Pictures from Kenya where the brunt of the food crisis is being borne by nomadic pastoralists, whose way of life - that has been largely intact for some 6,000 years - is now likely to disappear.
Photos by Keith Morris.
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By Cynthia Mwale
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to boost food security to eradicate hunger in the regional economic bloc’s selected member states.
The MoU is aimed at developing, promoting and strengthening the cooperation between the two organisations through development of technical cooperation which in the long term will make a significant contribution to the eradication of hunger and improve food security.
Uganda currently is witnessing an unprecedented growth of supermarkets, and this can be partly attributed to the country’s favorable investment climate. Another key factor for this growth is the rise in urbanization and a growing middle-class.
However, these big supermarket chains are marginalizing many of our local farmers by importing food products from outside countries i.e. Europe, South Africa, Kenya among other others. But why should you buy local? What’s the benefit to you, your community and the environment?
....Uganda has taken an apparent liability – limited access to chemical inputs – and turned this into a comparative advantage by growing its organic agriculture base, generating revenue and income for smallholder farmers. Through organic farming, Uganda not only gains economically, it also contributes to mitigating climate change, as Green House Gas (GHG) emissions per ha are estimated to be on average 64 per cent lower than emissions from conventional farms. Various studies have shown that organic fields sequester 3–8 tonnes more carbon per hectare than conventional agriculture.
...Supply chains — the networks of people, resources and activities that link food sources to 7 billion mouths on Earth today — must work better to meet growing demand, both for staple foodstuffs and, as habits evolve, for more protein, fat and sugar. And they must become more efficient. One third of total food production is wasted; while fussy consumers are the main culprits in rich countries, up to half of waste in developing nations happens right after harvesting.
But food security is not just about producing more food more efficiently: Food should be affordable and nutritious — and part of a system that’s sustainable...
...But low-tech solutions can also have a big impact. In many cases, labor is the biggest direct cost of production — so labor-saving devices such as small equipment for chopping maize stalks, or herbicides to eliminate weeding by hand, can help to increase a farm’s competitiveness, said Steve New, regional Africa director at Fintrac....
...The process of rolling out innovative ideas can be painfully slow. Promising products like solar-driven irrigation or hermetic grain storage bags are only just becoming commercially available. Scaling up or adapting successful technologies means tackling intellectual property issues. And while continued investment in developing improved variety seed is vital to better adapt to climate change, “research and development efforts will need to be much more closely linked to agricultural extension services to overcome the currently long — up to 10 year — gap between developing a great variety and putting it in farmers’ hands,” said Claudia LaLumia, senior associate for agriculture and economic growth at Tetra Tech.
...Innovation, then, needs to be combined with efforts to address broader power structures. That seems to be one takeaway from the recent entries to an innovation fund at the Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation. Many of the applicants proposed mechanisms to empower farmers, according to CTA’s Judith Francis....
...New approaches or technology will only work if they meet persistent needs. Mobile banking may have transformed how people move money, but people also need access to credit. Warehouse receipt systems, under which producers get a receipt on depositing produce which they can use as collateral on a commercial loan, are one recent innovation....
....With the ever-present pressure to demonstrate results, it can be tempting to just find 5,000 vulnerable farmers and dish out new tools rather than prove the impact of more indirect, facilitative support. Some donors acknowledge this: Both the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.K. Department for International Development are looking into more flexible ways of monitoring and evaluating market systems programs.
Donors can leverage positive change. WFP Tanzania, a big buyer of food from both government and commercial sources, has been encouraging partners in both spheres to offer small suppliers a better price. An indirect result has been that some farmers who had viewed the U.N. program as their only fair market defaulted on WFP contracts because they had received better offers — a sign, in some ways, that they were “starting to realize they have options,” said Country Director Richard Ragan....
Counterterrorism laws restricting the flow of cash to Somalia are severely harming efforts to prevent a famine similar to the 2011 catastrophe which killed 260,000 people, experts have said.
Somalis living abroad have in the past sent home around $1.3 billion a year in remittances, which play a vital role in providing relatives with food and medicine.
Virtually all major US banks have stopped offering remittance services to Somalis in the United States because of counterterrorism legislation aimed at cutting off the flow of funds to groups like the Islamist militant al Shabaab. Other western banks have come under pressure to follow suit.
Degan Ali, chief executive of Adeso, an NGO which works in East Africa, told a panel discussion in London that "In the last two famines (in 1991-2 and 2011), the worst affected communities were those with no diaspora presence," while those receiving funds from relatives abroad had access to better healthcare, education and nutrition....
Kenya’s Cabinet has called on citizens to diversify their eating habits instead of over-relying on traditional maize crop as their staple food.
A statement issued in Nairobi after a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta also urged Kenyans to embrace high value crops like cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum, rice and bananas alongside maize....
East African nation is facing shortage of the staple following poor harvest in the last planting seasons....The poor harvest was attributed to erratic rainfall during the long and short rains season, inadequate access to fertiliser and maize lethal necrotic disease, which affected crops on 18,000 hectares in Rift Valley and Nyanza region.
Trade justice for small-scale farmers
Kenya's farmers produce enormous wealth for the country yet are largely poor. They must reject the farming model that keeps them perpetually poor, indebted, frustrated into alcoholism, domestic violence and seek trade justice.
Vegetables grown on African farms are sold in retail outlets in Europe and the Middle East, while the aroma of coffee, tea and cocoa grown in her fields fills the air in most coffee and confectionery shops, outside of which the scent of flowers grown with her water fills the sidewalks.
Yet, the African small scale farmers that produce these valuable products of perpetual global demand are poor - food insecure, living in dilapidated dwellings without adequate water or sanitation, unable to pay for health care or education and unable to retire from farming as they lack a pension and other social protections....
Bill Gates is helping to improve Africa's dairy supply chains by assisting SME farmers to maximise the quality and quantity of milk they are able to sell.
Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Gates to improve life in developing countries, has invented and is now making commercially available a container designed specifically for milk collection and transportation.
In Kenya alone, approximately 80 per cent of the country’s milk is produced by more than a million small-scale farmers who have limited options available for collecting, storing and transporting milk.
Global Good explained: “Traditional milk pails can be kicked over during milking and gather contaminants that accelerate spoilage. From these pails, farmers often pour milk into repurposed jerry cans that break easily and are difficult to clean.
“To address these breakdowns in the dairy supply chain, Global Good and Intellectual Ventures Laboratory set out to invent an improved milking and transportation system optimised for farmers in developing countries.”
SNV Ethiopia – a local office of the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation which aims to alleviate poverty – will invest $1 million (£583,616) as part of an ongoing dairy project in the region to coordinate local manufacturers, as well as supply chains throughout Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
“Global Good’s milking and transportation system is exactly the type of impact-focused innovation that SNV Ethiopia looks for,” said Jan Vloet, SNV Ethiopia country director. "By addressing the needs of smallholder farmers, they’ve developed a product that has the potential to strengthen the entire rural dairy value chain.”
Richard Mkandawire, Vice President of the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) calls on African leaders to fulfil the 2006 Abuja Declaration that pledged to raise fertilizer use in Africa to 50 kg/ha by 2015.
....By recognizing 2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security, a doorway to 2015, the African Union has once again given special focus to the illusive MDG goal number one, of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. The reality is that many contraints still stifle productivity levels of the continent’s smallholder farmers. A critical aspect that is still neglected is access to fertilizer.
Fertilizers have been proved to double or even triple yields within a single cropping season. For every 1 kg of nutrient applied, farmers obtain 5-30 kg of additional product. Yet fertilizer in Africa is woefully underused. It is estimated that African soils lose 8 million tonnes of nutrients per year and that 75% of the continent has been degraded to the point of greatly reduced productivity.
Although African Heads of State took action in the Abuja Declaration of 2006, making the commitment to raise fertilizer use to 50 kg per hectare by 2015, the current average rate is still close to 10 kg per hectare. When compared to the global average of over 100 kg per hectare, it is clear that not enough progress has been made.
What is stopping fertilizer reaching the 500 million smallholder farmers in Africa, and what can be done?....High transaction costs, particularly transport cost, mean retail fertilizer prices in Africa are significantly higher than in the rest of the world, making them prohibitively expensive for the majority of small farmers.
But improving access to fertilizers, and closing the Africa yield gap once and for all is not impossible. This week, my organisation and seven others from both the public and private sector demonstrated their willingness to improve fertilizer access to African smallholders, by issuing an open letter to the African Heads of State meeting at the AU Summit in Equatorial Guinea. In this letter we called upon African leaders to work with the private sector, researchers and civil society in six key areas:
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), founded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006, focuses on getting better quality seeds to farmers, boosting their access to markets and finance, helping them band together to lobby for policy change, and revitalising degraded soils.
AGRA's president, Jane Karuku, believes one of the main shifts in African farming is "how topical it has become" at both national and international levels. "The fact that African agriculture has got so much attention in the last two years is great"...
...But it's not all just talk. There is growing demand - albeit still low - for high-yielding seeds that are more resilient to climate stresses such as drought. Infrastructure is being built, mobile phones are spreading weather and price information far and wide, and mechanisation is on the rise. As a result, the productivity of African farmers has begun to creep up...
...Africa has almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, but more than 70 percent of young Africans live on less than $2 per day, and they are twice as likely to be unemployed as adults, the report said.
Encouraging more young people into agriculture is a solution that can also prevent them migrating to city slums or being drawn into illegal activities that pose a security risk...
...farming has to be profitable for young people to want to get involved, and they tend to find it hard to find start-up finance as many don't own land that can be used as collateral. So there is a need for innovative financing
The 23rd Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union – held June 20-27 – wrapped up in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on Friday, June 27, with a number of advances announced.
Organized under the theme: “2014 Year of Agriculture and Food Security”, the African leaders attending the Summit were unanimous on the strategies needed to promote the continent’s agricultural development, a sector which, accounts for one third of Africa’s GDP and employs about 60 percent of the labor force.
The Summit was also significant as in that it commemorated the 10 year anniversary of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP)
African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma called for increased public-private investment; more irrigation projects, increased access to land; and better use of science and technology to modernize farming.
....The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Director General, José Graziano da Silva congratulated African leaders on June 26 for “raising the bar” in the fight against hunger...[and] said he shared the priority to cut dependence on food imports.
Also during the summit, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization-managed Africa Solidarity Trust Fund announced support to four new projects in 24 African countries ...The four projects, worth $16 million and spread across West, Central, East, and Southern Africa, will focus on “youth employment and malnutrition, transboundary animal diseases and food safety and urban food security.”- See more at: http://afkinsider.com/62876/african-union-summit-ends-several-agriculture-high-notes/#sthash.NthOQbeC.dpuf
Heifer International -- The State of the African Farmer report has been produced as a contribution to the great debate on agriculture and food security in Africa.
This is a compilation of the views and voices of African farmers, practitioners, policymakers and academics across Africa and beyond.
Agriculture is listed as the backbone of Kenya's economy. For years however, small holder farmers who make up the bulk of players in the sector have been left to their own devices to source funds to plough back into their activities. But now the African rural and agricultural credit association in and the central bank have teamed up to create an initiate that links farmers with financiers.
....Hunger continues to be a huge global problem but international agencies have recently said that they are making some headway. In fact, according to the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization, the ranks of the world's hungry has dropped by more than 50 million since 1990, bringing the total number to around 842 million people worldwide.
But there is another food-related problem on the world's plate that could be even more difficult to tackle. Malnutrition - the severe lack of necessary vitamins and minerals in one's diet - still affects almost two billion people around the globe. And in many cases it can lead to serious or even fatal diseases.
A new joint-study released Tuesday (22.07.2014) is bringing renewed attention to the topic. The report, by German non-governmental aid organization Welthungerhilfe and the international child aid network Terre des Hommes, highlights malnutrition's causes, associated health risks and some possible solutions to this persistent problem.
...Health experts refer to malnutrition as "hidden hunger" because the afflicted often do get enough food to eat. But according to Wolfgang Jamann, the secretary general of Welthungerhilfe, not all calories are created equal....
"In east and southern Africa people eat corn porridge. They get full from that, but it lacks essential vitamins and minerals...At the same time, we're seeing in areas where rice is a staple food, that people often eat husked white rice which lacks vitamin A, because it gets lost in the peeling process."...
...Low cost food staples like rice and corn don't always provide enough nutrition, so Jamann believes the most practical solution is to enrich these foods. This practice is currently required by law in eighty countries around the world...
...Experiments with plants, such as sweet potatoes, beans, cassava or corn, are underway in Africa....Of course, introducing bio-engineered plants to combat malnutrition only makes sense if farmers can actually afford the better seed. But hybrid seeds are often more expensive than traditional varieties. Additionally, farmers would not be able to use seed from their previous crop, but would rather have to purchase new seed each year...
....malnutrition is primarily an issue of poverty. So any potential solutions to malnutrition will not be effective if they are more expensive than current alternatives.
Presented at The State of Food and Agriculture 2015 (SOFA) workshop held at FAO's headquarters in Rome on July 1st, 2014. The presentation explained the concept of Institutional Demand as a feature of Social Protection that links agricultural producers with local and assured local/regional markets. Institutional demand primarily consists of state purchases of produce from smallholder farmers that is then distributed through social protection networks (community kitchens, food banks, schools, etc) to fight hunger.
OPINION | Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Waiting to be led toward the one continent we all want: the continent that can and should be. We know the real Africa, filled with possibilities, dignity and opportunities, able to face its challenges and solve them from within. Never has the time been more right for us to finally realise our full potential. It is within our grasp....[more]
....In an Africa where 20 states are classified as fragile and 28 countries need food assistance, the need for a real rural transformation, backed by investment and not just words, is critical - declarations do not feed people.
Investments must be focused on smallholder family farms. Small farms make up 80pc of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa. And, contrary to conventional wisdom, small farms are often more productive than large farms.
The Ministry of Agriculture has started an agricultural insurance scheme to cushion farmers against risks and increase the resilience of pastoralists and rural communities. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei said the scheme is one of its elaborate seven key priority areas in the realisation of the Vision 2030 - a national development blue print. Koskei underscored the sector’s role as key economic driver in achieving an annual growth rate of 10 per cent and sustaining such growth. He revealed that the ministry is also working to ease access to agricultural inputs and credit, aimed at ensuring availability of quality inputs and affordable credit to farmers. Koskei said the intervention is expected to reduce cost of production and increase farmers’ income.
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/article/2000128354/agriculture-ministry-establishes-insurance-scheme-to-cushion-farmers
A cash injection of as little as US$12 per month for an impoverished family could determine whether a child eats properly or goes to school or not. With cash transfer programmes around the world now having a profound impact on the lives of poor people, the debate is less about whether to implement them than how to do so....
...“When children miss that window of opportunity from zero to two years old regarding their nutritional status, or experience late school starts or early drop-out rates, the accumulative effects have long-term consequences on their economic wellbeing into adulthood".... research has shown a direct correlation between a lack of early capital investment in children and ongoing cycles of inter-generational poverty. “This is the strongest justification for cash transfer programmes - beyond the basic human rights perspective.” [Michelle Adato]...
By 2040 Africa will be home to one in five of the planet’s young people. What kind of work can they expect to find?
According to the International Labor Organisation, today over 81 million young people aged 18 to 25 are unemployed globally.
...In Africa, young migrants from rural areas, many of them jobless, are described as the “new urban”. Africa’s rate of urbanisation, at 3.5 percent per year, is the highest in the world, concentrating disadvantaged populations and straining local resources.
That’s because by 2030, three in five people in urban areas will be younger than 18. Should this huge and combustible population continue to lack employment, then civil unrest and crime are likely to rise....
...Fortunately, by making cost-effective investments in ecosystem productivity, many African countries have already begun to realise bigger benefits....
...Creating the right policy environment is as essential as adequate education. This includes ensuring that youth are engaged, excited about and well-educated in different kinds of work related to food production.
Use of electronic devices and mobile phones is one example of how new technologies are revitalising traditional industries in Africa.
Utilising channels like this to promote agriculture and educate young people could go a long way in engaging new groups of people with the sector. Greater awareness of the benefits of agriculture as a career needs to be built amongst young people, in particular highlighting opportunities for greater market engagement, innovation and farming as a business.
Primary and high school education could include modules on farming, from growing to marketing crops. Youths need to become part of policy discussions at the local and national levels....
...Policies must also support small-scale producers. When nearly three quarters of the household budget is spent on food, few Africans can afford a 25 percent price hike on a staple. That’s why the African Union has declared 2014 the “Year of Agriculture and Food Security”....
Africa Exchange Holdings has introduced the East Africa Exchange (EAX) at the 6th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. His Excellency Presidency Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya launched the regional exchange....
...The EAX will link small-scale farmers in the East African community (EAC) to agricultural and financial markets so they can get competitive pricing for crops and access to finance. EAX will use NASDAQ’s OMX X-Stream trading platform for electronic trading and warehouse receipts so farmers can deposit their produce into EAX certified warehouses and access its services.
The importance of commodity exchanges was first mentioned in the Abuja Treaty of 1991 and endorsed by Heads of State and government in 2005. In 2013, EAX became the first regional exchange to link smallholder farmers to agricultural and financial markets with competitive pricing....
Launching a business can be hard work, especially in Africa, where weak governance systems and inconsistent access to critical resources impede success. For Africa’s farmers, the challenges are particularly pronounced. Given the vast economic and social benefits of a dynamic and modern agricultural sector, providing farmers with the incentives, investments, and regulations that they need to succeed should become a top priority.
The recent boom in Africa’s telecommunications sector – which has revolutionized entire industries, not to mention people’s lifestyles – demonstrates just how effective such an approach can be. There are more than a half-billion mobile connections on the continent today; indeed, in many respects, Africa leads the world in mobile growth and innovation.
Why has Africa been unable to replicate that growth in the agriculture sector? Why, instead of bumper crops, does Africa have an annual food-import bill of $35 billion? According to the Africa Progress Panel’s latest annual report, Grain, Fish, Money – Financing Africa’s Green and Blue Revolutions, the problem is straightforward: the odds are stacked against Africa’s farmers.
This is particularly true for smallholder farmers, most of whom are women. These farmers, who cultivate plots about the size of one or two football fields, typically lack reliable irrigation systems and quality inputs, such as seeds and soil supplements. Moreover, they rarely earn enough to invest in the needed machinery, and cannot gain access to credit....
...Africa’s farmers need an enabling environment that enables them to overcome the challenges they face. In such a context, the continent’s agricultural sector could unleash a revolution akin to that fueled by the communications industry....
...The African Union has declared 2014 the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa. With broad action on policy, investment, and technology, Africa’s farmers can double their productivity within five years. It is time to give the agriculture sector the opportunity that all Africans need to usher in an era of shared prosperity.
A March 2013 World Bank report, Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness, called on governments to work side-by-side with agribusinesses to link farmers with consumers in what is becoming an increasingly urbanized Africa.
The World Bank notes that “Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to rise from 4.7 percent in 2013 to a forecasted 5.2 percent in 2014.
When Africa’s heads of state gather for the African Union summit later this month, a leading item on their agenda is to determine the policies that will shape an agricultural market projected to be worth a trillion dollars by 2030 – three times its size in 2010.
We may argue that this market is beset by volatility and incoherence, but one thing is certain: no one should underestimate Africa’s entrepreneurial drive or the potential of millions of its smallholder farmers to feed the continent and the world. Africa’s smallholder farmers can be agriculture’s game changers of the 21st century.
The numbers speak for themselves. Up to 80% of the food we eat in Africa is produced by smallholder farmers – people who tend crops and raise livestock on less than a hectare of land – and most of them are women.
The reality is that the real output from this class of farmers remains far below their potential. When Africa’s farmers get hold of what their counterparts elsewhere in the world take for granted, they will rapidly catch up. That means empowering them with access to finance, better seeds and fertile soil, reliable markets and secure rights to their land, effective extension services and supportive policies. Policymakers can further fuel Africa’s agricultural development by overcoming obstacles that limit the productivity of women farmers relative to men.
By putting these basic principles into practice and forging strategic, well-considered partnerships, Africa’s smallholder farms can succeed as businesses connected to thriving local, regional and global markets. When Africa’s smallholder farmers prosper, Africa and the world will prosper....
....As the AU marks the Year of Agriculture and Food Security, African governments need to be challenged to make good on their Maputo commitments and implement effective strategies to achieve the targets. Governments need to engage more with public and private sector partners to unleash new sources of finance and technology for agriculture in Africa....
Africa researchers and partners working to improve food security in the continent are due to meet in Naivasha, northwest Kenya next week to seek ways of boosting food production, organizers said on Thursday.
The conference, which is organized by the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI), with support from Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), will provide a platform for researchers involved in food security projects, from nine African countries to showcase findings to tackling food insecurity in Africa....
....It said the food security experts will share findings on a range of thematic areas including new generation livestock vaccines; under-utilized and under-researched food crops and livestock; soil fertility and water management technologies for dryland areas; and better nutrition and diversified diets.