Two model farmers who have championed agricultural innovation and sustainable growth within African agriculture have been named the winners of the 2019 Africa Food Prize. Continue reading
From the 15 – 20 July leading agriculture experts and scientists from around the world will gather in Ghana to discuss solutions for food security in Africa .
The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is collaborating with the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to organise the 6th Africa Science Week, where enhancing Africa’s capacity for agricultural innovation will be at the forefront of discussions.
The wealth of Ghana’s natural resources plays a significant role in its economy through farming, fishing, forestry and mining. However, a history of overexploitation and mismanagement of these resources combined with lack of environmental information undermines the sustainable development of the country.
Estimates put the costs of environmental degradation in Ghana at nearly 10 per cent of the GDP. Over the past 50 years, Ghana’s primary rainforest has been reduced by 90% and currently it loses about 2% of its forest cover annually, with only 4% of the trees cut being replaced. Bushfires, fuel wood collection, logging, agriculture and mining are considered the direct causes of forest losses.
Additionally, the current weather conditions in Ghana, such as the shift of the rainy season and the variability of rainfalls, reflect the impacts of climate change and seriously undermine food production and food security if suitable measures are not taken swiftly.
The Farmers Organisation Network in Ghana (FONG) has initiated annual tree planting events for farmers, with a particular focus on women farmers who represent 80% of Ghana’s female population. In prioritising women, the campaign reflects the essential role of women farmers in natural resources conservation and food security.
The Tree Planting Campaign involves:
- Training in the uses and relevance of agro-forestry trees
- Workshops on seed treatment, nursery management, maintenance of sustainable trees and agro-forestry technologies, such as alley cropping and windbreaks.
- Distribution of seedlings
The campaign has increased farmers’ awareness of the need to protect forest resources in agriculture and have provided valuable tips on sustainable farming practices such as efficient use of agrochemicals.
This initiative was provided by the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP).
Women play a vital, but often ignored, role in addressing hunger. Whilst a large proportion of farmers in the developing world are female, many lack voice and organisation. To boost women smallholders’ productivity and reduce their vulnerability to various challenges, women need to be able to access and apply appropriate training for rural livelihoods.
A recent project – Training for Rural Development – highlights the many challenges that women marginal farmers face on a daily basis in their efforts to produce food for their families and communities and focuses on how training can contribute to improved livelihoods for women in the developing world. The research project was conducted by City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development, a not-for-profit research and development organisation that spent January to August 2009 researching and reviewing past and present international projects helping women farmers.
Having evaluated the success of various training schemes in different contexts and different countries, the project’s report offers six key findings:
- Enterprise training is valuable in helping women branch out into small business.
- To improve women smallholders’ access to training, their particular situations – including their level of literacy and domestic chores – need to be taken into account.
- A systematic approach to training for women should be taken, whereby the whole community is involved, to improve women’s positions.
- Groups are particularly important in enabling access to training for women, and helping to disseminate information from that training.
- Increasing technology use helps to improve agricultural yields whilst reducing the amount of work needed to go into production.
- Training programmes needs to be coordinated with improving women farmers’ access to resources to purchase inputs and technologies, and building strong rural infrastructure links to enable women to access training.
After the review phase, the project held four field trials over two countries; Ghana and India. Using lessons from these case studies, the project draws out four recommendations in reaching and supporting women farmers:
- Projects must engage with the women and their current challenges through providing a long-term commitment to the community.
- Projects must use existing community structures, for example engaging with community leaders, to make training more effective.
- Changes need to be introduced in stages that women can manage themselves. Including managerial skills in training programmes can help to support them in this.
- Projects can secure longer-term change by engaging effectively with local government structures.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has just launched an interactive world map highlighting some of the many success stories in agricultural development from around the world. It is part of a wider upcoming launch of their newest publication, Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development, which will be released on 12 November.
The interactive map allows viewers to explore case studies of how agricultural research has benefited individual countries and regions. Each case study identifies key periods of time, target regions, and a more detailed account of each intervention. It also provides additional links to related case studies from elsewhere.
The range of case studies includes:
- Combating cassava diseases in Nigeria and Ghana: This programme has contributed to 40% yield increases and has benefited 29 million local people
- Introducing zero-tillage agriculture in Argentina: This practice has improved soil fertility, created new agricultural jobs, and helped keep global soybean prices low
- Improving mungbean yields and resilience in south Asia: Introducing new varieties of mungbeans has helped improve yields, shorten maturity times, and increase resilience to pests to the extent that global production increased by 35% over the past 25 years.
There are many more case studies on the site, which helps create a visual cue for understanding agriculture’s advancements since the mid-20th century.
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: