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Why Controlling Rats on Small-Scale African Farms Is Vital for Food Security

20:00 EDT 2 Aug 2017 | Meridian Institute

In this article, Lourens Swanepoel, an associate lecturer at the University of Venda, South Africa, and Steven Belmain, a professor of ecology at the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, write that the majority of agricultural production in Africa comes from relatively small farms, most of which are less than two hectares in size. Improving food security, therefore, must consider issues that affect the productivity of smallholder farmers. Agricultural pests are one of the key factors affecting smallholder farmers; in many parts of Africa, large population outbreaks of rodents occur often and can, at times, lead to up to 100 percent crop loss. Very little attention, the authors note, is focused on vertebrate pests, such as rodents and birds. The researchers conducted a systematic review of the effects of rodent pests on smallholder farmers in Africa and the island nation of Madagascar, in an effort to better understand the issue. Overall, the team found that median crop losses attributed to rodent pests were around 15 percent. The discrepancy between estimated and reported losses, the authors said, highlighted the importance of standardizing research protocols. Swanepoel and Belmain suggest that future studies should adopt a “meta-analytic” framework, that researchers and funding organizations establish and fund long-term studies, and research should focus on empirical treatment control studies that test a management action against no management action.

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Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. The substance is ingested by an organism ...