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Editorial (March 2012)

Innovative approaches are delivering information, training and other forms of support to smallholder farmers (© www.kiwanja.net)
Innovative approaches are delivering information, training and other forms of support to smallholder farmers
© www.kiwanja.net

Bridging the gap for the improvement of agricultural productivity in the smallholder sector is an underlying theme for this edition. Choosing the right strategies to generate and share information is vital, but with the widespread decline in extension services, new approaches are urgently needed.

In Focus on Extension we play our own part in bridging that gap, with eight innovative approaches from Africa and Asia that are delivering information, training and other forms of support to smallholder farmers. Some involve new technologies: local language podcasting in Zimbabwe and rice advice by mobile phone in the Philippines. Others emphasise farmers' creativity, such as the promotion of local innovations in Nepal, or the power of cooperation seen in Ethiopia's 'Learning Alliance', and the Kenyan government's engagement with private sector extension agents.

The role of the private sector in building and strengthening the entire food production chain from field to fork, is further discussed in Points of view. Delegates from agribusiness, policy, science and international development attending a recent Feeding the World summit in Geneva explore the potential and challenges offered by public-private partnerships, key contributions required from the private sector, and the role of governments in creating an enabling environment for agricultural development and trade.

The role of the state in support of livestock farmers comes under scrutiny in Developments. Training and improved access to markets, supported by the Bolivian government, is helping llama farmers in the high altiplano make the most of their camelids. Even more ambitious is the Rwandan policy to provide 'One cow per poor family' by 2015. National and local authorities often have a less positive relationship with nomadic livestock keepers, but the survival of Ethiopia's Karrayyu pastoralists in the face of numerous pressures offers hope that they, at least, have a viable future. Their story is portrayed In pictures.

The Rwandan Government is providing families with quality livestock to supply milk, meat and manure (© Send a Cow)
The Rwandan Government is providing families with quality livestock to supply milk, meat and manure
© Send a Cow

Virtuous Circles, published by the International Institute of Environmental Development (IIED) and reviewed recently in New Agriculturist, presents four case studies from largely rural settings to illustrate 'circular' production systems, which neither deplete resources nor lead to massive waste and pollution. Our review questioned how applicable such systems might be for modern urban dwellers, and in My perspective, Michel Pimbert, one of the editors gives his answer.

Leading the Book reviews in this edition, Viral storm discusses how pandemics occur and how they can be prevented. With the continuing encroachment of agriculture into wild habitats, the potential for viruses to leap from animals to humans is growing. For those most at risk, to be informed is to be better forewarned. Meanwhile the News section includes land deals, genetic improvement of crops and livestock and the threat of food insecurity in South Sudan.

We hope this latest collection of articles and features goes some way towards meeting your own information needs. If you are able to bridge the gap by posting comments on the site or sending us your feedback, we'll do our best to respond.

Date published: March 2012

 

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