Stories tagged: infrastructure

Farming First’s Climate Call to Action Featured in The Guardian

Picture 3Appearing today on The Guardian’s Katine Chronicles blog is a post about Farming First’s call for better support for farmers on the frontline of climate change to world leaders meeting in Copenhagen next month.

In the post, David King, secretary general of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), a Farming First supporter organisation, is quoted:

If we don’t give farmers practical help to make their full contribution to fighting climate change, we will fail in Copenhagen. This is why Farming First wants world leaders to create a dedicated adaptation fund for agriculture to help farmers get the financial support they need to deal with the threats of climate change which they, more than any other group of people, are already struggling with.

The article goes on to discuss how agriculture has been largely ignored by the international community.

For more than two decades agriculture has been largely ignored by the international community, with health and education taking centre stage in discussions on development. But, as the affects of climate change become all too obvious, with erratic weather patterns destroying crops and livelihoods … farming is slowly being drawn back into the spotlight.

The post also points to Farming First’s six principles. Nora Ourabah Haddad, senior policy officer at the IFAP, is quoted as well:

Haddad believes farmers can adapt and mitigate climate change through sustainable practices and decrease greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, such as through better water management and the production of renewable energies, such as biogas.

A Farming First video of Nora Ourabah Haddad also featured:

Supporting Rural Development in Guatemala

In the Cuchumatanes Highlands in Guatemala, The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been supporting a rural community development project.

The project aims to improve the livelihoods of 22,000 families with incomes below the poverty line. A needs analysis demonstrated that one of the problems in the area was poor handling and application of crop protection products, leading to health and environmental risks.

As a result, IFAD formed a partnership with CropLife Latin America to provide training for the project beneficiaries.

A multiple approach was used: teaching Integrated Pest Management (IPM) concepts and proper, safe use of crop protection products to farmers and their families, school teachers and health workers; a one-year course for schoolchildren on environmental protection; training teachers on the benefits and risks of crop protection products; communicating to housewives the importance of washing farmers’ clothes separately so as to avoid contamination of other clothes and water supplies; providing information to health workers at medical and paramedical levels on treatments in the event of accidents; and the training of trainers to amplify the reach of the programme goals.

A similar programme has started in the Dominican Republic and plans are being implemented to expand it throughout Central America.

This initiative in Guatemala echoes two of Farming First’s principles: Sharing knowledge and Building local access and capacity.

There are currently four IFAD-supported projects ongoing in Guatemala. Among them is a rural development project in the Western Region.

The target group comprises smallholder farmers, landless farmers, and microentrepreneurs and artisans. The programme will reach minority groups, particularly indigenous populations with lower educational levels and very limited access to productive resources.

For farmers in Guatemala, such assistance is needed as the country is facing the worst drought in 30 years.

Kenyan Smallholder Farmers to be Offered Crop Insurance

Following a successful pilot phase for the new insurance scheme developed by UAP in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation, Kenyan farmers will be able to purchase insurance against the effects of drought and excessive rain.

The program is the first of its kind. Here are more details:

Under the novel system, farmers register their purchases by sending an SMS to a phone number provided by UAP. The weather stations then monitor the weather and inform the insurance company of impending crop failure and subsequent compensation. Each farmer is then informed via SMS about the payouts. Costs are kept down through the use of automated weather stations which avoid the need for expensive field visits to farms to ascertain risk and loss.   This makes the insurance feasible for both the farmer and the insurance company.

The first pay-out to farmers affected by drought happened in Nanyuki last week. UAP Head of Marketing and Distribution Joseph Kamiri said that the company had developed the product in response to a great need identified while developing agriculture insurance products for the Kenyan market in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation.

The early success of the programme has given it the go-ahead to be released across the country in 2010, said Rose Goslinga, insurance coordinator of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya:

Traditionally, smallholder farmers have been totally dependent on the vagaries of weather. In times of drought they lost their crops and their investment in seed and fertilizer.  To make matters worse, farmers then had to pay for a second lot of seed to enable them to replant. But because they had not obtained a crop, they had little money, if any, to repurchase the seed.

In recent months, Kenya has been hit by severe drought, so this new programme will likely go a long ways toward helping impacted farmers get back on their feet.

DfID Funds Infrastructure, ‘Best Bets’ for Agriculture in Africa

The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) has recently launched its new report, entitled “Eliminating World Poverty: Building our Common Future.”

Two implicit dimensions are rreflected in this report’s title.  Firstly, the world already has many good solutions for reducing world hunger, but they simply need to be scaled up and funded in order to work at a broader level.  Secondly, while many markets are still fragmented and inefficient,these markets are increasingly part of a common globalised economy, in which we all participate.

Two interesting African initiatives highlighted in the report and being funded by DfID are the North-South Transport Corridor and the ‘best bets’ approach to agriculture.

The North-South Transport Corridor is a $1.2 billion project which will upgrade 4,000 kilometres of road and 600 kilometres of rail track.  The goal of the project is to free up bottlenecks in shipping and other transport, especially in parts of eastern and southern Africa.

DfID’s ‘best bets’ for agriculture will see funding going to “the innovations with the greatest potential to lift poor people out of poverty, and to getting these into widespread use.”  AS DfID sees it, these include:

  • tackling new pests which attack staple crops, such as virulent wheat rust and cassava viruses.  This will cost £20 million but could help protect almost three billion people who depend on these crops for their food
  • breeding drought-resistant maize for Africa.  This will cost up to £60 million but will help 320 millino farmers in Africa who are affected by drought and will indirectly benefit many more likely to be affected by climate change.
  • improving the vitamin content of staple crops. To develop these crops and get them into widespread use will cost around £80 million but it has the potential to help improve the nutrition of up to 670 million of the poorest people, many of them children.

Farming First’s Lindiwe Sibanda on BBC Network Africa

LindiweAhead of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development in May, Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda of Farming First went into the BBC studios to discuss what the priority objectives for agricultural policy should be in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr. Sibanda discussed the key principle of the Farming First plan as well as highlighting recent work of her own organisation FANRPAN on identifying the most vulnerable households in villages for targeted support.  She discusses how African countries are spending $19 billion each year on the import of key staple foods despite the fact that 70% of the population is smallholder farmers with the potential to grow their own food.

Dr. Sibanda argues for the need to improve productivity in a sustainable way.  Knowledge transfer and investment in infrastructure and resource management skills are key in achieving this.  For instance, many farmers use recycled seeds which yield only 10% of the harvest that new seeds would bring.

Under these principles, agricultural policy should aim to help farmers eventually ‘self-help’ and become self-sufficient.

Listen to the full broadcast of Dr Sibanda here:

[audio: drsibandabbcnetworkafrica.mp3]

Promoting Agricultural Growth Corridors in Africa

Africa is the only region in the world where hunger is worsening and per capita food production has stagnated over the last three decades. All research has clearly pointed out the necessity to invest in infrastructure building to unleash Africa’s agricultural potential, as highlighted in Principle 3 of the Farming First plan.

Traditionally, the public sector was called upon for infrastructure development. The private sector can also have an important role to play, as shown by the example of the agricultural growth corridor concept promoted by Yara International SAS, a Norwegian fertilizer company with important operations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Building on past initiatives promoting a more competitive agricultural sector through more efficient supply chains, the agricultural growth corridor aims at investing in communications routes with existing infrastructure to achieve economies of scale, developing clusters and strengthening input-output markets.

To date infrastructure development in Africa has not been particularly focused on the needs of promoting agricultural value chains. Most African countries have limited port capacity with small shipments that significantly raises the unit import costs of key inputs. There is a lack of larger warehouses at ports or in strategic inland locations to act as key distribution or collection hubs or to facilitate potential adoption of warehouse receipting measures. The limited number of trained rural retailers and limited access to appropriate rural credit compounds impedes farmers to get easy access to their inputs. In addition, the political did not exist to promote intra-regional agricultural trade and market development which combined with weak purchasing & selling power amongst the poor, as compared to commercial farmers, has contributed to a lack of competitiveness of local and regional agricultural markets and has continued the trend of internal consumptive markets, particularly in relation to core staples.

The Agricultural growth corridor initiative particularly focuses on the need to ensure that markets exist for increased output and that farmers have access through ICT to local, regional or or international market analysis.

Public – private partnerships and alliances are necessary to fast track development along a given corridor and at the same time helping to balance issues of scalability, knowledge transfer and market access particularly as they relate to small scale farmers and African entrepreneurs and investors. Government and business leaders will need to proactively work across borders to develop an on-going corridor management process. Public and private resources will need to be aligned to create a policy and investment climate that promotes the scope for such agriculture growth corridor initiatives.

The initial support for the concept of agricultural growth corridors has caused a core working group to be convened to discuss options for fast tracking.  Represented by a number of the organisations, it will draft an initial blueprint for action to be presented at the African World Economic Forum in June 2009.