The International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) has become the newest supporter of Farming First.
According to its website, IPNI is:
a not-for-profit, science-based organization with a focus on agronomic education and research support…. The mission of IPNI is to develop and promote scientific information about the responsible management of plant nutrition for the benefit of the human family.
IPNI has a global presence with programmes in China, India, Southeast Asia, Northern Latin America, Brazil, Latin America-Southern Cone, the United States, and Canada, plus a new presence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and soon to be in Australia.
Its initiatives address the world’s growing need for food, fuel, fiber, and feed as well as global issues such as climate change and the relationship of crop production to the environment and ecosystems.
The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), led by Farming First’s Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda, has announced a three-year pilot project to help women farmers in Southern Africa influence agricultural policy development.
The pilot projects will be based in Malawi and Mozambique and will help to amplify the voices of women farmers in policy decisions at the national and regional levels. These projects will also then help women access the tools and technologies — such as better seeds, adequate fertilizer, extension services, and access to credit — that these realigned markets will provide.
FANRPAN’s involvement across 13 Southern African countries will help it to partner with other Gates Foundation grantees to create deeper linkages within the communities where their pilot projects will take place. The lessons learned from these pilots will then be incorporated and extended into programmes for other Southern and East African countries.
A recent commentary piece by Norman Borlaug in the Wall Street Journal explains how empowering farmers can help them feed the world and improve their own livelihoods.
Borlaug, a Texas professor and winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, helped drive the first green revolution in countries such as Mexico and India by increasing the development and access to technologies which help boost farmers’ productivity.
In his article, Borlaug praises the recent decisions of world leaders to begin “focusing on growing food versus giving it away” as a “giant step forward”. He argues that farmers, especially those in developing countries, need better and more inputs such as better seed and fertilizer:
Given the right tools, farmers have shown an uncanny ability to feed themselves and other, and to ignite the economic engine that will reverse the cycle of chronic poverty. And the escape from poverty offers a chance for greater political stability in their countries as well.
Doubling food production over the next half century to meet global demand will be made even more difficult with a fixed or shrinking supply of land, he argues, as well as the present and future impacts of climate change.
A new study released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) – “Fertlizer Subsidies in Africa: Are Vouchers the Answer?” – looks at the efficacy of providing fertilizer vouchers for African farmers to improve their livelihoods and the productivity of their crops.
The findings discuss the fact that the impact which fertilizer subisidies have depends on existing farmer knowledge and the external conditions of the local area. The best justifications for these subsidies are when farmers are unfamiliar with the benefits of fertilizer or are too poor to purchase it themselves, or when there is demonstrated profitability to be had and a sufficient distribution network for accessing those being targeted.
The authors review both sides of the debate and argue for “smart” subsidies, which do not undercut the development of efficient, broad markets and target the areas where the most benefit can be found.
Nonethless, African farmers still use on average only about one-seventh the amount of fetilizer that other developing countries use. And, the recent successes of Malawi’s input subsidy programme (watch the Farming First interview with the coordinator of this programme here) have made the subject of fertlizer vouchers and greater agricultural support a new priority for many African governments.
Minot, N., and T. Benson. 2009. Fertilizer subsidies in Africa: Are vouchers the answer? Issue Brief 60. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
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After 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:
IFDC has joined the group of organisations supporting the Farming First plan.
IFDC – an International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development – is a public international organization addressing critical issues such as international food security, the alleviation of global poverty, environmental protection and the promotion of economic development and self-sufficiency. IFDC is helping to enrich and sustain the lives and livelihoods of people around the world.
IFDC is the only non-profit, science-based organization meeting the integrated soil nutrient management needs associated with a sustainable global food supply. IFDC was established in 1974 in response to the twin crises of food insecurity and rising energy prices. These parallel crises now threaten the world again.
IFDC has helped increase sustainable agricultural productivity in more than 130 nations through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound plant nutrient technology and agricultural marketing expertise. IFDC has also contributed to the development of institutional capacity-building in 150 countries through nearly 1,000 training programs, primarily as part of IFDC’s long-term agricultural development projects. These collaborative partnerships combine cutting-edge research and development with on-site training and education. Currently IFDC staff members are serving in more than 20 nations throughout Africa, the Near East and the Far East.
In February, Dr. Marjatta Eilitta, Director for IFDC’s North and West Africa Division, spoke at a Farming First conference held during the UN Commission on Sustainable Development preliminary session in New York. You can watch a video of her presentation here.