Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Friday, February 24, 2017

The International Research Consortium on Animal Health

27 January 2016. Brussels. Launch of the  Scientific Secretariat for the International Research Consortium (IRC) on Animal Health, which Horizon 2020 is funding for five years.

The priority topics identified for initial collaboration include: Immunology/vaccinology (tools and technologies); Diagnostics (tools and technologies); Innovative anti-infective approaches, including alternatives to anti-microbial agents; Influenza; Bovine Tuberculosis; Foot and Mouth Disease; Brucellosis; African Swine Fever; Emerging issues; Vector-borne diseases; Coronaviruses; One Health (including food-borne pathogens and AMR); Mastitis; Animal genetics/genomics for animal health; Foresight; Epidemiology; Helminths; Rabies; Respiratory Diseases of Pigs.

The IRC builds on the success of the EU-funded STAR-IDAZ Project (Global Strategic Alliances for the Coordination of Research on the Major Infectious Diseases of Animals and Zoonoses), an exciting initiative to coordinate animal health research globally. The IRC was launched on 27 January 2016 on the occasion of a large conference on agricultural research in Brussels. The Secretariat aims to deliver measurable advances in the control of animal diseases through the alignment of both public and privately funded animal health research around the world.

The Secretariat will be run by a partnership of organizations including

  • Defra (UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), 
  • World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), 
  • CAB International, 
  • BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), 
  • and IFAH-Europe (International Federation of Animal Health – Europe). 
The IRC will focus on particular diseases such as foot and mouth disease and brucellosis, or aspects related to animal health and welfare such as antimicrobial resistance. The Scientific Secretariat, hosted at OIE Headquarters in Paris, will provide literature reviews and gap analyses to thematic working groups, and support the Scientific Committee and Executive Committee logistically. It will facilitate information exchange within the different partners of the consortium. The Secretariat will also play an important role in advocacy for the consortium and link with new members.

STAR-IDAZ IRC includes research funders and programme owners from Europe, Asia, Australasia, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East as well as international organisations and the representation of veterinary pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies. Together, they have committed a total budget in the region of EUR 2 billion to invest over a five-year period to 2021. Nineteen organisations from fourteen countries have signed so far (latest one being Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and the consortium is likely to enlarge in the coming weeks and months. These partners have agreed to coordinate their research programmes to address agreed research needs, share results and together seek for new and improved animal health strategies for at least 30 priority diseases, infections or issues. These include candidate vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and other animal health products, procedures and/or key scientific information and tools to support risk analysis and disease control.

The first meeting of the IRC Executive Committee and Scientific Committee was held at the International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya on 31 January – 1 February.

20 - 24 February 2017. Swakopmund, Namibia. 22nd Conference of the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) Regional Commission for Africa.

The OIE is the inter-governmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide. It is recognised as a reference organisation by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and in 2016 had 180 member countries, including Namibia.

Fifty-four representatives from member countries such as Zimbabwe, Togo, Cameroon and Uganda during the five-day conference discussed ways to improve animal health.

Extract of the programme:
  • Climate change and emerging vector-borne diseases: the example of Rift Valley fever in West Africa and Madagascar (Dr Alexandre Caron, CIRAD)
  • Pastoralism: opportunities for livestock and challenges for Veterinary Services (Dr Oumar Alfaroukh Idriss, OIE Regional Representation for Africa)
  • The OIE Strategy on Antimicrobial Resistance: Contribution of Africa (Dr Unesu Ushewokunze Obatolu, OIE Delegate of Zimbabwe) 
  • Unfolding the Global Strategy for the Control and Eradication of peste des petits ruminants (PPR) in Africa (Dr Abdenacer Bakkouri, Moroccan expert)

Related: The Strengthening Veterinary Services in Developing Countries (SVSDC) Project (2015 – 2018).
  • This is a 3-year project funded by the European Union, through the European Parliament and the European Commission, aimed at building better African Veterinary Services that deliver effective governance, health safety, food security and food safety for their citizens. 
  • It specifically addresses the compliance of African Veterinary Services with the standards on the quality of Veterinary Services of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). These international standards and guidelines constitute the basis for independent external country evaluations of the quality of Veterinary Services and Animal Health Systems and have been democratically adopted by all OIE Members. 
A specific methodology has been developed and published as the “OIE Tool for the Evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services” (the OIE PVS Tool) and is key to this Project as it enables national Veterinary Services to establish their current level of performance, identify gaps and weaknesses in their compliance with the international standards of the OIE, and establish priorities. The Project is formed of two components. 
  • The first component focuses on strengthening national Veterinary Services in Africa, 
  • and the second component is centred on rabies control and elimination in Kenya and northern Africa

Field visit: Towards an efficient soybean food chain in Benin (ProSeSS)

19- 24 February 2017. Benin. The Marketing and Consumer Behaviour Group of Wageningen University and Research (WUR) visited the (Dutch funded) Applied Research Fund project Towards an efficient soybean food chain in Benin (ProSeSS) (October 2015 – September 2018).

The domain of the Marketing and Consumer Behaviour Group’s research and education program is the food, agribusiness, and institutions interested in food and agriculture.

This domain provides excellent opportunities to contribute to the knowledge in the field of marketing and consumer behaviour.
Aim of the project: Soy farmers hardly have access to quality seeds and consequently are not capable to deliver to traders and processors distinguished and well identified varieties of soybean for specific uses. Therefore, within three years, practitioners and researchers intend to develop a strategic plan for certified soy need production and an on-farm and on-market identification guideline for soybean varieties.

Objective: It is expected that nine viable soy seed production enterprises will be installed.

Members research group

Will Africa Feed China?

Deborah Brautigam
Oxford University Press, 2015, 222 pages
Is China building a new empire in rural Africa? Over the past decade, China's meteoric rise on the continent has raised a drumbeat of alarm. China has 9 percent of the world's arable land, 6 percent of its water, and over 20 percent of its people. Africa's savannahs and river basins host the planet's largest expanses of underutilized land and water. Few topics are as controversial and emotionally charged as the belief that the Chinese government is aggressively buying up huge tracts of prime African land to grow food to ship back to China.

Deborah Brautigam is Professor and Director of the International Development Program at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC and the author of The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa.

Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Who Will Feed China?
  • Long March: History of Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Africa
  • The Mountains are High and the Emperor is Far Away
  • Zombie Investments
  • Green Shoots
  • The Future

Brautigam’s book seeks to overturn several of what she cleverly calls “rural legends” — urban myths for farmers.
  1. One is that the Chinese have acquired large tracts of land in Africa, something she finds categorically false. According to her, for example, ZTE’s supposed 3m hectares turned out to be a tiny 200 hectares. As so often, the company made grandiose claims that bore no relation to African realities. “It illustrates the sometimes surprisingly unrealistic scale of ambition of entrepreneurial Chinese with little or no experience in Africa,” she writes, arguing that journalists and academics have too often taken hearsay as fact. 
  2. The second myth is that the push into Africa is state-driven. There is, she says, “not an organised attempt by the Chinese government to acquire land”. That will strike some as controversial. The FT itself wrote in 2008 about a Chinese Ministry of Agriculture proposal to boost Chinese food security by securing large overseas farms, including in Africa. Brautigam takes issue with the article, and others like it, which she links to a third myth: that China intends to exports large numbers of Chinese displaced farmers abroad. “As of 2015,” she writes, “there is no evidence that anything like this is happening.” 
  3.  Finally, she argues, there is no truth to the idea that Africa is being used to export food to China. If only it could, she suggests. In general, costs are too high and yields too low to make such a proposition feasible. When she asks a Chinese manager of the 630-hectare China-Zambia Friendship Farm if he exports wheat, corn and soybeans to China, he points to the fact that Zambia is landlocked and its transport costs high. “If you grow food in Zambia to send to China, you will lose money,” he says. “Food in China is very cheap compared to here.” 

Science Day 2017 at BIOFACH

15 -18 February 2017. Nuremberg. Biofach 2017.  
Organic food and farming systems have great potential to meet global challenges – such as population growth, climate change, environmental pollution and deterioration of natural resources – while being economically attractive to farmers. However, organic food and farming Systems remain a niche category with less than one percent of the global farmland certified, and only a small share of
the global population consuming organic produce. 

Sourcing from Central and Eastern Europe - risks and benefits
15 February. This session presented and discussesed the latest developments, trends and the potentials of the Organic Sector within the CEE. General and in-depth information is shared at the level of specific countries - Hungary, the Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic.
  • Prof. Dr. Urs Niggli, Director, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Switzerland
  • Dr. Dóra Drexler, Ungarisches Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau (ÖMKI), Hungary
  • Dr. Toralf Richter, Berater Naturkostfachhandel, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Switzerland
  • Magdalena Lacko-Bartosova, Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra, Slowakia
  • Jan Gallas, Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republik
17 February. Research institutes and scientists in low- and middle-income countries working on novel knowledge and techniques of organic systems face challenges. The ability of organic agriculture to address international development is not being given the access needed to the funding, facilities, and other resources to live up to its full potential as a solution to rural development. Furthermore, within OFFS there is a widening economic disparity between smallholder/family farms and industrialised production that threatens to undermine that potential.

Financing Organic Agriculture in Africa: Mapping the Issues, 10 pages
"Research grants are perceived as one the least available 
funding instruments to support OA development."

17 February 2017. Nuremberg, Germany. Building on the vision and strategic action plan of TIPI
(the Technology Innovation Platform of IFOAM – Organics International), a workshop identified the research gaps in organic food and farming systems in the context of international cooperation. The Science Day was organized by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL in collaboration with IFOAM EU.
  • Hans-Jörg Lutzeyer, European Commission, DG Research & Innovation
  • Annette Schneegans, European Commission, DG Agriculture and Rural Development
Building on the vision and strategic action plan of TIPI (the Technology Innovation Platform of IFOAM – Organics International), the science day identified the research gaps in organic food and farming Systems in the context of international cooperation, which will contribute to the development of a strategic research agenda for organic food and farming systems.
  • Which thematic fields should be prioritized in different regions (continents) to collect evidence about the benefits and needs for improvement of organic food and farming Systems (100 questions to be addressed by novel organic food and farming systems)?
  • Who should set these research priorities, and how (i.e., how much should research priorities and innovations be farmer-, policy-, market- or funder-driven)?
  • How can the organic community and its constituents effectively advocate for organic food and farming Systems research?
15 February 2017. Launch of the 2017 edition of
"The World of Organic Agriculture"
Statistics and Emerging Trends 2017.
Helga Willer and Julia Lernoud (Eds.)
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Frick and IFOAM – Organics International, Bonn

The study (336 pages) contains reports, authored by experts, on the organic sector and emerging trends in all regions and selected countries. The statistics are supported with graphs and tables. In addition, background information on issues such as standards and legislation is provided. New additions to this edition are an article on organic cotton from the Textile Exchange and a chapter reviewing the organic and Fairtrade markets.

Extract: Latest Developments in Organic agriculture in Africa (Jordan Gama) (pages 161-174)
  • The African Organic Network (AfrONet) 
  • Strategic Plan (2015-2025) for the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative (EOAI) for Africa 
  • New UNCTAD study “Financing Organic Agriculture in Africa: Mapping the Issues” 
  • Outlook 
The African organic network
AFRONET has been endorsed to be the continental alliance of Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) stakeholders in Africa. The meeting that endorsed was held on 1st May 2012 and attended by 42 partners across Africa. Represented by NOAM, PELUMs, PROPAC, IFOAM and Associations/Institutions from Africa and partners.

In 2008 national organic agriculture movements (NOAMs) in Eastern and Southern Africa met in Nairobi where the idea for an African Organic Agriculture Network imaged and resolution to work towards its being a reality was passed. This resolution was shared with other like-minded actors in West Africa during the Nigerian Organic Summit 2008 and it was approved at the 1st African Organic Conference in Kampala in 2009.

Further discussion was held at Biofach 2010 and the IFOAM/UNEP conference in Nairobi, 2011. Need for strategic Alliance of EOA actors in Africa are felt as a network for Organic Agriculture Research in Africa was launched during the organic conference in Kampala.

The Cotton made in Africa initiative has set itself the goal since 2005 to sustainably improve the living conditions of cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • African smallholders learn about efficient and environmentally friendly cultivation methods through agricultural training provided by our experts. 
  • At the same time, an international alliance of textile companies is established which purchase the Cotton made in Africa raw material and pay a licensing fee to use the seal. 
  • The proceeds from licensing fees, in following with the workings of a social business, are reinvested in the project regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Managing aflatoxins in groundnuts during drying and storage

Certain moulds grow on groundnut, maize and other foods. These moulds produce a poison called aflatoxin. To have healthy groundnuts it is important to care for the groundnut during its whole growth, but especially during drying and storage.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Donor agencies and multi-stakeholder partnerships

Karaki, K., Medinilla, A. 2016. Donor agencies and multi-stakeholder partnerships: Harnessing interests or herding cats? (Discussion Paper 204). Maastricht: ECDPM.

Promoting and supporting partnerships is a complex and iterative process, requiring considerable resources, knowledge, and time.

This paper studies the roles of donors in a selection of partnership related instruments, with a view to better understanding their challenges and opportunities, constraints and incentives. 

It shows that there is a gap between donor agencies’ policy objectives and their current practice, which in formal terms is overly passive in terms of funding mechanisms and administration systems towards supporting partnerships. This diminishes the benefits that might be gained from the large palette of resources and capabilities of donor agencies. That said, informally donor agencies go further than their roles stricto sensus, implying a gap between policy and practice.

Based on these insights, some reflections, implications, and recommendations are presented below for policy makers and donor agencies aiming at boosting the effectiveness of their support to partnerships.

Key messages:
  1. Promoting and supporting partnerships is a complex and iterative process, requiring considerable resources, knowledge, and time. A deeper analysis and understanding of the role of donor agencies in the partnership process is thus required to foster effective partnerships.
  2. This paper studies the roles of donors in a selection of partnership related instruments. It shows that there is a gap between donor agencies’ policy objectives and their current practice, which needs to be filled to realise the full potential of partnerships.
  3. Overall, donor agencies tend to limit themselves to funding partnerships, often through competitive procedures, adopting a reactive attitude to supporting partnerships. More could be done in terms of coordination between their instruments and donor agencies to maximise the effectiveness of their interventions.
  4. Therefore donor agencies can contribute more significantly, by using their large palette of resources, including political connections, networks, expertise and knowledge. This depends in turn on the design of their instruments, their level of understanding of the operating context, and degree of involvement and flexibility in the partnership.
Some extracts:
Partnerships can help (better) link commercially, market-driven investment projects and private sector innovation and know-how, with sustainable, inclusive and equitable outcomes. (page 11).  In the wider context of private sector promotion and its engagement for development, where donor agencies aim to facilitate business opportunities for (usually domestic) businesses among other (development) objectives, multi-stakeholder partnerships involving donors, domestic business and international/local CSOs or companies are increasingly important.  (page 27)

Many donor agencies already dispose of a wide range of funding mechanisms that can be activated as part of a strategic approach to partnerships. (page 30) [But] Some donor agencies are reluctant to directly support companies, in particular big business or companies operating in some sectors such as oil and mining, by fear of potential reputational damage or being perceived as using development money to subsidise multinational companies. That is why working through CSOs, which then partner with the private sector, is at times perceived by some donor agencies as a more relevant approach - as long as CSOs are equipped to work with the private sector, i.e. not too slow and bureaucratic. (page 22)

Deeper analysis and understanding of the role of donor agencies in the partnership process has never  seen more pressing if they are to succeed and contribute to sustainably improving livelihoods.
 (page 10) (...) While most donor representatives learnt how to support partnership on the job, very few of their agencies invested resources and time to build (formally) their internal expertise and capacities on partnerships. (page 20)

Seed funding - i.e. funding the first stage of a partnership’s development - is an important incentive that facilitates the start of multi-stakeholder partnerships, by lowering the transaction costs perceived by cross-sectoral stakeholders (page 19) The approval and funding of partnerships from donor agencies generate more trust, credibility and reputation than other initiatives. This in turn can provide the partnerships with further business opportunities and legitimacy. (page 21)

While a logframe approach to monitoring and evaluation may be relevant for project-based partnerships, it may be less relevant for complex partnerships, which need a more sophisticated, adaptive approach based on a set of relevant performance indicators. (page 8) There is an urgent need to adapt M&E architectures to match these new approaches and to create/build a system that is suited to partnerships, in a way that reflects their complexity and iterative and non-linear nature.(page 22) This is especially the case for developmental impacts which can sometimes be hard to assess based on quantitative data, and/or hard to attribute - did donors’ funding contribute to job creation, or would have it happened anyway otherwise? (page 23) It requires a reflection upfront of  what type of information can be useful to collect, how to best frame a change process, and how to use this and build in learning moments - be it formally or informally - along the way. (page 31)

When working on long-term change, for example transforming a community’s livelihood or adapting a global value chain, M&E should seek to register contribution rather than attribution of a linear causal link between partnership actions and achieving their objectives.(page 31) 

If treated as a reporting tool rather than a strategic reflexion, a Theory of Change (ToC) approach can have more disadvantages than benefits, and over-formalising the process tends to defeat its own purpose, which then becomes an issue for practitioners and partnerships. donors must find a trade-off between the political pressure for a results-based management approach (which does not respond to the dynamic and changing nature of partnerships), and the reality on the ground (many and diverse stakeholders), which is unpredictable and requires donors some flexibility. This trade-off is translated differently according to donor agencies(page 23) 

European Development Days 2016, Session on “Strengthening multi-stakeholder partnerships to achieve the SustainableDevelopment Goals” with Petra Kuenkel (Collective Leadership Institute); Dave Prescott (The Partnering Initiative); Mike Wisheart (World Vision); Adriaan Heinsbroek (ING Bank Belgium). 

CAAST-Net Plus Workshop on Horizon 2020 and Erasmus Plus in Mauritius

6-7 February 2017. Port Louis, Mauritius. Around 40 participants attended the CAAST-Net Plus Horizon 2020 and Erasmus Plus workshopPresentations and discussions were led by Mrs Nienke Buisman, the European Commission's policy officer for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) relations in Africa, and CAAST-Net Plus partner representatives – Mr Masahudu Fuseini (Science and Technology Policy Research Institute at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ghana), and Mr George Baroutas (PRAXI Help-Forward Network, Greece).

The discussions were consistent with Mauritius's research priority areas such as biotechnology,
oceans, ICTs, climate and renewable energy, nanotechnology, secure societies and innovation powered by small- and medium-sized enterprises. Presentations focused on the objectives of CAAST-Net Plus, instruments and rules of participation in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus Plus, success stories from Mauritius’s participation in EU research programmes, and training on Horizon 2020 proposal writing and financial management.

The event was co-organised by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation and CAAST-Net Plus. The targeted stakeholder groups ranged from academia, research institutions, private sector and government departments.

Potato farmers in Tanzania are urged to use Mechanization

15 February 2017. In a bid to increase yields of Irish potatoes production in Tanzania, Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzanians (SAGCOT) has introduced a new system where its growers are encouraged to use modern tilling tractors in its pilot study areas.

The SAGCOT Centre Limited Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Geoffrey Kirenga, told stakeholders attending a workshop organised to increase yields of the crop by hiring the tractors capable of tilling the ground in such a way that the crop’s seeds get enough nutrients in the ground.
“On our part we are encouraging the growers to till, plant and manure their plots after using the tractors to plough. The next stage will be training them on how to use the tractors also in harvesting. Using the tractors will be cheap and should replace the traditional hoes which render them tired at the end of the day as well as tilling only a small piece of land. SAGCOT is a strategic stakeholder with 700m/- in custody being run by Tanzania and a Dutch potato seed multiple project that seeks to introduce 14 varieties of the crop in the country." Geoffrey Kirenga, Chief Executive Officer, SAGCOT Centre Limited
The Dutch government representative, Mr Jos van Meggelen, commenting at the seminar, said the training was timely and will improve the crop yields in the areas. The Netherlands intends to repeat their successful intervention as experienced in Kenya where they managed to assist farmers in the neighbouring country to boost their potato harvests for more than five times.

Tanzania signs agreement with The Netherlands to boost Potato Production
Potato growers in Tanzania stand to benefit from a project between Netherlands and Tanzania, targeting to help farmers in the country boost the tubers production as well as being provided with potential market outlets abroad. This 388,000 Euro project is due to end in 2019.

The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) is an agricultural partnership designed to improve agricultural productivity, food security and livelihoods in Tanzania. It was initiated at the World Economic Forum Africa summit in May 2010. SAGCOT has the potential to make a serious and significant impact by bringing together government, business, donor partners and the farming community to pool resources and work together towards a common goal. It is a comprehensive and inclusive initiative. By addressing the entire agricultural value chain, the SAGCOT approach goes beyond raising agricultural productivity and ensure the necessary infrastructure, policy environment and access to knowledge to create an efficient, well-functioning agricultural value chain.

AGROECOLOGY: the bold future of farming in Africa

16 February 2017. The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) launched a publication highlighting the huge potential of agroecology to feed Africa, fix broken food systems and repair damaged landscapes, providing abundant healthy and nutritious food sustainably while increasing incomes and improving climate resilience.

The 88 page illustrated book showcases 15 case studies, showing how agroecology benefits Africa in terms of food and nutrition, livelihoods, restoration of biodiversity, knowledge and innovation, and climate change resilience.
“If anyone still entertained doubts as to the benefits of agroecology and as to whether it can meet the challenges of this century, this collection of essays provides a compelling answer.” Olivier De Schutter, Co-Chair of IPES-Food and Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Leading experts in their fields explain how agroecology reforms food systems to promote better nutrition and health, especially among poor communities; how it diversifies livelihoods and defends the dignity of women farmers; how it enables and empowers us to revive our soils and lands, cultivate relevant crops, advance food sovereignty, and build resilient ecosystems and communities; and how such innovative production systems, based on indigenous knowledge, meet the nutritional, cultural and spiritual needs of Africa’s people.

The publication also answers the question: What is Agroecology? and demonstrates clearly how agroecology contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It draws lessons and conclusions from the case studies and sets out a way forward to make the bold transition to sustainable, effective and equitable food systems.
“There could not have been a more opportune time to publish Agroecology: The Bold Future of Farming in Africa.” Hans R Herren, World Food Prize (1995) and Right Livelihood (2013) Laureate 
Agroecology is taking off worldwide. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has recently opened an online portal dedicated to agroecology, along with an online discussion forum on Sustainable Farming through agroecology.“There is an avalanche of evidence coming from almost everywhere in the world that agroecology works,” agrees Dr. Million Belay, Coordinator of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA).

The book highlights experiences ranging from the orange-fleshed sweet potato that brings health and livelihood in Ghana, to reviving the climate resilient Ankole longhorn cattle in Uganda, and reclaiming life in fragile ecosystems through innovative solutions in Burkina Faso. With the concept of food sovereignty at its core, the book demonstrates that agroecology creates just food systems, cuts greenhouse gases and environmental degradation and provides a sustainable future for us all.

AFSA’s Agroecology Working Group and Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement worked together to produce the book. 
“What is special about this project is that it brings together the experiences and voices of small-scale producers who actually feed Africa, for all the world to see, hear, and learn from,” Mrs. Mariann Bassey Orovwuje, Chairperson of AFSA.
The book calls for no less than a complete transformation of our agricultural and food systems. The book, Agroecology: the bold future of farming in Africa, is available as a free download

7 February 2017. Study shows tree fruit could help reduce poverty African rural areas
Trees may be easy to spot on the plains of Africa, but they often are overlooked as a source of income for farmers. A University of Illinois study shows trees on farms may help reduce rural poverty and maintain biodiversity.
Daniel Miller, University of Illinois
researcher in the College of Agricultural,
Consumer and Environmental Science
“Trees on farms in Africa often fall through the cracks — they’re not forests and they’re not agriculture,”“In our study, we found about one third of all rural farmers across five study countries have and grow trees on their farms. Among those farmers, trees on farms contribute 17 percent to their annual household income, so they’re very important for generating economic benefits for households.” Daniel Miller, University of Illinois, who studies environmental politics and policy. 
Miller’s study used satellite images showing forest cover and nationally representative household-level data gathered from in-person interviews in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

GhanaVeg graduates 20 Vegetable trainers

21 February 2017. Accra, Ghana. GhanaVeg has certified 20 Agronomists through the Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands, after they completed the Agronomy Training of Trainers course. The Agronomy training has been designed to improve farmer productivity and post-harvest management.

The one-year in-depth training course focused on six key areas including:
  • seedling production, 
  • crop protection, 
  • spray techniques, 
  • irrigation and fertilization, 
  • production planning 
  • and adult learning. 
Mr Ron Strikker, the Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, presenting certificates to the trainees at the graduation ceremony, during the 16th GhanaVeg Business Platform Meeting in Accra, highlighted the role of the private sector in achieving growth.

The Business Platform Meeting was on the theme: “Agronomy and Finance for Sustainable Vegetable Businesses”. He said this was because most agronomists were employed by Ghanaian input supply, wholesale or export companies; they could be the driver for change in the vegetable sector.

He also emphasized that a healthy diet starts with fruits and vegetables and in the coming years Ghana’s vegetables sector would grow faster than the Ghanaian economy, then the population would understand the nutrition and health benefit.
“Through following the steps of the GhanaVeg Course farmers can easily double their vegetable production, while using the same amount of land. It’s all about getting the basics right Mr Herman de Putter, the Senior Agronomy Trainer, Wageningen University and Research
Financial and other Institutions including Barclays Bank, Exim Bank, Fidelity Bank, University of Ghana, Wageningen University and Research and Green OK made presentations on financing the vegetable value chain, innovative horticultural sector financing, agribusiness value chain financing.

Other presentation related to reduced incidence of harmful pest in vegetable exports, pesticide selection tool and organic fertilizer trials in vegetable. The course assisted the agronomists to train at least 2,000 farmers in their localities; increasing their yields and income.

Already a second batch of Trainers are being trained at the moment; with 30 of them currently enrolled in the 2017 Programme. Together with the first batch they are working with 5.000 farmers. For the coming years a further expansion is envisaged towards 200 vegetable agronomy trainers that are working with at least 15.000 farmers.
Published on 15 Feb 2017: Experiment with vegetables. A good start is with the 'rainbow formula'.


The Adentan Municipal Assembly has launched a 820,000 Euro mushroom project dubbed, ‘Promush Project’ to create 5,500jobs for the youth and persons with disabilities. It is also expected to improve and sustain income of mushroom farmers in the community.

The three-year project is funded by the European Union (EU) with an amount of 660,000 Euros while the assembly, Centre for Local Governance Advocacy(CLGA) and Local Government Network (LOGNet), contributed a total of 160,000 Euros.

The project would use community sensitisation programmes and to orient the crop and animal farmers, youth and the general public to see mushroom farming as a viable business venture. Potential farmers will be encouraged to adopt mushroom farming as a main activity to contribute to creating employment. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

After Brexit - Securing ACP Economic Interests

17 February 2017. King’s College London. African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are expected to be among those most affected by Brexit since their trading relations with the UK for the last 40 years have largely been within the EU’s regulatory and institutional framework.

A research team from the Ramphal Institute examined Brexit’s implications for that group of countries, providing information and guidance that can help avoid or minimise negative consequences as well as identifying and capitalising on opportunities that might arise or be created.

The report was launched on 17 February. Participants took part in a discussion on the multi-tiered approach ACP countries will need to take to make sure that their short, medium and longer-term trade needs are not lost in the Brexit process.

This conference starts after 9 minutes

Programme details:
  • Programme Chair: H.E. Roy Mickey Joy, Permanent Representative of Vanuatu to the European Union, and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
  • Call to order – Edwin Laurent, Director The Ramphal Institute
  • Welcome to King’s College London – Professor Funmi Olonisakin, Director, Africa Leadership Centre
  • His Excellency Dr Hailemichael Aberra Afework, Ambassador of Ethiopia, representing the President of the ACP Council of Ministers
  • Professor Kusha Haraksingh, Chairman, CARICOM Competition Commission
  • Dr Lorand Bartels, Specialist Advisor to the House of Commons Select Committee on International Trade
  • Feature Address: The Secretary General of the ACP, His Excellency Dr Patrick Gomes
  • Presentation to the ACP Secretary General of the After Brexit study by Patsy Robertson, Chair, The Ramphal Institute
  • Discussion
  • The Way Forward: Dr Paul Goodison, Senior Adviser The Ramphal Institute
Report details:
Authors: Edwin Laurent, SLC, CMG, OBE: Director of the Ramphal Institute
Lorand Bartels, PhD, Reader in International Law in the Faculty of Law and a Fellow of Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge
Paul Goodison, PhD, GDC Partners, Belgium
Paula Hippolyte, Consultant, ITID Consulting
Sindra Sharma, PhD, Lead Researcher, Ramphal Institute
Copies of the report Securing ACP Economic Interests Post-Brexit are available from

Monday, February 20, 2017

EU Project aims to bring 'Internet of Things' to agriculture

16 February 2017. The Internet of Food and Farm 2020 (IoF2020) project investigates and fosters a large-scale implementation of Internet of Things (IoT) in the European farming and food sector. With a €30 million budget co-funded by the European Union, the project has the potential to bring a paradigm shift in this domain, by drastically improving productivity and sustainability.

It will demonstrate the added value of smart webs of connected objects, that are context-sensitive and can be identified, sensed and controlled remotely in the agri-food sector. 
  • The project has started on January 1st 2017 and will run for four years. 
  • It aims to include all the actors of the food chain, from farmers, food industry workers, technology providers and research institutes.
  • Internet of Things is the internet working of physical devices that have network connectivity enabling to collect and exchange data between them. 
  • Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), farmers can check their crop yield and animal health on their smartphone, while consumers can have information about the origin of their crops.
Multistakeholder approach and partnersThe project is the first large-scale project of its kind and will run for four years. The coordination is led by Wageningen University comprising 73 partners and aims to strenghten EU's position in the Internet of Things sector. The decision-making will be done by an implementation board of representatives from key user organizations.

IoF2020 involves the actors from the overall food chain, from the farmers, cooperatives, equipment suppliers, food processing companies, logistics providers to consumer organizations and includes ICT solution providers. In the approach, the end-users are the heart of IoF2020’s.

They will participate in assessing and improving the technologies used in the trials, ensuring the solutions developed meet the requirements and the expectations of the sector for the challenge to come. -Schuttelaar & Partners:2017. Thus IoF2020 will pave the way for data-driven farming, autonomous operations, virtual food chains and personalized nutrition for European citizens.

Watching farmer training videos on smart phones

19th February 2017. One of the most common questions about farmer training videos is how farmers will watch them if they don’t have electricity to run a projector, or own a laptop. As mobile communications improve, however, new ways are emerging that are making it easier for farmers to download, view and share videos.

Farmers no longer need expensive hardware (such as a computer or TV and DVD player) to watch videos.

Last year, Gérard Zoundji (from the University of Abomey-Calavi) sent me photographs of a farmer in southern Benin who had watched farmer training videos about vegetables on his mobile phone. Someone had bought a DVD at the local agro-input shop and
converted the videos from the DVD into 3gp format to watch on his mobile. Farmers are now able to watch videos even without DVD players.

In India farmers go one step further, and download videos. Kannappan, one of the trainees from the local NGO MSSRF, was chatting with some of the village farmers when one of them, Ramesh Permal, mentioned he was rearing fish in a pond. ICT-savvy Kannappan took out his mobile phone, connected to the Access Agriculture website, and searched among all Tamil videos,
and found one on raising fingerlings. It took him less than 3 minutes to download the video to his mobile. 

Mr. Permal and another farmer then took out their smart phones, and swiftly connected to Kannappan’s mobile . The video file was nearly 50 Mb, but they transferred it to their mobile in just over 10 seconds using the SHAREit app. For ease of downloading to mobile phones when there is not a very good internet connection, Access Agriculture has also made all videos in its library available in 3gp format, which is about half the size.

Farmers may not have computers, but they are starting to get smart phones. Some smallholders rely on extensionists to get electronic information, but others are starting to use their phones to access information on their own, directly from the internet.

Related blog stories:

Friday, February 17, 2017

8th annual Africa Fertilizer conference

15-17 February 2017. Cape Town. Over 520 participants from 63 countries of which 23 are African attended the 8th annual Africa Fertilizer conference.

The conference agenda featured over 30 speakers who addressed ways to increase African farmers' access to fertilizer and consequently to boost agricultural yields across the continent.

On of the keynote speakers included: 
  • OCP AFRICA chief executive Karim Lofti Senhadji, (picture)
  • the African Development Bank's vice-president for agriculture, human and social development, Jennifer Blanke(picture)
  • and the chief executive of African development partnership NEPAD, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki.
Other speakers (extracts)
  • promoting an Enabling Environment for SMEs in the Fertilizer Supply Chain, Daniel Gad, Owner, Omega Farms
  • Why Micronutrients are Important in Fertilizers, Rob White, Regional Director, International Zinc Association
  • The Role of Public Private Partnerships in Improving Access to Fertilizers, Adam Mostert, Chairman, East and Southern Africa Fertilizer Trade Platform (ESAF)
  • Jason Scarpone
    President and CEO
  • African Fertilizer Financing Mechanism: Recent Developments and Opportunities, Benedict Kanu, Lead Agriculture Expert, Agriculture and Agro-Industry Dept. African Development Bank
The conference was supported by the International Fertilizer Association (IFA), the Africa Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) and the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) as well as by a number of other organisations involved in promoting fertilizer use in Africa

The agenda focused on increasing consumption of fertilizers and building meaningful supply chain partnerships in Africa. Speakers from the private and public sectors discussed the importance of creating enabling environments for fertilizer supply and distribution, improving access to finance and developing infrastructure that in turn will broaden intra-Africa trade, increase fertilizer consumption across the continent and ultimately boost agricultural productivity.

The African Fertilizer Access Index: Towards the Establishment of Competitive Fertilizer
Value Chains for Smallholder Farmers
  • Maria Wanzala, Regional Director, East and Southern Africa, AFAP (picture)
  • A new AFAP initiative to support the establishment of an enabling environment for fertilizer in order to boost fertilizer use by smallholder farmers
  • Strengthening understanding of the key components of harmonized fertilizer policies and regulations for the region
  • Disseminating comprehensive knowledge of the status of fertilizer policies and regulations in the target countries
Panel Discussion: Farmer and Agridealer Perspectives on Fertilizer Distribution and Use
  • Fertilizer use in the context of broader farming considerations – seed quality, irrigation facilities and extension services
  • Improving accessibility, affordability of fertilizers for farmers
  • Delivering training to improve understanding of balanced fertilization
  • Optimizing knowledge of specific crop and soil requirements 
  • The evolving role of the hub agridealer as a key link in the supply chain
  • Daniel Gad, Owner, Omega Farms
  • Dinnah Kapiza, Owner and Managing Director, Tisaiwale Trading
  • Nike Tinubu, Managing Director, Eagleson Cassava
  • Mark Tindle, Managing Director (Zambia), Omnia Fertilizers
Panel Discussion: Boosting Fertilizer Consumption with Accessible Financial Platforms and Innovative Solutions
  • Leveraging private and public sector initiatives to unlock the potential of SMEs across the agricultural sector
  • Collaborative initiatives to offer access to credit for smallholder farmers
  • Kalim M. Shah, Chief Investment Officer, Downstream Oil abd Gas, Sub-Saharan Africa, IFC
  • Julia Franklin, Global Sourcing Director, One Acre Fund
  • Benedict Kanu, Lead Agriculture Expert, Agriculture and Agro-Industry Dept. African Development Bank
Developments in Trade Corridors, Regional Collaboration and Agricultural Clusters
  • Update on developments of key trade corridors and impact on the market
  • Assessing the costs and risks including border procedures and bottlenecks
  • Government initiatives and public and private sector collaboration
  • Linking investment and innovation to develop robust supply networks of fertilizers and seeds for smallholder farmers

  • Argent Chuula, CEO - ACTESA, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
  • Emerson Zhou, CEO, Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor
  • Sean de Cleene, Chief of Strategy and Partnerships, AGRA (picture)

IFAD appoints Togo's former prime minister as new president

15 February 2017. Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, Togo's former prime minister, has been appointed as the new president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Houngbo beat seven other candidates, including three women, to emerge as president and will lead the U.N. rural poverty agency in making investment decisions that address critical challenges affecting rural livelihoods and development issues in developing countries.

IFAD's role in ensuring adequate attention is given to agricultural and rural development programs is seen by many observers as key in helping achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of ending poverty and hunger in the world. Facilitating more investment in the world's rural areas is aimed at meeting a growing demand for food security, reducing migration and recurring conflicts.

Houngbo — who has over 30 years of experience in international development, diplomacy and financial management — will join IFAD from the International Labour Organization, where he has served as deputy director-general since 2013. He has also worked at the United Nations Development Programme, where he served as the assistant secretary general, Africa regional director, and chief of staff. Between 2008 and 2012, he served as the prime minister of the West African country of Togo.

As the sixth president of IFAD, Houngbo is expected to take over from Nigeria's Kanayo Nwanze in April.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nutrition Economics: Principles and Policy Applications

Nutrition Economics: Principles and Policy Applications 
S.C. Babu, S.N. Gajanan, and J.A. Hallam; 
Elsevier/Academic Press

To address developing countries’ staggering lack of progress in addressing malnutrition, we need to train a new generation of policy and program managers who can traverse the disciplines engaged in nutrition schemes and policy making. But who will do this and how? 

The single discipline orientation of academic institutions in both developing and developed countries has made this a major challenge. Some university multidisciplinary programs have trained enough people to greatly improve the development of multidisciplinary capacity to solve malnutrition problems. But such programs continue to be limited in number. 

In general, multidisciplinary work is not supported or encouraged. 
For example, a faculty member moving out his or her core discipline to publish in multidisciplinary journals may not receive recognition equal to a peer who remains in her or his core discipline. Nutrition policy is an example of a development challenge where several disciplines need to come together, but academic institutions—particularly in developing countries—are simply not fully prepared to face malnutrition challenges.

The authors make a modest attempt to introduce basic economic concepts and their policy applications to scholars with a nutrition and some quantitative background. They also introduce several analytical methods that use real world data to explore nutrition-related policies.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture

2 February 2017. The African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture- Ms Correa Leonel Josefa of Angola replaces Uganda’s Rhoda Peace Tumusiime.

Madam Josefa Sacko, an Angolan National, is a leading African Agronomist. On the 23rd of December 2016, Madame Sacko was nominated as Executive Administrator on the Administrative Council of the Funds for Agriculture Development. 

She is Special Adviser to two Minister in Angola, her home country: 
  1. The Angolan Minister of Environment where she also serves as Ambassador responsive for climate change. 
  2. In the Department of the Minister of Agriculture, Madam Sacko oversees food security, Eradication of Hunger and Poverty Reduction. 
Madam Josefa ran the Inter-African coffee organization (IACO) for 13 years in Côte D' Ivoire where she represented coffee economy of 25 Africa Coffee producing countries. The Former Secretary General of the Inter-African Coffee Organization (IACO) is also special Adviser to the Vice-President of The Panafrican Woman Organization for Southern African Region. She also worked as a consultant in National Angolan Investment Agency (ANIP).

Enhancing U.S. Efforts to Develop Sustainable Agri-Food Systems in Africa

15 February 2017. Series of policy papers commissioned by the Farm Journal Foundation. While commissioned by the Farm Journal Foundation, these policy documents reflect the views of the authors, and are intended to stimulate interest and debate on these issues as Congress begins to consider the next Farm Bill and other relevant legislation.

Taken together, they kick off a much needed dialogue on how US agriculture can maintain its comparative strength, share its extraordinary knowledge, tools, and know-how, and drive economic growth and stability, while ensuring US competitiveness in tomorrow’s agricultural export markets.

Enhancing U.S. Efforts to Develop Sustainable Agri-Food Systems in Africa
Dr. Thomas Jayne, Hon. Chance Kabaghe, and Dr. Isaac Minde. Farm Journal Foundation, 16 pages

This policy brief describes the changed landscape and the opportunities being created for developing innovative and effective new partnerships between US and African institutions engaged in African agri-food systems. It outlines a strategic framework to maintain US engagement in this effort, which centers on sustained commitment to capacity strengthening and leadership of African agricultural institutions.
Why should US citizens care? Investing in Africa’s economic growth is in the United States’ national interest. US exports of agricultural products to sub-Saharan Africa totaled $2.6 billion in 2013 and will grow rapidly if Africa continues to develop. (...) US
farmers and agribusiness can help themselves by helping Africa to meet its rapidly growing food needs, by investing in the region’s agri-food systems, and by supporting a sustainable and efficient global food system. (page 4)
The time has arrived for the US to find effective ways to support capacity building. This should include African universities, agricultural training colleges, vocational schools, crop research organisations, extension systems and policy analysis institutes. International private companies, universities and NGOs have important but increasingly redefined roles that put African institutions in the lead.
Mr. Ammad Bahalim and Dr. Joseph Glauber, Farm Journal Foundation, 10 pages
  • This paper describes the obstacles that farmers in developing countries face in accessing international markets for their products, and how greater US investment in providing trade technical assistance to those countries can help instill confidence by potential participants in the international trading system. 
  • It notes that for developing country exporters of agricultural products, it is lack of capacity to deal with sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) standards, not hefty import tariffs, which presents the greatest problem in accessing markets in the United States and other developed countries. 
  • The paper recommends an increased US focus on providing experienced personnel and the appropriate equipment to address SPS issues in developing countries and improved coordination between USG agencies involved in these activities. Improved coordination with other donor countries on SPS matters is also encouraged.
A third paper on Agricultural Research will be released end of February.

6th World Sustainability Forum

27 - 28 January 2017. South Africa. University of the Western Cape and University of Cape Town. The 6th World Sustainability Forum took place for the first time in Africa. The conference briought together researchers, policymakers, practitioners, private sector and civil society actors

It contributes to international debates on sustainability and, more specifically, enables exchanges, which sensitise the international community to the urgency, specifics, and existent knowledge base of sustainability on the African continent, and the African research community about international perspectives on sustainability.

Parallel Sessions Related to agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture: Climate Change and Water-related Issues

Panel chair: Prof Linus Opara
  • Small-Scale Farmers' Adaptation to the Impacts of Climate Change: A Case Study of Sagole Women Farmers in Limpopo Province, South Africa by Agnes Rankoana *
  • Vulnerability of Maize Yields to Droughts in Uganda ; by Terence Epule Epule *
  • Patterns of Dekadal Rainfall Variation over a Selected Region in Lake Victoria Basin, Uganda ; by Isaac Mugume *
  • Developing Decision Support Tools for Improving Agricultural Sustainablity in Africa ; by Kevin Jan Duffy *, Tirivashe Phillip Masere ; 
  • The Redesign of Sustainable Agricultural Crop Ecosystems by Increasing Natural Ecosystem Services Provided by Insects; by Astrid Jankielsohn *

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security

Submission not assigned to a panel

  • A Management Database for Sustainable Cattle Production by Emerging Cattle Farmers in South Africa; by Obvious Mapiye *

Webinar: Climate change and agricultural development

1 February 2017. This video is a recording from the webinar Climate change and agricultural development, organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

The webinar addressed the linkages on climate change research and agricultural development while also discovering the progress and gaps on various climate smart approaches.
  • Bruce Campbell, Director of CCAFS, gave a presentation on pushing the boundaries on research-development linkages.
  • Robert Zougmore, CCAFS West Africa leader (ICRISAT) talked about the progress and gaps in getting climate information to farmers.
  • Pramod Aggarwal, CCAFS South Asia leader (CIMMYT) discussed the progress and gaps in insuring smallholder farmers.
  • And finally, Sophia Huyer, CCAFS Gender and Social Inclusion leader gave insights into the gender and social inclusion dimension of understanding farmer uptake of climate-smart technologies.