Stories tagged: Agriculture for Impact

Emily Alpert: Can You Be Resilient on One Acre or Less?

Our guest author, Emily Alpert, Deputy Director of Agriculture for Impact, concludes our series of blog articles on resilience published in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ahead of the conference Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” 15-17 May 2014.

An acre is about the size of a football pitch. That might seem like a lot, but if your livelihood depends on it, it is rather small. In a good year, (that is with good seed, fertilizer and rain) a farmer can yield about 3 tons of maize on one acre. You might wonder why the 500 million or so smallholder farmers worldwide, who by definition farm on less than five acres (two hectares), farm at all. But my recent trip to Bungoma, Kenya, proved that there are ways these small farmers can be supported to build more robust livelihoods. The Montpellier Panel, Growth with Resilience report, for example, makes the case that people can be resilient with support for women and youth, diversified incomes and better nutrition. 


We talked to Fumona, a single mother and grandmother. Over 30 percent of rural households in Kenya are headed by women, and focusing support on rural women proves to have a positive impact on health, nutrition and education levels for the rest of the family, thus contributing to more resilient communities. Funoma has been receiving credit, inputs, training and insurance from NGO One Acre Fund. Fumona planted more than just maize this year as an outbreak of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) could have destroyed her entire crop. Instead, with advice from One Acre Fund she divided her acre between finger millet, maize, beans and groundnuts.  She ended up with an astounding seven bags of finger millet (about 70 kg) from planting just a quarter-acre, or in other words, more than enough to feed her family and leftovers to sell.


Farmers situated near Kisumu in a small village called Siaya such as Timothy Okoth, his wife Jennifer and their 5 children, weren’t as lucky. With just a few goats and a couple of chickens milling about the village, it was clear that these farmers have very little to fall back on if the rains are too short or their crops are damaged by pest or disease. Last year they faced severe drought and only produced 6 bags of maize that simply was not enough for the 7 of them. Kenya 1 Diversity is key to resilience as an entire livelihood can be wiped out if you are reliant solely on one crop. When and where these options don’t exist, safety nets can catch your fall and help you to bounce back more quickly. Even though drought ravaged Timothy and Jennifer’s crops, they were relieved to be One Acre Fund members.  In addition to their package of seeds and fertilizer, they also bought an insurance policy.  The insurance pay-out turned out to be a very smart investment indeed; enabling them to stay on their feet in hopes of better rains to come.


40 percent of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa are stunted. Adequate nutrition not only prevents irreversible damage to physical and mental abilities, but helps children become more resilient in the face of disease. To that end, the farmers we visited in Siaya are learning how to build a nursery for sukumu seedlings, a nutrient-rich kale variety. The sukumu will not only help to provide essential vitamins and minerals, but also a potential source of income. They hope that One Acre Fund will also help them access seeds for onions and tomatoes to eventually sell in their local markets. Kenya2  So can you survive on one acre or less? It’s not easy, but it is doable, especially when there is good weather. And when there’s not, one hopes that more farmers will have the access to and choose to participate in programmes like One Acre Fund. Resilience for farmers on an acre or less might still require cattle and kale, but making a wise investment never hurts either.

This blog article is part of an ongoing series on resilience being published ahead of an upcoming IFPRI conference to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2014. Building resilience means helping people, communities, countries, and global institutions prevent, anticipate, prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks, not only helping them to “bounce back” but also to become better off. This conference aims to help set priorities for building resilience, to evaluate emerging threats to resilience, and to draw lessons from humanitarian and development responses to previous shocks.

The Montpelier Panel Call for a “Growth with Resilience” Agenda for African Agriculture

The Montpellier Panel have agreed the agenda for a new report in 2012 at a recently concluded side event at the Mo Ibrahim Foundation annual gathering and forum on African agriculture in Tunis.

The agreed focus is to be on “Growth with Resilience”, and central to this agenda will be the publication of a report, due in late February 2012, which aims to inform discussions related to key policy events. It will look broadly at agriculture’s role in supporting green growth, food and nutrition security, ecosystem services and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Sir Gordon Conway, Chair of the Montpellier Panel, said:

“Agriculture is back high on the political agenda, as more leaders are recognizing the key role which it can play in addressing many of the world’s most pressing challenges. Policies and funding now need to better reflect African national and regional priorities, and build resilient agricultural programmes that fulfill the strong growth potential of the sector. The Montpellier Panel work will also suggest more and better ways for translating these discussions into meaningful interventions on the ground.”

The Montpellier Panel consists of a group of ten experts from the fields of agriculture, sustainable development, trade, policy, and global development. It first convened at the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) in Montpellier in March 2010.

Montpellier Panel members include:

  • Sir Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development, Imperial College London (Chair)
  • Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)
  • Ramadjita Tabo, Deputy Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)
  • David Radcliffe, Senior Policy Advisor, Directorate-General, Development and Cooperation, European Commission
  • Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director, Agricultural Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Montpellier Panel Briefing Launch – Scaling-Up Nutrition

Today, the Montpellier Panel will be launching a new briefing on malnutrition at the UK Houses of Parliament. The report is on Scaling Up Nutrition, a framework that was launched in April last year to advocate a better focus on child undernutrition.

Tom Arnold, the CEO at Concern Worldwide, and Katy Wilson, from Agriculture for Impact at Imperial College wrote the report, which is endorsed by the Montpellier Panel, a member of which is Farming First spokesperon Lindiwe Majele Sibanda from FANRPAN.

The briefing points to the necessary collaboration between the agriculture, nutrition and health sectors in dealing with undernutrition, and summarises the progress achieved so far. As well as the Scaling Up Nutrition Framework, the “1,000 days initiative” was launched at the UN General Assembly Summit for the MDGs last September, which gave extra support to the SUN Framework from national governments. 1,000 days refers to the period between pregnancy and two years old when adequate nutrition is critically important.  So far, several international donors including Canada, France, Ireland, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK, US, and the World Bank have committed to support SUN.

In the video below, Anna Taylor, the Senior Nutrition Adviser at the UK Department for International Development, discusses the Montpellier Panel Briefing on Scaling-Up Nutrition.