Rice stories

The BBC World Service is broadcasting a series of four programmes on the rice cultures of Asia, called Rice Bowl Tales. Starts 28 February, but if you miss it, it seems like the series has already aired on Radio National, and if you follow the link I’ve just given, you should be able to listen online or download audio files.

Amazing maize stories

Apparently, maize recovered from ancient burials in NW Argentina is genetically “almost identical” (whatever that means!) to the landraces still being grown in the area. I wonder if it was prepared in the same way too. This piece in the Washington Post certainly shows that maize culinary traditions are strong, and can go back a long way.

Rapid agrobiodiversity surveys

This SciDevNet piece led me to this Nature article on the theory and practice of the Rapid Biological Inventory, “a quick, intensive taxonomic expedition designed to identify areas of particular biological, geological and cultural significance before development and exploitation take hold.”

Using satellite images, maps and other data, biologists target promising areas and then work with local scientists and students to walk existing and newly cut trails, recording the species they encounter. (…) In parallel with these are social inventories — surveys of the organisational structure of local communities and how they use the forest. The teams work with indigenous groups, government and local conservation organisations to deepen their understanding of the value of the surveyed areas.

I think the concept was pioneered by Conservation International, under the name Rapid Assessment Program, or RAP, but as far as I can see it hasn’t been applied to agricultural biodiversity, at least not explicitly. Seems to me one could come up with a pretty good “rapid agrodiversity assessment” methodology based on standard crop descriptors combined with traditional knowledge, wrapped up in a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) approach. Maybe someone already has?

Sandalwood in danger

For some reason or other, there’s been a lot in the news lately here in Kenya about sandalwood and its over-exploitation. There was a piece in the TV evening  news just the other day when a huge consignment of the stuff was found in a warehouse owned by an MP. Now here’s an article from The Nation, reproduced by the excellent allAfrica.com.

British landraces

Maria Scholten has written to us with some interesting websites about British landraces. She says that as Brussels prepares a new directive on the conservation of agricultural landraces, it is important to have some idea about the landraces that still survive even in countries like the UK with a highly industrialized agriculture, and the efforts underway to conserve them.

  1. a sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) landrace from the eighteenth century and one grown, tested and promoted by sainfoin enthusiast Robin Hill
  2. an English native red clover landrace marketed by a local British seed company
  3. a barley, probably introduced by the Vikings, being researched for marketing potential on Orkney
  4. a group of organic growers on Shetland working to maintain Shetland “aets” and bere barley, the historical cereals of Shetland

Thanks, Maria!