Tuesday, 18 December 2007


At the Farmer First Revisited workshop last week we made videos of some participants talking about thier involvement in farmer participation in agricultural research. Watch Robert Chambers, Paul Van Mele, Lucy Mwangi, David Howlett, Yunita Winarto and others speaking to Susanna Thorp of WRENmedia, publisher of the New Agriculturalist, with video by Gary Edwards.

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Wednesday, 12 December 2007


After much organisation, anticipation and plenty of expresso coffee, 80 delegates from around the world have finally arrived at the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton, UK, for three days of reflection and debate about farmer participation in agricultural research. A live blog is up and running from the event, so check it out for all the FFR news, views and reports. And have a look on the Farmer First Revisited website, which has all the papers from the event and access to the wiki-timeline Read more

Monday, 10 December 2007


By ADRIAN ELY, STEPS Centre member

A recent spotlight on biofuels on the SciDev.net website gives a detailed overview of research issues, including risks and benefits for developing countries and an article by Siwa Msangi of IFPRI on potential food security impacts from the biofuels “revolution”. Msangi’s article points to the need for international policies to promote innovations that will reduce the dependence of biofuels on agricultural production systems, as well as action to secure food supplies for the world’s food-insecure poor. At present, however, the development of the burgeoning corn bioethanol sector, especially in the US, is fast-outpacing such regulatory reforms.

This weekend’s edition of the China Daily contains a front-page article describing recent policies drawn up by the Chinese Ministry of Finance to promote the use of non-food products to make bio-fuel.

As well as banning the use of grains to make biofuel earlier this year, the more recent policies offer subsidies to producers of biofuels derived from non-food feedstocks, such as cellulose-based sources, sweet sorghum and cassava. Farmers producing such feedstocks will also benefit. These are among a suite of government actions aiming to minimise food security impacts from China’s increasing biofuel production.

The global impact of these policies is questionable while major markets for feedstock remain open to corn and other grains, however at least China has acted decisively to ensure domestic food security.

In comparison, US policies and those of the international community require a significant rethink if corn bioethanol, which also has dubious relative environmental benefits as well as obvious negative food security implications, is to act as a “stepping stone” to second generation fuels with a more attractive carbon balance rather than an end in itself.

Science and technology policies (e.g. supporting research, development, demonstration and diffusion of cellulosic bioethanol) to facilitate this move are unlikely to quickly succeed in this goal without other policies to limit the production of fuel from corn, which could prove politically extremely unattractive, especially in the US.
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Wednesday, 5 December 2007


In 1987 a meeting of 50 social and natural scientists proved a defining moment in the development of farmer participation in agricultural research. Now the Future Agricultures Consortium in association the STEPS Centre and IDS is hosting an international workshop, Farmer First Revisited, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the event.

The FFR website contains delegate papers, links to an innovative wiki-timeline, which tracks 20 years of farmer participation in agricultural research adn extension, and the event's own blog, so do have a look and join in the debate.

Meanwhile, Ian Scoones, one of the organisers of FFR and a co-director of STEPS has written about some of the issue to be discussed at next week's workshop for id21. Have a read.
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Monday, 3 December 2007


About 190 nations have gathered in Bali today to try and thrash out a new global pact to fight climate change by 2009. Droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels will inevitably hit the poor hardest and political will to tackle the issue has never been higher..

The Kyoto Protocol covers emission reduction commitments for developed countries over the period 2008–2012, and Australia's new government has just, belatedly, signed up. But a new international climate change deal must be put in place in time to ensure that necessary action is undertaken immediately after 2012.

The IDS Climate Change and Disasters Group is attending the conference with a research agenda to advance. The group aim to support progress on political deals that are equitable, fair and supportive to those groups most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and to ensure low carbon emission pathways improve opportunities for development. Read what Merylyn Hedger, a member of the group has to say about Bali, and check out the IDS CLimate Change policy briefings.
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