Philanthropic foundation gives grant for sustainable agriculture in Africa

The Rockefeller Foundation has donated a $900,000 four-year grant for a pilot PhD training project for improving food security and natural resources management in southern and eastern Africa. The programme will also examine how to encourage African scientists trained abroad to return home, allowing their communities and countries to benefit from their training.

The new African Food Security and Natural Resources Management programme at Cornell University in the USA will focus on research into degraded soils, and on developing economically and environmentally sustainable approaches to small-scale farming in sub-Saharan Africa, which it says is the only region in the world where the number of undernourished people is increasing.

One challenge that the research will focus on is that of soil degradation, which is a very serious problem in sub-Saharan Africa, leading to erosion and low crop yields, Alice N Pell, Cornell Professor of Animal Science, explained to edie. Possible solutions to be studied include the use of green manure crops, animal manure, and alternative management techniques, with special attention being paid to the long-term impacts and viabilities of techniques on local families’ lives, said Pell.

“Understanding the dynamics of soil conservation in sub-Saharan Africa is central to understanding the dynamics of rural poverty,” said Christopher B Barrett, Cornell Associate Professor of Applied Economics and Management.

The team from Cornell University and the Rockefeller Foundation are due to start working immediately with researchers from universities in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe on a pilot project to determine whether interdisciplinary team building can improve research, education and outreach with universities in eastern and southern Africa.

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