Robynne has extensive experience in the agriculture and food sector, working throughout the value chain – from basic inputs to farmers in the field to the grocery store shelf. She works internationally in the sector, including speaking at the United Nations on agriculture and food issues, and representing the International Agri-Food Network at the UN.Throughout her career she has worked with farm organisations like the Prairie Oat Growers Association, the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi and the Himalayan Farmers Association, as well as global groups, to further the voice of agriculture in the food debate. She has also worked with Fortune 500 companies growing worldwide businesses to assist them with issues management and strategy decisions.

Request for Proposal For a Consultant to Co-ordinate Development of a 10-Year Research Strategy for Pulse Crops

Emerging ag inc is soliciting proposals from qualified suppliers to assist in coordinating the development of a 10-Year Research Strategy for in the context of the 2016 International Year of Pulses.

The supplier will work closely with Emerging ag inc in development of the strategy.  In the context of the International Year of Pulses, Emerging ag inc acts as Secretariat to the Global Pulse Confederation which has convened a Productivity and Sustainability Committee comprised of experts from many pulse institutions.  The group has helped to frame the scope of the report and assisted in the development of a list of experts.  It will be available as advisors through the process of developing the project.

Emerging ag inc will co-ordinate communications and activities for the champions programme related to this project.

Potential suppliers should demonstrate previous experience in a similar role.  A doctorate is preferred in agricultural sciences or nutrition.  Experience in pulses is desirable.    

All proposals must be received by 5:00 pm Mountain Daylight Time on August 29, 2016.   

Proposals and all enquiries are to be submitted via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Emerging ag inc. reserves the right to reject any or all proposals, as well as to accept the proposal which will be to the best advantage, as determined at the sole discretion of Emerging ag inc.

Review the full Request for Proposal 10 Year Research Strategy here. 

First-Ever National Academy of Sciences Prize Dedicated to Food and Agriculture Sciences Established by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research with Support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Beginning in 2017, the National Academy of Sciences will recognize one annual recipient for an extraordinary contribution to agriculture or to the understanding of the biology of species fundamentally important to agriculture or food production. This fantastic award is jointly supported by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Establishing the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences is part of FFAR’s efforts to elevate food and agriculture research in the scientific arena and highlight the critical need for scientists working toward more productive, sustainable agriculture and better health through nutritious food. 

Nominations for 2017 are now open, with a deadline of October 3rd, 2016. Mid-career researchers at U.S. institutions may be nominated online. “Mid-career” is defined as up to 20 years since Ph.D. completion. The Prize may also be shared by one or more individuals for a collaborative accomplishment. For the purpose of the prize, areas of science with applications to agriculture include the following:

  • Plant and animal sciences
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition and food science
  • Soil science
  • Entomology
  • Veterinary medicine
  • Agricultural economics

 

Election of the UN Secretary General

With Ban Ki-Moon’s term as Secretary General wrapping up, the selection process has been in full swing. The leadership shown by Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly, to increase transparency in the process is laudable. The webcast sessions to introduce candidates to member states and the world is a leap forward from the process being confined to the Security Council members.

Another innovation has been to allow civil society to contribute questions to the candidates via a process facilitated by UN-NGLS.  Details from UN-NGLS are below:

More than 1500 questions from nearly 100 countries have been submitted since the process began at the end of February. From among these, each candidate has been asked 2-3 unique questions during their UN General Assembly dialogue. In addition, two were used during the 12 July debate with 10 candidates in UN General Assembly Hall, and the President of the General Assembly posted 10 of the questions on his web site, requesting all candidates to respond to them.

The civil society questions asked during the UN General Assembly dialogues with individual candidates, along with the candidates' responses, may be viewed here:

The two civil society questions used during the 12 July debate in UN General Assembly Hall (broadcast live by Al Jazeera and UN Web TV) along with candidate responses, may be viewed here: 

The 10 questions for all candidates posted on the President of the General Assembly's web site may be viewed here, along with responses from 4 of the candidates so far.

To view all questions received, and learn more about the process, including how the questions were selected, please visit the UN-NGLS website.

No one left behind: Livestock at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) participated in this week’s UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. This is the first of many meetings and processes that will take place to monitor progress in meeting the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Shirley Tarawali, assistant director general of ILRI, was in New York this week to take part in a livestock-focused side meeting, which took place on July 20, 2016. Tarawali is passionate about the forum theme “No one left behind”, as well as passionate that “livestock” not be left behind in the may agendas being put forward to meet the 17 goals.

Tarawali was one of five panel members who gave a short talk to frame the discussion.

Read the essay based on Tarawali’s presentation at the livestock event here.

Outcomes of the Pan-African Conference in Zambia

The pulse of development is often a bean.

The Pan-African Legumes conference is highlighting some of the outcomes of their meeting in Zambia.  It was a pleasure to be a speaker regarding the International Year of Pulses. I’ve never seen such an enthused and dedicated audience at any meeting.  Every workshop was packed, people were engaged, and they worked 12-14 hour days in session.  More than 400 young scientists showed their passion for pulse crops, every one of whom is needed to foster the productivity of pulse crops and the diversity of the food system.

Read the event recap from the MSU publication ‘Futures’ here.

Investing in Nutrition

Global action is urgently needed to tackle the pervasive problem of malnutrition. For too long, it has been underfunded – receiving just $3.9 billion annually in global funding. Reaching the targets to reduce stunting among children and anemia in women, increase exclusive breastfeeding rates, and mitigate the impact of wasting will require an average annual investment of $7 billion over the next 10 years.

While this level of investment is ambitious, it is not unprecedented. In fact, donors and country governments can immediately begin to invest in a subset of high-impact solutions. This priority set of interventions would require only $2.2 billion a year above what is currently spent and is estimated to save 2.2 million lives and empower 50 million more children to grow to their full physical and cognitive potential in 2025.

The World Bank, Results for Development (R4D), and 1,000 Days provided this first-of-its-kind analysis of the global resources needed to achieve four of the six WHA targets (stunting, breastfeeding, anemia, and wasting). It highlights the need for many actors to engage in nutrition, and furthers the case for partnerships to accelerate actions.

The Private Sector Mechanism will be holding a Partnerships Forum on Nutrition in Rome at the end of April to accelerate these actions. This forum will provide a unique setting for sharing examples and concrete experiences of successful initiatives across sectors in many countries.

Follow the International Agri-food Network on Twitter (@Agrifoodnet) and LinkedIn to stay up to date on developments and event updates. Use the hashtag #InvestInNutrition to join the conversation and create impact through Twitter and Facebook!

Getting Oat Innovation on the Agenda

Oats – they are a grain that evokes comfort, home, and a hearty healthiness. Whether oatmeal cookies, oatmeal, or an amazing addition to savoury dishes, there is something about oats that evokes fond memories for me. Plus it is a reminder of Canada’s productive farming capacity. Canada produces the most oats and is responsible for half the world’s exports of oats.

I’ve just wrapped up a visit to Ottawa with the Prairie Oat Growers Association, where visits to all three political parties provided an opportunity to share the story of oats. Over the past two decades, oat farming has become increasingly productive. Canadian oats have high levels of beta-glucan that make them heart-healthy and excellent quality in terms of weight and colour. These competitive advantages cannot be taken for granted.

Oat milling in Canada has declined in favour of American processing. With that has come the need to export, so when grain transportation arose two years ago and oats were not able to move, the impact was grave. Millers couldn’t get what they needed without exports from other countries as far away as Sweden. American millers have encouraged a return to American production resulting in market losses to Canadians.

poga-graph1

This situation reminds us all of some fundamental needs. It is essential to ensure the reliability of oat exports – already the industry has implemented 100 car unit trains, increased trucking, and railway fleet options. The ongoing regulatory environment must monitor and sustain solutions in all corridors. Movement South to the US and Mexico needs just as much attention as movement to port position.

There is also a need to support domestic consumption and processing. After years of reductions, it is time to think about our domestic capacity for processing and the ways to excite Canadians production of oats.

POGA-graph2

This requires innovation. Part of that innovation is to help consumers think of oats as more than just a breakfast food. Oats make a great addition to all meals and are a wonderful snack food. Use of oats as an ingredient needs more exploration, including traits like beta-glucan to make other foods more heart-healthy.

Oats also need new markets – domestic and foreign – plus better ways to serve the American processors like Cheerios and Quaker Oats that have been such great supporters of Canadian oats. They need high beta-glucan levels, strong evidence on the natural sustainability claims of a low-water use crop like oats.

Innovation is the pathway to lift the Canadian oat market and we hope more leaders are seeing the role for this vital crop.

SEED Awards

Small enterprises support food production and agriculture around the world, so it is a great opportunity to apply for SEED awards this year that recognise entrepreneurship in developing countries with a strong interest in sustainable development. SEED highlights the deadline for applications below:



Start-up enterprises that solve pressing local issues by integrating social and environmental benefits into their business models can apply for the 2016 SEED Awards, whose closure is nearing – interested applicants have only one week left!



This year SEED will make available up to:


  • 15 SAG-SEED Awards to enterprises in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Uganda supported by the SWITCH-Africa Green (SAG) project, which is implemented by UNEP with the assistance of the European Union;

  • 4 SEED Africa Awards to enterprises in Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia supported by the Government of Flanders;

  • 1 SEED Gender Equality Award to enterprises in Kenya that are run or owned by women and prioritise women‘s empowerment.


Candidates can apply until 21 March 2016, 23:59 CET.



Selected by an independent jury of international experts, winners will receive their awards at the International Awards Ceremony during the SEED Africa Symposium to be held on 28 29 September 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.



Winning enterprises will receive a tailor-made business support package. Over a period of 6 months, they will be offered expert advice on further developing their business plans, individual workshops targeted at their needs, high level profiling of their enterprises and access to an international network of businesses, governments and development institutions.


Seeing Agriculture as a Whole

Agricultural priorities have long included productivity and leading minds are focusing on the ways it can contribute to furthering human health, supporting ecosystems, and addressing climate change. The Farming First team have put together a great interview with Dr. Monkombu Swaminathan who, together with Dr. Norman Borlaug, helped found the spearhead the Green Revolution. His observations explain that agricultural research can never stand still. The first Green Revolution helped feed billions, and the continued progress of this research needs to include additional dimensions to continuously improve agriculture.

FarmingFirst.org

Farming First met Dr. Swaminathan at the Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa and asked him how research priorities have changed in the 29 years since he won the Prize.

“When Dr. Borlaug and I started our work, we had a single goal: productivity improvement,” he comments. Yet Dr. Swaminathan explained that agriculture nowadays not just about producing food – it is also a stabilizer of ecological services. It is also very important now to address the role agriculture can play in producing more nutritious food. “If I were to start my work today I would concentrate on the nutritive properties and (combatting) hidden hunger”, he commented.

Watch more interviews on Farming First’s YouTube channel.

Pulses Set Racing at Victoria Falls

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post

20160301_144129_resized_2Normally, Livingstone is home to 150,000 Zambians and international tourists seeking out the unique beauty of the Victoria Falls.

This week, Livingstone has also been host to the Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference, the first conference dedicated to boosting pulse productivity, nutrition and processing in Africa. It could be a potential milestone in the fight against global hunger.

The four hundred academics, NGOs and scientists are here to do something really important: turn around the lack of investment in agricultural research and development, which is handicapping the ability of poor, small holder African farmers to fight climate change, boost productivity and feed their families.

It's not that money isn't invested into agricultural productivity. It is. But many crops don't' attract their 'fair share' of investment. For example, pulses. The shame is these crops, often known as 'orphan crops' because they get ignored by funders, are potentially vital in the fight to deliver the UN's Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) because of their nutrition-density, affordability and positive impact on soil, which is why the UN FAO has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.

This lack of investment was underlined prior to the Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference, when a new global survey, showed agricultural researchers are concerned the current level of research funding into pulses is so low it may be handicapping efforts to improve food security and agricultural sustainability.

Called the 'Global Pulse Productivity & Sustainability Survey', the survey suggests annual investment in pulses hovers at $175m, whereas billions are invested into other crops such as corn.

There are some major contributors to global funding for pulse crop productivity and sustainability research such as CGIAR, USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Most countries in North America and Europe maintain an international funding agency. Others have national funding programs. But is it enough?

"No. Bottom line: we need a 10-fold increase in pulse research funding," according to Huseyin Arslan, President of the Global Pulse Confederation, which commissioned the survey. "With over 800 million people suffering from acute or chronic undernourishment, increasing pulse research is vital. We can only meet the world's protein needs with better varieties of chickpeas, peas, beans, and lentils."

Which brings us back to Livingstone.

#Legumes4Africa is the theme for the Pan African Grain Legume and Cowpea Conference. It's focused on grain legumes because of their potential to play a significant role in delivering against the UN's new SDGs - especially Zero Hunger, Good Health & Wellbeing and Life on land. Or, as Given Lubinda, Zambian Minister of Agriculture, so eloquently put it: 'The quality of life of a rapidly growing world population will be dependent on pulses.'

"Investments in pulses research have the potential for significant agricultural impact. The high nutritional value and climate resilience traits of pulses are well established to fight the global challenge of hidden hunger, poverty and environmental degradation, especially for the vulnerable populations of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia," says Shoba Sivasankar, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

India the largest consumer and a major producer of pulses has recently introduced subsidies for pulse production in a move which some see as a pointer for other Governments. Director General of ICARDA Dr. Mahmoud Solh, a leader in international agricultural research said: "India should be commended for being the first country giving subsidies now to pulses also which is expected to change the picture".

The Indian Government and others have also recently teamed up to launch a Global Pulse Research platform. "The platform will not only invest in the necessary research for new pulses technologies but also build the capacity of local scientists, extension workers and farmers, " according to Dr. Solh who calls pulses "climate smart crops" because they contribute positively to soil health. "The establishment of the Global Pulses Research Platform is a step in the right direction," Dr. Solh concluded.

The Global Pulse Productivity & Sustainability Survey and #Legumes4Africa both highlight a broad consensus among experts about the need and focus for research in a key 'orphan crop'.

"With investment in crop improvement and agronomy research, pulses can be made resilient to climate change as well as diversify income sources for farmers. Focused research efforts creating expanded value-added marketplace for pulses will generate new market opportunities for farmers to make farmers prosperous as well as modernize our food system to become more sustainable, equitable and nutritious," says David Bergvinson, Director General, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

This consensus is a 'Big Step' forward. But much still needs to be done.
'Pulse production is about half what it could be and storage problems still remain,' according to Ylva Hilbur, from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture.

''Smallholder farm yields are about 2-3 times lower than they are on research stations so we need to focus on sustainable intensification of cropping systems,' says Jeffrey Ehlers of the Gates Foundation, whose single biggest investment in pulses is the Tropical Legumes III project. His point is backed by many other experts.

By bringing together so many key people for the first time, #Legumes4Africa has already achieved much. It could become a significant milestone on a journey to place pulses at the top of the political agenda for food security and nutrition.

If Given Lubinda is right, we need it to be.