A strength of CABI is its work on a global scale addressing global and local problems in agriculture. CABI can rely on its network of experts among various CABI centres, laboratories, project offices in many countries and world regions. To maintain this strength, a CABI Development Bursary was created to aid new experts to visit other CABI centres.
This year, CABI UK-based Gareth Dicks from the Product Development team and Mariya Iqbal from the Plantwise Knowledge Bank team visited CABI East Asia as well as the MARA-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety in Beijing.
African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) are a good source of essential vitamins and minerals including micro-nutrients, supplementary protein, fibre, and calories. However, despite their nutritional value, these vegetables have not been a high priority in food programmes. As a result, adequate resources have historically not been allocated to promote their production and consumption. This compounds the issue of hidden hunger – a lack of vitamins and minerals that often has no visible signs – in Africa.
At first glance it might be hard to see how the exploitation of microbes, especially fungi, can have the power to help humanity meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), feed the world’s growing population and improve the bioeconomies of poorer nations.
But a team of international scientists from CABI, the Westerdijk Institute and the US, led by CABI lead author Dr Matthew Ryan, have come together to pen a new paper in the World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, which examines the challenges and opportunities of putting fungal biological resources right at the centre of supporting international development.
By Umair Safdar, Communication Development Executive, CABI Central and West Asia (CABI CWA), Rawalpindi
CABI in Pakistan implemented a USAID/USDA funded project ‘Phytosanitary Risk Management Programme in Pakistan (PRMP)‘ from 2014 to 2019. CABI’s scientific team upgraded the infrastructure at the relevant provincial agricultural departments and strengthened the capacity of Pakistan’s current agricultural system so that they can implement biological control programmes for pests including papaya and giant mealybug, apple codling moth, apple spider mites and fruit fly in Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan respectively.
The team also facilitated to mitigate the impact of post-harvest pests of rice and horticultural crops through SPS compliance to allied industries. Overall, the project helped to mitigate the impact of pre and post-harvest pests and improve the capacity of plant health regulators to certify exports of agricultural commodities.
Duncan Sones, from the CABI GALA communications team, reflects on the first two years of the soybean campaign in Northern Ghana.
In the last two years, there have been 346 village-based film screenings of films made by CABI to show farmers how to grow soybean. Take into account the use of Facebook for a music-based video campaign, and an estimated 128,000 members of farming families in the North of Ghana have received information on soybean farming from the campaign work we have been delivering, with our partners, in the region.
The number of young people involved in agricultural work in East Africa is significantly dwindling in an age of celebrity, quick income and the ‘side hustle’. Quite simply, the future of farming rests in the hands of the youth of today and tomorrow – otherwise agriculture’s vital role in providing stable incomes and, ultimately, greater local, regional, national and global food security could be at risk.
Yet, today is International Youth Day; an ideal time to highlight what can be done to boost involvement in essential agriculture. The theme for this year, promoted by the UN, is ‘transforming education’. This complements the idea that a new, transformed approach must be taken to harness the drive and capability of these young people in the agriculture industry.
Aflatoxin, produced by a poisonous fungus, is a serious threat to food security by contaminating many of Pakistan’s agricultural products, including cereal grains, chilies, dry fruits and nuts, and milk. Indeed, the average contamination in wheat and maize in Pakistan, for example, is five and sixty times, respectively, the level permitted in the US.
The fungus responsible, Aspergillus flavus, can contaminate crops before and after harvest as well as contaminate animal products if infected feeds are given to livestock. Consumption of these toxins in high concentrations can contribute to stunting growth in children and cause liver disease with fatal consequences. Estimates of deaths due to aflatoxin ingestion range up to 100,000 or more per year worldwide.