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More cassava for less time

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Aeroponics involves growing the cassava with its roots suspended in air and automatically sprayed with a special solution. Photo by: Neil Palmer / CIAT

By  | Apr 5, 2018

Cassava has a relatively long growth cycle compared to other important crops. It takes an average of 10-12 months — sometimes up to 24 months! — for farmers to harvest the roots; maize, rice, and potato’s growth cycles span less than a third of that.

In other words, farmers can grow cassava at most once a year, or, in some cases, every two years. Dr. Michael Gomez Selvaraj, a CIAT crop physiologist, is working to change that.

There is very little understanding of how and why few roots in cassava turn into organs that store starch, the part of the crop most valued by rural communities and industry.

Together with his colleagues at the CIAT Phenomics Platform, Selvaraj is developing a method that will lead to identifying the genes and factors that cause early bulking of roots. This will help them establish how to shorten the growth cycle of cassava to as little as seven months.

In addition, the technique will help identify the genes and factors that can increase the number of storage roots, so farmers can sell more of these in the market.

A novel technique

The method being tested by Selvaraj and his team involves growing the cassava with its roots suspended in air and automatically sprayed with a special solution.

Known as aeroponics, it offers a controlled environment for breeders to identify the genes that trigger early bulking of roots and the conversion of fibrous roots — which are all what the cassava initially has — to storage roots.

In the past, breeders would need to dig up the root from the soil to study the genetic traits of cassava. But it was difficult to isolate genes as the plant interacted with numerous elements in and around the soil, such as insects, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms.

With aeroponics, breeders can see how and when some roots start to swell and become starch storage organs. Root swelling is the crucial step toward cassava yield. As such, if breeders can learn to manipulate the genes that induce this swelling, they can manipulate cassava yield.

Apart from locating which gene triggers early root bulking, Selvaraj and his team want to know at which point such a gene does this and why the plant selects certain fibrous roots to become storage roots. Temperature and certain types of hormones could be factors, Selvaraj suggested.

With that, breeders will be able to trigger the process of bulking of roots at the earliest possible time and of increasing the number of storage roots the plant develops.

In the future as such, a cassava variety whose roots start bulking at the fourth month and that only has at most 10 storage roots might have roots that would begin bulking from the second month and have 20 storage roots.

“If we can double the storage roots, farmers will have an equivalent of two harvests in one growing season,” said Selvaraj.

Next steps

Selvaraj aims to follow up his experiment with trials to test how the cassava would perform in the field. And he plans to do this again without having to dig up the root from the soil.

One part of the trials will involve the use of the so-called ground-penetrating radar technology or GPR.

GPR can detect objects underneath the surface. It has numerous applications in several fields such as engineering, military, and archeology.

“But this is the first time that the technology will be used on plants,” according to Selvaraj.

GPR can validate whether the roots of cassava are bulking early as expected. A study found it to be a suitable technology to predict and estimate storage root growth of cassava.

Another part of the future trials will entail using drones to see how the crop is performing depending on the type of soil and level of nutrients. Knowledge of the proper timing for fertilizing cassava is still limited, and drones can provide valuable information on this.

For instance, if the amount of nitrogen is low, the plant will likely be short. But with the right amount of nutrients, the plant will likely grow tall.

For farmers, the taller the cassava plant, the better. This means they have more planting materials for the next growing season, as farmers only need stem cuttings to propagate the crop.

“With the combination of all these innovative technologies, we are hopeful that one day farmers can produce more cassava in less time,” Michael Selvaraj said. “More importantly, this allows them to earn more and have more to feed their families.”


Additional information:

The project titled “Low-cost 3D Phenotyping of Cassava Roots” is funded by the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and is a partnership between CIAT and the University of Nottingham’s Computer Vision Laboratory.

The use of GPR by the Phenomics Platform is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and forms part of the partnership between CIAT, Texas A&M University, and IDS North America Ltd.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the CIAT and retrieved on 04/09/2018 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM, Inc. accordingly.


US-Based NGO Commit to Transforming Education in Liberia


Source: Front Page Africa Online, 2018

By Jackson F. Kanneh | March 19, 2018|Front Page Africa Online

Klay District Bomi County – The CEO and founder of US-based educational NGO More Than ME (MTM) says her organization’s priority in Liberia is to help the government improve the education sector of the country.

Katie Meyler made the pronouncement Thursday, March 15 at a quizzing competition organized by MTM in Golodee town, Bomi County.

“More Than Me wants to transform the entire primary education of the country. We are going to work with the Ministry of Education to strengthen the educational system from the foundation so that the people and the economy will be strong,” Meyler said.

“These children that we are bringing up will be the future of Liberia. So, More Than Me in partnership with the government of Liberia is calling on our community leaders and school administrators to work together to make a stronger Liberia.”

Madam Meyler also called on parents to encourage teachers to be on campus every day, adding that the work of teachers is difficult; therefore, parents must regularly remind and encourage them about its importance.

“Because when they are coming to school every day, it means our children, the future leaders of this country, will be learning something every day which is good for this country,” she said.

Alexander Duopu, Deputy Education Minister for Instruction, lauded MTM for its impact on the school system while calling on parents to provide their children with the necessary school materials.

“Our parents need to give the children the support they need because our children are our future leaders, so we should support them with the education they need,” Duopu said.

He said the Ministry of Education under the CDC led government will seek legislation for the establishment of an academic crime court for the handling of academic issues.

“When a student leaves another school and come to your school, you as principal must go and check behind that student before admitting them in your institution,” he said.

“This is why we are going to have legislation for us to have an academic crime court in this country – a court that will hold teachers, principals and parents accountable for academic crime.”

Seo Davies, Bomi County Education Officer, praised MTM for organizing the Quizzing competition in the county.

He also called on the NGO to collaborate with local authority of the Ministry of Education in the county to improve the sector.

At the end of the program, the six participating schools were all presented with school materials by MTM while special awards were given to the first, second and third winners respectively.

The Education Time Quizzing competition, which was contested by six schools from Montserrado and Bomi counties attracted vast numbers of residents from Golodee and the surrounding towns.

In the grand final of the competition, More Than Me Academy, the parent school of the NGO located on Ashmun Street in Monrovia, defeated Moore Town public school of Bomi county 80 to 40 points.

Article Disclaimer

This article originally appeared on Front Page Africa Online and was retrieved on 03/21/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at


‘We are not out of the woods yet’ on drought relief efforts, warns top UN aid official in Somalia

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UN Photo/Ilyas Ahmed | A woman walks in drought-hit Salaxley village, 15 kilometers south of Garowe in Puntland, one of the regions hit by a severe drought. UN Photo/Ilyas Ahmed

18 February 2018 | Humanitarian Aid

The top United Nations humanitarian official in Somalia has commended the drought relief and recovery efforts of the authorities in the northern state of Puntland, while cautioning that the current humanitarian crisis is far from over.

“We took stock, together with [Puntland’s] leadership, of the drought response as it has been so far, looking back to what has been a good year in terms of close cooperation and a very successful drought relief effort,” the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, said in Puntland’s capital, Garowe, on Saturday, in the wake of a series of meeting with officials, including the Federal Member State’s President Abdiwali Mohamed Ali.

“At the same time, we talked about the remaining challenges because we are not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination,” he added.

Mr. de Clercq – who also serves as the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Somalia and the UN Resident Coordinator – was visiting Puntland to meet with security, planning and humanitarian officials from the local government, as well as representatives of civil society organizations, to discuss the current drought response and other challenges in the region.

Speaking on the collective response so far to the drought that has affected Puntland and the rest of Somalia for over five failed rain cycles, Mr. de Clercq said that, while 2017 was a good year in terms of close cooperation to avoid the worst impact of the drought, further effort would be needed.

He added that, in areas like Sool and Sanaag, there are still massive needs and a strong possibility that famine-type conditions would develop. The two areas, located on the north-eastern tip of the Horn of Africa, form part of a disputed region claimed by both Puntland and neighbouring ‘Somaliland.’

Mitigating the effects of the drought and helping the people who have been displaced by it was one of the main topics covered in the UN official’s meeting with President Mohamed Ali. “Our discussion was frank and candid, very fruitful,” the President noted afterwards.


UN Photo/Ilyas Ahmed

Peter de Clercq, the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia and UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator accompanied by officials from the UN and Puntland administration interacts with residents of drought-hit Salaxley village., by UN Photo/Ilyas Ahmed

At the end of the visit, which included discussions at the ministries of security and planning, together with Puntland’s disaster management agency, Mr. de Clercq said that it was important to get the right resources to the right place and work with the right partners, such as the Puntland authorities, and to consider longer-term factors.

“We try to address the underlying causes of the crisis, like food insecurity and livestock depletion, and to think of alternatives for people to make a living and to rebuild their lives,” he said.

In 2017, drought-related famine was averted through the efforts of Somalis and their international partners. However, the risk is not yet overcome as there are 5.4 million people in Somalia needing life-saving humanitarian assistance. Work is being done in all regions, including Puntland, to build and sustain resilience in all communities, especially the populations affected the most by the recurring cycle of drought and famine risk, such as pastoralists, displaced persons and fishing communities.

There is a resilience and recovery framework in Somalia, to help it transition from humanitarian intervention to sustainable recovery and disaster preparedness. Led by the authorities and supported by the United Nations and the World Bank, it is tightly linked to its development plan. It enables the national and regional governments to take the lead in medium- and long-term developments solutions, going to the root of communities’ vulnerability to droughts, and helping them withstand recurrent shocks.

Article Disclaimer

This article originally appeared on United Nations and was retrieved on 02/19/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at


Understanding well-being in the dried fish sector in Bangladesh

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By Kate Bevitt



Exploitative working conditions in the dried fish sector in Bangladesh are undermining the well-being of workers, while at the same time potentially contributing to the positive well-being of those who employ them. This is the finding of new research by WorldFish and partners that sheds an important light on the largely ‘invisible’ dried fish sector in Bangladesh, and enhances the concept of well-being in small-scale fisheries research.

Dried fish in Bangladesh

Dried fish is an important food in the diet in Bangladesh. It accounts for the fourth largest share of fish consumed and is the most accessible type of fish for consumers across all income levels. In some regions, dried fish is the most frequently eaten type of fish, and its consumption is particularly important for poor consumers.

Yet despite its importance, the dried fish sector in Bangladesh has largely been overlooked in fisheries research.

Mostly, research has focused on fishers and the benefits generated by small-scale fisheries, such as their contribution to food, employment and gross domestic product, as well as the meanings and social connections they provide to the people engaged in them.

This has created an assumption that small-scale fisheries have a positive impact on the well-being—linked to material, subjective and relational values—of all actors involved, including those in processing and marketing.

But the new research, undertaken at three major processing sites in Bangladesh, finds this is not the case for dried fish workers.

Exploitative practices

Most workers engaged in fish drying are employed by fish drying operators. Typically, workers are hired under unfavorable working conditions. This is exacerbated by the geographic and social conditions in fish drying locations, and the fact that most dried fish workers are poor and unskilled with no alternate job opportunities.

In Naziratek, close to Cox’s Bazar, for example, the settlement of a large group of fishing households displaced by natural disasters coincided with an influx of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. These groups competed with members of poor households in the fishing community for work, which in turn lowered wages.

In another example, fish drying operators on Dublar Char island often hire temporary workers on very low wages and under slave-like conditions because the island’s remoteness in the Sundarbans puts it almost beyond the reach of state governance.

Compounding these problems in the dried fish sector in Bangladesh is the common practice of in-kind payments or a cash piece rate. For instance, in Daspara village, northern Bangladesh, most of the women workers’ income is in the form of fish gut, a by-product of processing, which is boiled at home for around one hour to produce fish oil that can be sold for an income. In other places, workers sometimes receive a share of the catch as payment, which has clear disadvantages when catches are small.

Dried fish in Bangladesh. Photo by Finn Thilsted, 2012.

A key factor enabling these exploitative practices is the ‘subordinate’ positions of workers in the dried fish sector in Bangladesh, which are often linked to their gender or ethnicity.

In Daspara, women make up the majority of dried fish workers, partly due to a sense of communal identity and the obligation this entails. But this burden of self-exploitation does not extend to male fish drying workers, who are paid in cash and earn twice the daily wage of their female counterparts.

As for Rohingya workers, they are seen as ‘outsiders’ who make trouble and contaminate the local culture, meaning they are often ill-treated and more vulnerable to harassment from their ‘local’ managers.

Well-being in the dried fish sector in Bangladesh

Together, these labor arrangements provide distinct benefits to fishers and fish drying operators/producers, by ensuring the existence of a constantly available but highly flexible supply of low-cost labor. This can be used on demand to catch, transport and process the widely fluctuating volumes of fish landed.

In addition, these practices enable producers to minimize cash outlays and transfer the risks of fishing in Bangladesh, such as the variability of fish catches, to fish drying workers.

Workers in the dried fish sector in Bangladesh. Photo by Finn Thilsted, 2013.

Yet despite the exploitative nature of these practices, their impact on workers’ well-being and identity varies.

For poor and vulnerable women who voluntarily work in the fish drying sector, they find the experience to be mostly positive because it provides them with vital income and greater autonomy.

But for the Rohingya workers, who engage in this sector out of an urgent need for money, the exploitative practices have a negative impact on their well-being. This is also the case for the dhulabanga—landless, unemployed and homeless young men and adolescents—who only engage in the sector under the threat of physical violence.

Overall, the research shows that well-being can have a dark side for many workers in the dried fish sector, and at the same time can benefit other actors in the value chain. This calls for researchers to focus their attention on workers, not only on fishers, to better assess the well-being of all actors engaged in the dried fish sector in Bangladesh and beyond.

Kate Bevitt

Kate Bevitt

Kate Bevitt is a communications professional with over 10 years’ experience working for not-for-profit, government and research organizations. Kate was the Writer / Editor for WorldFish from 2015 to 2017. Before this, she spent two years in Timor-Leste as the Communication Advisor for the Seeds of Life agricultural research project. Kate holds an MBA in Marketing and a Bachelor of Communication (Journalism and Public Relations) from the University of Newcastle, Australia.


Article Disclaimer

This article originally appeared on The World Fish Center and was retrieved on 02/01/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at





Climate change affecting stability across West Africa and Sahel: UN security council

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By  | Published on 31/01/2018 | 8:29 AM

In a statement, the council president expanded concerns over the links between climate and violence in Africa to two regions that cover 26 countries


French soldiers talk to locals in southern Mali. Since 2014, the French have led Operation Barkhane, a military effort to fight terror in the Sahel (Photo: TM1972/Wikipedia)

The UN Security Council has identified climate change as a driver of conflict across West Africa and the Sahel, in a statement published on Tuesday.

It expands on a 2017 resolution linking the dramatic shrinking of Lake Chad to the rise of Boko Haram and other armed groups in the region.

Water scarcity and desertification pit farming, pastoralist and fishing communities against each other for dwindling resources, analysts warn. As traditional livelihoods become harder to sustain, some people are seeking violent solutions.

The statement noted “the adverse effects of climate change and ecological changes among other factors on the stability of West Africa and the Sahel”, two regions that together span 26 countries. The security council, the UN’s most powerful body, “emphasises the need for adequate risk assessments and risk management strategies”.

Janani Vivekananda, climate change and security expert at consultancy Adelphi, described it as “a significant and positive step”.

She told Climate Home News: “Now, Lake Chad can’t be seen as the standalone example of climate security recognized by the UNSC. This points to an emerging coherence in how the UNSC recognizes the root causes of threats to peace and security.”

That needs to feed into humanitarian and peacebuilding action on the ground, she added. “There could be much stronger efforts to ensure all funds and programmes implemented are both conflict-sensitive and climate-sensitive”

Creeping desertification and worsening droughts are placing strain on natural resources and communities that depend on them across the Sahel. As well as Boko Haram, the security council statement condemned attacks by Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), which operates in the area.

A meeting of climate security experts in the Hague, December 2017, identifiedthe Lake Chad basin and Sahelian country Mali as two priority areas for action.

Lake Chad remains one of the starkest examples of how climate change impacts can create fertile conditions for terrorism and organised crime. The lake’s area has reduced by 90% in four decades, due to reduced rainfall and growth in water demand as the basin’s population boomed to 17 million.

Report: Boko Haram terrorists thriving on climate crisis

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a community advocate from Chad, told the World Economic Forum last week that the rainy season used to last six months and is now only two or three.

“Everybody knows that [a lack of] rain is impacting crops and crops is food security,” she said. “The consequence is conflict between communities… Boko Haram is the famous one. How about the local and regional conflict between farmers, fishermen and pastoralists for resources? People are dying.”


The Sahel is a region defined by its low rainfall, running through parts of 14 different countries across the southern edge of the Sahara desert (Map: T L Miles)

Water supplies are becoming more erratic, agreed Mohammed Bila, who monitors water levels for the Lake Chad Basin Commission. Two or three years of normal rainfall are typically followed by a year or two of drought.

“What we have seen is that any time there is a reduction of the size of the lake, the number of conflicts increases between the different user groups,” he told Climate Home News.

“The most recent conflicts, the Boko Haram, could be attributed to a long period of deprivation. Over 25 years, the livelihood groups don’t have stability… all the children born within this period, they grow up with deprivation, they haven’t seen anything good. These are the ones who are easily misdirected to these violent conflicts.”

Increasingly, these conflicts cross borders, he added. The Lake Chad basin straddles four countries: Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Solutions range from community-level adaptations to heavy engineering. In the first category are efforts to use water more efficiently and create jobs that are less reliant on water. In the second, an ambitious proposal to divert water from the Ubangi River along a 2,400km canal into Lake Chad, raising the water level an estimated one metre.

Nigeria president Muhammadu Buhari is hosting a meeting in Abuja 26-28 February on restoring Lake Chad’s ecosystem and creating sustainable livelihoods.

Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Climate Home News and was retrieved on 01/31/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at


Women are the foundation for change in rural Ethiopia

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January 9, 2018 | CIMMYT Feature

The idea that “Educating women/girls is nothing but a loss,” used to be a common sentiment amongst members of rural Ethiopian communities where the Nutritious Maize for Ethiopia (NuME) project works. Now one is more likely to hear “Women are the foundation for change.”

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)-led NuME project is reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia by increasing the country’s capacity to feed itself. The project is improving household food and nutritional security, especially for young children and women, through shifting gender norms and the adoption of Quality Protein Maize (QPM).

QPM refers to a type of maize biofortified with two essential amino acids through traditional breeding to improve the inadequacy of protein quality of the conventional maize grown widely by farmers. Consumption of QPM instead of conventional maize leads to increase in the rate of growth in infants and young children with mild to moderate undernutrition from populations in which maize is the major staple food.

According to the World Bank, women contribute 40-60 percent of the labor in agricultural production in Ethiopia and play an important role in income generation, as well as unpaid household tasks. However, many women face severely restricted access to resources and services and lack control over income, greatly hindering their participation in and benefit from new innovations.

Few programs have specifically considered gender relations when implementing new initiatives in communities, however, when NuME found lower participation of women in the community-based promotion and dissemination of QPM, adapted community conversations were launched in two selected project woredas, or districts – Shebedino and Meskan – for a nine-month pilot in an attempt to raise women’s role in the project.

Community conversation (CC) is a facilitated approach based on the principle that communities have the capacity to identify their societal, economic and political challenges; set priorities; mobilize human, physical and financial resources; plan for action and address their challenges sustainably. It focuses on people’s strengths, resources and how they relate to challenges or problems communities face.

The people benefiting from a CC-driven project set priorities and create a plan of action to mobilize resources to address their challenges sustainably. This helps communities develop a sense of ownership, use local resources and take responsibility to bring about sustainable changes.

Because this approach involves the entire community, it also includes traditionally marginalized groups like women and youth.

When NuME first started community conversations, seating was very rigid due to cultural and religious traditions, but as the sessions continue paving the way for more community awareness on issues around gender norms and stereotypes, the seating has become much more mixed.

A facilitator from Shebedino woreda said, “Participants can’t wait for the bi-monthly conversations and they never want to miss them. These exchanges have helped men and women to get together and discuss their concerns, which was not a common practice before.”

“Women have begun raising their voices during community conversation meetings, while they used to be too shy and afraid to speak and very much reserved about sharing their ideas in public,” a female participant from Meskan woreda reported.

Community conversation participants have started changing the traditional gender stereotypes.

Through debate and the sharing of opinions, and more active participation from women, community conversations have educated participants on gender inequality, its prevalence and harm and have allowed men and women community members to exchange ideas about nutrition more effectively.

The NuME project will continue into 2019. Read more about how CIMMYT is working to equally boost the livelihoods of women, youth and men here.

The NuME Project is funded by Global Affairs Canada with major implementing partners the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MoANR), the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA)/Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000) and Farm Radio International (FRI).

Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on CIMMYT and was retrieved on 01/18/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at

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