Stories tagged: development

“Effective Solutions for Agricultural Development through Empowered African Women Scientists”

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, leading African scientists from the AWARD Fellowship programme will brief London MPs  on “Effective Solutions for Agricultural Development through Empowered African Women Scientists”.

The urgency to boost food production in Africa is clear. However, although the majority of those who produce, process, and market Africa’s food are women, only one in four (25%) agricultural researchers is female.  Even fewer, one in seven (14%), hold leadership positions in African agricultural research institutions.

African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) is addressing that gap by building the capacity of African women scientists conducting pro‐poor agricultural research.

Investing in Climate-Smart Agriculture for Africa

Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is a term that has been coined to position agriculture as vital in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Our previous blog post on the subject reported that agriculture is currently responsible for 70 percent of water use globally, as well as up to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. As demand for food and thus farming is rapidly increasing due to growing populations, it is essential to not only increase agricultural productivity, but to ensure that the environmental impact of agriculture is minimal. It is equally important to adapt existing agricultural practices so they are able to withstand the extreme weather conditions climate change will bring.

A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published last month, entitled “Identifying opportunities for climate-smart agriculture investments in Africa” looks at how CSA is being applied to Africa. Africa’s population has just passed 1 billion and is due to double by 2050. As a consequence, the FAO has estimated that Africa will need to provide adequate food supplies for over 20 million additional people each year and improve the nutritional status of  more than 239 million people. Increasing food production in Africa is essential, but are current farming processes in Africa climate smart?

The governments of 14 African countries (Benin, Ethopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda) have put into place “National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans” (NAFSIPs) in order to adapt to slow-onset climatic change and extreme events, and mitigate climate change. The report has assessed these plans to identify investment needs and options for climate-smart agriculture financing in Africa.

Key findings of the report:

Of the National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans in African countries examined…

  • 60 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of slow-onset climate change
  • 18 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of adaptation to extreme events
  • 19 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of climate change mitigation

Gambia and Malawi lead the African countries in terms of number of projects that address slow onset climate change as well as climate change mitigation, whereas Liberia and Niger ranked higher in terms of number of projects that address adaptation to extreme events.

In an assessment of the potential for quick deployment of climate-smart agricultural practices, Ghana and Kenya were both ranked as having a high potential, whereas Senegal, and Benin were ranked as low.

The results of the analysis highlight that NAFSIPs already include many climate-smart activities, however there is the need to consolidate and integrate these findings by providing country-specific inputs such as:

  • analyzing the most promising CSA agricultural investment options and estimating their cost-effectiveness also considering the expected climate benefits
  • outlining investments needed to transform ongoing and planned programmes, activities and  projects into proper climate-smart interventions, also identifying the corresponding (public and private) financing sources
  • analyzing the profitability of the investments in order to determine the type of finance required
  • leveraging existing financing instruments in agriculture with innovative climate financing mechanisms
  • designing result-based monitoring and accounting procedures and national registries related to identified financing option

To read the full report click here

Find out more about Farming First’s principles on climate change

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

What is the Irrigation Potential for Africa? : A new report by IFPRI

A new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) titled “What is the irrigation potential for Africa? A combined biophysical and socioeconomic approach” has been published.

The report argues that although irrigation in Africa has the potential to boost agricultural productivities by at least 50 per cent, food production is almost entirely sustained through rainwater, with only six per cent of the total cultivated area equipped for irrigation.

Over 70 per cent of Africa’s poor live in rural areas, and most of these people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Therefore, the report says, agriculture has a key role to play in tackling poverty on the continent.

To help increase agricultural production and decrease poverty, many development agencies have recently proposed to substantially increase investments in irrigation in Africa. But, as the report claims, the potential for irrigation investments in the region is highly dependent on geographic, hydrologic, agronomic and economic factors that must be taken into account when the viability of projects is assessed.

The report analyses irrigation investment potential in Africa, and concludes that there is “significant profitable irrigation potential for both small-scale and large-scale systems”.

Farming First think that water use efficiency is important as water is a precious resource. By 2050, the proportion of the population facing stressed water supplies is expected to increase by 500% and the number facing full water scarcity is expected to increase by 800%.

We believe that research, innovation, and access to improved technologies, seeds, and improved irrigation techniques are essential to increasing the efficiency of water use, and that agriculture needs to be part of watershed management.

Click here to go to our water page, where you can download our position paper and read about our six-point action plan.

The political role of water: Water Management and Food Production

The Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) of the CGIAR has released a new report on water resources, drawing on five years of research in 30 countries around the world.

The report, titled Major River Basins Have Enough Water to Sustainably Double Food Production in the Coming Decades, says that whilst water-related conflicts and shortages abound around the globe, there is sufficient water to sustain food, energy, industrial and environmental needs during the 21st century.

The reports author’s claim that the biggest challenge facing water is not scarcity, but the inefficient use and inequitable distribution of the water flowing through key river basins such as the Nile, Ganges, Andes, Yellow, Niger and Volta.

Alain Vidal, the director of the CPWF, said:

“…the problem overall is a failure to make efficient and fair use of the water available in these river basins. This is ultimately a political challenge, not a resource concern.”

Researchers identified large areas of arable land in Asia and Latin America where production could potentially rise by at least 10 per cent.

Dr. Simon Cook, the leader of the CPWF’s Basin Focal Research Project, said:

“…there are relatively straightforward opportunities to satisfy our development needs and alleviate poverty for millions of people without exhausting our most precious natural resource… With a major push to intensify rainfed agriculture, we could feed the world without increasing the strain on river basins systems.”

The report states that if donors and government ministries put more emphasis on supporting rain-fed agriculture, food production could increase rapidly and sustainably.

The authors of the report also note that policies often ignore the role of livestock and fisheries in local livelihoods and diets, which play a vital role in certain communities, such as the 40 million in the Mekong who depend on fisheries for at least half the year.

Policy Coherence in Agriculture and Rural Development

The Global Donor Platform for Rural Development has released a study on policy coherence within the field of Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) “Platform Knowledge Piece 1: Policy Coherence for Agriculture and Rural Development”.

The report explores the need for policy coherence to make sure that policies for development do not contradict one another but rather complement each other, creating synergies. This is importnant, the report says, as:

“In the absence of clear guildelines, policies and programmes proliferate. Some potentially compete, duplicate and overlap one another, leading to waste and loss. This is exacerbated by the tendency for new policies and programmes to emerge while older ones are not always clearly retired.”

Within the report, the authors talk about the particular challenges of ensuring policy coherence for ARD. They highlight three aspects that distinguish ARD:

–       Agriculture and most rural enterprises are carried out by private enterprises, most of which are small and dispersed over large areas, sometimes with little access to ports and cities. This means more technical uncertainly than other sectors, and a higher risk of market failures when interacting with others in the supply chain

–       A wide range of objectives are commonly invested in ARD – economic growth; export earnings; poverty; employment; gender equality; food and nutrition security; conservation; and regional equity

–       Political support for agriculture is often weak and unfocussed. Responsibilities for providing the public goods and services to support agriculture tend to be spread over several ministries and agencies, and may well not be providing the more important and costly public goods such as rural roads, education, and clean water.

As well as the three challenges highlighted above, the authors say that there is the expectation that ARD policy will serve multiple objectives. Factoring in limited administrative capacity in many developing countries leaves us with inconsistent and contradictory policy, which will need sustained interest and effort in order to be aligned and coherent.