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Science and Practice – A Complex Relationship

In this year’s GIZ/EZ session, the linkages and the connectivity between research and development was discussed. How much research is necessary, and what type of knowledge and partnerships are needed to reach the final beneficiaries? - was the main question that arose their symposium.

Milk + Sun + Development = cooler, healthier milk? Local, solar-powered milk cooling

Problem: In Kenia, small scale milk producers (1-10 liters) carry in the morning their milk to cooperative-milk-collection stations, and they do so typically by bycicle. As the microbial activity without cooling stays high, the quality of the milk decreases during transportation. To prevent the degration of milk quality and allow further transportation, GIZ, University of Hohenheim and INCARDA developed a 600 watt, solar-powered milk cooling system.

Solar-powered milk cooling

How does it work: The solar-powered energy is stored, transferred to a refrigerator and then used to produce ice. The ice then is put into a special designed milk container without having direct contact with the milk. By that, it cools down the milk through additional isolation to around 20 degrees over a long period.

"Being a Woman Farmer is Like Being Cursed"

The opening oral presentation in the gender section this afternoon, Tuesday 20th, offered a bold statement: “being a woman farmer is like being cursed”. As a woman, and a farmer (albeit in a developed country), this topic especially intrigued me.

The main message from this session was that women in the global south are often inadvertently overburdened by work and life tasks as a result of well-intended gender equality policies. I think this rings true for women worldwide, in different ways.

Gender Presentation

A commenter from the audience recalled seeing women being given toasters and other small appliances as Mother’s Day and birthday gifts. And while these appliances made domestic life easier, it created more pressure and expectations for women to become gastronomical chefs. It seems that so many well-intended inventions and “advancements” have the unwanted result of making women’s lives more difficult.

Today's highlights from maize fertilisers and standard management of monocultures

If yesterday was the day for BIOCHAR, today’s topic of the sessions about soil fertility and nutrient management was MAIZE. From strategies to outbalance nutrient insufficiencies for maize production in Kenya, to fertiliser optimisation under weed competition and the economic analysis of maize production, many aspects have been covered.

Jacobo Arango and Stefan Burkart presented their researches about Brachiaria Humidicola.

Godfrey Nambafu summed up his results about the strategies adopted by African indigenous plants to cope with phosphorus deficient soils.

Personally, I really enjoyed Patrick van Damme’s research results about Sesbania Rostrata, which used to grow on abandoned rice fields and can be cropped and then plowed into the soil in alternation with rice thanks to its beneficial effect through nitrogen fixation.

Later on, I went to the first oral presentation about the same subject and attended Enos Onyuka talking about the organic carbon input into the soil by plant residues of African indigenous plants. He also stressed the potential for increasing the organic carbon availability in AIV by the use of appropriate harvesting techniques.

Urban agriculture for more resilience in food security

Do you know the image of Fidel Castro "smoking" a carrot with the caption „organic by default“? This is pretty much the case of Cuban urban farming practices. When the Soviet block collapsed, farmers were forced to turn to sustainable practices due to a lack of external energy-intensive inputs. At the same time, cities had a need for locally produced food. Today, the city of Havana produces 80 percent of its fruit and vegetable demand within the town borders!

The following picture shows a project by Marta Lopéz Cifuentes, student at BOKU, which is displayed in the registration area.

urban agriculture project

Today, several events at the Tropentag covered the topic of urban agriculture as a means of enhancing food security (and maybe food sovereignty, too). Cuba is a showcase of urban agriculture, since it has relied on it for several decades already. The government has supported urban agriculture in order to become more independent from imports while farmers appreciated their independence from the state. Surprisingly, despite these two contradictory objectives, policies helped urban producers get access to land, markets and extension services, as the research of Friedrich Leitgeb showed.

Challenges to mobile dryland pastoralists

Is it the timing? Am I just choosing the unpopular topics? Is the air-conditioning too cold? I think it is. Or is it common that the audiences at poster sessions are usually rather scarce? In occasion of the poster session about Mobile Dryland Pastoralism (2.2, Tuesday 20th, 9:45 am), I found it especially regrettable that not many people attended. So, I decided to highlight some of my favourite topics of today’s poster session 2.2.

Jenny Bischofberger, for example, presented an interesting poster about the integration of stakeholder's knowledge in land-use management in Namibia, based on interviews analyzing their perception about what is most important to save from degradation in the savannah.

I also appreciated Cornelia Heine’s presentation based on a survey about enabling environment and policies related to pastoralism in 26 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, analyzing pastoralist’s livelihoods.

Learning Crop Production Systems from Around the World

Many different cropping systems practices have been presented at today's Poster Session, and they come from all around the world. Directly from the University of Basel, for example, Schütz Lukas talked about the application of microbial inoculants as a promising science for sustainable agriculture. She found biofertiliser's use to be a viable technology to be applied in tropical and subtropical soil.

Poster-Presentation-II

The benefits of bee-pollination on cash crop in Burkina Faso, then, was presented by Katharina Stein, from the University of Wuerzburg in Germany. “So far - she said - there is no report on contribution of bee pollination for crop yield of these crops in Burkina Faso”. In fact, her research shows well how bee-pollination can increase cotton fiber weight by 62% and can just triple the weight of sesame seeds. These numbers are a scientific proof that gratis pollination service by bees can be beneficial for small farmers and stakeholders. Too obvious to remind that natural savannah habitat in Burkina Faso would better be conserved?

Crop Biotic stresses oral presentation session: bio-control of pests and diseases

As a young crop scientist, I found it would worth being part of the attendants in the crop biotic stresses oral presentations this morning, Tuesday 20th. And I do not regret it. Most of the projects were from East-African Universities in collaboration with European or South-Americans Universities. They embraced applied research dealing with production, formulation and application as well as efficacy testing under field conditions, as well as basic research focusing on bio-control mechanisms studying molecular interactions between the BCAs and their prey.

Ah, how modern is to say that biological control with beneficial microorganisms (BCAs) can be used to fight plant diseases! Biological control indeed plays an important role, now and even more in the future, as many pesticides are being faced out and organic and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) production is encouraging aiming at improving sustainable plant production.

One of the young scientists, the Ph.D. student Mary Musyoki from Hohenheim University, Germany, gave a wonderful presentation on bio-control using Fusarium Oxysporum f.sp. Strigae-its impact on beneficial indigenous prokaryotes in a maize rhizosphere. “We experienced the success of bio-control agent in a greenhouse lab and we had to release it into the fields to evaluate further”, Musyoki said. However, she mentioned also that risk assessment analysis of having it as a biological control agent in soil ecosystem is vital, it's been proved and it’s now ready for registration.
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