Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Monday, January 31, 2011

Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural INovation (UniBRAIN) Initiative

The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Danida has provided funds to FARA to support the Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural INovation (UniBRAIN) Initiative. The January 2010 - December 2014 UniBRAIN programme is purposed to link university education, research and business in sustainable agriculture. UniBRAIN’s Development Objective is for innovation and entrepreneurship derived jobs in the agricultural sector to be created through partnerships between universities, research institutions and the private sector.

UniBRAIN’s major components are:
  1. Promoting innovation through the establishment of university-led agribusiness incubators in Danida priority countries. These are in Eastern Africa in the ASARECA sub-region: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania; in West Africa in the CORAF/WECARD: sub-region: Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana; in Southern African in the SADC sub-region: Mozambique and Zambia.
  2. Supporting graduate training in entrepreneurial and business skills.
  3. Advancing graduate research-based knowledge that is relevant to the development of African agriculture and agribusinesses.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Solibam, a European research program on organic agriculture coordinated by the INRA

Solibam is a European research programme coordinated by the INRA (Institut National de Recherche Agronomique), involving 22 public and private partners, including 10 European countries, 2 countries in Africa and an international research center. Objective: improve the performance of organic agriculture in terms of yields, but also sustainability, diversity of cultures and product quality. This major programme has a budget of 7.7 million euros, out of which 5.9 million is provided by the European Commission.

The European research project SOLIBAM was launched on 12 March 2010 in Nice. SOLIBAM will develop specific and novel breeding approaches integrated with management practices to improve the sustainability, quality, performance and stability of crops adapted to organic and low-input systems, in their diversity in Europe and taking into account small-scale farms in Africa.

Friday, January 28, 2011

International Co-operation in the EU Research Agenda

27 Jan 2011, Brussels, Belgium. Future orientations and perspectives for the African, Asian and Latin American Research Community
Aims of the conference
ECRAAL European Centre for Research in Africa, Asia and Latin America hosted the conference. This conference aimed to broaden the consultation base and bring to the discussion table Afrian, Asian and Latin American research players, acting as a platform from which to voice their interests and concerns so that the FP8 may meaningfully reflect these interests and improve the overall implementation and impact of the Union's research agenda and therefore also, its longer term strategy for the coming decade, set down in its EU 2020 Strategy.
Morning session
The morning session addressed the general theme of the future orientations and perspectives of international co-operation in research under the FP7. The panellists from the EU institutions briefly introduced or comment on:
  lessons learned under the current PF7 in terms of international co-operation                
  - the policy re-orientations anticipated or under consideration for the FP8
  - evolutions in funding allocations to the international co-operation dimension
    of EU research policy
Afternoon session

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

IFAD Conference on new directions for smallholder agriculture

 24-25 January 2011. IFAD organised an International Conference on “New Directions for Smallholder Agriculture” in Rome, Italy to discuss the future of some 500 million smallholders. In much of Africa and South Asia, small farms still account for the largest share of agricultural output.
The conference was an opportunity to examine various options facing the smallholders; what support can be extended to them and by whom; how far can they really become the engine for sustainable development of developing countries.  It was also an opportunity to learn from each other, compare and contrast successes and see what institutional, political and economic support is needed to ensure a better future for the smallholders, within and outside agriculture.
Papers presented at the conference focused on regional diversities and the technical, financial and institutional environments which will determine their future. Will the smallholders survive in the future in the way we envisage today?  What should be the new directions if they are to change to accommodate changing global environment?
Some interesting background papers:

New realities, new challenges:
new opportunities for tomorrow's generation

The Rural Poverty Report 2011 provides a coherent and comprehensive look at rural poverty, its global consequences and the prospects for eradicating it.
Released on 6 December 2010, the report contains updated estimates by IFAD regarding how many rural poor people there are in the developing world, poverty rates in rural areas, and the percentage of poor people residing in rural areas.

Download the report

Rural Poverty Report 2011Overview (1.3MB)
Arabic | English | French | Spanish | Italian
Electronic version (3.9MB)
Print version (5.0MB)

WFLO to work on project establishing postharvest training center in Africa

Jan 24, 2011. The World Food Logistics Organization (WFLO) has received a grant of $31,325 from the US Agency for International Development Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program to carry out a program proposed by the University of California at Davis entitled, “Extension of Appropriate Postharvest Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Postharvest Training and Services Center.”
WFLO will work with UC Davis, the University of Georgia, and the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology to implement a three-year pilot project to establish a Postharvest Training and Services Center near Kigali, Rwanda.
Dr Lisa Kitinoja, WFLO senior technical advisor, will lead a one-year-long intensive postharvest training of trainers program for 30 Africans from Rwanda, Ghana, Gabon, Kenya, Tanzania, and Benin, who will then work with the HORT CRSP project team to provide training to women farmers and marketers in Rwanda.

Announcement: AWARD call for applications 2011

AWARD is a professional development program that strengthens the research and leadership skills of African women in agricultural science, empowering them to contribute more effectively to poverty alleviation and food security in sub-Saharan Africa. AWARD is a project of the Gender & Diversity Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

The AWARD Fellowship is a two-year program that offers a series of career-development resources that:
  • establish a mentorship for each fellow with a senior scientist
  • build science skills
  • develop leadership capacity
AWARD’s training courses, held over a two-year period, take place in various locations in Africa.

Women agricultural scientists who are nationals of Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, or Zambia, who have completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in the disciplines listed below, are eligible to apply. Applicants must be available in Africa throughout the fellowship period. There is no age restriction.
Agricultural economicsEcologyNatural resources management
Agricultural engineeringEntomologyPlant/animal virology
AgronomyExtension educationSoil science
Animal and livestock sciencesFood science and nutritionVeterinary sciences
Aquatic resources and fisheriesForestry and agroforestryWater and irrigation management
Biodiversity conservationHorticulture
Crop scienceMolecular biology
(plant/animal breeding)


For application forms and answers to frequently asked questions, please click on the link below that corresponds to your level of education.
Post-bachelor’s information
Post-master’s information
Post-doctoral information
Applicants have until March 25, 2011 to apply for a 2011 AWARD Fellowship. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Launch of 'The New Harvest' by Prof. Juma

Professor Calestous Juma at the
London launch of The New Harvest
17 January 2011. London. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Filled with case studies from within Africa and success stories from developing nations around the world, The New Harvest outlines the policies and institutional changes necessary to promote agricultural innovation across the African continent. The New Harvest is a product of the Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Keynote address by Professor Calestous Juma, Harvard University:Africa can feed itself in a generation

Professor Juma began by saying that his new book carries a very simple message: Africa can feed itself in a generation. This can happen provided that heads of states work together and the contribution of other sectors of the economy, beyond agriculture (for instance building roads), is properly recognised. The continent should leverage the scientific knowledge that is already available, drawing on the experience of its predecessors – countries that followed a similar development path. 

Professor Juma emphasised that regional integration represents a real opportunity for African countries to specialise and trade among one another. The book is full of examples of how it is already happening in a range of countries. 

The speaker challenged the notion of development as a transition from agriculture to services. On the contrary, a country can industrialise while developing agriculture. Indeed, according to the author, Africa’s industrialisation will be driven by agricultural development. 

Panel discussion:
  • Lord Sainsbury, Businessman and former Science Minister: Science can help increase agricultural productivity and thus contribute to poverty reduction
  • Countess of Mar, Independent Peer and farmer: Europeans must stop telling African people what to do
  • Professor Sir Conway, Imperial College: Professor Juma is sending a timely and optimistic message
Further resources:

FANRPAN @ State of the World 2011 Symposium

(From left to right) Edward Mukiibi and Danielle Nierenberg
listen as Sithembile Ndema speaks about her work with FANRPAN. 
January 19th, 2011. Washington, DC. State of the World 2011 Symposium.
Bringing together leading thinkers in agricultural development, hunger, and poverty alleviation, the symposium takes place following the release of Worldwatch’s flagship publication, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

The Symposium keynote speakers and panelists included Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World; Hans Herren, President, Millennium Institute; Sara Scherr, President and CEO, Ecoagriculture Partners; Catherine Alston, Cocoa Livelihoods Program Coordinator, World Cocoa Foundation; and Stephanie Hanson, Director of Policy and Outreach, One Acre Fund.
Also participating, in keeping with the project’s emphasis on ‘voices from the field’, are two on-the-ground innovators from sub-Saharan Africa: Edward Mukiibi, co-founder and Project Coordinator of Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) in Uganda and Sithembile Ndema with the Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) in South Africa.

Sithembile Ndema is a Project Manager for the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), which is an independent network linking  Southern African countries. Bringing together “different stakeholders,” FANRPAN provides “policy research and analysis… to advise the regional economic borders,” explained Ndema.
Ndema manages the Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project, which uses theater to help empower women to voice the challenges they face to people in power to influence policy. Says Ndema, “Theater is very powerful in that song and dance are common; it’s a cultural tool that breaks barriers” such as those between genders. “It’s a good way to get everyone engaged” and “it stimulates dialogue among the community members.”

“Constituting 70 percent of the agricultural labor force and producing 80 percent of the food” in sub-Saharan Africa, women (and smallholder farmers) “are not involved and are not consulted” in policy decisions, according to Ndema. Some of the “key issues” that WARM tries to address are gender violence and women’s “lack of access to farm inputs,” markets, and land. Trained in the program to be “policy advocates,” women are now “more aware of their role in policy processes” and “have already started mobilizing…to be able to engage local leadership on the issues that affect them.”

AGRITEC ID-EMRC International Business Forum

20 -21 JANUARY 2011

The First Edition of the AGRITEC ID-EMRC International Business Forum, was held in Lisbon.  The forum, held in collaboration with the Portuguese Industrial Association - International Fair of Lisbon (AIP-FIL), served as a platform to debate the current agricultural trends, bringing together representatives from the private and public sector from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the USA. 

The theme of the forum was BOOSTING AGRICULTURAL INNOVATION IN AFRICA and special attention was paid to the African Portuguese Speaking Countries, and countries interested in doing business in Angola.  The AGRITEC ID - EMRC International Business Forum promoted the creation of business partnerships and encouraged the designing of new agricultural projects. The forum included Plenary Sessions; Workshops; One-on-One Business Meetings (using special software that matched the interests and needs expressed by participants) and Informal Networking Events.

Dr. Monty Jones of FARA made a presentation on: 

  • The economic performance of African economies and agricultural sectors
  • Governments frameworks for agricultural development
  • The alternative opportunities for investment in African agriculture
  • Agribusiness opportunities at the Bottom of the Pyramid

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) develop a five year joint program which fully integrates nutrition security into CAADP

Addis Ababa, 23 January 2011. GAIN - the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition – and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) announced that they signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will significantly contribute to reduce malnutrition in Africa. The agreement was co-signed on 23/01 in Addis Ababa during NEPAD’s steering committee between Jay Naidoo, chair of GAIN Board and Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency.

“Since malnutrition has multiple causes, improvement requires multi-sectoral action across the food security, agriculture, social protection, health and educational sectors” said Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD. “This poses a significant delivery challenge for national governments. Although tested, affordable and effective interventions are available; implementation has not yet reached scale”.

The aim of this agreement is to develop a five year joint program to support national investment programs which fully integrate nutrition security into the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and which help to harmonize CAADP and nutrition interventions. GAIN is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and its presence in Cairo, Johannesburg, Nairobi, New Delhi, Shanghai and Washington D.C. supports programs. For more information, please visit:

African aquaculture network hits 1,600 members

African aquaculture network hits 1,600 members

SARNISSA, the Sustainable Aquaculture Research Networks in Sub Saharan Africa, now has more than 1,600 members from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. The network was established to share information, contacts, publications, videos, employment and funding opportunities, and African aquaculture in the media, through two daily updated interactive email discussion boards (in English and French).

Sarnissa is now also on Twitter and Facebook with more than 800 regular users allowing wide coverage and mobile phone access to a growing African aquaculture sector. Find out more at

Monday, January 17, 2011

Multi-actor systems as entry points to agricultural capacity development

Multi-actor systems as entry points to capacity development

It is often assumed that capacity development starts from within individuals and organisations and then permeates into society. But capacity also comes about through interaction between actors. This suggests that a change in intervention logic and repertoire can boost effectiveness.  
The capacity of a system is increased by enhancing the quality and relevance of relationships between actors at different levels. The essence of working with a multi-actor system is to establish or reinforce connections between actors who did not previously relate to one another, or who did so ineffectively or antagonistically – despite having interests in common. The Ugandan case study demonstrates that facilitating multi-stakeholder engagement was pivotal in creating favourable conditions for other innovations and forms of capacity development support. The multi-stakeholder platforms produced concrete results, and they did so through the enhanced collective ability of the multi-actor system to understand, discuss, act, change and develop itself.
Case studies: Multi-actor systems as entry points to capacity development
The following case studies from Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya provide some real-life experiences of how multi-actor capacity development takes place.

CASE STUDY 1: Boosting the honey trade – Ethiopia   
beehive-ethiopiaIn 2005, Ethiopian beekeepers were producing just small quantities of high-quality table honey. Most of what they produced was of a standard quality and destined for sale locally to be used in   tej, the traditional Ethiopian honey wine. Five years later, 27,000 producers managed to increase the production of high-quality honey resulting in an increase in average household income of US$150. Now, ten honey processors are providing 400 tonnes of honey annually for the export market.  
How did this change happen? Although a simple story in itself, the reality is a complex one of facilitating immediate opportunities, stimulating innovations for major constraints and building on or unlocking existing initiatives.  

CASE STUDY 2: The oilseed value chain – Uganda
An analysis of Uganda’s oilseed sub-sector in 2006 revealed that there was great potential for growth in terms of productivity, income and employment. However, it was apparent that growth was stifled by poor coordination and lack of collaboration and information sharing between actors. As a result, the supply of inputs was inadequate, bulk purchasing was a rarity, post-harvest handling facilities and technologies were inadequate, actors lacked access to finance, and sub-sector policies and regulations were weak.  

CASE STUDY 3: Transforming livestock marketing – Kenya

livestock marketsFor decades, livestock producers in the Wamba district of Samburu County had struggled to access markets and meet their income needs. They often had to trek for several days to markets, encountering considerable insecurity along the way. Margins were very low; an animal often changed hands five times before being sold. Producers had no direct link with livestock markets. This was left to the middlemen who came to the rural areas looking for animals to buy. Even though there was demand, the high transaction costs incurred by traders buying from geographically spread producers resulted in low prices. 
Cutting out the middleman  However, an innovative approach to livestock marketing began to emerge from the collaboration of the various actors. This involved establishing an interior market managed by the community. The community also collected livestock taxes on behalf of the regional local government, with whom they shared the tax on a fifty-fifty basis.
The new market’s proximity to the community encouraged direct links between traders from terminal markets and the producers. This cut out a number of middlemen and improved prices by more than 30%. As a result of sharing the taxes, the community’s commitment to the arrangement increased and this contributed to reductions in livestock theft, insecurity and tax evasion by producers and traders.  

New research into pastoralist innovation

The revival of interest in pastoralism and livestock production takes two forms – one a celebration of the ‘pastoral way of life' and the importance of indigenous systems of production and management and another focusing on the market potentials of a ‘livestock revolution'.

FAC's pastoralism theme has six ongoing studies with innovation forming the central research questions. Read more about FAC's innovation research and see short video clips of FAC researchers speaking about pastoralism and innovation - perspectives are available viewing.

Funds raising capital for African agriculture

Funds that have recently raised or are raising capital for agriculture investment in Africa, or which have agriculture and agribusiness as focus sectors include:

SilverStreet Capital, the investment management firm that focuses on Africa and the agricultural sector, is raising capital for the Silverlands Fund, a private equity fund that will invest in African agricultural businesses across the value chain around a core of farmland businesses in Southern and Central Africa. The fund will be Luxembourg domiciled and have a life of 10 years, with an option to extend for a further two years. Targeted fund size is $350 million and target return is 20-25 percent per annum. Silver Street was set up in 2007 by Gary Vaughan-Smith, former head of alternative investments at ABN AMRO.

Phatisa Group, the South African private equity and corporate finance advisory firm, is managing the African Agriculture Fund (AAF), which held its first close in mid-July at 200 million euros and is targeting a final close of 500 million euros. Founder sponsors were IFAD, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Agence Française de Développement (the French development agency), AGRA and the West African Development Bank. AAF will back private-sector companies that implement strategies to increase and diversify food production and distribution in Africa. It will invest in agro-industrial companies, and agricultural co-operatives that support small-scale farmers and respect the environment.

South Africa's Sanlam Private Equity and SP Aktif raised $100 million for Agri-Vie Fund and are already planning a second $300 million fund, to be launched in a couple of years to feed investor demand. The first fund invests in agricultural projects in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria. Backed by Development Bank of Southern Africa, Industrial Development Corp (the South African DFI using money from the EU-funded Risk Capital Facility that is co-managed with the EIB), and the WK Kellogg Foundation, the fund will invest in entrepreneurs in the agribusiness value chain, rather than directly in the farming industry. Agri-vie plans to invest up to $25 million in five projects in 2010. The fund invests equity and quasi-equity with a preferred position of 25-75 percent. It can arrange debt funding and is open to syndication and co-investment.

Global Environment Fund (GEF), the U.S.-based private equity firm, raised an initial $84 million for the GEF Africa Sustainable Forestry Fund (GASFF) and is targeting $150 million. The fund is focused on sustainable forestry in sub-Saharan Africa and is the first of its kind. It is a 12-year closed-end private equity fund dedicated to investments in forestlands or forestry-related companies and projects in Eastern and Southern Africa, together with two countries in West Africa. The first close saw commitments principally from development finance institutions; CDC was a cornerstone investor, with $50 million; the IFC committed $20 million. Private investors are expected to invest alongside the DFIs to get the fund to its target size. GASFF will target commercial returns and is expected to invest in and develop between five and 10 forestry businesses across sub-Saharan Africa. The forestry businesses will grow process and market timber products to meet growing global demand from industries including construction, energy, furniture and biofuel. The fund will start to make investments immediately, with an investment size typically between $15 million and $30 million. Focus countries will include Mozambique, Tanzania, Swaziland, South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, Malawi and Zambia.

African Agricultural Capital (AAC) started raising capital earlier this year for the AAC Fund, an East African agricultural investment fund. The Uganda-based venture capital firm, set up by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and Belgian investment company Volksvermogen sent out its private placement memorandum earlier this year. The $25 million Mauritius-domiciled closed-end fund is focused on providing capital to small growing businesses (SGBs) operating in the agriculture value chain in East Africa. The fund will invest between $200,000 and $2 million in each business, using a range of equity and quasi-equity instruments. AAC says its success criteria are to earn a minimum gross return of 12 percent per annum on funds invested, and to mobilise increased investment capital of at least an additional $5 million into the East African agricultural sector through partnerships with other investors.

Private equity funds Sierra Leone Investment Fund and ManoCap Soros Fund are raising capital to invest in small companies in Sierra Leone, primarily in agribusiness and related services. Both have signed contracts with MIGA.

Beltone Private Equity, a unit of the MENA-focused investment bank Beltone Financial, signed a partnership agreement with Kenana Sugar Company in Sudan with the aim of deploying up to $1 billion in large-scale agriculture projects across Egypt and Sudan. Beltone will provide investment management, corporate finance and strategic capabilities, while Kenana will add technical know-how and operational expertise.

Emerging Capital Partners, the Washington DC-based Africa-focused private equity firm, raised $613 million for ECP Africa Fund III at its final close in July. Over $450 million came from the AfDB, IFC, OPIC and CDC. The remainder came from new investors such as South Suez, the pan-African fund-of-funds manager. The fund's mission is to generate above-market returns by taking controlling stakes or influential minority positions in high-growth companies through equity and quasi-equity investments such as convertible debt. The fund will focus on companies pursuing regional strategies and will invest across various sectors, including agriculture, natural resources, telecoms, financial services, transportation, and utilities.

Advanced Finance and Investment Group, the private equity group based in Senegal, held the first closes of the Atlantic Coast Regional Fund (ACRF) at $84 million last year and is building towards its $150 million target. ACRF is focusing on mid-size, strong growth companies with a regional scope. Core investment countries will be Nigeria, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, DRC and Angola, but the scope of the fund's investments will cover the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), as well as Morocco, Mauritania, Uganda and Rwanda. Main investors in the fund are AfDB, CDC, EIB, FinnFund, and IFC as well as international investors such as Africa Re. The fund will make investments ranging between $3 million and $15 million. The sector focus will be agribusiness, transportation and logistics, financial services, telecoms, mining and natural resources and manufacturing companies.

Nairobi-based venture capital firm Amani Capital hooked up with the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (Norfund) to establish the Luxembourg-based Fanisi Venture Capital Fund. The fund will target high growth start-up and established small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Fanisi expects to close at $55 million and will invest in high-growth businesses in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The fund will invest widely across a range of sectors, including agribusiness, ICT, retail, financial services, real estate, health and tourism. The fund's first close investors were Proparco (the DFI majority owned by the French government) and Finnfund, the Finnish government's development finance agency. Other investors were the IFC, the Soros Economic Development Fund and the Barry Segal Foundation.

A Microfinance Institution has come up with an ingenious way of dispensing credit to address unique clients needs. Pamoja Women Development Programme operating in Kiambu County is offering cows instead of cash as loans to farmers in the area.

Africinvest Capital Partners reached the fourth close of Africinvest II with commitments of 137 million euros, and is planning for a final close of 150 million euros. The Mauritius-based pan-African SME fund has the backing of a whole host of European DFIs as well as the IFC, AfDB and EIB.

The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund provides grants and interest free loans to businesses who wish to implement innovative, commercial viable, high impact projects in Africa. The AECF supports businesses working in agriculture, financial services, renewable energy and technologies for adapting to climate change.

Hugh Scott, Chief Executive Officer of the African Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF)

EU-funded scientists sequence fungal disease genome

EU-funded researchers have sequenced the genome of a major fungal disease that affects various cereal crops including barley. Presented in the journal Science, the research could help bolster our understanding of the evolution of plants.

The study was funded in part by the BIOEXPLOIT ('Exploitation of natural plant biodiversity for the pesticide-free production of food') project, which is backed with almost EUR 16 million under the 'Food quality and safety' Thematic area of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). The researchers, led by Imperial College London (ICL) in the UK, say their study helps shed light on how parasites within the genome of the fungus facilitate a disease's adaption and fight against a plant's defences.

They add that new agricultural techniques can be developed, making it easier to keep infection at bay and sustain the health of cereal crops. Ensuring that plants stay free from disease is also a mega step towards securing food in our planet.

Researchers from Germany and France contributed to this study.

Reference: 20/12/2010 EC Research Information Center