Wednesday, 16 December 2009

On the frontline: community based adaptation to climate change

The people at IIED who are responsible for Participatory Learning and Action have just brought out a timely issue on Community-based adaptation to climate change and there are a number of excellent articles related to agriculture and climate change. I haven't had time to read it all but the article by Stepen Sherwood and Jeffrey Bentley descibing a process through katalysis (an extension of the farmer field school approach) to assist farmers learn about and adapt to climate change is particularly interesting. There is much more. I wonder how many of these stories got told at COP15. Excellent publication with lots of ideas.

Good COP, bad COP?

With 30,000 people applying for accreditation, and an estimated 5,000 media, global meetings finally reached 'stadium rock' proportions and most likely took on the carbon footprint of a U2 tour. However, given the miserable outcomes there will be few calls for an encore, although the long and winding road will go on for sometime to come.

It certainly didn't go well for agriculture and the small farmers of this world. Of course, there was the Agriculture and Rural Development Day at the COP15 and the joint statement Beyond Copenhagen: Agriculture and Forestry Are Part of the Solution calling for among other things climate negotiators to agree on the early establishment of an agricultural work program under the SBSTA. No idea where or how that ended up. I expect it got abandoned in the hair-splitting and horse trading, the sport of politicians. Here is what the folks over at Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog had to say, including Cary Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

While hundreds of activists demonstrated to ‘change the food system, not the climate’, the Ecologist suggests that Copenhagen could lead to increase in intensive farming. The Ecologist goes on to discuss the implications of missing out on agriculture as part of the deal and why small-scale farmers should be part of this. The LEISA's Farm blog did a nice job of navigating through the 'megabytes of text' to highlight the relevant issues and organisations campaigning for agriculture at COP15. There was also useful coverage of agriculture and climate change over at the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research. While not commenting specifically on outcomes of agriculture and COP15, USC Canada also did a nice job of consolidating some useful resources on food, farming and climate change. While the CGIAR's Rural Climate Exchange provided an up-to-date thread of issues and debates.

Personally I was disappointed that someone like Paul Collier was able to get up at an IIED funded event (Development and Climate Day) and call for GMOs as a solution for climate change impacts to agriculture in Africa while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made one of the best statements of the week, "If the climate was a bank, a capitalist bank, [the West] would have saved it by now."

While all the bickering was going on it as been business as usual for thousands of communities the world over on the frontline of climate change on a daily basis, because they certainly can't wait for the international circus to come to their aid.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Future of Family Farming

People are gathering from all over today for LEISA's Jubilee conference in the Hague. More than 200 participants have registered to join the conference. Full updates will be posted on the LEISA Farm blog in the coming days so be sure to visit.

The answer is out there, Neo, and it's looking for you

One of the more interesting books I came across in 2009 was Nature's Matrix by Ivette Perfecto, John Vandermeer and Angus Wright. The book makes a strong case for working with small farmers and social movements to strengthen the quality of the agricultural matrix that surround the increasing fragments of natural habitat, an argument that eloquently counters the traditional conservationist agenda which often views agriculture as harmful and farmers and local communities to be excluded at all cost. In the words of the Earthscan website blurp,

Landscapes are frequently seen as fragments of natural habitat surrounded
by a 'sea' of agriculture. But recent ecological theory shows that the nature of
these fragments is not nearly as important for conservation as is the nature of
the matrix of agriculture that surrounds them. Local extinctions from
conservation fragments are inevitable and must be balanced by migrations if
massive extinction is to be avoided. High migration rates only occur in what the
authors refer to as 'high quality' matrices, which are created by alternative
agroecological techniques, as opposed to the industrial monocultural model of
agriculture. The authors outline new knowledge about the science of ecology, current
debates about agriculture (and biodiversity especially in the tropics) and the
role of new and powerful rural social movements such as Via Campesina and these
general tendencies can come together to give us a new paradigm for
biodiversity conservation.
This might be a new paradigm for conservationists but I think there are many in the agriculture and agrobiodiversity community who have been saying for sometime now that the 'quality' of the agricultural matrix, and those who look after it, are a sustainable solution to biodiversity conservation and the bridging or linking of managed and natural landscapes. Let's hope the traditional conservation sector sits up and takes notice. Don't hold your breath! Having said that the book certainly adds weight to the case for biodiverse agro-ecosystems and there are many opportunities here for the agrobiodiversity community to add susbstantial case studies to complement the somewhat limited examples that appear in this book.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Feed the world, Bob and Bono need not apply

There has been a spate of articles in the popular press recently about ways and means to feed the world but I recently came across a series of articles in the Monthly Review which I think provide a much better narrative, and all downloadable for free. They are:

Can ecological agriculture feed nine billion people? by Jules Pretty

From food crisis to food sovereignty by Eric Holt-Gimenez

Agroecology, small farms, and food sovereignty by Miguel Altieri

Fixing our global food system by Peter Rosset

Some of the above articles are part of a special issue the magazine ran on agriculture and the food crisis in July/August 2009 which is worth checking out. Nice magazine, why not subscribe and support their good work.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

A commentary on international agriculture

Uma Lele reviews John Shaw's recent book Global Food and Agricultural Institutions and among her conclusions has this to say,

The institutions Shaw reviews includes multi-lateral organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Bank, the World Food
Programme, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. His book does not include bi-lateral organisations such as USAID, US Foundations and Land Grant Universities. Despite a largely common membership there is a lack of coordination among the organisations he reviews.

Can true and effective global cooperation in food and agriculture materialise? Uma Lele argues that the challenges are great and the topic is complex and mired in the larger issues of the aid architecture. This reality has three dimensions, only one of which is mentioned in the book:

1. Vast changes in the international aid architecture in the Post World War II period, particularly in the last 15 years, combined with a decline in long term assistance to food and agriculture, imbalanced allocation withinand across sectors, misallocation, and decline of capacity of bilateral aid agencies concomitant with increased bilateralisation of multilateral aid.

2. Growth in the number of international organisations and programmes, mission creep in the mandates, and changing legitimacy of traditional international organisations with overlaps, gaps, competition as well as cooperation in the ever growing galaxy of aid agencies and programmes, and,

3. The dynamics between and among developed and developing countries influencing global policy and strategy.

Realistically speaking developing countries cannot wait for the international organisations to get their act together, or to be led by them, she concludes.

Read more here.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Why we left our farms to come to Copenhagen

"Tonight is a very special night for us to get together here for the opening of the assembly of the social movements and civil society at the Klimaforum. We, the international peasant movement La Via Campesina, are coming to Copenhagen from all five corners of the world, leaving our farmland, our animals, our forest, and also our families in the hamlets and villages to join you all." Read more.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Agriculture and Copenhagen

COP15 at Copenhagen gets underway today and agriculture issues will take centre stage on 12 December at the Agriculture and Rural Development Day. There is also a possibility of a programme of work on agriculture emerging.

The ODI highlights that transitions to more sustainable agriculture will mean taking action to: use existing resources more economically; farm more flexibly and ‘resiliently’; switch to conservation approaches to farming from current approaches that degrade resources, and, shift nutritional habits of society’s wealthy populations away from highly resource-intensive diets.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

This land is my land

The people over at GRAIN have posted two new presentations worth a look.

Land Grabbing and the global food crisis and Small farmers can cool the planet

And this is what James Hansen has to say about COP15 Copenhagen. I rather liked what he had to say about cap and trade.

"This is analagous to the indulgences that the Catholic church sold in the middle ages. The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity. That is exactly what's happening,"

Brains to burn

Foreign Policy has just published it's list of Top 100 Global Thinkers. I can count the number I would agree with on one hand, well maybe two hands if I'm pushed. I suggest those on the the list who hold dear the neoliberal consensus which has contributed to many of our current global problems, including the recent food crisis and riots and a situation where probably close to half the human race suffer either perpetual hunger and malnourishment or some form of food insecurity, be replaced with the likes of Jules Pretty, Miguel Altieri, Robert Chambers, M.S. Swaminathan, Peter Rosset, Eric Holt-Gimenez, Nils Roling, Gary Nabhan, Pat Mooney to name a few. What's the chances of that?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Biodiversity day

It is the International Day for Biological Diversity and Ireland has launched a National Biodiversity Mapping System which has been developed by the National Biodiversity Data Centre as a tool for the geographic presentation of observational data on Ireland's biological data. The database currently contains over 400,000 records of 3,721 species.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Taming the wild

There have been many articles describing the increase in foraging for wild plants as a result of the economic downturn. Now a new type of wild entrepreneur is emerging with some top restaurants and chefs paying around 50 pounds a kilo for the likes of wood sorrel. The Forestry Commission in Scotland estimate the annual value of wild foraging to be in the ball park area of 21 million pounds and are concerned that it might start to get out of hand. They have launched a campaign to promote a code of practice for foragers as a first step to address this.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Plant it again Sam

Plans are underway for reforestation with native trees in selected areas up north, and Environment Minister Wilson (our very own climate change denier) was called in to plant the very first tree. Celebrities must be taking their summer holidays early. The first replanting will take place close to Derry.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Over-consumers, and unfortunately over here!

Over-consumption. Two sides of the same coin. We ought to treat them like royalty.

Later...and that man who wishes to charge one euro everytime we goo to the loo in mid-air is milking the CAP subsidy scheme.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Happening Thang

The Real Food Festival is happening again at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre from 8-10 May.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Where have all the butterflies gone?

Asks Patrick Barkham in today's Guardian. I was asking myself the exact same question yesterday morning on a stroll through the Parco Appia Antica. I saw two in a massive park brimming with spring flowers. What I did see a bit more of was somewild plant foraging by a more common species.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Orchard erosion

Sixty percent of England's traditional orchards have disappeared since the 1950s according to the National Trust with many rare varieties of fruit - some unique to localities - under threat. I am sure it is much the same story in Ireland. All the more reason for initiatives like the 400 Fruit Trees Project. For more on apple diversity and apples in Ireland read here.

Few days later....more on the vanishing orchards from the Guardian, along with some interesting links.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Welcome to Local Food Advisor

A new food website dedicated to championing local food and rare breeds was recently launched and lists the top 4000 award winning regional producers and suppliers in the UK and Ireland.

Keeping aliens out of our waterways

Restrictions on access to Lough Carra and Lough Mask are proposed in a new biosecurity plan for Lough Mask. The report was commissioned to try to protect the lakes from “alien species” that have invaded Lough Corrib. More here.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Revitalising food and agriculture

More on re-connecting with the land, and food, growing locally, the Transition Town movement, community supported agriculture here.

The Great Famine

The National Famine Commemoration Day (17th May) takes place in Skibbereen in 2009 and to commemorate this national occasion and in remembrance of those who died during the Great Famine, there is a week of Famine-related events taking place in Skibbereen from the 10th to the 17th of May. Read more here.

Monday, 20 April 2009

An apple a day to keep the climate at bay?

A few weeks back I posted on the 400 Fruit Trees project in Kilkenny. Well, I am now delighted to see that they have documented the launch of the project and edited it into a great wee video which you can watch here. The video provides some background on the Transition Town movement as well as the Fruit Trees project itself. Happy to see that they are working with the Irish Seed Savers Association to reintroduce native Irish apple varieties. Something simple that could be easily tried elsewhere with a bit of planning and enthusiasm and the right partners.

Friday, 17 April 2009

First farmers

A project studying the arrival of farming in Ireland called "Cultivating societies: assessing the evidence for agriculture in Neolithic Ireland" is being undertaken by Queen's University Belfast as part of the INSTAR Programme. The project will examine the extent, nature and timing of Neolithic farming in Ireland through the collation, integration and analysis of unpublished and published data (archaeo-botanical, zoo-archaeological, palaeo-ecological and archaeological data) from the commercial, State and academic sectors.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Supporting native breeds

During the first seven decades of the 1900s, 26 native breeds of livestock became extinct in Britain, not to mention the many varieties of poultry. Breeds such as Goonhilly ponies and Rhiw sheep will never be seen again grazing their native pastures. Since the formation of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in 1973 no native breeds have been lost! There is no government support to the RBST and most activities are funded through members, legacies and donations. To secure the continued existence and viability of the UK's native farm animal genetic resources the Trust launched the Rare Breeds National ReGENEration Appeal and are half way to their target of 2.5 million pounds. Their aim is to collect semen from 25 males from each of the domestic farm species currently listed by the RBST, to represent the widest genetic diversity available in the current population. Of the semen collected 55% goes into a permanent national archive stored by the Trust, 30% is stored for use in conservation breeding programmes and 15% is available to livestock owners and stored, free of charge, by the Trust.

Poached meat

Seems the economic downturn and rising price of meat are contributing to a rise in rustling. Last month , 500 pigs were stolen from a Staffordshire farm while a farm in Lincolnshire lost nine rare breed cattle.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Bioversity indicators to go

An updated overview of the 18 biodiversity indicators for the UK, including up north, was published this month. The indicators include the population status of: key species; plant diversity; the status of priority species, habitats and ecosystems; genetic diversity of rare breeds of sheep and cattle; protected sites; management of woodland agricultural land and fisheries; impacts of air pollution and invasive species; expenditure on biodiversity; and the amount of time given by volunteers to nature conservation activities. While there is an assessment of the level of genetic diversity of native livestock breeds, there is no similar measure for native landraces. Seeing the status of native livestock breeds reminded me to post on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Watchlist which i came across in my current copy of The Ark, and which includes our very own vulnerable Irish Moiled.

Can't seem to find an equivalent list for down south.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Everything's vine

The Irish government has commended Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, for the success of its new yam propagation technique that uses vine cuttings instead of the traditional tuber seeds. The Irish government, through its Irish Aid programme, provides support to research funding to IITA to help advance the institutes work on providing solutions to hunger and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.This funding is part of a larger commitment to the work of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which is a central component of Irish Aids response to the growing global food crisis. Read more.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Future proofing a town near you

Future Proof Kilkenny has an interesting site and is part of the Transition Town movement, a growing network of cities, towns and villages around the world who are facing up to the challenges of peak oil and climate change and responding with creative community led initiatives. I have only skimmed but there is much of interest. Especially interesting is Kilkenny’s 400 Fruit Tree project which will mark the 400th Anniversary of the Signing of the City Charter by planting 400 native and heritage varieties of Apple, Pear, Plum and Cherry throughout the city and environs during 2009. Just wish they were more explicit about diversifying the food base among their aims but thankful that agrobiodiversity is rightly recognised as part of the strategy in tackling climate change. Great idea though, need more like it, making sure agrobiodiversity is mainstreamed in community initiatives to climate change, both in the global north and south!

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Go on, grow your own

A Public Meeting on How to Grow Your Own Food will be held on Tuesday 31st March 2009, 8pm at Cultivate, 15-19 Essex St West, Temple Bar in Dublin. Speakers will include: Trevor Sargent TD, Minister for Food, Seamus Sheridan - Sheridans Cheese Mongers, Suzie Cahn - Community Gardens, Malcom Noonan - Local Allotments. For more information check out the Culivate Centre website. There will also be a screening of the film Deconstructing Dinner. Get along!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Lasagna and chips

Restaurant owners in the south have reacted angrily to the news that Bord Bia is to scrap its long-standing Guaranteed Irish Feile Bia initiative in favour of a 'Just Ask!' campaign. Feile Bia was a quality assurance initiative whereby customers were guaranteed that participating restaurants used Irish produce. It is to be replaced with a €200,000 'Just Ask!' campaign which aims to encourage diners to enquire about the origin of the food they are served. I am not that familiar with the Feile Bia initiative but it appears similar to the Taste of Ulster initiative up north, which I know a little about. While the Taste of Ulster initiative no doubt promotes local ingredients I am not exactly sure what it does to promote local and innovative cuisine. The couple of Taste of Ulster endorsed restaurants that I have eaten in while probably serving up locally sourced food have not impressed me at all in terms of local or tradition meals with menus that pander to overseas dishes especially the ubiquitous chicken goujons. Having said that, I have just had the most brilliant night of food and wine in the cellar at Fallon and Byrne in Dublin, and not a bloody goujon in sight. Quite possibly the best eating experience I have had in the city.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Irish Moiled

The Irish Moiled is a breed of cattle that comes from Nortnern Ireland and in the 1980s the population had fallen dramatically to about 20 cows. Thankfully the breed has been revived through the efforts of the the Irish Moiled Cattle Society formed in 1926 to develop and improve the breed. In 1982 the Society itself was revived with the encouragement of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Since then the breed has enjoyed valuable research and guidance from both the Trust and the Genetics Department of Liverpool University and the Society now has a well established DNA testing programme to ensure validity of pedigrees and the integrity of this important gene pool. In 2008 a breed conservation strategy was launched and it is hoped that this strategy will help maintain the genetic base of the breed.

A taste of Dublin

While the rest of Europe was developing a food culture, we in Ireland were coming to terms with famine and the impact of that has clung to us for hundred's of years. But slowly things are changing and a recent opportunity to particpate on the Dublin Tasting Trail was a an eye-opener to the growing diversity and quality of local food available in this city, much of it off the beaten track. The time spent in Sheridan's Cheesemongers was especially memorable as were the Coolea and Ardrahan cheeses. Most interesting of all though was an opportunity to learn about Myrtle Allen who was a tireless campaigner for Irish food, years before it was fashionable to talk about local food nevermind in Irleand but anywhere.

Monday, 16 March 2009

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men?

Nine easily available management planning guides, all aimed at UK protected sites (SSSI, Natura 2000, Ramsar, etc.), have been compared in a recent study in the Journal for Nature Conservation . Basic formats recommended by these guides were similar, so that plans based on them should look superficially alike. In contrast, definitions of key terms (vision, objective, and constraint or factor) often varied significantly between guides, even though there is a great deal of collaboration between publishing organisations. Additional guidance and rules for objectives only increased differences between guides, and created differences even where definitions were similar. The bottom line? The variable nature of management planning guidance raises concerns about the consistency of plan preparation.

Hare today, gone tomorrow - part 2

The strange case of the Ulster Wildlife Trust ignoring the available data and the plight of the Irish hare. I wonder who their stakeholders are?

Supermarkets, food and the poor

A new Center for Global Development working paper, by non-resident fellow Peter Timmer places the supermarket debate in the broader evolution of food policy analysis, which is a framework for integrating household, market, macro, and trade issues as they affect hunger and poverty. Increasingly, supermarkets provide the institutional linkages across these issues. Timmer draws from many perspectives to assess the effect the supermarket revolution may have on poverty alleviation. Read more here.

The New Naturalist

There will be few people interested in rural development who have not at one time or another delved into one of the New Naturalist series of books. I was pleased to learn that they are still going strong with plans to get old titles back in print.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

If you go down to the wood today

Interesting story on the vulnerability of our trees to the arrival of new diseases. The reasons why they are turning up on our doorstep are complex but one single factor stands out: climate change which is demolishing the barriers that once protected us from such diseases.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Save the Lonk

A campaign, highlighted in the weekend Times has begun an attempt to bring rare heritage breeds of sheep to a restaurant near you. Farming chiefs have started talks with leading supermarkets to widen the market for native sheep such the Rough Fell, the Herdwick, the Romney, the Exmoor Horn and of course the Lonk. Most of these heritage breeds are geographically isolated and highly vulnerable. A recent 'special edition' of the New Agriculturalist focuses on the benefits and challenges involved in the sustainable use of livestock genetic diversity.

Later...I don't think I emphasise above enough that the efforts to encourage utilisation of these rare breeds through food production systems and marketing is part of a longer, more sustainable strategy for their conservation.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Women play a key role in feeding the world

As I will be away from computers over the weekend, I wanted to post this in time for International Womens' Day, 8th March. The posting is on behalf of the International Alliance Against Hunger.

Please pause for a moment on International Womens’ Day – Sunday 8th March – to think whether you can do something simple that can have a positive impact on your life and on the lives of others, and is environmentally sound. Read this, and, if you agree, please forward it to your friends, women and men. Together, you can make life better for many women around the world!

1. Women farmers produce 60-80% of the food in poor countries but only own 1% of the land, and are often excluded from farmers’ associations, services and technical know-how.2
2. Rural women alone produce half of the world’s food but receive less than 10 percent of credit provided to farmers.
3. More women farmers must be give the right to own and use farm land so as to have more secure sources of food and livelihood.
4. Women’s rights must be respected: for example, enabling girls to get education has been identified as the single most powerful contribution to reducing malnutrition over a 35-year period.
5. Women are much more likely than men to spend additional income from the sale of crops on their children, who are better nourished because their mothers provide a diverse diet.
6. In Kenya for instance, women do most of the work of growing nutritious vegetables, but play a smaller role than men in decision-making in the home.

Act Now!
Share this message with your family, colleagues, and friends to make them think, and act to change this situation.

Consider the fact that, in spite of government commitments to reduce hunger, over 950 million of our fellow humans suffer from hunger on a daily basis in a world in which enough food is produced to allow everyone to eat well.

3. Learn more about how to end hunger and malnutrition and improve your nutrition habits (click on for links).

4. Share our sense of OUTRAGE: Raise your voice to encourage your government to do everything that is humanly possible to eradicate hunger and malnutrition: it can be done, and everyone wins.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Join the food train

Fabulous Food Trails are all experiencing fabulous local Irish food: handmade cheeses, delicious fruits and vegetables, exquisite chocolate, fragrant honey, tender grass-fed beef, succulent mountain lamb, freshly baked traditional breads and wonderful seafood such as oak smoked wild Irish salmon as well as mussels and oysters plucked from the sea that very morning.

To bee or not to bee

Native British bees are dying out — and with them will go flora, fauna and one-third of our diet. We may have less than a decade to save them and avert catastrophe according to this article. So why is nothing being done?

Monday, 2 March 2009

The burden of proof

Attended a seminar yesterday by Professor Tim Johns, Professor in Human Nutrition at McGill University and former Director of the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment at McGill. Tim is currently spending a sabbatical period at Bioversity to further develop the Biodiversity and Nutrition initiative and also represents Bioversity on the CGIAR’s Agriculture and Health Research Platform. Tim discussed the evolving Biodiversity and Nutrition strategy in light of work on neglected and underutilized species/leafy vegetables, dietary diversity, public health benefits, market chains, food systems and ecohealth and the unique space that agrobiodiversity occupies between agriculture, health and nutrition and environment. This clearly presents many opportunities which need to be actively pursued, such as the role of agrobiodiversity and HIV/Aids.

The main take home message was the lack of a solid evidence-base for the role of agrobiodiversity in health and nutrition. As Tim highlighted ‘ the case is just not there’ and it needs to be if those of us who work with agrobiodiversity are to change the attitudes of donors and relevant organisations. What is the role of agrobiodiversity in child malnutrition, diabetes, eye health? According to Tim we just don’t really know. There was much talk about building a solid and cohesive body of proof involving convincing cases for the role of agrobiodiversity in nutrition and health. Yes, certainly. But I couldn't help but think that the challenge is even greater than this and one could stress the need to argue the case, or construct a convincing body of proof, for the role of agrobiodiversity in sustainable livelihoods, ecosystem services, agricultural production and stability and resilience of agroecosystems. Data and information certainly exists but wouldn’t it be nice to have it packaged in one form or another that really makes a convincing case so the agrobiodiversity community can counteract the pessimists who argue that such links are tenuous.

By the way, I couldn't help but notice that COHAB was absent from the list of partners, current and potential, in the presentation. I am sure they are in there somewhere, given that Bioversity is a partner in that initiative. Interestingly COHAB currently have a 'request for information' to build a body of evidence for the relationship between biodiversty change and the incidence of certain non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Mapping agricultural research

For those of you interested in agricultural research within the 15 CGIAR centres or want an overview of the research that they are doing in eastern and southern Africa check out the first 'CGIAR research map'. Simply clicking on the country will give you a dialogue box with relevant projects and further information on each. No doubt more countries and information will be added.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Cattle bank

A new DNA bank offers huge opportunities for improvement of cattle breeding. Researchers from the Animal Bioscience Centre (Grange and Athenry) and Moorepark Research Centre have been collaborating on its establishment. The sequencing of the bovine genome has been completed and presents new opportunities to discover the influence of genes on a range of performance traits in cattle. Read more..

News from the Vault

further information on Ireland's contribution to Svalbard.

Hidden gardens - investigating urban agriculture in Dublin

Michael Cullen at Dublin Institute of Technology has recently completed a MSc investigation of Urban Agriculture (UA) in Dublin. This concept encompasses those who are engaged in growing their own in an urban environment. The study investigates why there has been a rise in UA over the past 15 years with the focus of the study being on allotments, a historical form of UA. The objectives of the study include investigating the concept of urban agriculture, to examine the history of allotments in Dublin, to aid an understanding of modern UA in Dublin. The study focuses on the motivations of the allotment holders as well as uncovering the types and varieties of food being produced on their allotments. The methodology of the study was qualitative, which provided rich data sources to inform the discussion. The methods employed were semi-structured interviews and direct observations. Allotment holders at two allotment sites were the population sample interviewed chosen based on the total population of allotments in Dublin, with the majority of the population being located in south Dublin. Along with interviews on allotment sites, the researcher undertook interviews a representative of Dublin City Council and a Minister of the current Government. The findings of the researcher indicated a revival in the interest of allotment holding in south Dublin. Allotments were formerly located on sites due for development; presently they have a fixed tenure in regional parks. There is also an association to represent them at local and national level. Motivations for holders included a desire for fresh food and socialisation around a common interest of food growing. The conclusions of the study illustrate a growth in different forms of UA in Dublin including a revival in allotments, an interest in community gardens and people growing their own in a domestic setting.

Looking for an allotment?

You need go no further than here, Irish Allotments.

Dublin Food Growing

Dublin Food Growing is a non-profit network of people and groups dedicated to increasing the quantity, quality, diversity and positive effect of food grown in Dublin. They connect people growing at all scales from the smallest window boxes, back gardens, community and school gardens, allotments, all the way up to market gardens and commercial farms. They are involved with developing food growing projects, advocacy, research, policy, networking, education, and of course growing food.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Until the cows come home

Valuable Stabiliser heifers go AWOL.

Shocks and stocks

Interesting wrap up of international meetings and discussions surrounding the recent 'Food Security for All' meeting in Madrid. Video commentaries from, among others, Steve Wiggins and Lawrence Haddad

Friday, 20 February 2009

Views from the south

And how is the financial downturn affecting small-scale agriculture in less wealthy countries? Read some views from LEISA's regional partners

Bankers need not apply

Nice little piece on the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog on how some people are reacting positively to the current economic downturn by thinking more locally and sustainably about production.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

They're in the post!

According to Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Irelands contribution of seeds to the Svalbard vault is expected to arrive before April this year. Anyone know what crops, varieties? How much and from whom?

Friday, 13 February 2009

What about ye, Sammy?

Can someone do us all a bloody big favour and quickly send a copy of Tim Flannery's, the Weather Makers, to Stormont House for Sammy Wilson to read. Maybe after that he will keep his mouth shut. He denies climate change and is responsible for the organisation that is allowing NI's protected areas fall into a state of disrepair. Time he was shown the door I think.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Darwin's Birthday

Today marks the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, a man who work and ideas have contributed so much to the rural environment and continue to do so. To mark the event Queens University have just announced a new era in conservation research. My friends over at the Global Crop Diversity Trust have posted this nice piece, Darwin on the Farm. I understand that there are Darwin parties all over the land including those happening now at Trinity College Dublin. Also today at TCD there is a lecture on Darwin and Ireland. The speaker, Miguel Dearce has a book of the same title forthcoming this year and has also written on this subject before.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A letter from Belfast

This interesting paper was just sent to me by a friend. We have just left the year of the potato and this year we enter the anniversaries of Darwin's birth and the publication of "Origin of Species'. The paper, by M. Dearce at TCD, re-visits the correspondence between Darwin and James Torbitt, a Belfast wine merchant, regarding the latter's plans for breeding blight resistant potaoes around the 1880s.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Rural images

And the same fried has brought to my attention the nice photography of David Creedon, out of Cork who currently has an exhibition titled Ghosts of the Faithful Departed runnning at Photofusion, London. The exhibition tells the story in photos of mass emigration from rural Ireland during the 50s and 60s.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Farmers help to promote conservation

Here is an interesting article sent to me by a friend but which doesn't include a great deal of information. It highlights farmers being used to promote conservation and it would be useful to learn more about the project and how farmers are being used and if there is anything to do with promoting agricultural biodiversity.

Anyone with more information?