Stories tagged: sustainable agriculture

Lewis Temple: Building businesses in the skies

Lewis IDE

Our guest author, Lewis Temple, Chief Executive for International Development Enterprises UK, highlights some of his organisation’s latest work in Nepal that has stimulated business in the remote, mountainous regions of the Himalayas.

Growing food in high-altitude areas of Nepal can be extremely difficult. Geographically remote, isolated from markets and subject to changing climatic patterns – these areas provide a tough reality for local rural people. Can you imagine trying to access goods and services when you live 4,000m above sea level in the middle of the Himalayas with no road network?

Since 1992 iDE has used a business or market-driven approach to change the lives of one and a quarter million of these poor rural people in Nepal.

It started by designing and marketing innovative, yet affordable technologies like drip irrigation kits, to encourage fruit and vegetable production in the dry season so that farmers could increase their income and earn their way out of poverty.

Farmers on average earn an extra £140 per year from accessing these technologies. Kamal (pictured) has made £300 selling high-value tomatoes that he grew an incredible 4,000m above sea level.


This is no small feat – but working with individual farmers has its limits. If we are to reach many thousands more smallholders we need to engage the private sector to view farmers like Kamal as customers and offer a range of productivity-enhancing products and services closer to small farm communities.

But how can this be done in the mountainous and often isolated communities in Nepal?

iDE’s answer is to use something we call a ‘Commercial Pocket Approach’ built around Rural Collection Centres. This involves bringing together all the market actors in the local area so that they can all become profitable businesses.  This includes the smallholder farmers, private sector input retailers that sell seeds, fertiliser and irrigation equipment, and the buyers of the produce.

These market actors meet regularly at the collection centres to coordinate efforts. For example:

  • They plan together to ensure that the agricultural inputs like seeds and irrigation equipment are available at the right time. If a farmer wants to grow apples, carrots and tomatoes during the off-season they will pass on this information to an input retailer to organise the timely delivery of quality seeds, fertilisers and other farm inputs. The supplier gets an income and the farmer can grow large volumes of high quality produce – a win-win situation
  • Then, they ensure the buyers know when to expect the produce. If a farmer informs a buyer to expect 100 heads of cabbage in three weeks’ time demand and supply can be established. The farmer can guarantee good sale and the buyer doesn’t waste time travelling to the collection centre.
  • Finally, they ensure the farmers have a good idea of what kind of produce is available in the market and market prices. If a farmer has access to up-to-date, accurate market information they can capture the best price for their produce – for example by harvesting and selling tomatoes when the price is highest at the collection centre.

By establishing and scaling these smallholder commercial pockets we are catalysing   the private sector and building demand for products and services that farmers need to grow their businesses.

Today over 150 rural collection centres serve 100,000 farming families – to celebrate iDE’s success we have put together an exciting graphic presentation for you. I hope you enjoy it:

Bringing Conservation and Agriculture Together

This blog was originally posted on CGIAR’s Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog

Emile Frison, Director General, Bioversity International, is currently attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Korea where he took part in: ‘From Competition to Collaboration between Agriculture and Conservation. Here he shares his thoughts about why it is so important for agriculture and conservation agendas to come together:

“For some time,  agriculture and conservation have operated in separate worlds with separate agendas. Agriculture has been seeking ways to increase production to feed a growing population, while conservation has been in a race to save more land for preservation purposes. ”

Taking an ecological approach to farming can bring agriculture and conservation together.At the same time, our world is reaching a tipping point – with an expected 9 billion people in the world by 2050 and climate change already having effects with major droughts and floods. We need to collaborate and find ways to prevent catastrophe and also insure our futures and those of generations to come.

What does this collaboration look like? For farmers in some of the world’s poorest areas, it includes adding more diversity on farms to diversify production and improve the resilience of food production systems, while at the same time increase pollination and maintain healthy soils. It means policy makers need to advocate for an ecological approach to farming and protecting smallholder farmers. It means farms are seen as parts of diverse mosaic landscapes including corridors that link natural ecosystems and allow wildlife to prosper at the same time as agriculture. It means approaching agriculture not for the short term, but for a sustainable future.

Bioversity International is working with partners to conduct more research and provide critical decisionmaking information in this area. This research will result in decision making tools for policy makers, land managers, conservationists, and farmers – giving them more options in a world running out of time to meet production and conservation goals. Examples include EcoAgriculture Partners’ Landscapes for People, Food and Nature initiative, the Natural Capital Project, CGIAR’s Water, Land and Ecosystems research program, and of course this week’s workshops at IUCN.

Biodiversity is a significant factor in all of these examples, because it is in an excellent position to contribute to both agriculture and conservation. Farming systems have to transform, while conservation efforts need to ramp up to halt the everyday loss of biodiversity, including in agricultural landscapes and not just in protected areas.

Genebanks make up an important part of the efforts to conserve plant genetic diversity, but the world’s farms have to play a critical role in this effort through a dynamic form of conservation. Smallholder farmers in particular – many of whom are women – are the custodians and users of biodiversity. The choices they make in the varieties they plant, grow, harvest and sell directly also affect the diversity in our diets, our supermarkets and on our tables.

This approach is already under way, but needs more support. Research to provide healthy, resilient, sustainable ecosystem services is needed now. These services involve the entire interplay of social, cultural, ecological and financial dimensions. Interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral cooperation is vital. Become our partner in this effort.

Find out more about what Bioversity International is doing at the IUCN World Conservation Congress here.

About the Author:

Emile Frison is the Director General of Bioversity International.

Economy-wide Framework for African Agriculture

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has released a new book, Strategies and Priorities for African Agriculture Economywide Perspectives from Country Studies. It explains the unique ability of agriculture to achieve pro-poor growth in Africa by linking poor individuals to crop and livestock production in order to achieve desired results in poverty reduction and agricultural development. It explores agriculture as a platform for simultaneous growth and poverty reduction, and ends with some key remaining challenges that Africa faces when setting the above premise into practice.

The book is a collection of research results from 20 IFPRI colleagues and contributors. It provides evidence to inform the design of African development strategies and to address the ongoing debate on the role of African agriculture. Analysis is based on ten country case studies which reflect the diversity of agroecological conditions and development challenges facing low-income Africa.

The majority of Africa’s poor population is heavily dependent on farming. Poverty is still concentrated in rural areas, whilst the agricultural sector accounts for a large share of national income and employment. Agricultural development is therefore central in development strategies to reduce poverty and hunger on the continent. From a global perspective, African agriculture has fallen further behind that of other developing regions, despite a rapid growth period beginning in the year 2000, and continued to widen the rural-urban divide in Africa.

The book provides an economy-wide modeling framework that captures the linkages between sectoral and national economic growth on the one hand, and spatial and household level poverty on the other. It uses this framework to identify crops and sectors that have the greatest potential to generate pro-poor growth.

Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia represent the ten case studies. The chosen countries are archetypal examples of the continent because of their respective agricultural production, poverty rates, and other variables that will help to realistically predict the steps forward for Africa.

The case studies were developed using a typology of African countries designed to capture four dimensions of the role of agriculture in development: the first two relate to natural resources and geographical factors, and the second two relate to agriculture’s situation in the broader economy and its relationship to poverty reduction. The ten countries selected cover Africa’s three regions: five in eastern Africa, three in southern Africa, and two from Western Africa. They also account for fifty-seven percent of low-income Africa’s total population in 2005. The book uses these case study countries to reflect general trends in Africa during the 2000s and the diversity of growth and poverty-reduction performances.

Results from the case studies suggest that, in general, agriculture cannot be excluded

from the current development model. The case studies show how even fairly modest improvements in currently low yields can greatly accelerate agricultural growth. As agriculture generates between 20 and 50 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in low-income African countries, faster agricultural growth will foster additional growth at the national level, including in nonagriculture.

Findings also point to export agriculture having high growth potential, which is expected to become a prominent part of agricultural strategies. Broad-based growth will be difficult to achieve without expanding staple food crop production and livestock production, given they have the scale and linkages to poor households needed to reduce national poverty. The case studies also confirm the need for increased investment in African agriculture, however the efficiency of these investment will have to increase if development targets are to remain attainable.

Lead editor, Xinshen Diao, comments:

“This is the first book to put agriculture into an economywide framework and to analyze the potential contributions of different agricultural growth options to broad economic growth and poverty reduction for African countries.”

You can read the book online here.



Farming First Congratulates Leaders for their Recognition of Agriculture in the Rio+20 Outcome Document

The world has come a long way since the last Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, where the terms hunger, nutrition and food security did not appear in the Summit Declaration. Twenty years later, The Rio+20 Declaration acknowledges food security and nutrition as pressing global challenges and affirms commitment to enhancing food security and access to adequate, safe and nutritious food for present and future generations.

The final agreed text recognizes the need to revitalize the agricultural and rural development sectors, particularly in developing countries and takes note of the importance of empowering women as critical agents for enhancing agricultural and rural development and food security and nutrition. The outcome places particular emphasis on the need for action to enhance agricultural research, extension services, training, education and access to technology to improve agricultural productivity and sustainability through the voluntary sharing of knowledge and good practices.

Dr. Gisbert Glaser Senior Advisor of the International Council for Science (ICSU), says:

Farming First welcomes the positive language that recognizes the need to invest in science and research and knowledge-sharing mechanisms, and the value and role of technologies. Farmers need to have access to training, extension services, and sharing of traditional knowledge that will increase their productivity enabling them to feed their families, to grow their incomes, and spur innovation. Mobilisation of multi-stakeholder partnerships bringing together the scientific, donor, business, NGO, and farmer communities is needed to improve knowledge sharing and to build capacity.

Ron Bonnett, Board member of World Farmers Organisation, says:

I feel it is important to emphasis that this text is the end of a long process, but for agriculture, it represents a new starting point. It gives us an opportunity, and a path forward to revitalize the agricultural and rural development sectors throughout the world. It is imperfect, and we are very disappointed there is not a clause fully dedicated to the specific needs of rural women who lag behind on every Millennium Development Goal. We must now focus on implementing the good ideas in this text and bringing real change for farmers throughout the world.

Food security and sustainable agriculture were highlighted as one of seven priority areas at the Rio+20 negotiations. Feeding a global population of 9 billion people by 2050 will require at least a 70% increase in global food production and a 50% rise in investments in food, agriculture and rural development.

Earlier in the week, 600 of the world’s leading agricultural experts came together at Agriculture and Rural Development Day, for which Farming First was an official partner, to ensure that the new vision for sustainable development outlined at Rio+20 recognizes the importance of agriculture and includes actions for achieving a sustainable food system.

Tracy Gerstle, Director of Global Policy at CropLife International, adds:

Rio is only one step along the way to achieving a sustainable food system. It needs to be seen as part of the global effort to revitalize and leverage the potential of agriculture to reduce poverty, which includes the G8 and G20, as well as other initiatives at regional and national levels. The announcement during the G8 Summit in May of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is significant and promises increased private and public investments in African agriculture, a supportive policy and regulatory framework and a commitment to women’s empowerment. Global leaders must continue to build on existing efforts through commitments to the development of national, regional and global food security and green economy strategies that fight poverty and enable sustainable economic growth.

In the context of discussions on the green economy, agriculture and food security, Farming First recognizes four key recommendations in the Rio Declaration:

1. Poverty reduction: Make agriculture a driver for rural economic development by ensuring policies that link producers to markets and enable value to be created throughout the supply chain, diversifying rural activities and creating jobs.
2. Focus on enhancing sustainable intensification: the world will need to produce more with less resources per acre in order to meet growing food and while reducing demands on water, energy and soil. Increasing productivity should be a priority to protect habitat, by not increasing the amount of land under cultivation.
3. Invest in training, knowledge sharing, extension services, as well as research and development to close the uptake gap for existing tools and ensure new solutions are available for tomorrow.
4. An emphasis on the role of rural women, empowering them to become leaders in the rural economy and to achieve income gains which they will reinvest in families and communities.

Read more about agriculture and the green economy.

FAO at Rio+20: A Sustainable Future Must Be Hunger Free

In preparation for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) at the end of this month, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has released a new policy document outlining how sustainable development cannot be achieved unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated, and that better governance of agriculture and food systems is key to achieving both targets.

Director-General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva said:

The quest for food security can be the common thread that links the different challenges we face and helps build a sustainable future. At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) we have the golden opportunity to explore the convergence between the agendas of food security and sustainability to ensure that happens.

Food has already been outlined as one of the seven priority areas for the Rio+20 negotiations. The global food and agriculture system requires a complete transformation if we are to nourish the one billion estimated to be hungry, as well as the extra two billion people that will inhabit our planet but 2050.

In this new policy document, FAO outlines three key messages:

1. The Rio vision of sustainable development cannot be achieved unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated

FAO asserts that reducing hunger and malnutrition starts with fair access to resources, employment and income in rural areas where people directly depend on agriculture, fisheries or forestry for their incomes as well as their food supply. Growth in the agriculture sectors of low-income and highly agriculture-dependent economies is twice as effective as that of other sectors in reducing hunger and poverty, creating employment and incomes. However to make sure this becomes reality FAO argues that improved policies, investment and governance are crucial.

FAO also advocates for the implementation of social protection programmes, such as the Fome Zero programme in Brazil, that can address hunger in the short-term, thus supporting longer-term growth in the form of a healthier, more productive workforce.

2. The Rio vision requires that both food consumption and production systems achieve more with less 

If agricultural output is to be intensified, FAO argues we must improve current practices to ensure that negative impacts to the environment are reduced. These avoidable impacts include soil, water and nutrient depletion, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, and degradation of natural ecosystems. The implementation of sustainable and climate-smart systems already in practice can help significantly reduce these impacts.

It is also essential to reduce waste and losses of food. FAO research shows that global losses and waste are estimated at roughly 30 percent for cereals, 40–50 percent for root crops, fruits and vegetables; 20 percent for oil seeds; and 30 percent for fish.

3. The transition to a sustainable future requires fundamental changes in the governance of food and agriculture and an equitable sharing of the transition costs and benefits

Priority areas for policy action identified by FAO in this policy paper include:

  • Establish and protect rights to resources, especially for the most vulnerable
  • Incorporate incentives for sustainable consumption and production into food systems
  • Promote fair and well-functioning agricultural and food markets
  • Reduce risk and increase the resilience of the most vulnerable
  • Invest public resources in essential public goods, including innovation and infrastructure

The challenge for participants at Rio+20 and beyond is to support better decisions by building more inclusive and effective governance for agricultural and food systems.

Click here to read the full paper.

Farming First reaches 10,000 Twitter Followers

Today we are celebrating Farming First reaching 10,000 followers on Twitter! As a thank you to all our dedicated and valued followers, we wanted to share with you our top ten tweet moments. In the first blog, we share with you the first five.

1.    Our first Tweet

Our first ever tweet was on 27th April 2009 when Farming First’s Twitter account was first launched.  It announced Farming First’s campaign video:


Needless to say, Farming First has come a long way since then, with many more videos, infographics, guides and policy papers to help further sustainable agricultural development worldwide.


 2.    Launch of “The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy” Infographic

Back in May 2011, we launched a six-part interactive infographic called “The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy” which uses data from leading research organisations to tell the story of agriculture’s potential to help build a green economy. It consists of 17 individually designed graphics, each of which can be tweeted and/or embedded into websites.

The green economy is a focus area for Farming First in the build up to Rio+20 in June this year. Farming First has created a new page on its website to host this infographic, alongside other information related to agriculture and the green economy.

The reaction to the infographic online and over Twitter was fantastic, with many agricultural organisations, media and members of the public tweeting about it and embedding it on their websites. Farming First has since received awards for the infographic from The Gates Foundation and the Digital Communications Awards.

View the full infographic here.

#greeneconomy #RioPlus20

3. International Conference on Asian Food Security

Back in August 2011, Farming First attended the International Conference on Asian Food Security (IACSFS) where leading policymakers and influencers from around Asia met to discuss the region’s food security imperatives for the future. As part of this conference, these leaders met at a Farming First sponsored dinner to discuss the six principles of the Farming First action plan and how these should be put into action in Asia.


The three day conference was opened by Shenggen Fan of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), addressed the four basic dimensions of food security: availability, physical access, economic access and utilisation.

Farming First live tweeted from the conference to help share the key learnings from each session, including quotes from speakers such as Shenggen Fan, Dr Mohamed Maliki bin Osman and Dr. Franz Fischler. Topics discussed during sessions included sustainable growth in agricultural production, resilient food supply chains, the impacts of trade policies, and humanitarian food aid strategies.

Read our previous blog post about the conference here.

#Asia #foodsecurity

4. Annual UN Climate Talks

Since Farming First’s Twitter account first launched, we have been bringing our followers up-to-date news from the annual UN climate change negotiations. The first was at COP15 in Copenhagen, the second at COP16 in Cancun and the most recent was COP17 in Durban. COP17 saw the most significant steps made yet for agriculture, as for the first time the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to consider adopting a framework for sectoral approaches, which includes agriculture. The UNFCCC also requested the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) to consider issues related to agriculture at its 36th session in May 2012.

For the past three years, Farming First has attended Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) during COP – a major one day event which brings together hundreds of policy makers, farmers, scientists and development experts to discuss the urgent need for rural people in developing countries to play a greater role and receive stronger support in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

At COP17, Farming First endorsed an open letter alongside the world’s leading agricultural organisations, calling on negotiators to recognise the important role of agriculture in addressing climate change and asking them to approve a Work Programme for agriculture under SBSTA.

Farming First has been live-tweeting from the annual climate negotiations and ARDD, bringing our followers updates on the negotiations in relation to agriculture. We hope you will be following us during COP18 in Qatar!

Read our previous blog, summarising the outcomes of ARDD 2011.

#COP15 #COP16 #COP17 #AgClimate

 5. OECD/FAO event in Paris 

Farming First attended the FAO/OECD Expert Meeting on Greening the Economy with Agriculture in September 2011 in Paris. In conjunction with this event, the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC) hosted a side-event in the form of a luncheon panel discussion on the role of innovation in greening the economy with agriculture. The panel discussion, moderated by Caroline Henshaw, journalist for Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal, focused on the role of science and technology in helping farmers in both developed and developing countries to increase production sustainably while adapting to climate change and other challenges.

Farming First live tweeted from the event in Paris, including quotes from panel speakers Sir Gordon Conway (Professor of International Development, Imperial College London), Alice Kachere (Malawian farmer) and Mike Bushell (Principal Scientific Advisor, Syngenta).

Wall Street journal coverage from the panel discussion and a video can be seen here.


Look out for our next blog post which will feature the final five of our top ten tweet moments. If you aren’t already a follower, then you can follow us @FarmingFirst – please Tweet us, we enjoy hearing from our followers.