Stories tagged: principle5

Measuring Market Access for Agricultural Products

A newly released study by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) looks at the potential of establishing a “Composite Index of Market Access” (CIMA) to measure the changes in market access using a single, comprehensive, and operationally-friendly model.

The extent to which markets are open and transparent to trade is an important issue for farmers across the globe.  Farmers must weigh the costs and benefits of subsidies, export tariffs, and other barriers such as technical barriers, health and safety measures, and private voluntary standards which must be met to sell to certain buyers.

What this model attempts to achieve is to “shift the focus from the number and complexity” of measures being considered “to a uniform and comparable index so that negotiations may conclude more transparent and equitable trade agreements in the future.”

While still a conceptual discussion, the paper suggests that a limited test of the indiex on a few commodities could demonstrate whether the CIMA could become an effective tool for policy discussions, such as:

  • determining the current level of market access for negotiation purposes
  • identifying shifts in market access over time
  • targeting sub-issues which might remedy existing trade problems
  • estimating the impact of private standards on market access
  • empowering exporting farmers with useful information on which to base decisions

FANRPAN and Gates Foundation Announce 3-year Project for Rural African Women Farmers

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 programme has been funded by a $900,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and will be presented at the annual FANRPAN Regional Policy Dialogue and Annual General Meeting held in Maputo, Mozambique in September 2009.

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.

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 Ajay Vashee Discusses Obama, Agriculture, and Malawi with Bloomberg

3772343979_c09946289fAfter 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:

Watch other videos from Farming First on Vimeo here.

“Silent Hunger Crisis”: FAO Estimates Over 1 Billion Hungry in the World

2626227998_f58850b534A recently published report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has announced that the total population of those going hungry has surpassed the 1 billion person mark for the first time in history.

“A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty,” said Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the FAO. “The silent hunger crisis — affecting one sixth of all of humanity — poses a serious risk for world peace and security.”

The report argues that the rise in hunger levels is largely the result of the global economic recession.  Fewer remittances are being received and international trade and investment have slowed down, affecting local economies in the developing world.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the most dense pockets of hunger in the world.  Many of the countries in this region have hunger levels of over 35% of their populations.  Areas of south Asia — notably India — also have high levels of food poverty.

To address these issues, the FAO and other UN agencies have called for a reinvigorated investment in agriculture, particularly in the poorest and most vulnerable regions.  Of these affected areas, Jacques Diouf of the FAO said that they “must be given the development, economic and policy tools required to boost their agricultural production and productivity.”

Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), also added:

Many of the world’s poor and hungry are smallholder farmers in developing countries. Yet they have the potential not only to meet their own needs but to boost food security and catalyse broader economic growth. To unleash this potential and reduce the number of hungry people in the world, governments, supported by the international community, need to protect core investments in agriculture so that smallholder farmers have access not only to seeds and fertilisers but to tailored technologies, infrastructure, rural finance, and markets.

World Food Programme Unable to Satisfy Food Aid Demands

Picture 2The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has been reducing or even shutting down some of its operations due to a lack of funds from donor countries, according to a recent Financial Times article.

Recent increases in food prices for key commodity crops have exacerbated the increased need for aid and the reduced donor funding as a result of the economic crisis.

The WFP’s Director of Public Policy said:

They [the donors] have primarily urged us to consider the ways in which we will address hunger if faced with fewer funds.  We are in continual discussions with donors about how best to reach assessed needs.

With food prices estimated to continue increasing, the need for a new global agricultural model is clear.  Enabling smallholder farmers to gain access to resources and markets are key principles underpinning such a model.