Stories tagged: MDGs

Africa’s rapid growth is at risk from rising inequality

Last week saw the release of the 2012 Africa Progress Report, the annual report from the Africa Progress Panel. The report warns that Africa’s strong economic growth rate – which is expected to grow   beyond 5% over the next two years – is at risk from rising inequality and the marginalization of whole sections of society.

Despite Africa having seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and 70% of Africa’s population living in countries that have averaged economic growth rates in excess of 4% over the last decade,  most African countries are still not on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for 2015. As the report highlights, slow areas of progress include child nutrition, child survival, maternal health, and education.

Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, states in the report that:

“With the 2012 deadline for the MDGs fast approaching, we urge every government in Africa to draw up a plan of action for a “big push” towards the targets.”

The Panel’s report identifies a range of challenges demanding urgent action from governments, including:

Youth employment: Africa youth population (15-24 year olds) will rise from 133 million at the start of the century to 246 million by 2020, requiring a further 74 million jobs over the next decade just to prevent you unemployment from rising. The report sets out an agenda for raising skills and generating rural jobs through off-farm employment.

Smallholder agriculture: Addressing the urgent need to raise the productivity of smallholder agriculture, the report cautions that Africa will remain vulnerable to a food security crisis. It highlights ‘land grabs’ by foreign investors and speculators as an urgent threat and urges African government to consider stronger regulation.

Global economic governance and aid: The report highlights that Africa has little voice in the areas of trade, finance and development assistance and adds that aid remains crucial and African governments and development partners must delver on their commitments.

The report uses an array of visuals to help convey the key messages. This includes infographics to show political, economic and social successes and setback for Africa. The overall message though is positive, and as Kofi Anan says:

 “Africa is on its way to becoming a preferred investment destination, a potential pole of economic growth, and a place of immense innovation and creativity. But there is also a long way to go – and Africa’s governments must as a matter of urgency turn their attention to those who are being left behind.”

A number of recommendations and policy actions are made for key priority areas, which include MDGS, agriculture and food security, education and skills, good governance and democracy, jobs, growth and trade, and resource mobilizations.

In the case of agriculture and food security, the overarching message is to put smallholder farmers and agriculture productivity at the centre of national food security and nutrition strategies, with a focus on women farmers. This resonates Farming First’s recommendations for policymakers in its Policy Papers on Nutrition Security and Rural Women. As we approach the G8 summit on May 18th and 19th, the report calls on leaders to renew and intensify their commitments to improving food security and nutrition in Africa.

A number of videos can also be seen online, which discuss the 2012 Africa Progress Panel Report.

Read more about agriculture and the MDGS on Farming First’s website.

Sharing and spreading agricultural knowledge as a way of combating malnutrition

The first of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. According to the World Bank report World Development Indicators 2003, one sixth of the world’s population suffers hunger due to extreme poverty. Part of the hunger problem that is increasingly receiving attention is nutrition insecurity, or malnutrition, which affects one billion people around the world and is responsible for almost 10 million deaths a year. With the increase in food prices, this number is likely to increase.

Agriculture must play a role in addressing nutrition security. Promoting and improving agricultural productivity and farming practices can bring positive impact on malnutrition levels. While technological and scientific innovation are key tools for producing a sufficient supply of healthy and nutritious food to satisfy the world market, another issue must be addressed as a priority: the problem of information flow. Education and knowledge share are vital to fighting malnutrition. Some independent initiatives have been taking place in Africa, as reported by Agfax, a radio and press service that reports on recent developments in farming and rural livelihoods, that are successful examples of getting information out to those who need it most.

Share Fair is an organisation that helps to spread and improve agricultural knowledge amongst African farmers through workshops and presentations at events; literally “Share Fairs”. In an interview with Agfax, Jacqueline Nnam, a knowledge-sharing officer in Ghana, pointed out that the biggest challenge facing African farmers is the “packaging of information”, meaning that the phrasing of the language employed and the jargon used – especially related to scientific research – are a barrier to effective communication. “Another thing is providing exactly the type of information the farmers want” says Nnam referring to the amount of information given to farmers that can be irrelevant for their businesses and may only create confusion.

Another example is the Healthy Learning Programme, run in the arid and semi-arid districts of Kenya. In order to ensure that information on nutrition and farming is passed on to the younger generation, the country is investing in health teaching for primary school children. The programme aims to teach kids basic knowledge ranging from hygiene to production of crops for food and for generating income. Children are also encouraged to implement their newly found knowledge at home. In an interview with Agfax, Veronica Mugure, a Class Seven student in Narumoru Primary School, said that the programme had changed their lives for better. In addition to learning how to grow and harvest their own crops, the students were taught to cook the food and were also fed at the school. Another student from the school, Veronica Wamboi from Class Six, said that the project had helped them on many levels. They benefited from the sale of the crops they harvested and were also taught business skills.

Understanding how to effectively communicate and share relevant information with farmers can have a direct impact on the production of food and improvement of nutrition as can basic education for tackling the underlining causes of malnutrition and hunger itself. Initiatives like the Healthy Learning programme and the approach taken by Share Fair are great examples of small schemes that can go a long way in combating hunger and malnutrition and addressing basic health education.

Fertilizer Companies Help Provide Key Inputs to the Millennium Villages

Ten years on from when the Millennium Development Goals were first set, key private sector organisations in the agriculture sector have joined the global efforts to address the anti-hunger and environment objectives of the MDGs.

Agrium and Mosaic are two fertilizer companies that partner with Millennium Promise, an NGO committed to supporting the achievement of the MDGs. Millennium Promise oversees the Millennium Villages project, which is providing support to 14 ‘hunger hotspot’ villages in Africa to develop all sectors including health and nutrition, agriculture and environment, education, infrastructure, gender equality and business development.

Since 2009, Agrium has been providing farmers in the villages with access to nitrogen fertilizer (urea) to increase and improve food production. To date, over 5,000 farmers in the Pampaida and Sauri villages who previously had limited access to inputs now have improved access, and over 5,000 households have experienced increased crop production. In 2011, Agrium will double its commitments to the programme to $1 million. It will also increase its involvement to include sites in Malawi, Ethiopia, Uganda and Senegal, expanding its reach to help 25,000 farmers.

By the end of 2010, Mosaic will have donated 52,000 bags of fertilizer and the associated logistics, totalling at $2.1 million, to the seven Millennium Villages it works with. Mosaic currently partners with the Millennium Villages in Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, impacting over 300,000 people.

The results of the Millennium Villages project are immensely positive, and call for an urgent scaling up of the initiative to elsewhere. Through support to farming activities, communities have experienced more than a tripling of average maize crop yields, consequently reducing malnutrition and hunger and increasing income. Many farmers have transitioned entirely from being dependent on food aid to being entirely self-sufficient.

With a focus on providing improved inputs, and training farmers in improved agroforestry techniques, the project is helping to promote food security in the villages.

This video from Millennium Promise shows how the introduction of fertilizer has help farmers in Sauri, Kenya.

Agriculture is Prioritised by UN General Assembly on the MDGs

A growing consensus on the importance of agriculture in achieving the Millennium Development Goals has culminated with the announcement that the World Bank will increase its funding to agriculture to between $6 and $8 billion a year over the next three years.

This is a big increase from the $4.1 billion pledged annually before 2008 and shows a transition from prioritizing food aid as a means to dealing with food insecurity issues, to addressing the longer-term solution of refueling agricultural development programmes.

Jacques Diouf of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation provided a review of the global food challenge, saying,

The current dramatic hunger situation is the result of neglect of agriculture in development policies over the past three decades. It is time to tackle the root causes of food insecurity by adopting lasting political, economic, financial, and technical solutions. We know what should be done and how to do it. Success stories do exist in Africa, in Asia and in Latin America. These experiences need to be scaled up and replicated.

In its statement, “Keeping the Promise: United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals”, the UN General Assembly agreed to a series of policies and actions that put much emphasis on boosting agricultural development in order to meet the 2015 target. The commitments include:

  • Increasing the growth rate of agricultural productivity in developing countries through promoting the development and dissemination of appropriate, affordable and sustainable agricultural technology, as well as the transfer of such technologies on mutually agreed terms, and supporting agricultural research and innovation, extension services and agricultural education in developing countries.
  • Increasing the sustainable production and augmenting the availability and quality of food including through long-term investment, access of smallholder farmers to markets, credit and inputs, improved land-use planning, crop diversification, commercialization and development of an adequate rural infrastructure and enhanced market access for developing countries.
  • Addressing environmental challenges to sustainable agriculture development such as water quality and availability, deforestation and desertification, land and soil degradation, dust, floods, drought and unpredictable weather patterns and loss of biodiversity, and promoting the development and dissemination of appropriate, affordable and sustainable agricultural technologies and the transfer of such technologies on mutually agreed terms.

All this comes at time when support could not be more critical. Joanna Kerr, CEO of ActionAid, addressed the General Assembly, saying,

In 2009, rich countries pledged ‘decisive action to free humankind from hunger’, including ‘substantially increasing aid to agriculture and food security’ after years of decline. It is unacceptable that these grand promises have so far yielded only $ 6 million in new money – in a year in which more than $15 trillion was spent bailing out financial companies.

The Farming First coalition welcomes the inclusion of agriculture in the proposed outcomes of the General Assembly discussions on Millennium Development Goals. To translate good intentions into real impacts on the ground, governments will need to provide a clearer path to action, greater transparency in how to achieve it, and greater partnerships, including with the agriculture sector.

Download the Farming First press release on the MDG summit.

Visit our page dedicated to the Millennium Development Goals.

Farming First’s David King Addresses UN on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

David King of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) address the UN General Assembly on Monday in New York.  He advised delegates on the potential role that farm families can play in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Here is the text of his speech:

Roundtable 1
Intervention by IFAP Secretary General, David King
on behalf of President Ajay Vashee

September 20, 2010

United National Headquarters

Mr. President, Excellencies, Delegates and Observers,

It is an honour for me to present four key messages on poverty, food security and gender on behalf of the farm families represented by IFAP. I also bring apologies from the IFAP President, Ajay Vashee, who is unfortunately retained on his farm in Zambia.

  1. Investing in small-holder agriculture is essential to reducing hunger and poverty, and underpins success with all the Millennium Development Goals, including those regarding health and well-being.
  2. Funding agricultural development programs is critical to achieving the MDGs so we are counting on the G-8 countries to follow through on their L’Aquila funding commitments.
  3. Programs are needed that are ‘Farmer-centred and knowledge-based’ so that the full potential of farmers, both men and women, including small-holder and commercial farmers, can be harnessed in making food security and sustainable development a reality.
  4. Farmer organizations have a vital contribution to make to the development of agriculture and rural communities. Unless small-scale farmers are organized, they will remain politically powerless and economically disadvantaged. One of the keys to a successful fight against hunger and poverty is therefore having wellorganized partners to work with. Strengthening the institutional capacity of farmers’ organizations therefore needs to be a cornerstone of any strategy for reaching the rural poor.

Farmers’ organizations can contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals in four ways:

  1. Policy definition and implementation, e.g. in country strategies
  2. Research: defining research priorities that meet the real needs of farmers, including the special needs of women farmers
  3. Sharing knowledge and information among their members e.g. on prevention of HIV/AIDS, or on technology transfer
  4. Strengthening the place of farmers in the market through farmer cooperatives and commodity associations

Since the world food price crisis of 2008, agriculture has become a priority for many national governments, donors and international institutions. However, in order to translate good intentions into real impacts on the ground, governments need to work with their farmer organisations as partners in a process of continual improvement of all agricultural systems, creating rural employment, protecting eco-systems, delivering fair prices for safe and nutritious food for consumers, and allowing farmers a fair return for their work. In this way, we are convinced that the MDGs can be achieved by 2015.

Farming First’s Ajay Shriram to Speak at UN Preparatory Session for MDG Summit

Picture 2Ajay Shriram, the President of the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) will be speaking next week at the Interactive Hearings on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), on behalf of Farming First.

On 14th and 15th June, the UN General Assembly will gather in New York with representatives of international NGOs, civil society organisations and the private sector to provide input for the MDG Summit in New York on 20-22 September 2010.

Ajay Shriram has been selected to speak in the third thematic session ‘Sustaining development and withstanding crises’, taking place at 10am (EST) on June 15, which will look at how food security and other emerging challenges, such as water scarcity and biodiversity loss, can be addressed in the light of ongoing economic, financial, food and climate crises.

In his speech, Ajay Shriram will be concentrating on how agriculture in India, once highly productive during the green revolution but neglected over the past decade, can be transformed by keeping farmers’ requirements in focus.  He shall promote the solution of  ‘last mile delivery’, meaning delivering the latest and improved location-specific farm technology to farmers for improving crop productivity.  His speech shall also address the recommendations he made recently in an article published last month in The Economic Times.

  1. Putting the crop / farmer in focus.Picture 3
  2. Training and certifying professional crop advisors
  3. Increasing extension reach by roping in agri input dealers
  4. Creation of a common knowledge pool
  5. Leveraging ICT infrastructure by efficient knowledge dissemination
  6. Organising farmers into groups
  7. Establishing farmer-corporate partnerships
  8. Adopting a concentrated , focused local approach.

Ajay Shriram’s article concludes;

The need to focus on agriculture and rapidly increase productivity stems from the requirement of ensuring food security and an all-inclusive growth for the country. Putting all the above on the ground, though feasible, is still a challenging task for the country. To achieve the coveted objectives, any delivery system has to ensure that the knowledge is latest, need based, location specific and made available timely in a manner which is simple & easily understandable by even the poorly educated farmer. No single agency would be able to do full justice. Collaboration between multiple stakeholders is probably the only way in which last mile delivery systems can be spruced up leading to a transformation in agriculture.

The hearings will be available to watch live on the UN’s webcast.