Newsflash October 2017

They seem cute and funny, right?  Maybe in the cartoons, but not when it comes to food production and storage. Rodents, such as rats, mice and moles, affect pre- and post-harvest loss, and human health in many Asian and African countries. Rodents are considered to be among the major crop and property destroyers. This topic was discussed during the webinar ‘Controlling rodents – the eco friendly manner‘ last Monday. Dr. Steven Belmain (Greenwich University) talked about the impacts of rats for rural communities and how impacts can be reduced by controlling rat fertility at an early breeding stage. Dr.Bastiaan Meerburg (Wageningen University) highlighted that an Integrated Pest Management logic is required to prevent rodent damage in rural and urban areas, and that increased awareness about rodent impact can greatly decrease storage losses. Lastly, Dr.Frank van Steenbergen (MetaMeta) shared recently documented examples of plants that can be used for biological control. In India for example, the leaves of Dendrocnide sinuataare mixed with boiled rice, to act as a repellent.
Kevin Abwao (MetaMeta) is currently doing research in Kenya’s Kitui County, with farmers who are affected by rodent-induced crop damage. He is trying to find ecological ways to reduce this damage. In Kitui, rodents are reported to destroy crops in different ways, e.g. squirrels dig up and eat seedlings after producing the first leaves, porcupines destroy kale and cabbage as well as the liners of dams and water ponds. Rats and mice are notorious for eating the stored cereals in granaries. The rodent problem has made farmers to build granaries that are supported by stands, to block access to rats (see photos below). For those who do not have such granaries, cereals are stored in sacks that are placed on a simple stand. However, when not constructed properly such places are a great environment for rodents to breed. With rodents burrowing around homes, other dangerous animals like snakes are also attracted. Still, biological rodent control measures such as the introduction of owls is met with opposition, since owls are perceived as a bad omen. Hence, they cannot be accepted around the house. With the research ongoing, the search for better biological control measures continues.

Road Crossings for Water Harvesting in Seasonal Rivers
A new Practical Note has been published on the best practice use of road crossings for water harvesting in seasonal rivers. Non-vented drifts are a low-cost solution that can both function as low traffic road conduits and as water retention structures. They act like sand dams that improve the infiltration of water into the underground in arid to semi-arid areas that experience seasonal flooding.

Flood-based farming in Turkana
A team from the Kenyan Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MoWI) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) has conducted fieldwork in counties with large flood-based farming potential. Turkana is one of the counties where efforts are made to involve farmers and create a strong network. A meeting with the County’s irrigation and agriculture authorities was held to discuss the current harvesting of floodwater and how network strengthening, capacity building, research and policy support could improve this. Several field visits were made to talk with farmers and discuss their challenges and needs. With all stakeholders, from government to farmers, actively engaged the fieldwork has been a good start for creating a strong network in Turkana.

Improved field water management in the Gash
 Water distribution in large field blocks (mesgas) is being improved in the Sudanese Gash scheme. The first results indicate that the recent construction of field canals and bunds has reduced on-field water wastage enormously and floodwaters are now being channelled efficiently within the mesga. On October 7th, a meeting was held with farmer leaders from Mesga 14 East, to discuss the experiment as well as the issues that farmers still face in their fields. The farmers were able to compare the present and past situation: while floods used to be distributed irregularly in the field, now they can be managed better thanks to the new canal. Hence, even though the floods did not come as they were expected this year, due to low rainfall rates, farmers said they were able to exploit the available water better than ever before. Now, the soils still conserve water, more than two months after the land was irrigated.

PhD on productivity enhancement in Pakistan’s spate irrigated areas
Dr. Noman Latif, Principal Scientific Officer at Pakistan’s Arid Zone Research Centre, successfully completed his PhD degree this year on the ‘Development of a Risk Assessment Framework for Productivity Enhancement in Spate Irrigated Areas of Pakistan’. Dr. Latif conducted his research in Dera Ismail Khan to identify major risk factors that contribute to low crop productivity in flood-based farming. Siltation and diversion structure performance were among the factors that badly affect crop production. The research recommended the government to include risk management plans when upgrading diversion structures and to introduce on-farm water management through the training farmers to use improved water management techniques.

Rectification of the September Newsflash
Accidentally, the name of one of the PhD researchers highlighted in September’s newsletter item ‘Spate irrigation PhDs in Pakistan’ was written wrong. The correct name is not Aneela Ghani Soomro, but Anila Perwaiz Memon. For further questions about her ongoing research, Anila can be contacted at: