“The warnings of impending doom are real but the timeframe is very much up for debate”

africa-1129037_1920
Bananas are eaten the world over but could they really become extinct if a strain of Panama disease takes hold?

Did you know that more than 100 billion bananas are eaten every year in the world, making them the fourth most popular agricultural product? You might also be surprised to learn that Uganda has the highest average per capita consumption in the world, where residents eat an average of 226kgs of bananas per person per year.

In short, bananas are big business – a $35billion global industry as a rough estimate. But all that could come to a crashing halt if the headline in the British Daily Mail newspaper, predicting the fruit’s extinction, is to be believed. The fears are that a strain of Panama disease could wipe out the humble banana putting the food security of millions in Developing World countries that depend upon it for nutrition at risk.

CABI’s very own ‘banana man’ Dr Rob Reeder sheds expert light on the debate and argues that while the diseases is a concern it won’t spell the end of our beloved fruit just yet! Rob explains more…

Continue reading

Guest blog: ‘Keeping in mind the real use of our research’

Haseeb-Md.-Irfanullah_Sirajganj-e1556713760956
Irrigating rice fields in Sirajganj, Bangladesh. Photo: Haseeb Md. Irfanullah.

In this guest blog, Dr Haseeb Md. Irfanullah discusses the findings of a recent workshop he was a rapporteur of in Bangladesh on the potential impact on policy and practice of agricultural research in the country.

A research system is basically made up of four components: accessing, conducting, communicating, and utilizing research. While we often talk about the first three, use of our research in policy and practice is less frequently discussed in developing countries. Discussions at a recent workshop in Bangladesh about recent agricultural and biological science research projects revealed opportunities to make connections between research and its usage.

Continue reading

‘Sowing the seeds’ for better cotton crops: a farmer case study

Seed germination 1
Smallholder cotton farmer Mubarak Ali is reaping the benefits of CABI’s help and advice regarding the sowing of better quality seeds for more productive and profitable cotton crops.

Cotton is Pakistan’s largest industrial sector and is a principle cash crop to millions of smallholder farmers who rely upon it to earn their livelihoods.

However, per acre yield and the profitability of the crop is dependent upon the quality of the sown seed as part of the principles of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and proper crop management. Indeed, it is a sobering thought that the industry is losing between 10 to 15 percent of its value (around $350 million a year) through poor production, transport and storage practices.

Part of the problem stems from the poor selection of healthy seed with a high germination ratio. Usually in Pakistan, seed is available in local markets which are not properly checked by the agriculture department as well as by farmers for quality and germination before sowing. To break this mindset, CABI is trying to train farmers to follow a more scientific way, bringing about a change in their routine agricultural practices and adopting a better way to grow cotton.

Continue reading

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

data map

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.

Continue reading

The time is ripe for climate adaptation in agriculture

climate-change-1325882_1920

By Janny Vos, Director of Strategic Partnerships at CABI

I recently attended the launch of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) in The Hague where the words of the CEO of the World Bank – Kristalina Georgieva – resonated strongly with my work as part of an organisation that aims to improve people’s lives worldwide by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. In a nutshell, it’s all about working together as we aim to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ms Georgieva said, “What is new is the scope, the speed and the scale at which we must work to adapt to climate change. And it is cost effective as the returns on investments will be high.” CABI’s primary interests are helping farmers to grow more and lose less to agricultural pests and diseases, and the ‘returns on investments’ are indeed ‘high’ – they’re ultimately about securing food and nutrition security for the world’s growing population.

Continue reading

Fertilizer Optimization Tool helps return son to teacher training school

IMG_20181109_150504
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.

Continue reading

Fertilizer Optimization Tool pays dividends for farmers in Uganda

Interacting with members of Kidoko
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.

Continue reading