Welsh pony in trouble?

A long article in icWales, the self-described “national website of Wales,” details the predicament of the local pony breed. Once an important part of everyday rural life – and indeed industrial life, due to their use in coal mines – more recently a children’s trekking pony, there is now limited demand for the breed. Wild herds have thus declined dramatically, no doubt resulting in genetic erosion. Does it matter? A resounding yes echoes around the hills.

Smorgasbord: take what you need

Like a perfectly assembled buffet, everyone should be able to find something nourishing in Fidel Castro’s latest essay: Where Have All the Bees Gone? And Other Reflections on the Internationalization of Genocide1. Ranging across more topics than you can shake a stick at, he says a couple of things that I happen to agree need saying. Like criticising the modern mania for biofuels: it’s a sick joke in developed countries. As The Economist said two weeks ago, “It is not often that this newspaper finds itself in agreement with Fidel Castro, Cuba’s tottering Communist dictator. But …”2

(Disparities between Cuba’s infant mortality rate and medical services and those of the United States are not the subject of this blog.)

Then there are the bees. Here’s Fidel:

Scientists are entertaining all kinds of hypotheses, including the theory that a pesticide may have caused the bees’ neurological damage and altered their sense of orientation. Others lay the blame on the drought and even mobile phone waves, but, what’s certain is that no one knows exactly what has unleashed this syndrome.

There’s enough trickiness around without going into the mobile phone argument. I’d be happy to be proved wrong on this, but for now I’m not even prepared to link to the many, many outpourings on the subject. Let’s just say that mobile phones are the least of Cuba’s worries, with the lowest penetration of any country in South America.

  1. Actually, I don’t know whether that is the title he gave it himself, but it’ll do []
  2. In fairness, they were commenting on an earlier essay by Castro, but one that contained the same points []

School project on peas

A brief post at Intercambioperu explains how schoolchildren at Corazon de Jesus have teamed up with Het Hof van Eden in the Netherlands to study the biodiversity of pea varieties. There’s not much more detail beyond that, but I’m hoping that they may share their progress and results. As we’ve noted before, school gardens offer a perfect environment to teach children about the importance of agricultural biodiversity and nutrition. I reckon there are also loads of opportunities to use diversity to teach all sorts of other subjects too, from human migrations to plate tectonics, to history to mathematics, and much more besides. Is anyone actually doing this though? And could we help in any way? Let us know.

I’d attempt to link the Peruvians to Bioversity International’s Cyber-Plant Conservation Project, but the server is down right now. When it is up I’ll try again.

Green Revolution 2.0

We’ve blogged before about reaction to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. A significant portion of the $150 million earmarked for the Alliance will go into improving crop varieties, using both conventional breeding and biotechnological approaches. Two more takes on the whole thing came out today. Here, the great Ethiopian plant genetic resources conservationist Melaku Worede talks about what went wrong with the first Green Revolution, and what he fears will happen in Africa if the same thing is tried there. While here you can read about how high-placed politicians in Mozambique say the country is “striving toward a green revolution to improve and diversify agriculture and increase food production” and are putting their money where their mouths are.

P.S. Incidentally, the BBC World Service has a new series called “Feeding the World,” and the first programme is about the Green Revolution. You can download a podcast here.

School gardens

It seems pretty obvious that school food gardens should be quite useful teaching tools. Kids like nothing better than getting down and dirty. Well, anyway, now there’s proof. A paper in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, whose abstract you can read here, confirms “the efficacy of using garden-based nutrition education to increase adolescents’ consumption of fruits and vegetables.” What an opportunity for also teaching about agricultural biodiversity, highlighting its link to nutrition! Of course, in some parts of the world school gardens actually provide a significant proportion of the students’ diet…