Nieuws - 28 maart 2002

English summary

Out-sourcing the technical management of the Wageningen UR telephone system has led to overspending in the millions.

Accountants have figured that Wageningen UR could have saved at least three million euros by keeping the telephone system under its own management, according to an internal report. The out-sourcing of telephone management has led to an eighty percent increase in costs. The consultants called in to examine what went wrong indicate that although investments were necessary and would have led to a rise in costs, these would still have been 590,000 less per year than current costs arising from the KPN-telecom technical maintenance. According to the report the Executive Board based its decision to out-source on inadequate information.

It is a year since foot and mouth disease hit the Netherlands in 2001.

Wageningen UR was heavily involved not only with screening but also advising the government. Wb asked researchers what they learned from the outbreak, that caused such big tremors throughout society. Dr Andre Bianchi, director of the Central Institute for Animal Disease Control (CIDC), suggests that communication between databases of CIDC and the National Inspection Service for Livestock and Meat can be improved, which would make the process of declaring areas disease-free more efficient. According to Professor Ruud Huirne, chair of the Farm Management Group, researchers together with the Agricultural Economics Research Institute (LEI) are working on a new model of the costs of an outbreak, as there is now more information on the introduction and spread of the virus. An assessment of the emotional damage will also be included.

Kenyan researcher Andrew Karanja examined the effects of liberalisation policies on small-scale coffee farmers in his home country for his PhD thesis.

He analysed the production and efficiency of coffee farmers before and after the structural adjustment policies implemented in the 1990s in Kenya, and concluded that while farmers now get a better price for their coffee they have suffered from the breakdown of government services. Access to credit is limited, artificial fertilisers have become more expensive, so is less used, which has led to a decrease in production. According to Karanja there is still a role for the government, in extension, credit programmes and agricultural research, especially in Kenya where small-scale farming is still the largest sector of the economy.

If it were up to Dr Felix W?ckers of the Laboratory of Entomology, field borders would be sown with flowering plants that attract parasitic wasps, which lay their eggs in the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies.

Adjusting the flora of field borders to attract natural enemies of insect pests is already practised, but can become more efficient according to Dr W?ckers. Hungry parasitic wasps are attracted by white and yellow flowers, but these also need to have a good supply of nectar to provide energy.