Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fertilizer Trees: Raising Maize Yields

This farmer in Cameroon has benefited from intercropping her maize with
calliandra trees.  Photo: Charlie Pye-Smith, World Agroforestry Centre
Companion planting is an ancient agricultural technique proving very effective at raising maize yield and restoring depleted soils. Maize intercropped with "fertilizer trees" like Calliandra and Gliricidia produce larger harvests without adding synthetic fertilizer. The trees help the soil retain water over the long term, and their trees shed nitrogen-rich leaves that improve the soil for the next crop.

And of course trees are great carbon sequesters. This is a pretty great tool to disseminate.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Super Foods for Nutrient Delivery

Photo: Karen Homer
Mary Oyunga, pictured here, is an African scientist who studies Vitamin A deficiency, and addressing it with OFSPs - orange flesh sweet potatoes, superior at Vitamin A delivery compared to the less-nutritious sweet potatoes common to Africa. How to disseminate this locally-grown nutrition upgrade? One method is by giving out sweet potato vines at pre-natal visits. It incentivizes pre-natal care and upgrades the nutrition of the mom, the baby, and the whole family.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Adapting Crops to Meet Climate Challenges

Photo: C. Schubert  CCAFS -  the CGIAR Research Program in
Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security

This Kenyan farmer, like all agricultural workers, faces a multitude of challenges - including climate change. Flood-resistant rice & drought-resistant maize help achieve food security for hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers who rely these staples.
Once successful new varieties are bred, the challenge is to beef up distribution channels. CIMMYT provides impoved open-access seeds.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Biochar: Carbon Capture that Improves Soil

Improving soil with biochar in Cameroon
Biochar isn't very photogenic - it is carbonized plant matter. But when added to soil, it improves its water retention and increases its productivity by better supporting roots. And it takes that carbon out of the amosphere, blocking climate-changing CO2 emissions. An additional innovation: it can be produced by a cleverly engineered improved cookstove, so the heat used to carbonize is captured and utilized.

Here the women are adding it to a test plot. Biochar is an ancient practice now being researched and promoted.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Awaiting a Laundry Breakthrough...

Women still do laundry in the developing world by hand, in tubs with washboards, or in streams and lakes. Remarkably little progress has been made coming up with labor-saving laundry designs for settings with no electricity or running water. The GiraDora prototype, pictured here, is a pedal-powered solution which works like a salad spinner. It is a hands-free approach - hello, cellphone.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Affordable, Frugal Coolers

While refrigeration requires reliable electricity, there are a number of cooling technologies which help preserve fresh produce and keep milk and other beverages chilled. Pictured here is a frugal innovation, a cooler developed for the 80% of Indian households with no refrigeration, the Chotukool. It runs on a 12 volt battery and weighs less than 10 lbs. Vendors use them for keeping drinks and chocolates cool.
Photo: Godrej & Boyce, the ChotuKool manufactures. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Who Doesn't Want Better Kitchen Equipment?

Industrialized world women have had their pick of labor saving tools for so long we've lost sight of it. But many women in low resource areas still lack better tools for getting jobs done more quickly. This corn sheller refined by the MIT D-Lab can be fashioned out of readily available materials and speeds maize shelling, with less hand pain.
Inexpensive non-stick pans save time. Solar cookers are smokeless, with no burned pots to scour - another time saver.