Stories tagged: Farm Africa

Boosting Productivity and Incomes of Young Kenyan Smallholders

farm-africa-joseph-smiling-portrait-2-sq

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.”

Continue reading

Nicolas Mounard: British and African Farmers Face Similar Challenges and Opportunities

farm-africa-ceo-nico-mounard-byline

In this guest blog post, Nicolas Mounard, CEO of Farm Africa, discusses the similar challenges faced by British and African farmers associated with uncertain trading conditions as well as growing and increasingly complex global demands.

Never before has the world asked so much from its farmers. The challenge of feeding a rapidly expanding global population in a changing trade and environmental landscape is a daunting task. Farmers are up to it but to succeed, they need support to sustainably increase production as well as certainty on trade agreements.

A recent meeting in London organised by Farm Africa, an international NGO working to grow farming in eastern Africa, and the UK’s National Farmers’ Union highlighted the importance of well-functioning supply chains to global food security.

Growing population

With the global population set to get bigger and more affluent, the world will inevitably continue to see a rapidly rising demand for food, begging the question whether the supply of food can keep pace.

Britain’s food self-sufficiency is projected to fall from 60 to 50% by 2040, whilst the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa reports that the continent imported 83% of its food in 2013, despite the majority of the population working in subsistence agriculture.

Agneta Mbithe, 25, of Kyakya Youth Group Kitui, Kenya tends to Sorghum crops. (Farm Africa/Mwangi Kirubi)

Agneta Mbithe, 25, of Kyakya Youth Group Kitui, Kenya tends to Sorghum crops. (Farm Africa/Mwangi Kirubi)

These statistics could easily set alarm bells ringing when it comes to outlook for food security here in the UK and in Africa. Indeed, commentators have long feared that the global demand for food will outstrip supply. But as Tim Smith, Group Quality Director at Tesco and Farm Africa’s latest board member, noted at the event: “Fifty years ago, commentators said it would be impossible to feed the population we have now. Yet between everybody working up and down the supply chain those naysayers have been proved wrong”.

Farmers and the agriculture sector as a whole are up to the challenge but the stakes have never been so high. Both the UK and Africa need a clear roadmap on how to achieve long-term, sustainable food security.

Pushing aside important caveats about scale, landscape and context, British and African farmers are facing similar food security challenges: the need to grow more, grow better and secure access to high-value markets.

A participant in Farm Africa’s climate-smart agriculture project in Ethiopia. (Farm Africa/Medhanit Gebremichael)

A participant in Farm Africa’s climate-smart agriculture project in Ethiopia. (Farm Africa/Medhanit Gebremichael)

Growing more, growing smarter

At Farm Africa, every day we see first-hand how ensuring farmers are equipped with the right agronomic skills and high-quality inputs can boost harvests and profits. From our sesame project in Tanzania to our fish farming programme in Kenya, we’ve seen how yields can increase by 200 or 300% within the space of a year. These are much needed gains, given that African farms are performing at only about a quarter of their potential.

Meanwhile, British farmers’ productivity is failing to keep pace with other developed countries: the UK’s agricultural productivity is achieving an average annual growth of just 0.8%, highlighting the need for increased investment and innovation to enable agriculture in the UK to realise its potential.

In Africa, increasing volume only represents one side of the coin, quality is the flipside. Improving the quality of crops to meet the standards needed to penetrate export markets can provide poor farmers with a sizeable and steady income; a vital food security ingredient.

Yet smallholder farmers often need specialist support to make the step-change from subsistence to commercial agriculture. Across many of our projects we are supporting smallholders in developing the business and marketing skills they need to work with international buyers, as well as improving their access to high-quality inputs, such as certified seeds, necessary to meet export standards.

In a project we run in south-eastern Ethiopia helping forest communities to earn a living from the coffee that grows naturally under the shade of trees, we’ve helped 15 out of the 21 coffee cooperatives we work with to export directly to the international market, where their coffee beans will fetch a much higher price.

By making sure that the post-harvest handling, processing and marketing of coffee is the best it can be, we can make sure that coffee farmers can earn a better income from the coffee they produce, helping to bolster livelihoods and protect against food insecurity.

Providing trade certainty

Restrictive trade agreements, as well as poor infrastructure such as inadequate roads, can mean that even when yields are good and quality is high, farmers face challenges getting their goods to market.

Market access is of course of prime importance to British farmers with Brexit negotiations underway. With 73% of British agri food exports currently going to the EU, there’s no doubt that farming will be the most affected sector when the UK leaves the EU.

The lack of certainty about the markets to which British farmers will have access highlights the importance of a stable trading environment to both food security and farmers’ livelihoods.

“Farming is a long-term business. I, like many farmers, am making decisions now for beef products hitting the market in early 2020. Even with the best will and planning, I’m making these decisions not knowing the trading environment I’ll be operating in,” commented Minette Batters, Deputy President of the NFU at the recent Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum.

Regional trade is also high on the agenda in eastern Africa. While Tanzania and Uganda produce a surplus of staple crops, such as rice and maize, every year, Kenya only grows enough maize to feed itself one year in every five.  Until recently, high tariffs on trade within eastern Africa have meant that it has been cheaper for Kenya to import crops from outside Africa. These policies have now changed, opening up new opportunities for regional trade.

Farm Africa is helping rural Ugandan and Tanzanian farmers make the most of this new export market, providing communities with the resources and knowledge to produce high-quality grain, store it safely and get top prices from the market. This not only helps boost the incomes of Tanzanian and Ugandan farmers, but helps secure affordable food for Kenyan consumers year-round.

While a prolonged drought has forced Uganda to employ short-term measures that halt the export of staple crops, Farm Africa is working to ensure that when farmers do achieve a surplus, they will be able to sell their crops regionally.

Degrading the environment degrades food security

It is common knowledge that mankind’s ability to feed itself is inextricably linked to the environment. Less widely recognised is that agriculture is also a major driver of climate change and environmental degradation. Resolving this tension through the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices will prove vital to ensuring the world’s long-term food security.

Both Africa and the UK face environmental problems driven by unsustainable agricultural production, ranging from water scarcity to soil erosion to deforestation and degradation of grazing lands, which threaten future agricultural productivity.

To secure agricultural productivity and livelihoods farmers must focus on sustainable agriculture that conserves the vital natural resources they rely on, as well as support and strengthen existing conservation efforts made by local rural communities.

Going forward

The British and African food and farming industries have more in common than first meets the eye. Global food security has much to gain from players at every stage of supply chains working ever more closely together to increase production, protect the environment and, crucially, ensure access to markets.

Learn more about Farm Africa’s work here or follow @FarmAfrica on Twitter. This post originally appeared in the March edition of the WFO’s F@rmletter.

Cover photo: Farm Africa/Stephanie Schafrath

James Mwololo: Livestock is a Key to Human Development – Where Have We Missed the Mark?

James Mwololo - 8 - James, head shop cropped

James Mwololo, Head of Agriculture at Farm Africa examines why the livestock sector is still under-resourced and under-funded int he developing world. This guest blog post was originally featured in the March edition of the World Farmer Organisation’s F@rmletter

Livestock performs multiple valuable functions for farmers, especially in developing countries, yet it requires more funding and resources to be directed toward it for its full potential to be realised.

Livestock makes a major contribution to food security and nutrition. Animals are an important source of high quality, readily absorbable protein and of minerals, vitamins and micronutrients deficient in cereals.

The consumption of livestock products is closely related to income. As incomes rise, people typically increase their consumption of meat, milk and eggs. In addition to rising incomes, high population growth in developing countries is fuelling the demand for animal food products. Increasing urbanisation also affects this as people living in towns are adopting new eating habits and consuming more animal protein. Continue reading

#2020Resilience Twitter Chat Summary

2020 resilience twitter chat

To warm up for the global conference “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” taking place in Ethiopia in a few weeks time, Farming First and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) held a lively and informative Twitter Chat on the topic of “resilience”.

Our expert panelists from IFPRI and Farming First supporter organisations Fintrac and Farm Africa opened the debate by sharing their views on what resilience has to do with agricultural development.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.10.292020-resilience-twitter-chat-32020-resilience-twitter-chat-4

Throughout the chat, panelists and our online audience shared abundant examples of projects already helping to boost the resilience of poor people and communities vulnerable to shocks and stressors such as climate change, conflict and scarce natural resources.

2020-resilience-twitter-chat-5

 

2020-resilience-twitter-chat-6

 

2020-resilience-twitter-chat-7

Our active online audience posed a number of interesting and challenging questions to our panelists – from how we can measure resilience – to what “better data” for farmers really means.

2020-resilience-twitter-chat-8

2020-resilience-twitter-chat-9

Explore these links for more information on ideas exchanged during the #2020Resilience Twitter Chat:

The hashtag #2020Resilience will be active all the way up to the “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” and beyond, so if your question wasn’t answered this time, be sure to keep an eye out for more discussion and resource exchange.

For a full round up of the discussion, check out the Storify summary of the whole Twitter Chat:

 

APR162014
#2020Resilience Twitter Chat

2020 resilience twitter chat

Wednesday 16th April, 10am – 11am EDT on Twitter

Join the conversation!

Poor people and communities are being hit by shocks ranging from droughts, floods, and earthquakes to conflict and food price spikes, and these shocks are putting people’s food and nutrition security at risk.

It’s time to rethink how people and communities can be helped to become more resilient to these shocks. The international conference “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security“, held by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on 15-17th May will debate just that – and we invite you to be part of the discussion online.

Join experts from Farming First and the IFPRI on Twitter at 10am EDT on Wednesday 16th April to debate the issues with our experts:

 

jay-kaufman-fintracJay Kaufman is Senior Vice President of Field Operations at Fintrac. He has two decades of experience providing support and oversight to multi-year agricultural development projects in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. He is an expert in market analysis and commercial distribution channels; smallholder and local partner grants administration; and agricultural sector rehabilitation post-disaster. @fintrac

 

 

Image of Tenna Shitarek

Tenna Shitarek is Farm Africa’s Programme Manager for Quality in Ethiopia. Prior to working at Farm Africa Tenna worked as a consultant and he produced a number of important evaluations and reports on a range of topics including economic resilience and disaster risk reduction. He is also the co-author of “The Economics of Early Response and Disaster Resilience: Lessons from Kenya and Ethiopia”@farmafrica

 

 

ruth meinzen-dick ifpriRuth Meinzen-Dick is Coordinator of the CGIAR program on Collective Action and Property Rights (CAPRi). Her research deals with water resource management, land, forests, property rights, collective action, and the impact of agricultural research on poverty. She leads IFPRI’s Gender Task Force and co-leads work on strengthening women’s assets. Much of her research has been in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. @ifpri

 

 

clemens breisinger ifpriClemens Breisinger is an economist and research fellow at IFPRI’s Development Strategy and Governance Division. Since 2010, Clemens leads the Middle East and North Africa team, which provides knowledge, strengthens capacity and aims at influencing policy and investment decisions for an Arab World free of poverty and malnutrition. @ifpri

 

 

agnes quisumbing ifpriAgnes Quisumbing is a senior research fellow at IFPRI and co-leads a research program that examines how closing the gap between men’s and women’s ownership and control of assets may lead to better development outcomes. Her past work at IFPRI analyzed the factors that enable individuals, households, and communities to move out of poverty over the long term, and on how resource allocation within households and families affects the design and outcome of development policies. @ifpri

Questions to be addressed:

How is ‘resilience’ relevant to agricultural development?
Which trends are currently threatening people’s resilience?
Which programs are succeeding in building farmers’ resilience?
How can ‘resilience’ be incorporated into the post-2015 development goals?

Tweet us YOUR questions for the experts, using the handle @farmingfirst or @ifpri using the #2020Resilience hashtag!

Engaging Youth in Agriculture – The Key to a Food Secure Future?

yesa-wide-landscape

(Image from Farm Africa)

Engaging youth in agriculture has been a prominent topic recently and has risen up the development agenda, as there is growing concern worldwide that young people have become disenchanted with agriculture.

With most young people – around 85% – living in developing countries, where agriculture is likely to provide the main source of income it is vital that young people are connected with farming.

Currently around the world we’re living in an era where rapid urbanisation has led to a decline in rural populations and for the first time ever the majority of the world’s population lives in a city. The UN World Health Organization predicts that “by 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people” meaning that more young people than ever before are moving to cities and towns to find work, leaving few behind to work in rural areas.

With this predicted concentration of the global population in urban areas it is easier to understand why the number of young farmers is in decline. So how do we reignite the love for farming when the trend is to live in cities and towns?

In our latest blog, Farming First looks at some encouraging examples from around the world of ways to engage the next generation in agriculture:

Add Agriculture to the Curriculum

Farm Africa discovered that most pupils in Kenyan schools lacked access to training and education on farming and therefore were not being encouraged to perceive agriculture as a future career.

Therefore, Farm Africa initiated a project where students were shown how to grow high-value crops, keep livestock and how to market produce for global markets.

The scheme has now enabled over 850 young people to discover more about agriculture as a profession and aims to encourage more people to perceive farming as a career after school.

To find out more about this project click here

Offer Young Farmers a Voice

Despite the decline in interest for agriculture as a career there are still young farmers working all over the world. To encourage others to join the sector it is vital that they are offered a voice, and that we take note of what they have to say.

Particularly this includes giving young farmers at policy level a chance to offer their opinion and experiences. In this way, they can show other young people that farming can be a rewarding career as well as highlighting the important role of agriculture on a global scale.

Recently, at the Tanzania Youth Forum (TYF) participants urged the Tanzanian government to establish a Youth Council that includes a farmer and livestock keeper as representatives. Demonstrating the recognition of the Youth Council to include representation from agriculture at government level.

Another, rather different, way of offering young farmers a voice is to use media. At the beginning of 2013 a British television programme followed the stories of a selection of young farmers across the country, entitled First Time Farmers the programme aimed to defy stereotypes and demonstrate that there is a role for young people in the agriculture industry.

Innovation

As the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week from 15 – 20 July demonstrated, new technologies are available that can help mitigate the effects of climate change and grow more food with less inputs. However, a lack of extension services has meant farmers have been unable to access these new innovations.

A younger generation can help introduce new technologies whilst also learning from traditional methods, holding the potential to offer the perfect fusion of new and traditional solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Many organisations, such as the CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Research Programs, also often believed that innovation will help make agriculture more attractive to young people.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) established the Policies, Markets and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) programme to show young people that innovation can play a big role in agriculture.

The programme aims to illustrate the role of innovation in agriculture by promoting the application of ICTs for Value Chains Development. Director of CTA, Michael Hailu, spoke to Farming First about the scheme:

There is a lot of concern about engaging youth in agriculture, in many ways, young people are not very much interested in continuing in agriculture because they don’t see much prospect in the future of agriculture, they don’t see it is as an active profession in the long-run, so many of the smallholder farmers are quite aged. ICTs could provide new opportunity for making agriculture more interesting for young people. CTA has a very strong programme of supporting youth to get into value chains. One of the ways to do that is to train them and given them opportunities to access ICTs so that they can engage in value chains.

The increased use of mobile phones in farming can also help deter young people away from stereotypes of traditional farming and help change their perceptions on agriculture, helping them to view it as an exciting and innovative industry. For more information read the Farming First blog about the latest innovations in agriculture.

A Chance to Make a Difference

Farming offers the young generation a chance to make a difference by growing enough food to feed the world.

Those who become farmers now have the opportunity to be the generation that end world hunger and alleviate malnutrition, as well as helping the sector adapt to climate change.

There are many challenges ahead for the sector but if young people are offered education in agriculture, a voice at policy level, and in the media, and are engaged with innovations then the agriculture industry can attract youth again. As we look to find solutions to feeding a world of nine billion people by 2050, it is this new generation that – working together – can help to achieve global development.