Stories tagged: ajay vashee

IFAD Session Discusses Climate Change, Food Security and Smallholder Agriculture

Recent commitments of financial resources to boost agriculture and food security made by the international community in various forums indicate that there is scope for optimism in feeding the future population. Yet how to implement these programmes successfully is still up for debate.

Such were the discussions at a high-level panel discussion, ‘From summit resolutions to farmers’ fields: Climate change, food security and smallholder agriculture’, held in conjunction with the Governing Council of the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD).

A group of expert panellists, including Farming First spokesperson Ajay Vashee from IFAP,  discussed how to form recent summit declarations into reality, by addressing various challenges, as follows. The proceedings of the panel session are summarised in the report.

How can better market conditions be created to promote private investment in smallholder agriculture?

Lack of access to reliable and stable markets, inputs, credits and agricultural tools and services, along with price volatilities, market uncertainties and unpredictable weather patterns were identified are the main challenges faced by smallholder farmers. Yet in several countries smallholders have benefitted from increased prices but only when policy and connectivity to markets have allowed farmers to sell at higher prices.

What specific role can governments play in creating better conditions for investment in smallholder agriculture and rural development, in particular through the provision of public goods and the implementation of supportive policies?

Investments in agricultural research and extension, rural roads, education, health care, irrigation, power supply facilities and other public goods are fundamental for agricultural development and must be supported by effective support to develop value chains that benefit farmers.

Public policies can make a difference by creating the necessary conditions for the development of smallholder farming, for example in Malawi, where the “smart” subsidy investment of about US$258 million in around 2 million farm households during 2005 to 2008 contributed to a incremental maize production and subsequently reduced the proportion of people living in poverty from 50% to 40%, in just two years.

Policies must be put into place to support smallholder farmers’ ability to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, whilst using the knowledge and practices of indigenous and local communities.

What can be done to ensure that smallholder farmers are fairly positioned in a process where competition for scarce agricultural resources – particularly land and water – is on the increase? What role could farmers’ organizations play and how can they be effectively supported?

The establishment of independent farmer- and producer-managed cooperatives and associations is enabling millions of smallholder farmers not only to acquire better skills and technology and access to credit, but also to improve water management, quality control, storage, trading and marketing. These associations also facilitate the exchange of market information and increase the participation of smallholder farmers at different levels of the food and agricultural value chain.

Farming First Release: Innovation and Incentives for Farmers Needed to Protect World’s Biodiversity

Farming First Press Release in Recognition of International Day of Biological Diversity:

Farming First calls on governments to enable agricultural innovation and empower farmers to safeguard the world’s biodiversity while increasing global food production.

Sustainable agricultural production needs to be achieved through both accelerated research programmes and broader uptake of existing technologies by farmers.   Public-private partnerships are key to identifying and addressing these innovation gaps as well as disseminating effective agricultural tools and technologies to farmers.

Ajay Vashee, President of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) says:

Government leaders need to recognise how interconnected agriculture and biodiversity protection are. Today’s farmers are the true stewards of our global ecosystem.

The twin challenge of conserving ecosystems while ensuring future food security means that the role of the farmer is more crucial than ever. With 2.3 billion more mouths to feed by 2050, food production must increase by 70 per cent, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, despite the threats of climate change and limited availability of natural resources.

Like biodiversity, agriculture benefits from fertile soils, fresh water and natural predators, and farmers can also play a role in maintaining natural habitats and other ecosystem services.

Luc Maene, Director General of the International Fertilizer Industry Assocation says:

Farmers around the world are facing competing pressures to grow more food while preserving the world’s biodiversity.  To succeed, agriculture and biodiversity conservation efforts must walk hand in hand.

The Farming First coalition supports the following principles for protecting biodiversity through agriculture:

  • Safeguarding natural resources through sustainable agricultural practices such as sustainable use of land, water and energy resources, conservation agriculture, cultivation of local species and giving value to marginal areas such as wetlands and forests.
  • Sharing knowledge of agriculture’s role in preserving biodiversity through stewardship programmes for farmers and government mechanisms for incentivising biodiversity-friendly practices.
  • Building local access to agricultural tools and infrastructure which help protect biodiversity, such as multi-cropping systems or crop rotation, without jeopardising agricultural production.
  • Protecting harvests by building storage facilities and transport mechanisms, whilst providing support to farmers in managing weather variations and minimising the amount of yield lost to prevent further expansion in land used for agriculture.
  • Enabling access to markets via payment incentives for ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, reforestation, measures against desertification and other sustainable land management practices as well as developing and supporting markets for underutilised local species which encourage local biodiversity.
  • Prioritising research imperatives by addressing both farmers’ needs and the specificities of local ecosystems as well as factoring in farmers’ local expertise and providing resources such as seed banks.

Farming First’s Lindiwe Sibanda and Ajay Vashee Discuss Agricultural Development Support with Voice of America

LindiweIn a recent interview aired on Voice of America, Farming First’s Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Ajay Vashee spoke about the decline in agricultural development support over the past generation and how that has impacted the global food crisis, particularly in Africa.  Dr. Sibanda said:

“As a result of diminished resources and lack of funds for agriculture, we saw declines in productivity, we saw people moving out of farming to rely more on commodities like minerals, and rely more on imports of food rather than produce their own.”

Ajay Vashee also warned that the scale of the need is tremendous, and agricultural investments need to be sustained and expanded further in order to reap the anticipated outcomes.

The broadcast also addressed the structure of the Obama administration’s intended agriculture plan, which includes $3.5 billion over the next three years to help developing-world farmers produce more food and get their products to market.

Critical to heading off the food crisis in Africa is the prioritisation of research imperatives (per Farming First’s Principle 6). Joachim von Braun, Director-General of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, discussed the scale of the challenge facing global agriculture:

[I]f agricultural research and development were to increase from $5 billion a year to $15 billion, “10 years later we will have…300 million [fewer] people among the hungry poor. This is the largest benefit one can achieve with this type of investment.”

At a U.N meeting in September, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined the U.S. agriculture policy:

The strategy Clinton sketched out includes many of the elements experts say developing- world farmers need most: investments in research and development, access to improved seed and fertilizer, insurance programs for small farmers, as well as improved infrastructure such as roads and storage facilities to help farmers get their products to market.

The article highlights the fact that agriculture is a “good investment” for policymakers to make and that their efforts need to be farmer-focused and knowledge-based, aimed at diversifying the range of tools which they have at their disposal over the long-term.

Listen to the complete audio broadcast here:

[audio: voiceofamericafoodsecuritysibandavashee.mp3]

Farming First’s Ajay Vashee Discusses Obama, Agriculture, and Malawi with Bloomberg

3772343979_c09946289fAfter attending the G8 summit in Italy earlier last week, President Obama immediately flew down to Ghana, in his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since being elected President.

Obama’s trips to Italy and Ghana both served to demonstrate his public support for an increased focus on the needs of farmers, particularly those without sufficient access to the tools they need to farm efficiently and feed themselves.

In Italy, Obama said:

There is no reason why Africa cannot be self-sufficient when it comes to food.  It has sufficient arable land.  What’s lacking is the right seeds, the right irrigation, but also the kinds of institutional mechanisms that ensure that a farmer is going to be able to grow crops, get them to market, get a fair price.

In a recent Bloomberg article, Farming First’s Ajay Vashee, President of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), discussed the need for African farmers to have better access to the seeds and fertilizers they needed to increase their yields and improve their livelihoods as farmers.

Vashee particularly noted the success of Malawi’s farm input subsidy programme, which has been running for the past five years and which has served as a model for neighboring countries.

The Bloomberg article noted that Tanzania began a fertilizer-subsidy programme last December, that Kenya has announced a similar subsidy plan to boost yields, and that the Ugandan government had increased spending on agriculture by 47 per cent in its latest budget.

In preparation for his trip to Ghana, Obama discussed the role that governments should play in driving progress in African development goals, quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article:

Countries that are governed well, that are stable, where the leadership recognizes that they are accountable to the people and that institutions are stronger than any one person have a track record of producing results for the people.

In May, Farming First interviewed the coordinator of Malawi’s farm subsidy programme and Principal Economist in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Idrissa Mwale.  Watch the video here:

Watch other videos from Farming First on Vimeo here.

BBC ‘Network Africa’ Programme Interviews Farming First’s Ajay Vashee

bbc_focus-on-africa-logoFarming First’s Ajay Vashee discussed how protectionism in the agricultural marketplace impacts global food security and the development goals of the G8 countries for smallholder farmers around the world.

Vashee notes that much of the agricultural products grown in Africa — when not being eaten directly by the farmers themselves — is destined for the export market.  He also discusses how regional and interregional trade on the African continent is still underdeveloped.

Vashee said that there is

not only a moral ground but also an economic one for [the G8 countries] to seriously look at this if they want global food security worldwide.

Listen to the BBC Network Africa interview with Mr Vashee here:


Reuters Quotes Farming First’s Ajay Vashee on Food Security

3067940167_61b7fa1d6aIn a Reuters article published today, Farming First’s Ajay Vashee warned of the possibility of another food crisis, given increasing demand and finite resources.

He was joined by the Italian Agriculture Minister and a representative from the FAO in highlighting the need to address these food security and sustainability issues before they become even more serious.

The article also discusses how agriculture funding has not been prioritised compared with the subsideis given to the finance sector since last autumn:

Farmers from poor and rich countries alike want to get more funds for agriculture, saying the sector has been neglected since the economic crisis broke out…  Billions of dollars were poured out to prop up ailing banks, while funds are drying up to help the world’s almost 1 billion hungry, advocates for the poor say.

The G8 meeting takes place this weekend from 18-20 April.