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Doubling Productivity and Incomes of Smallholder Farmers in Africa

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In this guest post, Dr. Joe DeVries, Vice President of Programmes at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), tells Farming First why Africa represents the biggest opportunity for filling the gap in global food supply, and how the continent can be empowered to take action. Part of Farming First’s #SDG2countdown blog series exploring SDG2.3 on doubling smallholder productivity & incomes. Despite the many gains made in Africa’s agricultural in the last decade or so, the sector continues to present a number of paradoxes. Although it is home to close to 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated land and is widely believed to hold the potential of becoming one of the world’s bread baskets, Africa’s food import bill stands at a staggering $35-50 billion per year. Additionally, although recent trends are promising, current yields of major crops remain very low compared to other regions. African cereal yields, for example, are just over one-third of the developing world average.  As a result, the continent accounts for only 10 per cent of the total global agricultural output despite being home to 25 per cent of the world’s arable land. …

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Boosting Productivity and Incomes of Young Kenyan Smallholders

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Partnerships between public and private sectors offer diverse ways to boost productivity and incomes, helping smallholders escape the trap of low yield, low investment, low income. Farm Africa is working with supermarket Aldi to help Kenyan farmers end hunger with better results. Joseph Kaunda, a young father of two from Kitale in western Kenya, is no stranger to the challenges of trying to earn a decent living from farming. Faced with pests and diseases, yet unable to access pesticides, he used to struggle to bring in a good harvest. And even when he did, lack of links to markets meant the crops would sometimes rot before he found a buyer, and with them went his chances of making a profit. “When the market is not available, sometimes things go rotten on the farm,” he said. “When things rot, I get very discouraged. You spend a lot of money buying seedlings and tilling the farm. When you do not do well, it takes a while to get the capital to start again.” …

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Book Review: The First 1,000 Days

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When people think of malnutrition, many think only of the distended bellies of the protein deficient children in sub-Saharan Africa. It is easy to forget that malnutrition comes in many forms, has many manifestations and knows no boundaries, race or gender. The First 1,000 Days by Roger Thurow is the story of four mothers in the four corners of the world, and their plight to ensure their babies get the correct nutrients for a happy and healthy life. But it is also a snapshot of the hidden hunger haunting childhoods and limiting adults from reaching their full potential all over the world. …

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Farming Beyond Borders: Farmers Share Challenges and Solutions

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Whilst many challenges facing Farming First’s supporters can vary from region to region, we also stand to gain much from sharing our common experiences, to identify relevant solutions. With this in mind, we recently interviewed farmers from opposite ends of the world, to find out which concerns and interventions – if any – they shared. Beatrice Wakwabubi, a Kenyan farmer with Farm Africa’s Growing Futures initiative, and Jean Lam, a member of the National Farmers’ Union in the US, who works a no-till operation in Oklahoma, US, may seem to have little in common. But like many farmers in today’s uncertain climate, both women told Farming First that financing, rising costs and land access were their main concerns. Beatrice called on her government to offer better financing options for smallholders to lease or buy their land, thus giving farmers greater security and incentives for investment. Jean added that as competition for land increased and farms continued to expand to remain competitive, young farmers would need low interest loans to incentivise them. Although their own experiences were vastly different, their concerns showed two sides of the same coin. At the same time, a major challenge for Beatrice is the fertility of her soils as she diversifies and begins to grow French beans. A good way of avoiding preserving soil health is no-till farming, a practice that has already yielded results for Jean. The scale of their farms, access to credit and markets, and environmental conditions may be greatly different. But today’s farmers also face many of the same challenges and can learn much from one another. Read the full interview with Beatrice and Jean below. …

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