Accra’s Daily Mail has a long and detailed article reporting that a large international meeting on Moringa is about to take place in that city, on 16-18 November. The Moringaceae have a home page here. The main useful species is Moringa oleifera, a tree which is native to India but now widely grown in the tropics. It has a network all to itself, Moringanews, which is organizing the meeting, but other species may also have potential. The main focus of the get-together seems to be the use of the leaves as a green vegetable, and how setting standards can aid in marketing this product, but really the adjective “multi-purpose” could have been invented for this plant. CTA, CDE and the GFU are providing support.
An insecticide based on fungal spores is devastating locusts in a trial in Mauritania, says a report from Reuters. The spores — dubbed Green Muscle — come from a species called Metarhizium anisopliae, whose locusticidal properties have been known since 1989. Green Muscle’s proponents have been waiting since 1998 for an opportunity to test it in the field, but have been thwarted by a lack of gregarious locusts.
The test showed that Green Muscle works well, with an added bonus that the weakened young locusts are a magnet for predators of all kinds, who despatch them even before the fungus has done its work. The treatment was developed by scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the good folks at FAO have said that if the Mauritania test is a success they will adopt it for widespread use in Africa.
Researchers in Canada have developed an alternative to gum arabic by treating “soybean soluble polysaccharide” with some fancy enzyme. Bad news for gum arabic (an exudate of Acacia senegal) collectors and exporters in Sudan and Nigeria. Good news for soybean farmers around the world, I guess. But who’s in greaterÂ need of good news?
That’s some valuable biodiversity!
Kathryn Garforth has an excellent post digging up some of the background to the explosion of interest in Starbucks’ efforts to block the attempt by Ethiopia to trademark the names of some of its coffee varieties. She teases apart who said what when, but more than that goes into some detail on the nuances behind some of the press releases on both sides, making it clear that Starbucks did not actually directly oppose Ethiopia’s tradmark application.
The whole question of getting a better return for the farmers who preserve some bits of agricultural biodiversity is vexed. Denomination of Origin certificates offer some protection, but not against copycats who simply go ahead and make, say, Greek cheese in Denmark, or Champagne-style wines just about anywhere. For something like Ethiopian coffee, I wonder whether any protection is needed. I mean, even if they could get the material to start a plantation, are any big coffee plantation people going to bother to start up a Sidano plantation in Vietnam? I somehow doubt it. It makes Oxfam look good, to anyone who doesn’t go deeper, but will it change anything for the coffee farmers of Ethiopia? I doubt it.