Wafula who is now able to help his son continue teacher training

By Monica Kansiime, Scientist Seed Systems, based at CABI in Nairobi, Kenya

In a previous blog post I outlined how the Fertilizer Optimization Tool (FOT) is paying dividends for farmers – helping them, in some cases, to report a seven-fold increase in their yields.

Charles Wafula is a farmer and resident of Buhehe in Uganda who is just one example of how FOT is helping to increase his fortunes and benefit his family – in particular he is now able to pay his son’s fees so he can continue to train as a school teacher.

Approaching Mr Wafula’s home, you get a feeling of a committed farmer. I find him sitting in his compound with various sized fruit trees providing shade and a cool ambiance. He doesn’t not take long after a brief introduction to tell me his success story of utilising FOT.

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Fertilizer Optimization Tool pays dividends for farmers in Uganda

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CABI extension workers meet with farmers in Kidoko to advise on how to maximise the benefits of the Fertilizer Optimization Tool

By Dr Monica Kansiime, Scientist Seed Systems, based at CABI in Nairobi, Kenya

A decision support tool that allows an extension agent to take into account a number of the farmers’ circumstances and investment goals to maximize the benefits of fertilizer use on their farms is starting to pay dividends in Molo Sub-County in Uganda – with some farmers reporting a seven-fold increase in yields.

The Fertilizer Optimization Tool (FOT) incorporates the crop’s value, size of land, nutrient requirements of the crops, and the financial resources that the farmer has to invest in fertilizer. The tool also ensures that fertilizer use decisions are made in line with Integrated Soil Fertility Management practices, further ensuring cost-effectiveness for farmers.

Members of the Kidoko post-test club have been speaking in unison about the benefits of FOT after it was introduced by Ali Mawand – a Community Facilitator who works with the NASECO Seed Company.

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