Stand a chance to win 20k through Barilla’s YES! research grant

The 2017 BCFN YES! (Young Earth Solutions) Research Grant Competition seeks groundbreaking research ideas that have a high impact potential for the sustainability of food systems. Young PhD and postdoc researchers from any background and nationality are invited to submit a research project to improve the sustainability of the food system.Emerging experts are encouraged to submit studies that are innovative, have a promise of significant impact, and can meet global research needs. Project submissions can be related to new or ongoing research.

The objective of the research proposal is to make more sustainable one or more themes of the agri-food system, in terms of environmental, social, health and/o economic aspects.

Areas of particular interest include:

•Sustainable and healthy diets;

•Urban food systems and policies;

•Resilient agriculture, land use change and agro-ecology;

•The nexus between climate change, energy and food;

•Sustainable water management;

•Food supply chains;

•Ecosystems and ecosystem services;

•Healthy lifestyles;

•Food waste reduction;

•Food policy development;

•Food security: availability, access, utilization, stability;

•Communication technologies and networks;

•Youth and women’s involvement in agriculture.

Completed proposals must be submitted online through the BCFN website by June 28, 2017, 11:59 pm CET. Winners receive a 20,000 € (US$21,367) research grant applied to a one-year investigation. This year, BCFN will award a maximum of three teams the Research Grant. All finalists become BCFN Alumni, a global network bringing together people, resources, and experiences where the dialogue on these topics is kept alive.


Is Cocoa Value Addition Possible for Uganda?

Last weekend, i had the opportunity to visit a cocoa farmer near me in the town of Kabimbiri, a cocoa veteran called Mr. Henry Lwanga

Lwanga and his family have been growing cocoa for over 10 years, from his great grand parents, to his parents and now he and his kids are growing cocoa. In Uganda, few farmers grow cocoa as most people think the crop is not economically viable. Uganda has an estimated 20,000 hectares of land under cocoa cultivation, mostly in the country’s west and central regions, and the crop supports about 10,000 households.

In 2015, cocoa ranked 4th in Uganda’s exports, with an increase of more than 30billion from the previous year. Currently, the farm gate price for cocoa is 3,000Ugx, per kg while for dry beans its 8,000Ugx. However, cocoa prices fluctuate widely and economic hardship occurs when prices are low.

The Government of Uganda, through the Cocoa Developmet Project, is trying to develop the industry by distributing seeds and new plants to farmers who would like to begin the cultivation of cocoa, or would want to expand their plantations.

Mr Lwanga is the representative of ICAM Chocolate Uganda in his area and receives/buys fresh beans from outgrowers as well as adding value to the cocoa to some extent. On site, he was over 40 fermentation boxes and a drying area. When the cocoa arrives (either from his gardens or outgrowers), fresh beans are fermented for 7-8 days in local constructed boxes before being moved to the drying beds (also located built solar driers). Here, they stay to dry in order to develop that chocolate taste we so love. Would it be easier if the beans went straight to drying? i asked. Well, if we did that, then that chocolate flavour would be lost.

At the drying beds, Mr Lwanga employs local staff who manually go through the beans, picking out the waste and leaving the fresh beans that will be packed and sent to Italy for the rest of the value chain. Already, there is potential for improvement of the chain right from the beginning, from the seedlings (which Mr Lwanga sells) to the picking of cocoa beans at the drying posts.

cocoa drying beds. The beans stay here and are sorted to separate the chuff from the final export product
Locally made fermentation boxes. Fresh cocoa beans spend 7-8days here before they are transferred to the drying beds. 

List of Cocoa Products by bi-product

Products from cocoa beans

Once the beans have been fermented and dried, they can be processed to produce a variety of products. These products include:

  1. Cocoa butter – Cocoa butter is the oily liquid obtained by pressing ground roasted cocoa nibs. Cocoa butter is used in the manufacture of chocolate. It is also widely used in cosmetic products such as moisturizing creams and soaps.
  2. Cocoa powder – Cocoa powder is the dry residual solid mass from cocoa butter production. Cocoa powder can be used as an ingredient in almost any foodstuff. For example, it is used in chocolate flavoured drinks, chocolate flavoured desserts such as ice cream and mousse, chocolate spreads and sauces, and cakes and biscuits. Tannin extracted from cocoa powder has been shown to be effective against tooth plagues and at the same time improve the gingival health. Hence, it can be used as active ingredient in cocoa tannin gel toothpastes (Azila et al. 2007).
  3. Chocolates – Chocolate is used as a product on its own or combined with other ingredients to form confectionery products.
  4. Mulch – Cocoa bean shells can be used as organic mulch and soil conditioner or it could be blended with pelletized cocoa pod husks for use as animal feed.

Products from cocoa pod husks

  1. Animal feed – Pelletized dried cocoa pod husk can be used as animal feed (Alexander et al. 2008, Aregheore 2002). The animal feed is produced by first slicing the fresh cocoa husks into small flakes and then partially drying the flakes, followed by mincing and pelleting and drying of the pellets. In powdered form, cocoa husks can also be used as fish (Tilapia) feed.
  2. Potash – Cocoa pod husk ash is used mainly for soft soap manufacture (Taiwo et al. 2001), but may also be used as fertilizer. To prepare the ash, fresh husks are spread out in the open to dry for one to two weeks. The dried husks are then incinerated in an ashing kiln.
  3. Gum – Cocoa pod gum is extracted from cocoa pod husks by alcohol precipitation (Figuiera et al. 1994, Samuel 2006). Cocoa pod gum can be used as binder in the food and pharmaceutical industries for binding pet food, emulsifiers, pharmaceutical pills, etc.
  4. Fertilizer – Cocoa pod husk could also be used as fertilizer for food crops production (Oladokun 1986).

Products from cocoa pulp (or sweatings)

  1. Production of soft drinks and alcohol – In the preparation of soft drinks, fresh cocoa pulp juice (sweatings) is collected, sterilized and bottled. For the production of alcohol or alcoholic drinks such as brandy, the fresh juice is boiled, cooled and fermented with yeast. After 4 days of fermentation the alcohol is distilled.
  2. Pectin – Pectin for jam, jelly and marmalade is extracted from the sweatings by precipitation with alcohol, followed by distillation and recycling of the alcohol in further extractions.


One strategy to increase income for cocoa growers is to identify and commercialize new cocoa-based products in addition to the cocoa seed crop.Value added processing of cocoa and cocoa by products in Uganda could significantly increase the income generating capacity of the industry. In addition to unrefined and refined chocolate cocoa butter cocoa wastes such as pod husks, pulp and by products from cocoa butter can be commercially processed to produce a variety of value added products.  By making additional use of the cocoa bean and use of the residue of the cocoa manufacturing process, these products can be processed and marketed locally, providing employment and income for rural communities in addition to the food industry.

Cocoa pod husk poses a serious waste disposal problem in most cocoa producing countries. Yet, several promising commercial products can be obtained from these cocoa byproducts (Figueira et al. 1993). Cocoa pod husk can be transformed into animal feed, potash (used for soft soap making) and pod gum (used as binder in the pharmaceutical industry) while cocoa pulp or sweatings can be used for making juice, soft drink, alcohol and pectin (for jam, jelly and marmalade).

Although Africa supplies nearly three quarters (73%) of the world’s cocoa, consumption of cocoa beans in all of Africa put together is only 3% (Pipitone, 2012), mainly because of the high price of the (mostly imported) finished cocoa products such as chocolates. Making chocolate products affordable to the rural farming communities by producing chocolate from cocoa beans locally using simple recipes for home-made chocolate, creates potential for Uganda’s cocoa industry’s growth.



Indigenous Crops Promoting Health and Contributing to Food Security

originally posted in Food tank blog


According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), just twelve crops provide 75 percent of the world’s food. Three of these crops, rice, maize, and wheat contribute to nearly 60 percent of the protein and calories obtained by humans from plants. Since the beginning of the 20th century, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost.

Restoring interest and investment in indigenous crops may offer a solution to food insecurity and the increasing loss of biodiversity. Some traditional plant varieties can help improve nutrition and health, improve local economies, create resilience to climate change, revitalize agricultural biodiversity, and help preserve tradition and culture.

For example, the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC)’s Vegetable Genetic Resources System and Slow Food International’s Ark of Taste are working to catalog indigenous species of fruits and vegetables around the world. And Bioversity International, a research organization in Italy, is delivering scientific evidence, management practices, and policy options to use and safeguard biodiversity among trees and agriculture to achieve sustainable global food and nutrition security.

Botanical Explorer Joseph Simcox travels around the world, documenting and tasting thousands of crops. He traverses the wilderness, interviews villagers, and searches markets across the globe for rare and indigenous crops. Joseph helps preserve species and varieties that are in danger of extinction, improving biodiversity and distributing rare seeds to the public.

Food Tank has compiled 31 indigenous fruits, vegetables, and grains from many regions across the globe. These foods are not only good for the environment, but delicious, too!


1. Bambara Bean: This tropical African bean is highly nutritious and resilient to high temperatures and dry conditions. The versatile seeds from this hardy plant are used in traditional African dishes, boiled as a snack, produced as flour, and extracted for oil.

2. Cowpea: This legume is one of Africa’s oldest known crops, and an estimated 200 million people depend on it as a staple. The cowpea can be beneficial for both human and environmental health, helping with the body’s absorption and breakdown of other foods and enriching soils.

3. Finger Millet: This African native variety of millet is one of the most nutritious cereal crops in the world. It is high in protein, the amino acid methionine, and has the third highest iron content of any grain.

4. Gemsbok Cucumber: The vines of the Gemsbok cucumber can be seen throughout the sandy deserts of southern Africa. The fruits are a stable to the Kalahari Bushmen and other tribes. The hardy nature of the plant merits attention as a sub-tropical desert crop. The vines are pest-resilient, tenacious and serve as a great ground cover over baking hot sand or soil.

5. Lablab: The native sub-Saharan African legume is a versatile food staple and an ideal grazing crop for goats, cattle, sheep, and pigs. It can be used as a cover crop to repair degraded land and restore nitrogen to the soil.

6. Marama: Often referred to as the green gold of Africa, the marama plant produces edible seeds high in nutrition above ground, and a high-protein tuber below ground. It is native to the Kalahari Desert and serves as an important crop in the region where malnutrition and food insecurity are high.

7. Marula: The versatile native African fruit tree is found in 29 sub-Saharan countries. Fruit from the marula tree has four times as much vitamin C as orange juice and its kernels are rich in antioxidants. Leaves from the marula tree are used to feed livestock; wood is used for bowls, drums, and stools while the tree’s bark has many medicinal qualities.

8. Safou: The safou tree is often referred to as the “butterfruit” for its rich and oily pulp. Native to the tropical forests of West and Central Africa, the safou is high in fats, calorie-dense, and rich in amino acids, micronutrients, and minerals.


9. Ermelo Orange: These Portuguese, medium-sized oranges are known for being sweet and juicy. The thin rind is a distinctive feature of the fruit grown in the region overlooking the Lima River where pesticides, insecticides, and chemical fertilizers are forbidden.

10. Formby Asparagus: Formby asparagus is white at its base, green at its stem, and purple at its tip. Formby, a town near Liverpool, England, was once revered for the award-winning asparagus grown on its fine, sandy soil. The vegetable is high in protein, fiber, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. It also aids in protein synthesis, reduces calcium loss, and has antioxidant properties.

11. Målselvnepe Turnip: This distinct and strong-tasting turnip is considered a delicacy in northern Norway, where it is often consumed raw in addition to being used as an ingredient in stews, soups, and stir-fries. The hardy plant is high in vitamin C and potassium.

12. Perinaldo Artichokes: This unique thistle vegetable, also known as the French violet, is native to the Mediterranean region and was originally cultivated in ancient Greece. Perinaldo, a small Italian town in the far west of Liguria, is known for the production of the artichokes, which have no spines or choke and are violet in color. The edible flower bud is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, and various minerals. This variety of artichoke is tolerant of cold temperature and drought and very hardy.


13. Bitter Melon: Originally from the Indian subcontinent, the tropical and subtropical vine is grown largely throughout Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean for its edible fruit, which is extremely bitter. It is used in traditional medicine to relieve diabetes, and for the treatment of respiratory illnesses, wounds, skin diseases, and rheumatism.

14. Corchorus olitorius: This native shrub of the Philippines is the primary source of jute fiber. The leaves and young fruits are used as a vegetable and the dried leaves as a tea and soup thickener.

15. Jackfruit: Native to South and Southeast Asia, it is believed to have originated in present-day Goa, India. The jackfruit tree can produce between 100 and 200 large fruits a year, which are rich in vitamin C and protein. Jackfruit is hardy and requires very little maintenance while being resistant to pests and high temperatures.

16. Lemongrass: This widely used culinary herb is found in many Asian countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnamese, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Its subtle, citrus flavor is used in soups, teas, and curries. Lemongrass is high in minerals and essential vitamins, which help control blood pressure and prevent heart disease. It is also used for its essential oils, which possess anti-microbial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and anti-septic properties.

17. Mungbean: The mungbean is native to the Indian subcontinent and cultivated today in India, China, and Southeast Asia, as well as in hot, dry regions in the Southern United States and Southern Europe. It is a key component of Asian diets and is valuable for its easily digestible protein. Its high levels of iron help improve the diets of the most vulnerable women and children while also fixing nitrogen in the soil, making it valuable for crop rotations.

18. Pomelo: This large citrus fruit native to Southeast Asia tastes like a sweet, mild grapefruit, and is often used in desserts, salads, drinks, and marmalades.

19. Rambutan: This red, tropical fruit is native to Southeast Asia and closely related to the lychee. The plant, which is also grown in the Caribbean and Africa, is used for its fruit, leaves, bark, and seeds, which are thought to have medicinal qualities.

20. Taro: This popular culinary plant is known for its root starch and leaves. It originated in southern Asia, but is know also recognized as a staple of African, Oceanic, and South Asian cuisines, and is gaining popularity in the western world.


21. Bunya Nut: Bunya nuts have been consumed for generations by Australian Aboriginals. The nut is similar to the chestnut both in appearance and taste. The nuts grow on the enormous pines in the few rainforest regions of Australia, but these trees are becoming harder to find as a result of deforestation.

22. Kumara: The large, sweet, tuber is cultivated on many Pacific Islands and was a staple crop for hundreds of years. The vegetable is rich in complex carbohydrates and beta-carotene and a great source of protein, vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and dietary fiber.

23. Lifou Island Taro: This taro plant, which is native to New Caledonia, has large leaves and sturdy stalks, which provide a key source of starch for many of the Pacific populations. The plant is high in calcium, iron, and protein.

24. Lifou Island Yam: This starchy tuber plays an important role in both nutrition and food security in many Pacific Island nations. The vegetable can be roasted, fried, grilled, boiled, smoked, or grated. Yams can be stored for a long time, and the vegetable has a social and cultural significance on many islands.

25. Perry Pear: This formerly wild variety of pears, otherwise inedible, is pressed for its juice. The pear juice is then transformed into a fermented alcoholic beverage, which can be either sparkling or still. The English introduced the perry pear to Australia, but its production is still very limited, and many of the perry pear varieties are critically endangered.


26. Chayote: The chayote has been cultivated in Mexico for hundreds of years. The fruit, stems, and young leaves and tuber portions of the roots are eaten as a vegetable, both alone and plain boiled, and as an ingredient of numerous stews. The fruit is often used in children’s food, juices, sauces, and pasta dishes because of its softness.

27. Coconillo: This tropical relative of the Tomato has a large range in tropical South America. The Coconillo is sweet like a cherry, with the same savory flavor of a tomato. The tart, juicy fruits are commonly used to make beverages, and often used in pepper sauces and relishes served with meat or fish. Plants do not seem to be cultivated; rather the locals harvest the fruits off of wild plants.

28. Sapote: The sapote is a fruit tree from the lower parts of Central America. Its fruit is often eaten raw, and flesh is used to make jams, ice cream, and sauces. In Costa Rica is it used as a linen starch and in Guatemala and El Salvador the seed is used as a skin tonic, to reduce muscular pain, and to treatment rheumatic illnesses.

29. Sweet Corn Root: This tuber, also known as the dale dale, has been cultivated for a long time by the indigenous people of the Amazon basin. It thrives in the tropical wetlands and could be a food source for millions around the world.

30. Woodland Sunflower: This relative of the common garden sunflower used to be a staple food of the Native American people. It is a vigorous and hardy plant, producing abundant tubers that can be cooked just like potatoes. Plants are naturally found in woodland fringes from Illinois to Maine.

Calling on all young agripreneurs – Submit your project!

Calling on fellow agripreneurs, submit your ideas for a $5000 fund to get started


young agripreneurs

We, at GFAR and CGIAR, are committed to integrate, stimulate and mentor the involvement of youth in all of our collective programs. At #GCARD3, the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, we are taking any opportunity to live up to that commitment.

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What urbanisation means for rural areas in Africa

The rural population in sub- sahara Africa is on the move. And unlike before where we saw people willingly moving from the villages to towns, the present rural -urban migrations are what we could call ‘forced’.
Farmers are seeing a decline in crop production from climate change and increasing competition from BIG AGRI. It almost makes no sense to stay, and the city provides a hub for all possibilities.
However, our cities are filled to the brim and more of us are fighting for the unlimited resources to survive. This struggle leads to increase in crime, increased standard of living and the rise of the ‘blame culture’. More and more people are living in squander below the poverty line, and yet reports claim the future of Africa lies in agriculture.
Young people in particular believe that better opportunities await them in cities – “a better life” so to speak. Few of them consider that cities cannot cope with the increasing levels of rural to urban migration. Cities do not have the adequate infrastructure, energy, electricity, water or healthcare, to satisfy demand for jobs, housing and other basic needs. Not to mention the already skyrocketing unemployment figures that can be seen in many urban areas. As most rural to urban migrants are uneducated and unskilled workers they tend to find work in the informal sector that accounts for 93% of all new jobs and 61% of urban employment in Africa. So how can we encourage those young people to stay in rural areas? How do we create viable opportunities?

One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?

By Katrin Glatzel

Alvise Forcellini 2006 urbanisation blog Credit: Alvise Forcellini, 2006

“How to feed our cities? Agriculture and rural areas in an era of urbanisation” – that was the theme of the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, or for short, the GFFA, hosted in Berlin in mid-January. With Habitat III taking place in October in Quito, Ecuador, urbanisation features on top of the agenda of many meetings and conferences in 2016 including the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual flagship report and the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). These forums are important as they draw attention to what urbanisation will mean for rural areas, the agriculture sector and those millions of smallholder farmers, upon which urban areas rely for their food supply. This is particularly important in a developing country context.

Urban and rural transformation

According to UN figures, in 1950 only about a third of the world’s population…

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eConsultation on Nutrition and Food Systems

In view of the implementation of the decisions of the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), of the implementation of the  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – particularly Goals 2 and 13, and in consideration of the recognised compelling need to foster a solid scientific and technical background in support of the CFS work-stream on nutrition, there is an imperative need to examine the links between nutrition and food systems.

At its 42nd session in October 2015, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) decided that the HLPE will prepare a report on Nutrition and Food Systems, expected to be presented at CFS 44 in October 2017.

To prepare this report elaboration process, the HLPE is launching an e-consultation to seek feedbacks, views and comments on the following issues’ Note on Nutrition and Food Systems proposed by the HLPE Steering Committee.

There is a diversity of food systems and  growing evidence of the health and nutrition implications of different food systems. The overarching issue in this report shall be to assess the influence of various types of food systems on diets, nutrition and health. It shall consider food chains from farm to fork and all the sustainability challenges of food systems (in the economic, social and environmental dimensions) and how they relate to nutrition.  This calls for a report  grounded on a multidisciplinary approach, and on a critical synthesis of the existing research and major reports, building upon multiple sources of evidence, not only academic but also experiential knowledge.

More information about the consultation can be found on the FAO website

Please note that in parallel to this consultation, the HLPE is calling for expression of interests of experts for joining the Project Team as a leader and/or as a member. The call for candidature is open until 30 January 2016; visit the HLPE website for more details.


Age of the farmer

original post entitled ‘idealistic young farmers are using small-scale organic farms to save the dying agriculture industry’ was posted at theplaidzebra

In Uganda, young people are not too thrilled about the agriculture sector, and since at some point it was /is used as punishment in schools, most young people tend to look to agriculture as a punishment. This makes it rather difficult to convince them that the future of the country lies in agriculture, and the opportunities are endless along various value chains.

There have been sighted cases where a young person inherits land either from a parent, relative, etc. The land which should be seen as an opportunity, turns into a burden for them. They lack the means and capital to make something of the land, and in some cases, the young person does not know what to  do with the land.  Some young men therefore have sold their land and moved to the city, hereby contributing to the increasing rural-urban migrations in major sub-Sahara African cities. The increased migrations by both young and old are pressing more pressure on family farms, deprived of the labor and knowledge to cultivate the land.

According to the original article by Jonathan Moss, Family farms, which are the foundation of life in North America, are faced with disinterested youth who have been accused of suffocating the industry. Today, the average age of a farmer in America is 57 years. Currently, only six percent of farmers are under the age of 35. We have a greying farming population that, “if left unchecked, could threaten our ability to produce the food we need, and also result in a loss of tens of thousands of acres of working lands that we rely on to clean our air and water” says Secretary Vilsack at The Drake Forum on America’s New Farmers.

The future of agriculture in North America lies with the youth. And it is in this same spirit that  Director Spencer MacDonald and photojournalist Eva Verbeeck travelled from Portland to Vancouver to work and live with young first generation farmers across North America who run small scale organic farms. For the film Age of the Farmer they document the dirty hands, worn boots and sun pressed skin of young farmers in an attempt to help the agriculture sector return to its former power.

Watch a section of the film here

Could this be a way forward in fixing some of the broken links in our food system and being able to make a connection to the food we eat?