Monthly Archives: March 2017

Breaking Ground: Xuecai Zhang prepares future generation of crop breeders

Originally published on the CIMMYT website.





























Xuecai Zhang wants to merge traditional maize breeding methods with new software and other tools to help improve farmers’ yields faster than ever. “In the next three decades we need to increase agricultural production by 70 percent to meet projected food demand,” said Zhang, a maize genomic selection breeder at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). “However, crop yields, while improving, are not increasing quickly enough to meet this challenge. We must explore new methods and technologies that can speed up our crop breeding processes if we hope to feed a world with over 2.3 billion more people by 2050.”

Zhang first arrived at CIMMYT in 2009 while completing a doctorate in applied quantitative genetics. He subsequently returned as a postdoctoral fellow in 2011 to undertake molecular breeding and coordinate CIMMYT’s maize genomic selection program. Since his return, he has focused mainly on helping breeders and statisticians work together to create new tools that can help accelerate the breeding process through genomic selection.

Click her for the full story

China Making Progress on Climate Goals Faster than Expected

Originally published on the World Resources Institute Website












China recently released its first climate change update report, indicating progress made toward its 2020 climate goals, which the country originally set in 2010. The Biennial Update Report (BUR) indicates that of its four goals, China has already exceeded one, is close to meeting another, and is more than halfway toward achieving the remaining two. This is encouraging progress from the world’s largest emitter. The BUR also sets new goals to tackle non-CO2 emissions, building on better, more transparent greenhouse gas data.

China’s 2020 climate goals include: reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per unit of GDP (known as carbon intensity) by 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels; increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15 percent (from 9.4 percent in 2010); increasing forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters; and increasing forest coverage by 40 million hectares relative to 2005 levels, an area twice the size of Uganda.

Click here to learn more

Outside the box

Originally published on the CARE website.



































For 25 years, CARE Village Savings and Loan Associations have powered change through innovative economics. It all started with a few women and a lockbox in remote Niger. Zeinabou remembers 25 years ago when a Norwegian woman named Moira Eknes came to her village in eastern Niger carrying a gray metal box. Zeinabou couldn’t have known then how she and other women in the village of Kagadama would use it to change their lives and their community — or how an effort that started with her would swell to millions of people around the world.

Eknes, a CARE program advisor, had arrived in Niger to implement a tree-planting project with women like Zeinabou. She quickly learned, however, that with no right to own land, women were much less interested in planting trees than in making ends meet for their families. With few income-producing options available to them, they came up empty, in spite of their endless work pounding millet, fetching water and handling most other household chores.

So they and Eknes changed course, devising instead a homegrown system of microfinance that harnesses the ancient practice of group savings. It was and is called CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Association, an innovative program known throughout Niger today as Mata Masu Dubara, or “Women on the Move.”

Click here for the full story

Dreaming with eyes wide open

Originally published on the CARE website.
































Women in eastern Niger turn economic opportunity into personal and community transformation –revealing to a new generation what it means to dream.

In 1991, the global poverty-fighting organization CARE launched a transformative program that would change the world. It harnessed the ancient practice of group savings in an innovative concept called Village Savings and Loan Associations, or as those first groups in eastern Niger called it, Mata Masu Dubara (“Women on the Move”). A quarter-century later, it has expanded to include more than 200,000 groups and 5 million members across Africa and around the world, powering personal and community transformation through financial independence. Here is the story of how one of those very first VSLA groups has lifted up three generations of a family in Kagadama, Niger.

Scaling up FMNR, CAWT and planted agroforestry

Challenges and Opportunities

1. FMNR – Widespread with diverse range of trees with multiple products and uses

2. Faidherbia – highly valued but distribution is not uniform and densities are low:

  • Natural regeneration in natural range
  • Plant air pruned seedlings outside its range
  • Direct sow with pre treated seed

3. Other Planted Systems: Tephrosia, P peas, Gliricidia etc

4. Actions / Strategies / Incentives for scaling up


FMNR in Southern Africa

  • Most widespread and successful AF system in Southern Africa & perhaps other regions of Africa
  • Farmer driven practice – easy, low cost, multiple uses and products, restores natural diversity / builds resilience to environment & livelihoods
  • Despite these facts, few organizations or donors know of or support this practice
  • Needs high attention, research, exposure and publicity to attract support of Govts, Donors, NGOs and Private Sector to realize its potential


Density & Composition of NR Trees on Farms

Top 15 Species Density


% Comp Top 15 Species Density


% Comp Top 15 Species Density


% Comp
Piliostigma thonningii 83.75 49.1% Piliostigma thonningii 35.34 26.1% Combretum molle 23.70 20.0%
Combretum collinum 37.59 22.0% Combretum collinum 26.32 19.4% Markhamia obtusifolia 19.71 16.7%
Acacia polyacantha 7.49 4.4% Combretum zeyheri 17.74 13.1% Brachystegia spiciformis 16.01 13.5%
Lonchocarpus capassa 6.47 3.8% Markhamia obtusifolia 11.52 8.5% Piliostigma thonningii 13.55 11.5%
Rauvolfia caffra 5.50 3.2% Acacia polyacantha 4.56 3.4% Erythrina abyssinica 8.41 7.1%
Markhamia obtusifolia 4.73 2.8% Albizia harveyi 4.42 3.3% Azanza garkeana 5.29 4.5%
Faidherbia albida 2.86 1.7% Faidherbia albida 4.41 3.3% Strychnos spinosa 3.69 3.1%
Kigelia africana 2.65 1.6% Entada abyssinica 3.88 2.9% Acacia polyacantha 3.28 2.8%
Azanza garkeana 2.45 1.4% Lonchocarpus capassa 3.74 2.8% Combretum collinum 2.68 2.3%
Combretum molle 2.02 1.2% Combretum molle 3.11 2.3% Combretum zeyheri 2.28 1.9%
Combretum zeyheri 1.56 0.9% Albizia amara 1.99 1.5% Faidherbia albida 1.90 1.6%
Vitex payos 1.36 0.8% Strychnos spinosa 1.97 1.5% Vangueria infausta 1.68 1.4%
Erythrina abyssinica 1.29 0.8% Cussonia arborea 1.95 1.4% Combretum psidioides 1.59 1.3%
Entada abyssinica 1.23 0.7% Vangueria infausta 1.95 1.4% Croton macrostachys 1.16 1.0%
Maytenus senegalensis 1.23 0.7% Azanza garkeana 1.83 1.4% Entada abyssinica 1.16 1.0%
14 Other Species 8.40 4.9% 16 Other Species 10.74 7.9% 24 Other species 12.21 10.3%
Tree Density / ha 170.59 100.0% Tree Density / ha 135.47 100.0% Tree Density / ha 118.32 100%
Mean DBH (cm) 6.96 Mean DBH (cm) 9.24 Mean DBH (cm) 10.23
Mean Height (m) 3.31 Mean Height (m) 4.15 Mean Height (m) 4.27
# Species in Transects 29 # Species in Transects 31 # Species in Transects 39
Diversity Index 3.38 Diversity Index 8.22 Diversity Index 11.23
# Trees in Transects 320 # Trees in Transects 320 # Trees in Transects 320


Summary of Density & Composition of NR Trees on Farms


(Young Age)

LILONGWE EAST (Medium Age) DOWA WEST (Older Site)
Tree Density / ha 170.59 135.47 118.32
Mean DBH (cm) 6.96 9.24 10.23
Mean Height (m) 3.31 4.15 4.27
Total # Species Recorded 29 31 39
Diversity Index 3.38 8.22 11.23
# Total Trees in Sample 320 320 320

Presentation by Trent Bunderson

1.2 Billion People Lack Electricity. Increasing Supply Alone Won’t Fix the Problem

Originally published on the World Resources Institute website.









More than a billion people around the world still lack access to electricity; millions more receive poor and inadequate supplies. For the unserved and underserved, there can be significant implications for healthcare, food, education and business.

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie put it this way when explaining the effects of poor electricity in Nigeria: “I cannot help but wonder how many medical catastrophes have occurred in public hospitals because of “no light,” how much agricultural produce has gone to waste, how many students forced to study in stuffy, hot air have failed exams, how many small businesses have foundered.
Too often, planners confront this electricity access gap by increasing supply without attention to how consumers actually use and pay for electricity. A lasting solution is actually far more complicated than that.”

A new WRI paper, Strategies for Expanding Universal Access to Electricity Services for Development, proposes an approach to closing the access gap driven by the belief that electrification must respond to user demand and help improve lives. We propose three strategies for policymakers, planners and electricity service providers:

  1. understand electricity demand from the bottom up
  2. link electricity access with development priorities
  3. ensure electricity services are reliable, affordable and of good quality

Click here for the full story.