Adapting in the Andes

Climate change is leading to an increase in late blight and other diseases in Andean potato fields, and farmers are moving up the mountain in response. They’re also trying to figure out which of their dozens of varieties — plus others from genebanks, especially CIP’s — are going to do best, where. Hear all about it at NPR. There’s a great slideshow too.

One village at a time

The Guardian Group in the UK has got together with Amref and Barclays to try “to enlist your help in improving the lives of the people of Katine sub-county, in north-east Uganda.” They call the initiative It Starts with a Village. And they say its aim is to lift Katine out of the Middle Ages, a time of “civil war, plague and ignorance.”

What do we hope to achieve over the three years of the plan? Quite a lot, we hope. In consultation with the people of Katine, Amref has drawn up an overview of local needs and a comprehensive plan (PDF file) for how it hopes to meet them.

That’s a lot of hope. In the agriculture sector, the workplan includes, among other things, organizing farmers’ groups, introducing and testing new crops and varieties, doing marketing studies and improving local marketing skills. You can get an idea of the challenges ahead by reading about Esau Edonu, a local farmer, and watching a short video. There does seem to be an awareness of the importance of agrobiodiversity, for example to adapt to climate change. Maybe the emphasis is a little too much on bringing in new things for the market. Anyway, the strong focus on adding value locally to agricultural biodiversity is surely a good idea.

I’m not sure what to think of this effort to privatize aid. Is it just another example of well-intentioned but ill-conceived European do-gooding in Africa? Or does it stand a chance of making a difference? I’ll be following its progress on the project blog. Maybe I’ll even make a donation

A pleasant surprise: musician backs agricultural biodiversity

It isn’t every day that listening to a music report provides blog-fodder. A podcast on music from National Public Radio in the US produced an item on a singer called Adrienne Young, apparently “a darling of the folk-bluegrass-country set”. What’s different about her is her very public commitment to small-scale (and organic) farming, community-supported agriculture, and agricultural biodiversity. She grew up in a fruit & veg farming family, has worked on farms, and invites local farmers to speak at her shows. The music’s OK too.

There are a couple other musicians with an agricultural bent. Willie Nelson has his Farm Aid, although that has always struck me as a handout to small farm families who haven’t managed to cultivate subsides. Ali Farka Touré, who died a little more than a year ago, was famously a farmer. And the CGIAR centres once had Hootie and the Blowfish as ambassadors to yoof. (What do you mean you’ve never heard of either entity?)

There must be others, and there must be ways that music could be used to convey the message of agricultural biodiversity. Enlighten us, please.

From the horse’s mouth

andyjarvis.jpg The recent paper showing that climate change threatens the wild relatives of crops received quite a bit of attention yesterday, being as how it was The International Day for Biodiversity. But even though the champagne has all gone and cake crumbs are all we have left, we decided to prolong the festivities just a little. So we called Andy Jarvis, lead author on the study and asked him to share a few thoughts. You can listen here.

You can also hear co-author Annie Lane over at Bioversity International’s news pages.

P.S. This may be the first in an occasional series of podcasts. Have you got something to say? Or would you like to hear someone or something particular? Let us know.