Thesis defence of Andnet Bayleyegn: Très honorable!

Last 9th of October of 2015, our colleague Andnet Bayleyegn graduated after defending with great distinction (très honorable) his thesis in Montpellier, France.

During three years Andnet developed his PhD project between Montpellier Supagro (France) and University of Catania (Italy) in collaboration with the international centre of insect physiology and ecology (icipe), Nairobi, Kenya and the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). He conducted a research work based on
the behavior, ecology & control of legume flower thrips, megalurothrips sjostedti (trybom) in cowpeas (vigna unguiculata l. walp)  towards the development of an integrated pest management  program in Kenya, with the aim of finding alternative pest management strategy which has less effect on people, livestock and the environment. The research leaded to the identification repellent plant extracts which can be used for pest management strategy in legume cropping system.

Andnet published relevant papers during this period contributing to the generation of knowledge about integrated pest management:

Repellency of Plant Extracts against the Legume Flower Thrips Megalurothrips sjostedti (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) which investigates how plant extracts can be used as a repellent for specific types of pest in legume cropping system.

Farmers knowledge and perception of grain legume pest and their management in the eastern province of Kenya which investigates how farmers identify important grain legume pests and how they are controlling them, the cultural practices practiced by the farmer and other challenges which influence production of grain legumes.

Ecological Niche Modeling to Predict effect of Climate Change on the geographic distribution of the Cowpea pest legume flower Thrips (Megalurothrips sjostedti) (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) In Africa” Climate, especially temperature has a strong and direct effect on insect development, reproduction, survival and colonization success of insect species. In a climate change scenario, techniques developed to detect areas of climatic favorability. Those models used in species distribution models are considered to represent useful approach for detecting suitable areas of colonization and establishment of a species. Thus, he investigates present and future potential distribution of the legume flower thrips and its favorable host crop cowpea in Africa.

Toxic and behavioral effects of 16 compounds against Megalurothrips sjostedti larvae (Thysanoptera: Thripidae)The larval stage causes more direct feeding damage on epidermal and sub-epidermal plant tissues, causing destruction of buds, flowers and malformations of pods. Sixteen constituents of different plant extracts were tested for their effect on the feeding activity, toxicity and behavioral effects on the second instar larvae of legume flower thrips, Megalurothrips sjostedti (Thysanoptera: Thripidae).

After finishing his defence Andnet said “I am extremely happy to have successfully completed my Study! Being a father of Triplets at the last year of my study was a very difficult moment on handling academics and family matter. I Thank the Almighty God for his Blessings! Special Thanks to my supervisors for their outstanding supervision, follow-up and constructive criticism during my study period. I thank friends and families for their unreserved support until the final point”. 

For Andnet, his participation in the Agtrain programme have changed his life: “The Agtrain program helped me a lot that provided me a world class academic knowledge and experience with an opportunity of meeting scholars across the globe and sharing experience. The programme also enriched my social skill and had a great place in my life with unforgettable moments and experience. Thanks Agtrain”.

Andnet Bayleyegn ABTEW

An alternative way for entrepreneurs to improve their businesses

The phenomenon of business incubators is remarkably expanding worldwide particularly in developing countries located in Africa. Research on agri-business incubators in Africa may help us to better understand what factors can contribute to the success of agribusiness firms. At the same time, more investigation can contribute to know what makes effective an incubation process.

Public, private and academic institutions are focusing on business incubators as they have seen the potential benefits that incubation programs have to assist entrepreneurs in creating innovative products. The benefits of an incubation program mainly focus on three levels: infrastructure (office services), counseling (business support such as training), and networking.

Benefits of an incubation program help entrepreneurs to overcome issues such as information asymmetries, competitive advantage, resource shortages, price disadvantage among others. Therefore, entrepreneurs overcoming these issues can improve their businesses; reduce risks; and increase survival possibilities. Additionally, business incubators can contribute to the local development of an area by helping start-ups in the development of their businesses. Then, benefits of business incubators can also have implications in the economic growth of a locality.

Currently, I am doing a research related to agri-business incubators in East Africa. These business incubators intend to enhance the commercialization of agribusiness products by adding value, innovation, and new technologies in the production process. Most of these business incubators target start-ups in rural areas of Kenya and Uganda. My main reason to explore more about this phenomenon is to find contributions at the firm level to enhance performance and consequently influence on the economic growth of rural areas in East Africa.

In general, more research in this field can help us to better understand the effective performance of business incubators located in developing countries, thus, being effective mechanisms to the development of agribusiness firms.

by Roberto Hernández Chea

A Stronger Cup of Coffee

Your morning coffee has the power to wake you up, make you more productive and get you through that first meeting of the day. But does it have the power to change the lives of the people who produced it?

Colombian, Costa Rican, Ethiopian, Jamaican Blue Mountain. There are a lot of choices that you make when deciding which type of coffee to buy. In recent years even more choices have become available- Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified, CAFÉ Practices, organic. These are sustainable coffee certifications that you may have seen indicated in the form of a little stamp on your bag of coffee. These certifications indicate to the consumer that the coffee was produced in a certain way—without the use of conventional chemicals in the case of organic, in a way that preserves biodiversity in the case of Rainforest Alliance, or in a manner that supports cooperatives of small farmer in the case of Fairtrade. In some cases the farmer is paid a premium to incentivize these changes.

Coffee is commodity and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The world price of coffee varies with the world supply. Droughts in Brazil, coffee rust in Guatemala, increasing production in Vietnam and conflict in Africa can all affect the price that we pay for our morning cup of coffee. It’s easy to imagine how low prices can be devastating coffee farmers, who may go into debt or respond by seeking other employment and neglecting their coffee crops. Improper management can cause disease to quickly spread, lower yields, cause an undersupply on the world market and a subsequent rise in prices.
It may be surprising to think that artificially high prices can cause problems for coffee farmers as well. High world coffee prices can mean that farmers over invest in coffee production, bringing new areas into cultivation, becoming overly dependent on an unstable commodity and ultimately causing an oversupply and a repeat of the cycle.

I was curious to know if sustainable coffee certifications could alleviate some of this fluctuation and lend a little more financial stability to the life of a coffee farmer.  By surveying all of the Costa Rican coffee cooperatives which participate in sustainable coffee certifications, I found that some certifications seem to help protect farmers from the lowest prices. Fairtrade in particular, because it offers a minimum price to farmers, can even out the price fluctuations by mitigating market lows without augmenting market highs. Rainforest Alliance, Utz and organic certification can also help to some extent, since farmers tend to sell their crops with certification when the market is low, benefiting from the certification premium, and selling their crop to conventional (uncertified) markets when the price is high, possibly avoiding the costly audits that come with certification.
However, the benefits are limited because of the small amount of coffee that is sold under certification relative to the amount that is verified that it was produced in a standard-compliant manner. In other words, the global supply of certified coffee far outweighs the demand. In 2012 3,300,000 metric tons of certification-compliant coffee were produced but only 840,000 MTs were sold as such, making the supply nearly four times the demand. But the demand for certified coffee has been growing every year, and as consumers begin to demand certified coffee, more farmers will benefit.

By Anna Snider
AgTraIn PhD Candidate
Montpellier SupAgro/CIRAD
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

Welcome to AgTraIn Blog - Agricultural Transformation by Innovation

AgTraIn - AgriculturalTransformation by Innovation – is a three-year world-class Joint Doctoral Programme part of the Erasmus Mundus programme initiated by the European Commission.

This blog will serve as meeting point for all the media and information generated by AgTraIn. Besides, we will publish periodically relevant content about the scientific fields of the programme. Innovations, climate change, agroecology, smallholder farming systems, livelihoods, are only some of the labels you will find in our posts, written by our PhD students, researchers and experts.
We hope you enjoy our blog as much as we enjoy writing about our work!

Eduardo Fuentes, our first AgTraIn Doctor

Last 27th of November of 2014, our colleague Eduardo Fuentes became the first AgTraIner graduated after defending outstandingly his thesis in Montpellier, France.

During three years Eduardo developed his PhD project between Montpellier Supagro (France) and University College Cork (Ireland) in collaboration with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). He conducted a research-intervention work based on the improvement of milk quality management of a dairy supply chain in the highlands of Peru (Mantaro Valley), with the aim of strengthening small-scale dairy farmers against economic shocks. The research leaded to the identification and test of systems, recognizing quality in milk supply chains of the valley, especially in smallholder farms.  

Eduardo published relevant papers during this period contributing to the generation of knowledge about agricultural systems:

“The impacts of differentiated markets on the relationship between dairy processors and smallholder farmers in the Peruvian Andes” which investigates how a dual supply chain combining both formal and informal markets with predominantly smallholder farmers impacts farmer–processor interactions at technical and organizational level in a Peruvian Andean valley

“Effects of dairy husbandry practices and farm types on raw milk quality collected by different categories of dairy processors in the Peruvian Andes” which investigates how the management of milk quality from farm to dairy processor impacts on both chemical and hygienic indicators, in a context characterized by farm scale diversity, the co-existence of formal and informal markets, and high milk demand.

After finishing his defend Eduardo said “I am extremely happy to have successfully completed this project!. This PhD was an enriching experience and I will take a lot of good memories with me”. For Eduardo, his participation in the Agtrain programme have changed his life: “Aside from learning research skills, this PhD allowed me to meet people from all around the world, open my mind to different cultures and study in two of the best universities in the world. Thanks Agtrain”.

Currently, Eduardo got a position as a researcher at the NationalAgrarian University - La Molina (UNALM) in Peru where he will continue his academic career.

Congratulations Eduardo! 

Origin-based food for biodiversity and sustainable development: innovating knowledge management

My study looks at food quality schemes, namely Geographical Indications and Slow Food Presidia, as a tool for defending biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge (TK), while ensuring local development on the long term. This is relevant in the two European countries addressed by this study (i.e. France and Italy), where small-size local production is struggling to survive and farmers are progressively abandoning the countryside. In fact, origin food could be a strategy to create added value in marginal areas. This is also relevant in the Global South, namely in Morocco, where both the State and civil society are looking for economic development coupling with environmental sustainability and social equity, especially in mountain areas. Origin food is seen as a way to prevent soil erosion, international migration and social exclusion.                                                                      

In the context of the globalization of the food system, paradoxically narratives and defining labels aim to localize food. In a growing market niche, food that has no origin is matched against food with a meaningful origin. Example of this trend to label a food according to its origin through collective initiatives are the Geographical Indications and by the Slow Food Presidia.

GIs are primarily recognised as legal instruments for protecting consumers and producers from frauds, and are also marketing tools to differentiate specialty products. Recently, they tend to be considered as tools for the defence of biodiversity and rural development. Similarly, Slow Food Presidia address food production as a way to protect endangered breeds, varieties, techniques of production and rural landscapes.

My research considers that biodiversity and TK are influenced by the agri-food system, and in particular by the management of certifications and marketing. It aims at exploring how different quality certifications structure the practices of people on specific territories, by revealing the the changing relationships between producers and consumers, discourses and practices, institutions and local communities.

On the one hand, the study explores how the knowledge related to specialty food production is formalized in a specific environment. How local stakeholders get to create and share a code of practice, joggling from tradition to innovation of practices? Which are the authorities leading this process and how do they interplay? Through what negotiations the terroir or the origin of a product is recognized or created, and yet shared?

On the other hand, the study looks at the market side, assessing how information on quality products reaches and influences consumers. Which labels and information make sense to consumers and are able to engendered their trust and willingness to buy? To what extent enskilling consumers is an effective complement to the labeling strategy? How should public policies support the sharing of practices and knowledge among local stakeholders?

Mariagiulia Mariani

3rd Global Science Conference “Climate Smart Agriculture 2015”, Montpellier

The 3rd ClimateSmart Agriculture Global Conference will take place in Montpellier (France) during March 16-18th 2015. You are still on time for an early bird registration! (31st of January).

Montpellier will pick up the baton from UC Davis and Wageningen, bringing together world experts on climate-smart agriculture (CSA) to provide a synthesis of the current state of knowledge in order to deliver a set of findings based on multi-disciplinary science and best practices. It will take part of the process initiated in October 2010 in The Hague by the Government of the Netherlands, culminating in the recent launch of the Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture in New York, September 2014 (CCAFS-CGIAR, 2014)

In short, CSA goal is to achieve both short and long-term agricultural development priorities in the face climate change and serves as a bridge to other development priorities. It seeks to support countries and other actors in securing the necessary policy, technical and financial conditions to enable them to: 

 - Sustainably increase agricultural productivity and incomes in order to meet national food security and development goals (Food security)
- Build resilience and the capacity of agricultural and food systems to adapt to climate change (Adaptation)
- Seek opportunities to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases and increase carbon sequestration (Mitigation)

These three conditions (food security, adaptation and mitigation) are referred to as the “triple win” of climate-smart agriculture.  More information can be found in:

Montpellier has become one of the world centers of agricultural, environmental and development research. 

Proof of this is Agropolis International, association created in 1986 by French institutions of research and higher education in Montpellier and the Languedoc-Roussillon region involved in the thematic areas of agriculture, food, biodiversity and the environment, with currently more than 2700 research scientist and lectures. All of this together with its category of old university town, its historic center and its Mediterranean character make Montpellier as an excellent amphitryon.