Micropropagating sweet potatoes

According to the Carolina, USA farmer featured in this article, “micropropagation is the name of the game in sweet potatoes.” “The bottom line is a very uniform crop,” he adds. That’s not necessarily everywhere a good thing, of course, but clean planting material is always important.

Kenyan medicinal plant remedies documented

Catching up with some old friends in Nairobi last week I found out that one of them has been involved in preparing a really wonderful “Herbal and Nutritional Guide for Kenyan Families” for an NGO called the Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health. According to its mission statement, TICAH works “to strengthen our understanding of the positive links between cultural belief, practice, and knowledge and the attainment of health.”

Organic agriculture and development

A long article on International Press Service’s wire gives a broad overview of the benefits to farmers in developing countries of switching to organic principles of production. The article cites many benefits, including the buffering and resilience associated with greater diversity in an ecosystem.

For example, a village in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia that had converted to organic agriculture continued to harvest crops even during a severe drought, while neighbouring villages using conventional chemical fertilisers had nothing, according to Louise Luttikholt, strategic relations manager at the International Federation of Organic Agriculture (IFOAM). Agriculture departments in Ethiopia are reported to be keener on organics now.

The article looks at experiences from elsewhere around the world too.

Business opportunities in biodiversity

A blog called Conservation Finance draws attention to a report on building biodiversity businesses. The report was prepared by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and is a draft for discussion, but I cannot do that as I have not yet read it. However, I noted with pleasure that there is a section on agriculture, which is encouraging, and not all that common among mainstream conservationists. By the way, Conservation Finance’s link to the report is pretty much broken; use this one instead.

A tale of three (illicit) crops

Still not online here in Nairobi, but listening to the BBC World Service on the radio, I was struck by two (sort of linked) stories. One said that marijuana is now the biggest cash crop in the USA. The other was about coca in Bolivia and how the new president of that country, Evo Morales, is suggesting that cultivation of the crop should be expanded and new products developed based on the traditional uses of the plant. Then in the Daily Nation this morning there is an article about how miraa (or qat, Catha edulis) farming is taking a hit in northern Kenya after miraa flights to Somalia were banned by the new authorities there. Now livelihoods are threatened and there is apparently an upsurge in crime in miraa growing areas. Anybody out there want to draw some conclusions?