Friday, 22 June 2018

BioDesign/Graham Knight: Deciding on the best crops with global warming using AE/CA

Deciding on the best crops with global warming using AE/CA

More info for those who realise they must change their farming techniques! Not with GMOs

Farming in a time of climate change

Food insecurity affects 153 million people across Africa, whose population – around 60% of whom are employed in the agricultural sector – continues to grow. Climate change compounds this issue and is already impacting crop yields across the continent; agricultural practises going forward must therefore be sustainable. Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change in Africa takes a broad view of farming in the face of climate change, building on its succinct definition of sustainability as a balance in agriculture between practices that both mitigate climate change, while also actively adapting to those changes.

The book begins with an in-depth examination of the effects of climate change, in order to clarify exactly what farmers must adapt to. Part II reviews the extent to which farmers’ own perceptions of climate change influence decisions to adapt farming practices. Setting crop production aside, several chapter authors consider the need for agricultural diversification, with many farmers opting to pursue livestock and biofuel production as climate-influenced, but viable alternatives. One of the book’s notable conclusions affirms its own recommendations for sustainable yield growth regardless of climate change as a determinant factor – suggesting that climate-adaptation practices need not be undertaken to the detriment of production.

The FAO’s Pulse Crops for Sustainable Farms in sub-Saharan Africa takes a narrower view, focusing on the cultivation of pulses for sustainable agroecology. As a result of soil degradation, the authors predict that over 75% of Africa’s cultivated land could be classified as ‘degraded’ by 2020, however, fertiliser production incurs significant financial and environmental costs. In contrast, sustainable increases in soil organic matter and nitrogen are provided by relatively inexpensive pulse cultivation. Promoting agricultural diversification in response to climate change, the study highlights the high nutritional value that legumes provide to livestock feed, enabling the sustainable intensification of livestock farming.

In light of the predicted changes in rainfall patterns resulting from climate change, the availability of water to smallholder farmers is examined by IFAD’s publication, The Water Advantage. This report presents the water management techniques implemented in five case-studies of IFAD-backed projects – including projects in Malawi, Senegal and Sudan – primarily targeting smallholders and offering small-scale, local-level solutions to water management. All of the projects involved education about sustainable water use, while leveraging public investment alongside private partnerships to build infrastructure for more efficient water storage – such as rainwater tanks, wells and underground dams – and irrigation systems.

An extract from;

Pulse crops for sustainable farms in sub-Saharan Africa

Pulses have a long history as staple crops for smallholders in sub-Saharan
Africa. Cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.], for example, has been used
in Africa for millennia and is currently considered the single most important
pulse in the dry areas of tropical Africa. One of the oldest crops ever farmed,
cowpea is known to thrive in challenging conditions – sandy soil and scarce
Pulses, and legumes in general, have also played an important role in soil health
maintenance and improvement of Africa’s nutrient-poor soils. However, over
time, consumers’ preferences have changed, giving way to important cereals (e.g.,
rice, cassava, maize), subject of vast research and political support worldwide. The
quantity of arable land used for pulses is much less than the area cultivated with
important cereals, thus negatively affecting the nutrient balance in African soils.
Pulses play a role in improving soil fertility due to their ability to biologically
fix atmospheric nitrogen and, some of them, enhance the biological turnover of
Due to their rich nutritional value, pulses are an important part of a balanced,
healthy diet. Pulses are a good source of protein and of micronutrients such as
iron and zinc. Pulses can play a key role in fighting iron deficiency anaemia, one of
the most important micronutrient deficiencies in sub-Saharan Africa, and protein
and energy deficiencies, in both quantity and quality, as they are often the cause
for widespread malnutrition, which manifests itself in the form of stunting or
wasting. Moreover, pulses are low in fat and high in dietary fibres, which among
others slows the absorption of lipids and lowers blood cholesterol levels as well
as helping with digestion. Nutritional benefits of pulses can play an important
role in reducing hunger and increasing human health, so contributing towards the
achievement of United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. However,
these benefits are often underappreciated and therefore the UN General Assembly
declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses (IYP), which sought to recognize
the contribution that pulses make to sustainable agriculture, human well-being
and the environment.
FAO’s Regional Office for Africa in Ghana and FAO’s Plant Production and
Protection Division at Rome Headquarters support countries to sustainably
intensify agricultural production in Africa, and pulses are often part of that
agenda. Among the aims of the regional initiative, “Sustainable production
intensification and value chain development in Africa” is the enhancement of
agricultural diversification and promotion of innovative cropping practices. In
this context, pulses could be integrated into cassava, maize and rice production
systems, which are very important crops as they provide around 40 percent of
Africa’s food. The stronger integration of pulses help to sustainably intensify these
production systems and value chains could be further developed.
There have been considerable research efforts to develop strategies to support
pulses cultivation and utilization on smallholder farms in sub-Saharan Africa,
which has resulted in a large body of published and unpublished data. However,
an authoritative review in this area has been lacking. To fill this gap and to raise
awareness on the importance of pulses in sub-Saharan Africa, authors have
collated and synthesized the available information in this comprehensive state-ofthe-art
document. It highlights strategies with a high potential to improve existing
key cropping systems in sub-Saharan Africa.
This review improves our current knowledge on pulses and associated
technologies in sub-Saharan Africa and shall also motivate to increase the
utilization of pulses in crop production. It is a useful reference for researchers,
extension workers, policy-makers and donors alike.

Graham K

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