Farming First’s 15 Heroes of 2015

2015 is drawing to a close – and what better way to celebrate this milestone year for development, than by highlighting the work of some of Farming First’s most hardworking supporters and partners! Take a tour through our activities this past year and help us celebrate some of our heroes.

SONY DSC1. Mark Rosegrant at The Economist Feeding the World Conference

We kicked off the year at The Economist’s Feeding the World conference in Amsterdam, where we acted as their media partner for the fourth consecutive year. Mark Rosegrant, Director of the Environment and Production Technology Division of the International Food Policy Research Institute, spoke the rewards of technology and showcased some future solutions. He summarised findings from a report released last year that tested the effectiveness of 11 technologies under climate change scenarios. Watch his interview with Farming First TV to find out more, and click here to read our summary blog of The Economist event.

Mildred Crawford2. Mildred Crawford at our February advocacy mission to the UN in New York

Our first Farming First delegation of supporters went out to engage with United Nations negotiators involved in the Post-2015 process in February. Mildred Crawford, a farmer from the Jamaican Network of Rural Women Producers and World Farmers Organization delivered a statement at the Interactive Session of UN Post 2015 discussions on February 19th, 2015.


courtneycafe3. Courtney Paisley at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture

In March, Farming First was in Abu Dhabi for the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture. We caught up with several Farming First members to hear the latest about the great work they are doing on the ground. Courtney Paisley, Director of the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development was there, spreading the message on how to get young people involved in agricultural policy discussions. Watch her Farming First TV interview here, and check out the blog posts that young YPARD members have provided for us throughout the year.

charlotte4. Charlotte Hebebrand during the International Year of Soils

2015 was the International Year of Soils, and following our Twitter Chat in December, we spoke to several soil experts, including Charlotte Hebebrand, Director General of the International Fertilizer Industry Association, on why soils need to be put back on the global agenda.

khan5. Professor Zeyaur Khan at the CSA 2015 Conference

Farming First’s second media partnership of the year was with the Climate Smart Agriculture conference in Montpellier. We hosted a blog series that detailed the work of all the scientists shortlisted for the Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize and the Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security. Check out the blog series here, and find out more about one of the winning scientists below.

Sue Carlson6. Sue Carlson at the launch of “The Story of Agriculture and the SDGs”

In April we launched our interactive essay “The Story of Agriculture and the SDGs”, which highlighted the ways that interventions in agriculture can help reach several of the Sustainable Development Goals.

What is the story of agriculture and the Sustainable Development Goals | Farming First 2015-12-11 16-07-22

Sue Carlson, the Chair of the Women’s Committee of the World Farmer’s Organisation was part of our Farming First delegation to the Post-2015 negotiations that month, and addressed a session on Financing for Development and the Post-2015 process. Click here for opinion pieces written by Sue on and the Chicago Council’s Global Food for Thought blog.

Bernard7. Bernard Vanlauwe during Global Soils Week

Throughout Global Soils Week in April, Farming First carried out media outreach to tell the fantastic stories our supporters have about improving soil quality all over the world. Bernard Vanlauwe, a scientist with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and expert on African agriculture, spoke to SciDev about why he thinks that trying to decide between organic and mineral fertilizer is a false debate. Listen to the interview here to find out why he thinks African soils need both, or click here to read his Devex op-ed on the same topic. For more coverage of Farming First supporters during Global Soils Week, visit Inter Press Service, Think Progress and Voice of America.

Dyborn8. Dyborn Chibonga at the July advocacy mission to the UN in New York

During our three advocacy tours to the United Nations in New York, the Farming First delegation met with 16 country representatives to the UN, hosted two side events as well as delivering two speeches at UN meetings. As a result, many of the key issues we advocated for, such as food security, rural development, and innovation well represented in the final “Transforming Our World” text. These topics now feature six, two and 13 times respectively throughout the document. The Farming First supporter delegation also encouraged inclusion of improved access for farmers to extension services and training, access to inputs and investment in research and in infrastructure which are now specifically mentioned under Goal 2. Read our blog on the outcomes of the negotiation progress here and get to know our final hero that attended the final mission in July in the Farming First video below.

Pasfoto9. Anette Friis during SBSTA meetings in Bonn

2015 saw Farming First and its partners CCAFS and CTA make two significant updates to its UNFCCC Toolkit – your one-stop shop for all you need to communicate the importance of agriculture in climate change negotiations. It contains key messages, factsheets, useful websites and dozens of detailed briefs & papers. In April, we added all-new messaging ahead of the SBSTA meetings in Bonn on early warning systems, risk management and assessing risks and vulnerabilities. Ahead of the Paris talks we added new sections on the cross cutting issues of gender and youth. Anette Friis, Head of Program Co-ordination at CCAFS has been tracking agriculture at the UNFCCC for Farming First. Read her Huffington Post blog from this Summer, here. For a two-hour webinar on how to make the most of our toolkit, click here.

Abed high-res10. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed as the World Food Prize Laureate

Farming First teamed up with the World Food Prize this year, to act as their media partner and secure coverage of both the announcement of the new Laureate, and the subsequent food security conference in Iowa the Borlaug Dialogue. We helped them generate over 350 pieces of coverage, including New York Times, USA Today, National Geographic and BBC. On the ground in Iowa, we interviewed several high level speakers, including the World Food Prize Laureate himself, the CEO and Founder of BRAC world. Watch this interview to find out why he was awarded this prestigious award for outstanding commitment to global food security.

Emiliano11. Emiliano Dominguez in the lead up to the SDG adoption

As the approval of the Sustainable Development Goals approached in New York, we worked with CropLife International, to tell the story of farmers in Honduras. The USAID ACCESO project saw farmer incomes in the second poorest regions of Latin America double. As part of a public private CropLife Latin America trained 30,000 farmers on good agricultural practices and proper use of pest control products that have had a significant impact on yields. Strawberry farmer Emiliano Dominguez has seen his business go from strength to strength since he received training on how to keep pests at bay. Read his opinion article on

Chris Hegadorn12. Chris Hegadorn at the Farming First Meet and Greet

In August, Farming First held a “meet and greet” session in Washington D.C. Supporters and partners were invited to an evening of discussion and debate with our guest speaker, Chris Hegadorn of Feed the Future. Many Farming First supporters such as Chemonics and Fintrac are involved in Feed the Future initiatives – you can read more about them in the 2015 progress report.


Halima13. Halima Naiga at the launch of “The SDGs and Me”

When the Sustainable Development Goals were officially adopted in September, Farming First celebrated by releasing 10 farmers stories from around the world, entitled “The SDGs and Me”. Each farmer told Farming First what they hoped the SDGs would bring to their farms, and how are supporters are already supporting them. Halima Naiga, who grows coffee, beans and maize in Uganda told us that she had been able to overcome pests by becoming part of her co-operative’s savings scheme. She hopes that the SDGs will prompt more loan schemes for farmers. Read her story on ONE International’s blog.

Eric P14. Eric Polhman at the Borlaug Dialogue

Farming First supporter One Acre Fund was also honoured at the Borlaug Dialogue, held by the World Food Prize Foundation in Iowa in October. Rwanda Country Director and Senior Partner Eric Polhman was awarded the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. Eric was inspired by Borlaug’s desire to expand the Green Revolution. He recognized a major barrier preventing its spread to Africa was the lack of access to credit for subsistence farmers. To that end, he was instrumental in framing the implementation of an innovative farm finance model, which currently serves 100,000 farm families in southwest Rwanda. Read more on the One Acre Fund blog here.

Denise Young15. Denise Young in the lead up to COP21

It has been a long, hard process to get to the Paris COP, where a new climate agreement will be reached. The International Council for Science’s blog editor, Denise Young, has been bringing together a wealth of scientific information together on a brand new blog Road to Paris. Head to the site to get the latest expert commentary.