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.

Cocoa: sustainable solutions

CIRAD, the French agriculture research organisation, reports on efforts to make cocoa a more sustainable crop. Using a network that spanned 35 institutes in five African countries, the researchers studied cropping systems, participatory breeding (especially for pest and disease resistance), soil fertility and plant health. Results appear to be encouraging, especially growing the cocoa trees under a shade canopy and interplanting with other high-value crops. Both techniques improve local biodiversity and give farmers additional sources of income.

Nutrition info

According to its website, ProNUTRITION “is an information resource that supports health care providers, community health workers, policy makers, and program managers with current, relevant, and practical knowledge and tools for decision-making.” There’s a discussion group on nutrition and HIV/AIDS and lots of documents.

Ocean’s prairies dying

A press release from University of California at Davis says that seagrasses, which deliver considerable ecosystem services, are vanishing, but because they are generally out of sight they are also out of mind. Susan Williams, a UC Davis marine biologist, is one author of a report on the plight of seagrasses in the journal BioScience; unfortunately the journal is behind a subscription wall, so I cannot tell you more.

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.