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Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Ex-ante Evaluation of Improved Potato Varieties for Sub-Saharan Africa

This morning we presented our paper titled “Ex-ante Evaluation of Improved Potato Varieties for Sub-Saharan Africa” at the 9th Triennial Conference of the Africa Potato Association.

The paper features a forward looking analysis of the economic and social impacts of improved potato varieties in the region. We analyze a virtual investment project which involves the improvement and dissemination of potatoes in nine target countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The analysis employs the International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT) which has been developed at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Taking into account spill over effects across markets and countries, the analysis finds positive net welfare effects at the global level. Effects of the intervention on potato supply in the target countries range from 0.5% to 8.5%. Potato producers in these countries are found to benefit, but producers of other commodities and in other countries beyond the region are negatively affected. Lower market prices for potatoes and other commodities lead to welfare gains to consumers worldwide and in the region. At the level of the target countries, the improved potato varieties are found to generate returns on investment between 20% and over 70%, depending mainly on the level of adoption.

The analysis shows that investing in crop improvement and variety development for Sub-Saharan Africa can be a worthwhile undertaking with returns that easily justify intervention. However, it also highlights the importance of variety diffusion for the intra-regional distribution and the magnitude of the impacts and points to the importance of paying attention to quality attributes in breeding for high market acceptance and suggests putting emphasis in seed systems development and other interventions to promote quick dissemination and high adoption levels.

The full paper will be available in the conference proceedings.

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9th Triennial Conference of the African Potato Association starts tomorrow

Tomorrow starts the 9th Triennial Conference of the Africa Potato Association. The event takes place in Naivasha, Kenya and will gather potato scientists from Africa and around the world to discuss issues around five major themes:

  1. Appropriate policies for germplasm exchange, food and nutrition security, and trade in Africa
  2. Getting seed systems moving
  3. Major advances in breeding and crop management
  4. Innovations in postharvest management, processing technologies, marketing systems and  technology transfer
  5. New evidence concerning nutritional value and changing behaviours

We will be present at the conference with a presentation on “Ex-ante Evaluation of Improved Potato Varieties for Sub-Saharan Africa”, which will also soon be available on this blog.

The conference can be followed on Twitter at @APA2013 and on Facebook under AfricanPotatoAssociation.

Is a fertilizer revolution the right recipe for African agriculture?

It is often argued that to increase its farm yields and close its yield gap, Africa needs a new Green Revolution, based on the expanded use of fertilizer. An intriguing analysis by Pablo Tittonell of Wageningen University, however, tells a somewhat different story (find it on p.17ff. in Tittonell’s inaugural lecture at WUR.

In an on-farm research program carried out in Western Kenya, Tittonell and others compared maize yields on the fields of 60 households under different management regimes. A part of the plots was managed by the farmers themselves, with or without use of fertilizers. Another part was managed by researchers without the use of fertilizers, only taking care of the right planting time and plant spacing, frequent weeding, and using certified local cultivars. A third part of the plots was managed by the researchers with the use of N-P-K fertilizers.

MaizeYields

Source: Taken from Tittonell (2013).

The figure shows the striking result that the plots managed by researchers even without fertilizers had higher yields than the plots managed by the farmers, thus illustrating the potential of proper agronomic management. In particular with rising distance from the homestead this potential is high.

On the other hand, the figure also shows that N-P-K fertilization has an even higher potential for increasing yields. However, the researchers also argue that, given the current quality of the road network, bringing the amounts of fertilizers required to obtain significant yield increases at scale to the rural communities would not be feasible .

The analysis raises a number of interesting questions. The overarching question is – taking optimized agronomic management and the use of higher amounts of N-P-K fertilizers as alternatives – what is the better alternative?

Read more…

Two interesting sources for soil data and maps

Many biophysical modeling efforts require soil data. There are (at least) two interesting sources that provide such information.

The first one is GlobalSoilMap.net, an initiative which seeks to create a new digital soil map of the world, applying state-of-the-art soil mapping technologies.

The second one is the European Soil Portal of the Joint Research Center of the European Commission. The European Soil Portal provides access to a very rich compilation of soil related information, among them datasets, soil maps and a map viewing application. The great thing about this portal is that it not only focuses on Europe, but also covers other parts of the planet, like for example Africa.

[Many thanks to Thordis for pointing me to the European Soil Portal]