“Urban Food Forest” and “Emergin Maize and Cassava Farmers”: FARA Technical Seminar

On May 24, 2018, Dr. Nana A. Kwapong and Dr. Bertrand F. Nero held a technical seminar series at the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) secretariat on the topics:

  1. Woody species diversity, composition and socio-economic perspectives of the urban food forest of Accra, Ghana
  2. Ghana’s emerging maize and cassava farmers: what influences their decision to transition to larger farm sizes?

Woody species diversity, composition and socio-economic perspectives of the urban food forest of Accra, Ghana

Bertrand F. Nero presenting his research on woody species diversity in the urban food forest in Accra, Ghana.

Food bearing trees make up about 30 – 55% of the tree species composition of Accra at the neighborhood level and the

refore could complement urban and rural agriculture in feeding urbanites. These food bearing trees not only have the potential to provide critical micronutrients directly, they can also double as fodder and agroforestry species for urban crop and animal farming as well as provide several ecosystem services.
This study on woody species diversity was carried out by Dr. Nero, using a mixed method approach, where 105 respondents in six neighborhoods of Accra were interviewed, and over 200 100-m2 plots were surveyed across five land use types. Dr. Nero showed that home gardens in Accra harbor the highest amount of food tree diversity and this varies with the wealth status of the neighborhoods. Furthermore, high income neighborhoods have the largest home garden sizes and the most abundant food tree species albeit not the most diverse. Residents in wealthier neighborhoods showed greater interests in cultivating food trees in the city while people with higher education had a better perspective of the urban forests cover and benefits.
The dissemination of the study results generated the following policy recommendations:

  • Deliberate policies in favor of food tree cultivation or urban food forestry as part of measures to address urban food insecurity should be a national and regional priority in Africa.
  • Policies to reduce income and educational inequality in cities are critical to sustaining greener cities ideals enshrined in the sustainable development goals and reducing urban food insecurity.

Ghana’s emerging maize and cassava farmers: what influences their decision to transition to larger farm sizes?

Dr. Nana A. Kwapong – Ghana’s emerging maize and cassava farmers discussion

There is a growing number of medium scale farmers in Ghana. These emerging farmers moving from smaller to larger farm sizes are making notable impacts on the agricultural sector, however little attention has been given to the dynamic process of their farm growth. Dr. Kwapong’s study examined the characteristics of these emerging farmers and the factors that influence their decision to transition to larger farm sizes. 232 cassava and maize farmers were interviewed in the eastern region of Ghana. The key results of the study disseminated during the seminar are:

Farmers prefer to make incremental expansion, reinvesting their profit from sales of farm produce and income from other non-farm activities.

Farm expansion is a gradual process. Farmers’ decision to expand their farm sizes is based on their experience, access to agricultural extension services, access and availability of labor services and farmer practicing mono-cropping.

The policy recommendations that ensued the discussions are:

  • In forecasting and planning support for farmers, there is a need to consider the rate of farm expansion and the kind of assistance they need.
  • There is a need for integrating farmers’ knowledge in agricultural extension systems for more effective service delivery. Additionally, emerging farmers should explore labor saving technologies like mechanization in order to reduce costs and demand for labor.
  • There is a need for intensive farmer education to shift farmers’ perspectives towards farming as a business enterprise.








The seminar attracted around 30 participants; scientists and professionals from FARA and other institutions like the University of Cape Coast, Conservation Alliance, Young Professionals for Agricultural Development, etc.

Baking with plantain flour. BiomassWeb at Science Night in Bonn.

The BiomassWeb project is taking part in the 11th Science Night of the University of Bonn, representing  the Center for Development Research, ZEF, under the theme “Try and taste bioeconomy”.

One of BiomassWeb’s activities entails developing biomass-based value chain of plantain and reducing post-harvest losses through the development of value added products for small scale farmers and processors in two regions in Ghana. This research was carried out and implemented by our local partner, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Food Research Institute (CSIR-FRI), Ghana, supported by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).

As a result of this activity, the CSIR-FRI, developed a series of recipes using plantain flour to supplement and reduce wheat flour in baked goods. Two of such recipes include plantain composite flour cookies and cupcakes. Come visit our stand at the Science Night on Friday, May 18, from 18:00 to 24:00, and have a taste of these goodies!

You can also find the recipes here in German. The English version will follow shortly.


Opportunity for publication: ‘Advances in food and non-food biomass production, processing and use in Sub-Saharan Africa: Towards a basis for a regional bioeconomy’

the BiomassWeb project and the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn are co-editing a special issue in the MDPI journal Sustainability on ‘Advances in food and non-food biomass production, processing and use in Sub-Saharan Africa: Towards a basis for a regional bioeconomy’.

The rising global demand for biomass as a source of food, feed, industrial raw materials and energy is increasing pressure on the agricultural sector. The situation is particularly severe in Sub-Saharan Africa where many countries struggle to attain food security while facing emerging alternative demands for biomass.
Therefore, it is crucial to safeguard food security and at the same time set the foundation for a prospective African bioeconomy. This will only be possible by harnessing productivity and efficiency gains throughout the entire biomass-producing, processing and trading system(s).

We are interested in manuscripts that highlight approaches to using common as well as neglected and underutilized African crop species as sources of food and non-food biomass, coupling and cascading uses of biomass, recycling of biomass and the use of biomass waste. Studies focusing on developing, modeling, and implementing land use systems, and bioeconomy strategies for Sub-Saharan Africa are also encouraged. Disciplinary as well as inter- and transdisciplinary studies are welcome.

We look forward to your contributions.


Daniel Callo-Concha, Manfred Denich, Hannah Jaenicke and Christine B. Schmitt
Guest editors

Further details:

Contact: Michael Nassl,

Julian Philipp Wald wins Best Poster Award

Wald_best_poster_award The BiomassWeb team congratulates Julian Philipp Wald for winning the Best Poster Award for his poster on Dietary assessment using the CIMI approach: A case study from three districts of the Ashanti region in Ghana at the 3rd International Conference on Global Food Security: Global Challenges, Local Solutions and Connected Pathways. Julian Philip Wald is a doctoral student working in the Work Package Nutritional Quality lead by Prof. Dr. Donatus Nohr, Biological Chemistry and Nutrition, University of Hohenheim.

The 3rd International Conference on Global Food Security took place from 3-6 December in Cape Town, South Africa.

Science-Policy Workshop

Workshop facilitators Science Policy Workshop FARA
Workshop facilitators, Science-Policy workshop, FARA, Accra.

On December 8, 2017, the BiomassWeb project held a Science-Policy workshop at the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana. The workshop was an opportunity for BiomassWeb to disseminate its findings on advances in research in agriculture and food security in Ghana and their implications.

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Launch of the first pan-African expert network on food and non-food biomass

African and German researchers launched the first pan-African expert network for food and non-food biomass in Bonn, Germany, on 12 July 2017. The network aims at ensuring that food security and environmental sustainability are not compromised in the development of new biomass uses. It will thus help to strengthen the emerging African bioeconomies. Biomass is any degradable substance that is derived from plants or animals and is thus renewable.

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BiomassWeb Young Post-Doc Program started

In July 1, 2017, the BiomassWeb project started the Young Post-Doc Program (YPDP). The objective of this program is to accompany young African scientists in gaining expertise on issues and topics in the field of biomass for a whole year.

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Innovative Management and Utilization for Bamboo Biomass in Agroforestry Systems: Dissemination Workshop

Bamboos are amongst the fastest-growing plants. Selective harvesting of bamboo culms favors growth and harvested biomass re-grows within a year. This renewability implies that the utilization of biomass enhances the productivity of bamboo. However, lack of research and data on bamboo and its uses limits its adequate utilization in Ghana and Africa; e.g. as component of agroforestry systems or as a renewable resource for energy. Therefore this research aims at surveying new uses of bamboo biomass (to generate additional income) and the integration of bamboo into agroforestry systems (to enhance resilience of food production systems and to supply additional biomass). The utilization of bamboo biomass is tested for: charcoal (for household energy). Additionally, bamboo-based agroforestry systems are tested – with regard to the productivity of food/non-food biomass and to the contribution within biomass supply systems.

Workshop Objectives

The purpose of this workshop is to bring together stakeholders in Agriculture and Forest sectors, Bioenergy Energy and Environment sector, Bamboo entrepreneurs, bamboo and forest land restoration project managers, government officials, CSO etc, to share the project experiences/results in;

  • Increased resilience and protection of crop yields: bamboo & crops or help to farmers adapt to climate change (e.g. floods or erosion);
  • Increased livestock yields through feeding bamboo leaves
  • How a bamboo agroforestry system improves soil characteristics and, thus, increases productivity of food crops.

Location: Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa-FARA, Accra Office, Ghana

Date: 22nd June, 2017

Joint FARA-ZEF BiomassWeb field visit in Ghana

”Africa is rising, the story is changing and the future of African Agriculture is getting brighter…”

BiomassWeb project team members in Ghana flanked by ZEF representative, Dr. Christine Schmitt (3rd from the right).
BiomassWeb project team members in Ghana flanked by ZEF representative, Dr. Christine Schmitt (3rd from the right).

These were the words of Dr. Wole Fatunbi, Lead Specialist Innovation Systems and Partnerships at the opening session of the BiomassWeb partners meeting at the Secretariat of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana on 30th November 2016. The meeting was held in the framework of a joint field visit by PD Dr. Christine Schmitt, Senior Scientist and Project Coordinator BiomassWeb, from the Center for Development Research (ZEF) University of Bonn, Germany, and Mr. Dady Demby, Ag. Africa BiomassWeb project coordinator, FARA.

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Integrating stakeholders in research process: Start of Demand-Driven Research and Development Program

Field trial of the project "Exploring the potential of bamboo leave fodder for livestock production in Ghana".
Field trial of the project “Exploring the potential of bamboo leave fodder for livestock production in Ghana”.

In October 2016, the BiomassWeb project launched six demand-driven research and development (DDRD) projects in Ghana, Nigeria and Ethiopia. The projects will run for a period of six months and enable local stakeholders to investigate improvements in the value webs of cassava, bamboo, maize, plantain, and banana.
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BiomassWeb and ESSZert Paper wins Elsevier Atlas Award

Outcome of cooperation of BiomassWeb with ESSZert on certification of bioenergy published in award-winning Elsevier article on “As Bioenergy Booms, Certification Schemes Must Consider Food Security”

n_img_1706Each month, Atlas’s advisory board selects a research article for the Atlas Award, based on suggestions from the publishers of Elsevier’s 1,800 journals. The awarded article is one of 12 articles selected out of 35,000.

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Positive mid-term evaluation: Start of phase two

After successfully passing the mid-term evaluation, BiomassWeb continues for a second phase of two years, starting in July 2016. The team members of BiomassWeb seized the opportunity to assess research results and further prioritize the research activities for the next two years of BiomassWeb.

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Technological and Institutional Innovations for Marginalized Smallholders in Agricultural Development

Members of BiomassWeb contributed two book chapters to the newly published book “Technological and Institutional Innovation for Marginalized Smallholders in Agricultural Development. Springer International Publishing” by Franz W. Gatzweiler, and Joachim von Braun, 2016.

Download book here

Detlef Virchow, Tina  Beuchelt, Arnim Kuhn, and Manfred Denich contributed a book chapter on “Biomass-Based Value Webs: A Novel Perspective for Emerging Bioeconomies in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

Tina Beuchelt contributed a book chapter on “Gender, Social Equity and Innovations in Smallholder Farming Systems: Pitfalls and Pathways”.
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BiomassWeb visits IITA in Nigeria

img_4098In course of the BiomassWeb Science Meeting in Nigeria on February 23-26, 2016, members of BiomassWeb took part in an excursion to IITA, Nigeria, to visit important research sites, such as the IITA Cassava Processing Facility or the Business Incubation Platform (BIP).

IITA now published the visit in its Bulletin, which you can download here

Workshop on ‘Qualitative Modeling’ with iMODELER in Nigeria

A two-day workshop on ‘Qualitative Modeling’ was held at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria from February 29, 2016 to March 01, 2016.

Members of BiomassWeb and the workpackage 3.3 ‘Systems Modeling’ presented the development of descriptive and explorative models of biomass-based value webs of different crops with the software iMODELER, developed by CONSIDEO.

iMODELER develops generalized models of biomass chains, such as cassava, maize or plantain, while looking for synergies between the crops as well as synergies with other crop with explorative qualitative cause and effect modeling.

The workshop had the goal to find potential measures for explorative modeling and reflect on how to initiate change as well as identify the obstacles on the way to learn the systemic methodology of Explorative Qualitative Modeling.

Group picture iModeler Ibadan 2016








Participants of the workshop on ‘Qualitative Modeling’ in Nigeria

Innovative macropropagation techniques of plantain (Musa AAB), applicable to small scale farmers

Innovative macropropagation techniques of plantain (Musa AAB), applicable to small scale farmers

John Opata, Paul Melichar, Martin Hegele, Beloved Mensah Dzomeku, Jens Wünsche

John Opata gave an oral presentation on “Innovative macropropagation techniques of plantain (Musa AAB), applicable to small scale farmer”. The presentation was held at the ELLS Scientific Student Conference  in Prag, Czech Republic on November 13 – 14, 2015 Read more

Call for Proposals to implement Demand-Driven Research and Development (DDRD) Activities


The “BiomassWeb”, that is, Improving food security in Africa through increased system productivity of biomass-based value webs, is a research project designed to enhance food security in Africa. The project seeks to boost effective and efficient production, processing and trading as well as enhance the utilization of food and non-food biomass through increased system integration of associated biomass value webs. Read more

Pride Ebile wins Elevator Pitch at PLANT 2030

BiomassWeb student Pride Ebile won this year’s elevator pitch at the BMBF status seminar PLANT 2030 with his presentation on “Governance and Institutional Challenges in Biomass-based Value Webs: The case of cassava in Nigeria”. Out of 30 presentations Pride was able to convince the audience as well as the jury. He is a Junior Researcher in WP 6.1 “Governance” at the University of Hohenheim.
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Plant Phenotyping at JPPC: Banana (musa spp)

Eric Opokuh Mensah from Kumasi, Ghana, joined the Research Center Jülich for a research internship in the BiomassWeb project and training in plant phenotyping. Watch this video, produced by the Research Center Jülich, to learn more about plant phenotyping at JPPC: Banana (musa spp). Read more

GFFA-Expert Panel Discussion: Primacy of food security in bio-economies – an illusory precondition?

The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) is an international conference that focuses on central questions concerning the future of the global agri-food industry. It is held during the International Green Week (IGW). GFFA is organized by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in cooperation with the Senate of Berlin, Messe Berlin GmbH and GFFA Berlin e.V. Read more

PLANT 2030 Status Seminar 2015

BiomassWeb will participate in the BMBF PLANT 2030 Status Seminar in Potsdam from March 4 to 6, 2015. Plant 2030 pools all research activities in the field of applied plant research which are funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).

The agenda will include presentations on the progress made in running Plant Biotechnology, PLANT KBBE, DPPN, GlobE, IPAS and related projects.


2nd International Congress Hidden Hunger

Hidden Hunger, Childhood Development and Long-Term Prospects for Society and Economy. March 3-6, 2015 / Stuttgart, Germany

The 2nd International Congress Hidden Hunger will take place in Stuttgart, Germany, March 3-6, 2015. Meet scientists and experts from around the world and help in creating awareness of the critical worldwide problem of hidden hunger during the first 1,000 days of human life and its consequences for society and economy! Read more