Farmers Need Long-Term and Short-Term Solutions to Combat Fall Armyworm in Kenya

Fall Armyworm has arrived in Kenya to stay, but while the government develops a long-term strategy, farmers need ready and accessible solutions now. From a distance, Wycliffe Ngoda’s two acres of shiny green maize crops look healthy and lush. But the tell-tale holes in the leaves and debris on the stems give away an increasingly dangerous secret hidden in more and more maize fields across Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa. The rampant Fall Armyworm caterpillar is once again threatening harvests across the continent for a second year. The pest, which arrived in Africa from the Americas in 2016, affected around 50,000 hectares of maize in Kenya alone last year, costing 25 per cent of the crop, according to government officials. This year, the losses could be as high as 50 per cent, threatening Kenya’s food security and farmers’ economic security in a country where the average annual consumption of maize surpasses 100kg per person. Read More

Fishing for Market Opportunities in Nigeria

Fish farming is a huge industry in Nigeria, but smallholder farmers face several obstacles. Elisa Burrows, Partnership Manager at Fintrac, writes how offering financing for them can open up a world of opportunities. In the Kano and Sagamu regions of Nigeria, suitable water resources and high market demand mean that aquaculture presents a profitable opportunity for smallholder farmers to expand their farming activities. Yet few farmers take advantage of this opportunity because they lack the technical knowledge fish farming requires and because there are few hatcheries that supply fish to small-scale farmers. To help change this, Chi Farms, a Nigeria-based livestock and aquaculture business, is working with smallholder farmers – primarily women – to develop this business opportunity. The market opportunity for fish farming in Nigeria is huge. Nigerians consume nearly 2 million tons of fish per year, and the country’s growing population ensures demand will continue to boom. Demand far outweighs current national production, making it necessary to import fish from all over the world. However, in recent years the price of imported fish has increased significantly because of the devaluation of the Nigerian naira. Even though fish is a key ingredient in many Nigerian dishes and an important and efficiently produced source of protein (for every kilogram of fish feed, a kilogram of fish is produced), only half the fish consumed by Nigerians is sourced locally. To increase local production, Chi Farms is partnering with Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, a Fintrac-implemented USAID program that invests in private sector partnerships to commercialize agricultural innovations in smallholder markets, to increase Chi Farms’ capacity to supply fish to farmers and build teams of aquaculture specialists to provide extension services. Read More

Agricultural Businesses Are the Key to “Decent Work” in Rural Communities

Decent agricultural work can be a vehicle for economic growth. Kristin Williams, Communications Manager at Root Capital, tells Farming First how investments can empower smallholder farmers. Farming is hard work. This is especially true on the world’s 500 million smallholder farms, which rely almost entirely on informal family labor. There, farmers rise before the sun, and toil in plots of land just large enough to grow food for the table and perhaps one or two crops for sale. Sudden shocks—like drought, flood, or disease—can wipe out the fruits of their labor in an instant. If they’re lucky, they can get their crops to a nearby market; once there, they have little recourse if buyers refuse to give a fair price. Billions of people make their living in this difficult way. And it’s no coincidence that they comprise much of the world’s extreme poor, surviving on less than $2 per day. But the connection between farming and poverty is not a foregone conclusion. Yes, farming is hard work; but with targeted investments it can also be “decent work.” Read More

#FillTheGap! Breadwinners and homemakers in Malawi

This is the final post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture.  Malidadi Chilongo may only be 27 but she is already a small-scale farmer, a mother-of-four, and her husband’s second wife. She met her husband when she was 15, fell in love, and married. She has a good relationship with her husband’s first wife, who has five children. “I was nervous at first to come here but it has been fine,” she said. “We get along well. We help each other out – I care for her children and she cares for mine if we need to do other things.” Read More

#FillTheGap! Women bring home the bacon in Malawi

This is the ninth post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture. Smallholders in Africa, more than anywhere else in the world, are at the mercy of a changing climate and environmental conditions, which can bring extreme weather and disease. Only last year this harsh life-lesson was brought home dramatically to Ethel Khundi, 36, when her entire drove of pigs was killed by an outbreak of swine flu that wiped out hundreds of animals in the locality. “Nearly everyone in the village lost their animals. It was a major setback,” she said. Read More