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Capable of being grown on sloping fields, without need for terracing or irrigation, maize is a vital crop in the mid-hills of Nepal, particularly among poorer families and disadvantaged groups. It accounts for 20 percent of calorie intake in the country, and is typically grown in small fields (average land holding in the hills is half a hectare) by families who spend 75 percent of their income on food. Harsh climate, poor infrastructure and market access, and worsening shortages of labor, are just some of the challenges they face, with crop yields also constrained by poor access to a supply of quality seed. In recent years, however, work by the Hill Maize Research Project (HMRP) is helping to address these constraints and have a positive impact on farm productivity.
Globally, about one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. In developed countries, much of that loss is the result of consumers throwing away millions of tons of edible food each year. But in the developing world, most loss occurs either in the field before a crop is harvested, during harvest and handling or afterwards in storage.
Farming communities re-shape the landscapes they depend on, with a potentially strong impact on the agro-ecosystem. Efforts to intensify cereal production must take account of the potential trade-offs, and the opportunities opened by an integrated systems approach. The ATTIC project proposes 10 principles for farm systems analysis.
By Pablo Titonell, Professor of Farming Systems, Wageningen University