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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weblinks September 2012


Accelerating African agriculture beyond the tipping point

Significant changes have been made in the move towards an African Green Revolution within the past two years, but there are actions that need to be taken to scale up agriculture.

The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Arusha has therefore concluded with the production of concrete actions to transform Africa’s agricultural sector.

African heads of state, ministers, private sector representatives, the international community and farmers united on the roadmap for increasing agricultural productivity and income growth for the African agricultural sector, with support for smallholder farmers at the centre of all solutions.

The AGRF 2012 action areas focused on four major themes: rethinking public-private partnerships, revolutionizing agricultural finance, making markets work, and building the foundations for rapid growth in agricultural productivity.

At his closing remarks at AGRF 2010 in Accra, Kofi Annan declared that the continent had arrived at the “tipping point” in the challenge of scaling up Africa’s Green Revolution.

Two years on, the AGRA Chair is convinced that agriculture in Africa has begun to accelerate beyond the tipping point, stating that there has been a rising level of interest and action to improve the agricultural policy environment.

“Public and private investment in agriculture increased, due to better policies and regulatory measures”, he said. “We have seen greater small-holder access to improved, higher yielding seed of stable foods, and to more affordable fertilizer and better techniques for its application, such as microdosing. Significant investments have taken place in large breadbasket areas in Ghana, Mali, Mozambique and here in Tanzania, as well as in several agricultural growth corridors”.

Former AGRA President, Dr. Namanga Ngogi, stated that though the wish is for the agricultural revolution to be instantaneous, some time is required for the development of appropriate technologies, financial systems and policies to set off.

“But I am confident that 10 years from now, we’ll all see that there is a major movement in Africa that is really in transformation of agriculture”, he projected.

Following recent discussions at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa, the G8 and David Cameron’s Hunger Summit, the African Green Revolution Forum is seeking ways to unite the power of the public- and private-sectors in the global food security efforts.

Yara President and Chief Executive Officer, Jørgen Ole Haslestad, who is the co-chair of the Forum, said the AGRF serves as an important incubator for innovative solutions to growing the African agricultural sector.

“Public- and private-sector leaders are joining forces in unprecedented ways to ensure a more food secure future,” he said. “We have seen great success when players come together and invest strategically – we hope to build on new momentum and work together to transform agriculture in Africa.”

Commenting on the success of the forum and the critical next steps, AGRA President, Jane Karuku stated that “the international community is beginning to realize that the smallholder is an entrepreneur, and that farming is a business. AGRF inspired tremendous discussions and developed actionable plans to bring us closer to achieving food and nutrition security. It is critical that we move forward with these real, practical and pragmatic actions at the farmer-level, not at the office-level.”

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/in Arusha, Tanzania

Friday, September 28, 2012

US$ 10 million grant to boost Africa-based agricultural entrepreneurs

 A US$10 million grant to support the development of Africa-based innovations to boost African agricultural growth has been announced by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Sida Representative, Henrik Riby and AGRA President, Mrs. Jane Karuku formalized the agreement this week in a signing ceremony at the African Green Revolution Forum in Arusha.

The grant is awarded by Sida as part of its program area focused on inclusive business and pro-poor economic growth, with investments that must significantly contribute to poverty reduction and rural development. 

“We know that a more effective and professional agriculture sector can make a real difference for millions of people living in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa”, said Henrik Riby. “By sharing the financial risks of private investments in agribusiness, we hope to encourage new sustainable ways of raising rural incomes.”

The grant will be directly channeled to the African Agribusiness Window of African Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), a fund hosted by AGRA.  It will enable Africa-based entrepreneurs to submit new and innovative business solutions to accelerate the development of the agricultural sector in Africa. 

The grant is expected to benefit at least an additional 300,000 people with extra income, employment, market access and transfer of know-how.

Between 10-12 winners will be selected and provided with funding to develop their ideas into practical projects that are both commercially viable and will have a broad developmental impact on the rural poor. The projects will have a significant focus on the empowerment of women and environmental sustainability.

“The African Enterprise Challenge Fund is an important contributor to AGRA’s goals and strategy, and its impact will be enhanced with this grant from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency,” said Jane Karuku. “These projects benefit millions of Africa’s rural poor in very practical ways such as jobs, increased income, knowledge transfer and market access.”

The AECF invites private sector companies to compete for investment support for their new and innovative business ideas in agri-business, rural financial services and renewable energy & adaptation to climate change.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/in Arusha, Tanzania

Leaders in Africa’s agricultural economic development honoured

Leaders and visionaries in promoting a Green Revolution in Africa were honoured at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) Awards gala dinner in Arusha.

The Awards recognize Africa’s top leaders in the quest to create awareness of public-private initiatives to build a sustainable African agri-business industry, inspire a Green Revolution in Africa and make Africa food and nutrition secure.

The highlight of the event was the YARA Prize - the Grand Prix for outstanding contributions to enhancing agricultural growth and food security in Africa, and driving an African-led Green Revolution in Africa.

Yara International awarded the Yara Prize 2012 to Dr. Agnes Kalibata, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda, and to Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, outgoing CEO of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) in Ethiopia. 

Dr. Kalibata was recognized for her outstanding leadership in the transformation of food security and agricultural development in Rwanda, whilst Dr. Gabre-Madhin was honoured for her remarkable stewardship in the transformation process toward an efficiently functioning market, especially for smallholder coffee producers in Ethiopia.

The AGRF Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Namanga Ngongi for his contribution to the transformation of Africa’s agricultural sector.

Dr. Ngongi has had a diverse career in both agriculture and security, beginning in his native Cameroon, where he worked as an agricultural extension officer for the Ministry of Agriculture, helping farmers to improve yields and to diversify and market their crops.

Following this position, he served in a number of roles: he was attached to the Cameroon Embassy in Rome, served as Deputy Executive of the World Food Programme, and was appointed as Undersecretary-General and Special Representative and Head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dr. Ngongi was the first full-time President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), retiring in 2011.

Other individuals and organizations recognized for their commitment and excellence included Media and Journalism – Joshua Kato, Uganda; Private Sector Organizations – Neema Agricole du Faso (Nafaso), Burkina Faso; Farmer Organizations – Faso Jigi, Mali; Academia & Research Institutions –The African Centre for Crop Improvement, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; and Makerere University, Uganda.

The rest are Advocacy Organizations – Rural Urban Development Initiatives (RUDI), Tanzania; and Youth & Women – Africaworks, Mozambique.

The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) focuses on promoting investments and policy support for driving agricultural productivity and income growth for African farmers in an environmentally sustainable way.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/ in Arusha, Tanzania

Ghana prioritized under African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership

 Ghana is among three priority countries for the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), which is working to increase market competition and sustainability in the fertilizer value chain.

The Partnership is an independent non-profit innovation created by African development organizations to build on the work of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), a framework for achieving ambitious agricultural development goals set by African nations.

The fertilizer industries in Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania are presently receiving a $25 million support from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to establish regional fertilizer and agribusiness development units.

AFAP Vice President, Prof. Richard Mlomboji Mkandawire, says the partnership is an innovative intervention that will promote the fertilizer market across Africa.

“For Ghana obviously we’d like to see increased support to establishment of agro dealer networks; networks that can genuinely emerge as business entities that can grow to become importers of fertilizer” he noted.

AFAP has set the goal of increasing the number of fertilizer users by 15 percent and at least double total fertilizer use in the countries where it works.

Among the CAADP priorities is a call for increased use of agricultural inputs, including fertilizer.

However, the implementation of fertilizer subsidy programmes by most African countries has being politically tainted to the disadvantage of poor smallholder farmer.

Prof. Mkandawire noted that “governments will need to continue with subsidies but these must be smart subsidies; subsidies that are well focused and targeted at those who need fertilizer most, not those who are well-off high- jacking the fertilizer subsidy”.

AFAP sees its work as a contribution to CAADP’s aim of bolstering fertilizer markets and engaging the private sector in realizing goals set by African leaders.
Private agribusinesses are offered incentives, initiatives and capability to support farmers to source and use fertilizer.
“For the past few years, we have had a vision of uniting the public and private sectors to benefit African smallholder farmers. With AFAP now up and running, we have started on the work of bolstering the fertilizer marketplace in Africa and encouraging consistent and responsible fertilizer use so smallholder farmers can grow food and profits”, stated AFAP President and CEO, Jason Scarpone.

The AFAP was launched on the sidelines of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF 2012) in Arusha, Tanzania.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/ in Arusha, Tanzania

Thursday, September 27, 2012

African green revolution catalyst to global food security

The ability to achieve food and nutrition security, both in Africa and globally, depends on catalyzing a sustainable Green Revolution across the African continent, says Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

With 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land in Africa, Mr. Annan believes unleashing the potential of Africa’s agricultural sector is particularly important today as the global food system is under acute and rising pressure.

“Ours – the African Green Revolution – must be a revolution that draws on the lessons from past efforts of this kind in Asia and Latin America. We need a “climate smart” agriculture in Africa that increases the productivity of land, labour, and capital invested in farming, and strengthens the resilience of farmers to climate change”, he said.

The AGRA Chair therefore says there should be no room for complacency in investments in agriculture and charged developed countries and private sector organizations to keep promises of increased support for Africa’s agriculture, especially with the most recent New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

“In turn, African leaders must uphold their end of the bargain by continuing to increase investment in agriculture and accelerating the implementation of their country-led plans to achieve food and nutrition security’ he added.

Mr. Annan was addressing the opening of the second African Green Revolution Forum in Arusha, Tanzania, under the theme:“Scaling up Investment and Innovation for Sustainable Agricultural Growth and Food Security”.

According to the former UN Secretary-General, farmers must be at the heart of the uniquely African Green Revolution.

“We can’t increase food production at the speed and scale we need without mobilizing the continent’s all-too-often neglected army of small-holders. Their needs and realizing their potential must remain at heart of all our discussions”.

Tanzanian President, Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, acknowledged the numerous past initiatives and commitments to transform agriculture at continental, regional and national levels, stating that these “are enough evidence that we know what needs to be done. We have done enough so let us do more. Let us begin by doing what we have agreed to do”.

“With the right policy mix, appropriate interventions being taken by African Governments, the continued support of donors, and robust participation of private sector both local and foreign, transformation of agriculture in Africa is an achievable undertaking”, he said. “I believe the time is now because there seems to be a growing global consensus to assist Africa in transforming its agriculture”.

African leaders, chief executives of corporations, representatives of international development agencies and private foundations, commercial banks, farming and many others have gathered in Arusha to play in Africa’s agriculture transforming process.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who was in Arusha to address forum attendees, noted the significant progress that has been made in African agriculture over the past decade, and appealed for continued support from African leaders.

I urge Africa’s leaders to re-commit to your pledge to help farm families increase their productivity. I urge you to set an agenda for the next decade that is even more ambitious,” said Ms. Gates. “I hope you take great care that your pledges and plans are geared to help farm families achieve their goals.”

AGRF 2012 is the global platform for the promotion of the significant private sector investment and policy support needed to increase agricultural productivity and income growth for the African agricultural sector.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/in Arusha, Tanzania

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kofi Annan and Melinda Gates set tone for African Green Revolution Forum 2012

 Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Kofi Annan and co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates spent most part of Wednesday visiting Tanzanian rural cassava farmers. 

They also toured a commercial village dedicated to cassava processing, which is part of the Cassava Village Processing Programme (CVPP), an initiative supported by AGRA and implemented by Farm Concern International (FCI) in Eastern Africa. 

The exercise was to learn more about the positive impact that higher yields and increased market opportunities bring to farm families, prior to the start of the three-day African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF 2012) in Arusha, Tanzania.

Later at a media briefing, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations observed that “agricultural transformation can be done and transformation is taking place”.

Mr. Annan shared his impressions on the activities of smallholder farmers, especially in their adaptation techniques to climate change, and emphasised his belief that “our farmers and farmers generally are very smart; what they need is support, the right inputs and they will get it done”.

He also enjoined Africans living in the cities to give the farmers some respect.

Mr. Annan will chair the AGRF 201, hosted by President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of the Republic of Tanzania.

The Forum brings together hundreds of stakeholders to recognize and celebrate the agricultural progress that has been delivered by African leadership to date, and the continuing investments in agriculture needed to build self-sufficient and more prosperous societies for the long term.

The overall focus of the Forum is to improve the life of the farmer to become more self-sufficient and empowered to reduce hunger and poverty in local communities.

Ms. Gates described African smallholder farmers as “incredibly ingenious” in the difficult task of having to produce their crops.

She is looking up to African leaders renewing their commitments to invest 10 percent of national budgets into agriculture when the Maputo Declaration hits the tenth year in 2013.

“Renewing that commitment next year is going to be incredibly important because we’re seeing countries that are moving closer and closer to that commitment [and] really letting people out of hunger. So everything that we’re talking about today is putting the farmer at the centre”, said Ms. Gates.

AGRA’s commitment, she added, is to connect the smallholder farmers to all levels of markets to obtain large incomes from increased yield.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation spearheaded the institution of AGRA.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/ in Arusha, Tanzania

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

African Green Revolution Forum 2012: technology for food security

Food Security, according to the World Food Summit of 1996, exists “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”.

This definition takes into account both physical and economic access, availability and use of food that meets people's dietary needs as well as their food preferences.

In Europe and North America, people are increasingly becoming socially conscious to eat ethical – most times opting for “clean” pesticide-free food.

In sub-Sahara Africa, however, where the food imports of most countries far outweigh local production levels, the ‘luxury’ of choosing what to eat is yet to gain momentum as people would rather dream of sufficiency in food availability.

The introduction of appropriate water management systems to use as irrigation, increasing use of fertilizers and improved seeds and preserving natural resources are critical to securing a greener Africa, said Prof. Richard Mkandawire, Advisor and Head of Agriculture Unit at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

“It can be as green as national governments are committed to reforms in policy to ensure that there is an enabling environment, to allow the private sector to participate in the agricultural sector” he added.

To improving food security and agricultural growth in Africa, the adoption and use of new technologies are imperative, which in turn will require more and better investments in Research and Development as well as transfer of technologies.

The African Green Revolution Forum 2012 will be exploring the subject of applying technologies to build the foundations for rapid growth in agricultural productivity.

There are thorny and debatable issues with the adoption of certain agricultural innovations like genetically modified seeds, which are being pushed as alternatives to combat low crop yield of farmers who are battling with poor soil fertility, pests and diseases.

But Daniel Otunge of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) believes it is high time Africa explored the potentials of GMOs to be agriculturally productive.

“There are a number of countries within even the European Union who are growing the GM crops”, he said, noting that about 90 percent of maize and soyabean sold on the world market is genetically modified, mostly to meet demands in the EU.

“Therefore, my advise to African leaders is that we really need to think for ourselves and look at what is good for us without having to look at Europe because most European countries do not have food insecurity problems”, said Mr. Otunge. “Our farmers cannot even afford fertilizers, they cannot afford herbicides, they cannot afford pesticides; now if there are technologies that can reduce these burdens of framers, then we need to evaluate them, using our trained scientists and regulators and them adopt them and avail them to our farmers”.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/ in Arusha, Tanzania

Monday, September 24, 2012

African Green Revolution Forum 2012: expectations

For the smallholder yam farmer at Mampong-Ejura in the Ashanti region of Ghana or the young graduate seeking opportunities in agribusiness, issues to be discussed at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF 2012) should be of great interest.

The next milestone to develop an African-led food security solutions would be shaped at the Forum holding in Arusha, Tanzania later this week.

AGRF 2012, under the theme ‘Scaling investment and innovation for sustainable agricultural growth and food security’, sets the stage for Africa’s leaders to promote investments and policy support to increase agricultural productivity and income growth for African farmers.

“One thing that Mr. [Kofi] Annan has said over and over again is that he does not want a talk shop; he wants to see action points – what are the things we are committing to do?” stated Sylvia Mwichuli, Executive Producer of the Forum and Director Communications at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

The AGRF is a private-sector led initiative which will brings together African governments, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, farmers, civil society organizations and scientists to discuss and develop concrete investment plans for achieving the green revolution in Africa.

A post on social networking to engage people’s expectations generated interesting comments and ideas.

According to David Raymond Quojo Asiamah of the Agro Mindset Organisation, policies must link producers to markets and enable value to be created throughout the supply chain to help create income opportunities and diversify rural activities, whilst ensuring environmentally sustainable production.

“In order to provide the conditions that will permit poor farm households to improve their own lives, governments, non-governmental organisations and international agencies must understand more clearly the agro ecological, physical, economic and cultural environment within which farmers and their families live – their farming systems” he wrote. “Only in this way can realistic policies, investments and technical assistance programmes be developed and implemented, and the latent capacity of the farming population fully released”.

Jane Karuku, President of AGRA has noted that smallholder farmers are at the centre of activities, saying that the future will be more prosperous if African farmers are provided the tools they need to grow more and improve their incomes.

Leadership policy therefore remains crucial in the African agricultural transformation.

“They [Africa leaders] should ensure that agriculture protocols set are followed up promptly”, says Geoffrey Onditi, Kenyan journalist with keen interest in agriculture.

Similar concerns are shared by Felix Abugu, an Editor with Nigeria’s Guardian Newspaper, who can’t understand why some countries in Africa produce excess food whilst others starve. He believes policies should promote continent-wide distribution of food.

With the recent $3 billion commitment at the G8 Summit to a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, the African Green Revolution Forum would be looking for ways to increase the public-private sector partnership to drive global food security efforts.

“Everyone who matters in agriculture is coming to Arusha, so when we leave this place, we’ll be able to say, if it’s issues to do with policy, what policy do we need to change and who’s taking responsibility for making sure the change happens”, noted Sylvia Mwichuli.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/ in Arusha, Tanzania.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thinking value chain for youth in agriculture

Agriculture, the backbone of Africa’s economy, is threatened by an ageing production population as young people turn away from farming, often thought to be difficult, time consuming, risky and not very profitable.

In Ghana for instance, majority of farmers are interested in empowering their children to take up professions other than farming as their future economic activity.

“No farmer is expecting the child to land on the farm because we don’t make agric a very good profession for it to be very attractive to the farmers themselves to be able to introduce their children into the practice,” observed Emmanuel Arthur, Managing Director of Kuapa Kokoo Company Limited, a farmers’ cooperative.

According to him, there is the urgent need to reflect on agricultural policies to ascertain business ideals and attractiveness to the youth, otherwise “we’ll get to a point that we’ll not be able to produce the food we eat, the cash crop that we export and the country could be in serious crises”.

Majority of the people engaged in agriculture are believed to be over 50 years old, hence calls for Africa to think critically about how to attract the youth to replace the aging farming population.

Suggestions include the integration of agriculture into school curricula, easy access to land, capital, technical knowledge and equipment for successful ventures.

Dr. Samuel Kojo Dapaah, a Special Advisor to Ghana’s Minister of Food and Agriculture, believes the youth should be better off so long as their concerns with agricultural mechanization, transportation, water and other basic amenities are provided.

However, there is growing advocacy to rather encourage the youth to get higher up in the agricultural value chain.

Some African researchers involved in the GDN Global Research Project, ‘Supporting Policy Research to Inform Agricultural Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia’, have strongly pointed to the need to shift from actual production at the farm house to value addition ventures for the youth.

At a recent workshop to present five policy briefing papers to help shape debates on agricultural policies in sub-Saharan Africa, Prof. Chris Ackello-Ogutu at the University of Nairobi, stated that young people would be more interested in value addition than actual production.

He said whilst it is important for the youth to change their mindset and attitude towards agriculture, they should be pushed to the value chains.

“We need to push for policies and strategies that can engage the youth in value addition higher up in the value chain and there are opportunities for that; providing extension services at the lower level and investing in processing and packaging and in public relations in the provision of market information”, stated Prof. Ackello-Ogutu.

Other opportunities for the youth in agriculture have been identified in food retail, catering, input supply and research – but these jobs generally require higher levels of education and different skills.

The 2012 international conference on “Young People, Farming and Food” debated research findings and policy options for youth engagement in agriculture.

It was observed that the agrifood sector in Africa, in the coming years, will undergo significant transformation that will result in both challenges and opportunities for young people.

Experts at the forum noted that policy interest in linking young people to agriculture should not ignore important drivers, trends and developments that are impacting on both young people’s aspirations and the structure of the agrifood sector.

Prof. Saa Dittoh, Head of Food Nutrition and Security at the University of Development Studies, Tamale says the marketing component of the agricultural value chain should be promoted.

According to the GDN policy paper on ‘Long-term Challenges to Food Security and Rural Livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa’, Africa’s urban populations and incomes are growing and with that will come greater demand for marketed food.

“The youth are becoming very innovative, so looking at the value chain and where they can fit in and not necessarily just on the farm but find out what they can do with the produce, is going to be very important”, observed Prof. Dittoh.

In November 2012, hundreds of public and private sector players in agriculture will be participating in an international conference on agricultural value chains in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Though the event has no specific focus on youth, youth employment may be touched on by the session being organized by International Labour Organization (ILO).

Senior Technical Advisor for Market-Led Development  at the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Andrew W. Shepherd is uncertain “how policies could drive people into value chains as value chains depend, primarily, on satisfying consumer demand, but as demand increases for processed and semi-processed products there will be more employment opportunities”.
As the experts meet to develop a greater understanding of the factors necessary for value chains to thrive, it is expected that young people in Africa would share in the knowledge and experiences to venture the agricultural value chain for gainful employment and contribute to food security.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh


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