Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

ARF research proposals have been awarded funding

27 January 2015. Three Food & Business Applied Research Fund (ARF) research proposals have been awarded funding. The awarded ARF research proposals are the result of the first round of the second call for proposals. In total, eighteen projects have now been rewarded in the fund. The next deadline for submitting a proposal is 12 May 2015. Two selected research proposals are from Africa:

  1. Improving the resilience of the inland fisher communities and aquatic systems to overfishing
    Frejus Thoto
    Executive Director ACED
    and water resource degradation in Benin

    Mr F. Thoto (ACED: Actions pour l’Environnement et le Développement Durable)

    The project explores the vulnerability of the coastal inland fishing sector to increasing pressures on water resources caused by a mounting population, pollution from urban areas and changing climatic conditions. The project studies the functioning of prevailing institutions among fisher communities and tests if regulations are sufficiently resilient to cope with the new challenges. Special attention is paid to woman’s access to fish processing technologies that contributes to income and increases food security.

  2. Ensuring Sustainable and Sustained Food Security by Enhancing local parboiled rice value-
    J. Kpetere
    Chain Competitiveness in Gogounou and Banikoara areas in Benin (PARCR)

    Mr J. Kpetere (DEDRAS: Développement durable, le Renforcement et l'Auto-promotion des Structures communautaires)

    This project aims at developing an adapted model of rice intensification, promoting the best rice-processing practices at local level and developing collective marketing mechanisms for the processed rice in Benin. This will be done by a participatory research-action approach in which researchers, extensionists, development organisations and operators of the sector will pool their knowledge to stimulate innovations for the production of sustainable food.

Feed assessment training for Uganda’s pig farmers

Ben Lukuyu (standing) leads a training session
during the FEAST workshop in Uganda
(photo credit: ILRI/Brian Kawuma).
15-18 December 2014. Wakiso District in Uganda. To help in bridging the gap and to promote improved feeds for livestock in the country, a four-day training on the Feed Assessment Tool (FEAST) was held in  for non-technical feed experts and private and local government extension workers.

Facilitated by Ben Lukuyu and Joyce Maru from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the training introduced participants to the tool and included a hands-on field testing of the tool with 20 pig farmers in Matugga, Wakiso District of central Uganda. Preliminary findings from the field test revealed land shortage in this peri-urban district as the major constraint to cultivation of fodder and shed some light on the over-reliance on purchased feeds by the majority of pig farmers there.

A 2013 report on the Pig Value Chain Impact Pathways showed that most feed processors in Uganda produce substandard feeds, with substandard and infected feeds common in the supply chain. In addition, these feeds are then sold at exorbitant prices to farmers. Previous research efforts have not covered much ground in relation to formulation of feeds that are appropriate for smallholder farmers’ needs.
  • The data collected in the field testing exercise will be analyzed to inform possible interventions to support pig farmers’ efforts to improving the availability of locally available feed resources and the quality of their animals’ diets. These interventions are part of the Irish-Aid funded More Pork for and by the Poor Project, which is implemented by ILRI in Uganda. The project is testing and piloting best-bet options for improving the production, pork safety and household nutrition for all actors in the pig marketing chain in Uganda.
  • The FEAST tool will be used to characterize pig production systems and local feed resources in project sites in Lira and Hoima districts. Feeds assessment is part of the entire value chain assessment exercise that the project will execute before testing and piloting its interventions in the pig value chains in the two districts.

International Bioeconomy Strategies

Bioeconomy Policy Synopsis and Analysis of Strategies in the G7
A report from the German Bioeconomy Council
58 pages

This report assesses and compares the G7 activities in individual policy areas, such as bioenergy, research, education and training, technology transfer, commercialization as well as social change The authors conclude with an outlook on future G7 and global political collaboration to foster the development of the bioeconomy.

The leading industrialised nations have all positioned themselves in the bioeconomy in the past five years. Politically, the bioeconomy is not only associated with ecologic transition, but also with economic opportunities. 
"Most of the G7 member initiatives are internationally uncoordinated and focus on their national territories. In order to fully exploit the potential of the bioeconomy, we need intensified international cooperation,  
Prof. Joachim von Braun, chairman of the German Bioeconomy Council upon the presentation at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture on in Berlin on 15/01/2015.

Food safety and informal markets: Animal products in sub-Saharan

Food safety and informal markets: Animal products in sub-Saharan Africa. 
London, UK: Routledge.
Roesel, K. and Grace, D. 2014.
284 pages

Animal products are vital components of the diets and livelihoods of people across sub-Saharan Africa. They are frequently traded in local, unregulated markets and this can pose significant health risks. This volume presents an accessible overview of these issues in the context of food safety, zoonoses and public health, while at the same time maintaining fair and equitable livelihoods for poorer people across the continent. 

The book includes a review of the key issues and 25 case studies of the meat, milk, egg and fish food sectors drawn from a wide range of countries in East, West and Southern Africa, as part of the "Safe Food, Fair Food" project. It describes a realistic analysis of food safety risk by developing a methodology of ‘participatory food safety risk assessment’, involving small-scale producers and consumers in the process of data collection in a data-poor environment often found in developing countries. This approach aims to ensure market access for poor producers, while adopting a realistic and pragmatic strategy for reducing the risk of food-borne diseases for consumers.

This compilation finds that informal markets provide essential sources of food and income for millions of poor, with milk and meat that is often safer than supermarkets.

Misguided efforts to control the alarming burden of food-related illnesses in low-income countries risk intensifying malnutrition and poverty — while doing little to improve food safety. Blunt crack-downs on informal milk and meat sellers that are a critical source of food and income for millions of people are not the solution.
Our work across eight countries found that we are right to be concerned about food safety in informal markets — from milk in Mali, to fish in Ghana, to chicken in Mozambique, to beef in Kenya — particularly for spreading gastrointestinal diseases that are a leading cause of sickness and death in developing countries, but it also shows that we are wrong to think that we can just adopt solutions developed in wealthy countries that favour large commercial operations over small producers. That will just exacerbate hunger and further limit money earning options for the poor. Delia Grace, program leader for food safety and zoonoses at ILRI.
The book probes the complicated world of traditional or ‘informal’ markets in livestock products. These are often called ‘wet’ markets because they use so much water in cleaning due to the perishable and often contaminated nature of the foods they sell. These venues sell most of the livestock and fish products consumed in Africa. And they are growing rapidly as rising populations and incomes drive greater demand for meat and milk.

While the food sold in informal markets is often safe, in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, they are suspected of spreading dangerous pathogens ranging from Salmonella and E. coli to SARS, avian influenza and tuberculosis.
  • But ILRI researchers warn that the push for greater food safety standards in these markets must be informed by an understanding of their vital role as a provider of food and income to several hundred million people who rank among the world’s poorest.
  • Researchers have found that poor consumers are willing to pay a 5 to 15 per cent premium for safety-assured products, and that demand for food safety increases with economic development, rising income, urbanization, increased media coverage and education level.
  • Informal markets are growing, not shrinking, across the developing world and in many ways mirror the “locavore” trend occurring in wealthy countries. If we are going to improve food safety in these markets, we need policies that are guided by an understanding of producer and consumer behaviour, local diets and customs, and interventions that can reduce illness without imperilling food security or increasing poverty.’
About A4NH
The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) helps realize the potential of agricultural development to deliver gender-equitable health and nutritional benefits to the poor. This program is led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
Published on 22 May 2014
Parallel Sessions 3: Dealing with Shocks. Delia Grace, Program Leader, Food Safety and Zoonoses, Integrated Sciences, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya, panelist at Parallel Session 3F on "Health Shocks: Dealing with Food Safety, Nutrition, and Public Health Crises." IFPRI 2020 conference on Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security, May 15-17, 2014, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Leasing agricultural equipment in Senegal

Afreximbank backs Senegal agribusiness
6 January 2015. The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has arranged and partly financed a
€25mn credit facility to Locafrique, a leasing company to the Senegalese agricultural sector.  Afreximbank arranged the dual-tranche loan, with Banque Atlantique Senegal as an additional lender.

  • The first, five-year tranche will be used to import agricultural and non-agricultural equipment to be leased to clients involved in agricultural activities as well as transportation, manufacturing, construction, energy and industry. It is divided between a €16.5mn loan from Afreximbank and a €7mn loan from Banque Atlantique Senegal, and secured by a guarantee from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for up to €7.5mn. 
  • The second, two-year tranche comprises €1.5mn from Afreximbank and €3.5mn from Banque Atlantique, and is a revolving factoring facility to be used to purchase and discount qualifying receivables from clients. 
Jean-Louis Ekra, president of the Afreximbank, says that the deal fits within the bank’s objective to contribute to the promotion of factoring in Africa.
“This facility helps to bring much-needed support to SMEs in Senegal as direct exporters in the supply chain and ensures that agriculture is commercialised as a business. It would enable Senegalese growers to shift from traditional manual agriculture to intensive industrial production, thereby improving productivity, efficiency and quality” 
The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has provided about US$350 million to finance cocoa processing activities in the four major cocoa producing countries in Africa. Afreximbank bank president Jean-Louis Ekra said the bank also had a pipeline of another US$400 million to help develop the cocoa processing industry in Africa.

Sequencing 100 different species of African crops

8 January 2015. San Diego, US. Illumina, Inc. announced that the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) is the 2015 recipient of the Agricultural Greater Good Initiative grant. 

African Orphan Crops Consortium plans to use the grant of Illumina reagents and consumables to further its work studying the genetic diversity of 100 different species of African crops, particularly those grown by subsistence farmers. The grant program is designed to help identify measures that can increase crop yields and improve livestock welfare and productivity to alleviate poverty and hunger in the developing world.

The AOCC is a collaboration between the African Union – New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Mars, Incorporated, University of California, Davis, and a host of other private and not-for-profit partners. Crop species to be sequenced are commonly grown in backyards and small plots, making them critical nutritional staples to populations across Africa. The goal of the consortium is to use the sequences of crops to develop breeding programs and other methods of improving farming practices to increase crop yields and nutrition.
“Illumina is proud to advance food security in Africa through this Agricultural Greater Good Initiative grant and to provide AOCC researchers with the tools and technologies necessary to improve agricultural practices in Africa,”  “By unlocking the power of the genome, Illumina is enabling our collaborators to improve human health and well-being for those most in need.” Kirk Malloy, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Life Sciences at Illumina.
Illumina is transforming human health as the global leader in sequencing and array-based technologies. The company serves customers in a broad range of markets, enabling the adoption of genomic solutions in research and clinical settings.

The Illumina Agricultural Greater Good Initiative grants, launched in 2011, are awarded annually at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference. The program spurs critically needed research that will increase the sustainability, productivity, and nutritional density of agriculturally important crop and livestock species. Grant recipients receive donations of Illumina products to support their projects.

Investing in post-harvest handling (PHH) technologies

21 January 2015. To increase access to financial services in the rural parts of 24 sub-Saharan African countries, Master Card Foundation recently launched a fund for rural prosperity. The challenge fund worth 50 million US dollars will support innovative ideas that can be budding as well as have a social impact. Joining CNBC Africa to discuss more about the fund as well as inadequate access to financial services which poses a risk to a country's economic growth is Ann Miles, director for financial inclusion, MasterCard Foundation.

Village Capital, in partnership with MasterCard Foundation and Duncan Goldie-Scot, has announced the launch of its accelerator program, Village Capital FinTech for Agriculture: East Africa 2015.The program will select 12 start-up firms for business development training. The aim is to unlock innovations that increase access to financial services for smallholder farmers. Applications can be submitted via this link and will be
accepted through February 25, 2015.

5 November 2015. A new, US$15.5 million programme promotes investments in post-harvest handling (PHH) technologies and access to storage facilities to help uplift farmers from poverty in Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania. It involves a partnership between Kenya-headquartered Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and The MasterCard Foundation in Canada.
  • Through small and medium enterprises, farmers will gain access to cold storage facilities, cleaning and drying machines and licensed warehouses as well as processing technologies such as cassava chippers [and] graters.
  • A partnership was formed with PHH solutions providers such as cocoons and metal silos manufacturers and distributors to address post-harvest issues resulting from Tanzania bumper harvest.
  • The five-year partnership will have AGRA as a grant-making institution to stakeholders such as agricultural value chain actors for capacity building and development and implementation of effective, robust and low-cost information and communication technology (ICT)-based delivery mechanisms.
“We believe that making it possible for smallholder farmers and small to medium-sized enterprises to access credit, savings, and insurance services, and helping them connect to strong market value chains, is critical to driving transformation of the agricultural sector in Africa,” Ann Miles, director of financial inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation

New technologies for storing use of roots, tubers and bananas

1-3 December 2014. Ntinda, Uganda. A new project is to explore increased use of roots, tubers and bananas (RTBs) and technologies to reduce their postharvest losses in Uganda.

The European Union is funding the US$4 million, three-year project. A workshop to highlight the research activities to be undertaken was organised in December.

Four RTBs — cassava, sweet potatoes, cooking bananas and Irish potatoes — were selected last year, according to Diego Naziri, a postharvest specialist at the International Potato Center (CIP) in Uganda and the leader of the project.
“This project will contribute to improved food security for RTBs and will contribute to the demand of postharvest and processing technologies as well as value chain and capacity development,” Naziri says.
He adds that unlike in Asia, the full potential of RTBs has not been realised in Africa despite their benefits. Naziri explains that Africa lacks technologies for storing RTBs, resulting in an underdeveloped potential for value addition.The researchers indicated that they would test: 
  1. existing technologies to prolong the shelf life of fresh cassava roots for more than seven days using high relative humidity storage, whereby healthy cassava roots are dipped in a household bleach, packed in polyethylene bags and maintained at high humidity in a cool environment.
  2. research on cooking bananas will reduce postharvest losses by promoting varieties with a longer shelf life and better postharvest handling properties. The project will pilot a new weight-based pricing system and promote different consumer products, including peeled and preserved bananas. 
  3. develop simple and affordable silage making technologies for conserving sweet potato roots and vines unknown to most pig producers in Uganda 

Research on drought tolerant and disease resistant maize in Tanzania

26 January 2015. Iowa State University agronomists have begun research to improve the drought tolerance and disease resistance of corn grown by farmers in Tanzania and sub-Saharan Africa.

Thomas Lubberstedt and Walter Suza, professors in the Iowa State agronomy department, are co-principal investigators on the project supported by U.S. Agency for International Development’s Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative. Project funding of $740,000 will be shared with principal investigator Joseph Ndunguru at the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute, which will have overall responsibility for the management of the project in Tanzania.

The ISU research team will be involved in molecular plant breeding for resistance to maize lethal necrosis disease and molecular analyses of drought tolerance including genome-wide association studies, development of tools for marker-aided selection, genomics and metabolomics—the study of cell metabolism. The research will be done in collaboration with Tanzanian researchers, contributing to capacity building in corn research in Tanzania.

15 Ancient Super Plants That Could Eradicate Africa’s Food Crisis

27 January 2015. 15 Ancient Super Plants That Could Eradicate Africa’s Food Crisis
Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II — Vegetables

1. Okra (Hibiscus esculentus) Cultivated by the Egyptians and Ethiopians in the 12th century, okra is a fast-growing and high-yielding plant, providing three valuable food products with its pods, leaves, and seeds. It is hearty and grows in difficult climates. This gooey vegetable is an excellent source of vitamin C, calcium and potassium, and high in fiber, folate, and antioxidants. The seeds are used as a coffee substitute.

2. Baobab (Adansonia digitata) Besides its powerhouse delicious fruit, baobab seeds, kernels and leaves are packed with nutrients. The leaves of the “upside-down tree” are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, rich in calcium, and quality proteins. They make great salads and condiments and are used medicinally. It is said the deity Thora was not pleased with a baobab growing in his garden, so he tossed it out over the wall of Paradise and it landed upside down on Earth. Its roots kept growing to the sky. It is a symbol of the strength of Africa.

3. Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) The cowpea is one of Central Africa’s oldest legume crops, dating back some 6,000 years in West African cereal farming. It was closely associated with the cultivation of sorghum and pearl millet. The pea itself and its leaves are edible, and the plant is drought resistant and thrives in poor soil conditions. It is rich in amino acids, lysine and tryptophan and is 25-percent source of protein. The
cowpea is known in the U.S. as the black-eyed pea, having migrated with the slave trade.

4. Amaranth (Amaranthus) This ancient grain was not long ago hidden in plain site, being considered a “poverty grain,” and ignored as a cash crop. It is now cultivated widely and becoming lucrative. It is a versatile plant, growing easily and quickly in humid lowlands of Africa. Amaranth is typically eaten in Togo, Liberia, Guinea, Benin, and Sierra Leone. The ancient grain, with roots dating back thousands of years to Mesoamerica, is rich in vitamin C and dietary minerals calcium.

5. Spider plant (Cleome gynandra) The spider plant, also known as shona or African cabbage, is high in protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and micro nutrients. It’s used much like the curry leaf in southern parts of Africa. It is a fast-growing plant and ready to cultivate in as little as three weeks. The leaves contain protein, carbohydrates and are high in vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorus and iron.

6. Moringa (Moringa oleifera) The super food that the moringa tree provides is packed into its pods, leaves, seeds, and roots. It is also raw material for products that make village life more self-sufficient, including lamp oil, its wood, and liquid fuel. Nutritionally it packs seven times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the vitamin A of carrots and the calcium of milk and three times the potassium of bananas and twice the amount of protein as yogurt. It is considered one of the world’s most useful trees. 

7. Enset (Ensete ventricosum) A banana-like herb, the enset is a starchy staple from Ethiopia’s highlands known as the Ethiopian banana. Like its cousin the banana, it has lost its ability to reproduce and can do so only by cultivation. Like most ancient plants, many parts of the enset are useful. It is able to hold its water content during droughts up to seven years. The
enset’s fibers are used for rope, mats, medicinal purposes and even housing. The pulped starch of enset is buried in large pits for three-to-six months to ferment into kocho, a hearty food staple.

8. Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) The well known source for shea butter is packed with vitamins, minerals and protein. The oblong seeds contain a mixture of edible oils and fats that produce the shea butter, a staple nutritional source that enhances taste, texture and digestibility for millions in rural areas of Africa. It is also used for skin care and has gone globally ballistic as an ingredient in countless health and organic beauty products. 

9. Bambara bean (Vigna subterranean) The bambara bean or groundnut, Congo goober, ground bean, hog peanut, earth pea and njugo bean has hundreds of names to describe what has been considered by the scientific community a “poor man’s crop, despite its heartiness. It’s one of the two most drought-resistant legumes. The seed makes a complete food, as it contains sufficient quantities of protein, carbs and fat. It can be eaten raw or cooked, milled into flour or made into a paste with long shelf life. Its energy value exceeds that of lentils or cow peas. 

10. Marama plant (Tylosema esculentum) The magic marama has many names including groundnut, gemsbok beans, camel’s foot, braaiboontjie, tamani berry, and most appropriately, green gold. It’s rich in oil, and as nutritious as soy beans and peanuts, with twice the oil content. It tastes like roasted cashews and
resembles a large tuber with seed pods. It is loaded with protein and high in amino acids, carbs, calcium, and vitamin A. It grows in the sandy soil of Namibia, Botswana, and the Kalahari Desert, and has been a staple of the Khoisan peoples for centuries.

11. African eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum) A very significant indigenous crop for its high yield, the African eggplant is resistant to drought, has a three-month shelf life, and can grow in poor soil conditions. The leaves of the eggplant are eaten boiled. The red-orange vegetable — technically a fruit — is stewed, pickled, steamed and boiled for stews. It is 92 percent water and high in beta-carotene, vitamin E, riboflavin, folic acid and calcium. Like many of these ancient super foods, it is used medicinally, and is effective as an anti-inflammatory. It is a cash crop and has a high yield.

12. Argan (Argania spinosa) The flowering argan tree, native to the southern coast of Morocco, produces fruit containing a valuable hard kernel of seeds which produce a thick golden oil with an unmistakable, rich flavor that’s high in essential fatty acids. Argan has become very popular recently. A number of women’s cooperatives dedicated to producing the oil have made it a lucrative crop. The region relies heavily on argan oil economically and the trees are even a tourist attraction — many goats climb the branches to reach the delicious kernels.

13. Fonio (Digitaria genus) For the Dogon people of Mali, fonio is the “seed of the universe” and rightly so. It packs a nutritional super punch. Fonio has amino acids to help synthesize protein. Its ease of growth in the region feeds approximately four million people across West Africa. It’s considered Africa’s oldest cereal. 

14. Lablab (Lablab purpureus) The mature seed of the lablab, also called the hyacinth bean, has a mild flavor when thoroughly cooked. It can be prepared similarly to soy beans, fermented like tempeh or sprouted and eaten raw like the mung bean. The pod can be eaten whole. Its leaves are tender like spinach. It is a staple food, rich in protein with excellent storage capabilities. It’s said to have the medicinal properties for a host of ills. It tolerates drought conditions and is widely cultivated throughout

15. Celosia (Celosia argentea) A beautiful edible flowering plant as well as a delicious green leafy vegetable, celosia has as many varieties as it has uses. Also referred to as Lagos spinach, Nigerian sometimes call it soko yokoto, meaning “make husbands fat and happy.” Celosia packs a high content of micronutrients and protein. It’s used for a wide range of ailments including intestinal worms (especially tapeworm), blood diseases, mouth sores, and eye problems. The seeds treat respiratory ills and the flowers treat diarrhea. The leaves are used as dressings for boils and sores, and the boiled vegetables are said to be slightly diuretic. The celosia is also used widely in Asia.



Bringing vaccine innovation to market

23 January 2015. Ottawa, Canada. Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) announced three new projects to be supported under the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF). The projects will help prevent livestock diseases and post-harvest fruit losses that affect millions of farmers around the world, and build on the successful research carried out during CIFSRF's first phase.

CIFSRF is a $124-million fund that works to increase food security in developing countries by funding research in agricultural innovation and nutrition, and fostering collaboration between developing-country researchers and Canadian experts. The results aim to help governments, institutions, private enterprises, and farmers adopt better food security policies and practices.
"These international collaborations will improve the lives of poor small-holder farmers and strengthen rural economies. With these innovations, farmers will be able to better feed themselves and supply more nutritious food to consumers in developing countries. At the same time, we are identifying the most effective ways of taking these food security solutions and achieving large-scale impacts with them," IDRC President Jean Lebel.
CIFSRF is now looking to expand the reach of three of the most promising solutions:
  1. A team, led by researchers at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, has identified new proteins that could be used in a vaccine to protect cattle against a devastating form of pneumonia. The team is developing a cost-effective, safe, and easy-to-produce vaccine against this lung disease, which affects the livelihoods of 24 million people in Africa. At the same time, the team is partnering with African manufacturers and government regulatory agencies to prepare for the widespread rollout of the affordable vaccine.
  2. A CIFSRF-supported team has developed an efficient combination vaccine to protect livestock against up to five deadly diseases that cost millions of dollars in losses. The team—led by the University of Alberta, Canada, and the Agricultural Research Council, South Africa —will now carry out extensive field trials of the combination vaccine and continue research on a vaccine against African swine fever.
  3. Researchers from the University of Guelph, Canada, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India, and the Industrial Technical Institute, Sri Lanka, have shown that a natural compound known as hexanal delays the ripening of mangos. Using nanotechnology, the team will continue to develop hexanal-impregnated packaging and biowax coatings to improve the fruit's resilience during handling and shipping for use in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. It will also expand its research to include other fruit and look at ways to commercialize the technologies.
New funding will allow the research teams to further develop the new technologies and involve partners who can bring them to market to reach greater numbers of small-holder farmers.

Read the story of change

Durable staking innovations for climbing beans in Rwanda

23 January 2015. Plant breeding in revolutionizing agriculture. One of Rwanda's country’s top priority crop ‘the bean’ through the adoption and improvement of the climbing beans has become one of the most successful agricultural innovations in the recent times.

Since the existence of ISAR (Rwanda Agriculture Research Institute) and now RAB (Rwanda Agriculture Board) more than 50 years ago, the bean program has officially released more than 80 bean varieties: bush, climbing or snap types. Many more may be out there with the farmers outside the official list, through what is called informal releases. Twenty five of these were released in the last four years, thanks to AGRA and other partners support. 

In 2010, ten of these varieties were found to be rich in micro-nutrients, particularly in iron and or zinc and are intensively promoted for alleviation of anemia and other mental retarding micro-nutrient malnutrition deficiencies besides the protein nutrition among children and women.

Augustin Musoni, Senior Research Fellow, 

Plant Breeder and Leader of the Bean Program 
at the Rwanda Agriculture Board
The climbing beans technology encourages afforestation and environment protection. (...) Many farmers lose enthusiasm on growing climbing beans due to this staking problem, particularly in new areas like in the east where climbing beans are being introduced and agroforestry is yet to take root. 

We have recently developed and published an innovation for staking where locally available trellises (strings and codes or even knitting threads) are strategically combined with wood in the ratio of 70:30. This was the most acceptable to farmers, despite some loss in yields compared to the exclusive use of wood. The yield differences were, however, statistically insignificant. So we are promoting this innovation alongside the agroforestry options.
(...) With the high yielding varieties (with a potential of more than 5 MT per ha) now in place, if the staking challenge was fully contained, Rwanda can perhaps produce surplus beans that can feed the rest of region, even beyond.

Success breeds success, more partners have come in, they include the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), USAID’s Agriculture Technology Development and Transfer (ATDT) project, the grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Program, Kirkhouse Trust, Bio-innovate and now HarvestPlus Projects funded by  the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Rockefeller Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), now the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), SIDA, the Syngenta Foundation, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Bank and others direct but usually indirectly through the above mentioned partners. The bean program was becoming more and more donor-attractive. An alliance of partners was always most effective.

10 – 13 November, 2014. Kigali, Rwanda. The Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) organised a three-day conference of Modern and Visionary Plant Breeders in Africa. The climax of the conference was a field trip to the Northern District of Burera, where over 150 participants traveled to witness the top and hillsides of growing climbing beans, throughout the five-hour return trip to Kigali. They settled in Rusarabuye sector and heard testimonies among farmers about the socio-economic benefits and impacts derived from adoption of climbing beans, admittedly, one of the most successful agricultural innovations in the recent times.

AGRA’s Program for Africa Seed Systems (PASS) invested in the development and release of better yielding crop varieties and availing the seed of the varieties through multiple partnerships across Africa. The aim was to produce surplus food and attain better livelihoods among smallholders. AGRA has worked in Rwanda since 2006. The conference provided a platform for close to 150 plant breeders, private seed companies, farmers and policy makers in Rwanda, across the continent and beyond.

23 January 2015. SciDev. A public-private partnership initiative has been launched to develop precooked beans to improve nutrition, raise incomes and create employment. The project aims to increase the production and supply of beans suitable for precooked processing, giving farmers access to new, sustainable markets and enabling them to increase their incomes. The initiative was launched during a workshop in Kenya last year (25-28 November) that brought together researchers, farmers, traders and manufacturers to develop high quality locally processed precooked bean products.

The US$2.5 million, three-year project is through Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund, which was set up by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The project is led by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and NARO in partnership with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Kenya.

Jemimah Njuki, a senior programme officer, IDRC, commends the involvement of private partners at an
early stage in the project, saying beans are an important crop for food and nutrition security.

“These will open [up] markets for a crop that is important for women and children,” Njuki notes, adding that the initiative will empower women and children, and improve livelihoods.

Announcement: 2nd Africa Food Security & Adaptation Conference

30-31 July 2015. 2nd Africa Food Security and Adaptation Conference: Africa's Soil the New Frontier: Re-imagining Africa Food Security Now and into the Future.

Following the Nairobi Declaration of 21 August 2013 of the 1st Africa Food Security and Adaptation Conference whose recommendations where adopted by The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) , where they 'recommended that the conference be convened every two years to facilitate knowledge sharing and ensure that ecosystem based adaptation actions solve crosscutting challenges including achieving the proposed "Sustainable Development Goals". Against this backdrop, the 2nd Africa Food Security and Adaptation conference (AFSAC2) is slated to take place on July 30-31, 2015 with theme: Africa’s Soil the New Frontier: Re-imagining Africa Food Security Now and into the Future Under a Changing Climate. See the website to register for the conference.

In 2013 the first conference outcomes and declaration gave impetus and made the case for Ecosystem based Adaptation (EBA) for Food security as an approaches that can address both food security and adaptation to climate change and currently the African Union Commission has considered EBA among priority mechanisms not only to building resilience to climate change related shocks and enhance agricultural productivity for better food security but also promoting sustainable land use and land management as it is explicitly stated in Pillar I of CAADP.

The key objectives of the conference are:
  • To identify scalable and inclusive business models for EBA driven agriculture that can create opportunities in the entire agricultural value chain 
  • To identify scalable innovative financing models for EBA driven agriculture that when implemented could stimulate growth, job creation and value chain partnership in Africa 
  • To understand the benefits of EBA for job creation and the achievement of the proposed SDGs and what Africa will lose as a continent if EbA is ignored or given little support; 
  • To identify enabling policies and legislation that will incentivize countries to invest in agriculture, soil conservation and EbA; 
  • To discuss what needs to be done to incentivize private sector involvement in EBA-driven agriculture to bring in capital and enhance competitiveness. 
The conference will link the outcomes and declaration from the 1st conference and the EbA mapping that were conducted by the continental task force team. AFSAC2 outcomes will help in accelerating the implementation of the Malabo declaration on agriculture and food security as well as contribute to the Agenda 2063.

Increasing financial inclusion in the East African agriculture industry

18 January 2015. Village Capital, in partnership with MasterCard Foundation and Duncan Goldie-Scot, has announced the launch of its accelerator program, Village Capital FinTech for Agriculture: East Africa 2015.

Smallholder farmers in East Africa cannot participate in the mainstream economy because they lack access to financial services as a result of their location, their lack of financial literacy, and other barriers.

In order to address this situation, Village Capital FinTech for Agriculture plans to meet this need by supporting the best local early-stage ventures increasing financial inclusion in the East African agriculture industry, benefitting smallholder farmers, investors, communities, and entrepreneurs in the region.

Village Capital will provide selected ventures with intensive business development training, mentorship from local business leaders and investors, and face-to-face interaction with potential customers. The program aims to create 200 jobs over the next two years in East Africa, with an estimated 60 per cent of jobs going to individuals living below the poverty line. Graduating enterprises are also expected to increase revenue growth by 4.5 times and distribute goods and/or services to 200,000 customers (with a primary target of smallholder farmers) within that time period.

Ross Baird, Executive Director, Village Capital, highlighted the significance of this program saying:
"Village Capital connects the best early-stage entrepreneurs to real customer needs across the world, and smallholder farmers in East Africa need access to quality financial services. Together with The MasterCard Foundation, we are addressing this problem by training local start-ups to scale their impact to benefit local farmers."
Village Capital FinTech for Agriculture: East Africa 2015 is especially interested in ventures that solve problems in agriculture, or for which smallholders or agribusinesses represent part or all of their customer base.
  • The program will select 12 start-up firms for business development training. The aim is to unlock innovations that increase access to financial services for smallholder farmers. At the end of the program, the two start-ups ranked highest by other entrepreneurs in the program will each receive US $50,000 to help scale their businesses and impact.
  • Applications can be submitted via this link and will be accepted through February 25, 2015. The selected applicants will be announced at the end of March 2015.
  • The best submissions will be innovations that improve access to payments, financial security, accounting, cash management, credit, loans, cash advances, or other financial services for smallholder farmers or agribusinesses; first-to-market innovations in the agricultural sector; Ventures that increase access to financial services in agriculture, or for which smallholders or agribusinesses represent part or all of their customer base and technologies that formalize informal markets, increase the efficiency of the agricultural supply chain, improve business that serve smallholder farmers, and/or build wealth for smallholder farmers, low-wealth households or individuals.
Background Videos:
  • Ross Baird: Who tends to be Village Capital's audience and ...
    Nov 7, 2014
    Carol Sanford interviews Ross Baird of Village Capital. See more at and
    Nov 7, 2014

  • Monday, January 26, 2015

    Agribusiness in Africa

    Rob Smith, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Europe, Africa and Middle East; H. E. Joaquim Alberto Chissano, Former President, Republic of Mozambique; Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Germany; H. E. Sir Quett Ketumile Joni Masire, Former President Republic of Botswana and Martin Richenhagen, AGCO Chairman, President & CEO at the AGCO Africa Summit 2015.
    19 January 2015. Berlin, Germany. Agribusiness in Africa. AGCO Corporation organized the 4th AGCO Africa Summit. In cooperation with Bayer CropScience, DEG and Rabobank the aim was to capitalize on the successful events of the previous years and establish a regular dialogue on Africa’s agricultural future in the context of the problematic issue of global nutrition.

    The theme of the 4th AGCO Africa Summit was “Agribusiness in Africa – Partnering for Growth” and the summit had a strong focus on private sector driven agricultural growth, promoting the idea of agriculture as a business and not just a development agenda. Speeches and panel sessions showcased implemented projects touching on successful approaches for engaging with large-scale commercial projects, how to catalyze successful mid-sized domestic agribusiness and also building scale with commercially minded smallholder farmers.
    • The following dignitaries attended this year’s H.E. Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former president of Mozambique; H.E. Sir Quett Ketumile Joni Masire, former president ofBotswana and Christian Schmidt, Germany’s federal minister of food and agriculture.
    • Joining AGCO in sponsoring the summit were Bayer CropScience, DEG — Deutsche Investitions - und Entwicklungsgesellschaft and Rabobank.
    See the pictures of the conference.

    AGCO’s Future Farms are to give local farmers and AGCO dealers hands-on training experience with leading edge agricultural equipment and practices.

    They are to have a new state-of-the mechanization center, a poultry learning center and a grain handling center, which the release says, are “each a first of its kind for Africa.

    A grand opening is to take place in May for a Future Farm already fully operational in Zambia. Others are planned for key African markets, primarily in Francophone countries.

    Rob Smith, AGCO senior vice president and general manager for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, said that “Africa represents an important future growth market for AGCO and we are putting sustainable mechanization at the core of our strategic investments.”
    AGCO invested $350 million and committed some six years of research and development into its Massey Ferguson Global Series, a new product line of 60-130hp tractors which are to ultimately be assembled at multiple manufacturing sites and are to be sold in Africa and elsewhere.
    “For AGCO, ‘sustainable mechanization’ means designing our products for the African market environment and building them locally,” Dr. Smith said. “it also means providing professional training for operating, maintaining and servicing our machines, and first class support through out extensive dealer network and parts supply in Africa.”
    28 - 29 January 2015. Dar es Salaam. Agribusiness Congress East Africa Conference. Over 800 agricultural experts convened to debate on finance, best practices and sustainability in the region’s blossoming farming sector.

    The conference represented the entire agribusiness spectrum from input suppliers, agro-processors, traders, exporters, retailers, commercial farmers, processors, policy makers and associations.


    ECA-SA, in collaboration with the COMESA and SADC Secretariats will organize an Ad Hoc Experts Group on Agro-industry development for food and nutritional security in Southern Africato discuss and review the state of the agriculture sector in Southern Africa. The meeting with take place from . 

    The Expert Group Meeting will discuss emerging issues and challenges in strengthening agro-industry for food and nutritional security in the SADC region. An issues paper on Agro-industry development for food and nutritional security in Southern Africa will be the major discussion paper. The two day meeting is expected to provide concrete recommendations on how to strengthen the agro-industry sector through among others partnerships, best practices and lessons from other regions.

    Participants will include agro-industry and agribusiness experts from government institutions, the private sector, SADC institutions, civil society, academia and others development partners.

    Impacts of climate change on rice markets in Senegal

    The Stockholm Environment Institute’s research project Adaptation without Borders is placing a spotlight on the country of Senegal in West Africa to illustrate how climate change can have unexpected and indirect impacts on food security and social stability. in this blogpost four short films explore these issues in relation to rice production, consumption and global trade.
    Spotlight on Senegal

    In the film below SEI Researcher Adam John discusses global rice markets and price volatility in the context of a changing climate. He describes what it is about rice markets that makes them so volatile and explains why this makes countries like Senegal, who import the vast majority of their rice, so vulnerable to climate change effects on rice production in other countries - and the policy response of governments in major rice exporting and importing countries abroad. Adam also reflects on the scope for Senegal to reduce this vulnerability by reducing its import dependence.

    Rice is the main staple food in Senegal. It currently imports around 70% of what is consumed, but has high potential to increase domestic production and big plans to become self-sufficient by 2017. SEI Researchers Adam John and Magnus Benzie travel through Senegal in this film to explore how the country is planning to achieve food security in the face of climate change impacts both at home and abroad…

    Experts from the Africa Rice Centre explain the potential for Senegal to become self sufficient in rice. Does the country have the resources required to achieve this ambition in spite of climate change? Watch the film below.

    Djeneba - a resident of Dakar - describes in the next film why so many people in Senegal today prefer to eat rice as their staple food as opposed to more traditional cereals. She compares domestically produced rice with imported rice to demonstrate why there is such a strong preference for the imported variety.

    Read Djeneba's story here to learn more about what connects rice harvests in Asia and global trade to a hard working nanny in Senegal. Why are rice prices so important? Follow the link to find out more.
    Read Djeneba's story here
    Related: 16/01/2015. Daily Times Nigeria Rice policy: Asian cartel and their disruptive agenda Foreign importers have even falsely argued that rice production in Nigeria is not economically feasible and un­controlled imports should be allowed in. But the reality is completely different. Nigerian farmers have shown an impres­sive performance in response to Government’s new rice policy that favours local rice produc­tion and milling.