Stories tagged: World Bank

Gates Foundation Announces New Effort to Support Smallholder Agriculture

gatesAs food price rises threaten global food security once more, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced it will donate $70 million to a new collaboration that will focus on agricultural research projects helping smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia.

The new project will help farmers overcome threats to food production such as crop diseases, pests, poor soils and unreliable weather, to increase crop yields and consequently farm incomes. Also taking part in the project is the UK Department for International Development (DfID) that will contribute $32 million over the next five years to the partnership.

The new partnership is a reaction to the escalating food prices around the world. World Bank data released this month showed higher food prices — mainly for wheat, corn, sugars and edible oils — have pushed 44 million more people in developing countries into extreme poverty since June 2011.

In this new project, technologies such as wheat disease research will be prioritized. Cornell University will be receiving $40 million to continue its work to develop wheat varieties that are resistant to emerging strains of stem rust disease, such as Ug99, which is destroying crops in East Africa.

The World Bank’s Work on Climate Change and Agriculture

Dr. Andrew Steer, Special Envoy for Climate Change at the World Bank Group, discusses his views on the link between between agriculture and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

He says, “We really will fail if we do not incorporate agriculture into the way we think about climate change.” Focusing on the concept of a “triple win” for agriculture, he highlights the need to secure farmers’ livelihoods, to help them become more resilient to climate change and to help in the joint effort to reduce its future impacts globally.

Steer also illustrates the potential for agriculture-focused carbon markets in Africa and the work that the World Bank is doing in a pilot project in Kenya to this effect.

New Roadmap for Climate-Smart Agriculture Announced at COP16 Negotiations in Cancun

unfcccA new initiative that calls for agriculture to be part of the solution to climate change, and not part of the problem, has been launched at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.

Over the past two weeks, global leaders and policy makers have been debating a global climate change deal but no concrete agreement has been made. The Roadmap for Action: Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change, a new reiteration of the workplan launched at the Hague conference last month, proposes key actions to be taken to link agriculture-related investments and policies with the transition to climate-smart growth.

It advocates getting the right policies and programs in place that will increase farm productivity and incomes, make agriculture more resilient to variations in climate and make the sector part of the solution to climate change by sequestering more carbon into the soil and biomass.

Supported by high-level experts including Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank Group, it offers some progress towards a dedicated work programme for agriculture within a broader climate agreement.

Zoellick said,“Agriculture, forestry, and land use change account for more than 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.  So we need to make the agriculture sector and soil carbon part of the solution to climate change. A number of countries are already making real progress, but the immediate challenge is making sure that financing flows in the right directions – so far only 2% of flows have gone to Africa.”

There is a growing recognition that agriculture in developing countries must become “climate smart” to cope with the combined challenges of feeding a warmer, more heavily populated world.

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.

Anti-Soil Erosion Practices Help Preserve Biodiversity in Albania

Albania is gifted with a rich biodiversity, but this variety is vulnerable to climate change impacts. The coastal habitats in the Mediterranean are fragile ecosystems, and the land is under threat of coastal erosion, waterlogging and increased salinity. Inland, approximately 25% of the land suffers from natural soil erosion due to the corrosive effects of the rivers. Such deterioration of the land threatens the farmers’ ability to cultivate enough food.

An IFAP case study reports that several projects have been undertaken in Albania to stop further land degradation. Many Albanian female farmers have implemented good agricultural practices to maintain soil productivity, conserve water and lower production costs by practising crop rotation, intercropping, composting, selection of resistant varieties and using effective irrigation systems.

Farmers of 25 communes in remote areas have recently received payments from the World Bank Bio Carbon Fund as an incentive to manage and care for their forests, helping to preserve ecosystems.

Further projects include afforestation, improvement of irrigation systems and a democratic-approach to involve farmers, particularly women, in the decision-making processes of agro-environmental policy making.

For more information, visit

This initiative was provided by the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP).

Meeting the Grade: The Case of Groundnuts in Malawi

Work has been taking place in Malawi to enable farmers’ to achieve the grades and standards required to take part in broader markets. Whilst a lack of technical and financial capacities is often the greatest hindrance to meeting these targets, which cover food safety, quality, social and environmental standards, the ever-changing nature of the standards themselves exacerbates the challenges facing smallholder farmers.

Since 2003, ICRISAT have been working with the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) to establish a “hybrid” system for ensuring achievement of standard requirements for the export of groundnuts from smallholder farmers’ associations in Malawi.

The project’s focus on groundnuts is the result of severe decline in the crop’s production, due to changing market requirements overseas, unavailability of seed in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices, and poor post-harvest handling.

Groundnuts are affected by aflatoxins, a naturally-occurring fungus which can infect crops during pod development or through poor post-harvest practices. Increasingly strict maximum allowable levels (MALs) of aflatoxin contamination in the European Union have prevented smallholder producers from accessing the European high-value markets.

According to the World Bank, the reduction of MALs to 4 parts per billion of aflatoxin has results in annual losses of over US$670 million for African countries.

The ICRISAT and NASFEM project objectives were:

  1. To increase productivity of groundnuts by providing improved varieties and the accompanying crop management options.
  2. To develop a system of grades and standards to enable smallholder farmers to participate in regional and international markets.
  3. To assist in development of a Market Information System.

Alongside training farmers in improved agricultural practices to increase yields and improve crop quality, the “hybrid” system created ‘production standards’ that would ensure farmers follow best practice to reduce the chances of infection by the fungus. These targets complement the ‘performance standards’ that are used in European markets, which determine the levels of a contaminant in a product.

The team also established an aflatoxin analytical laboratory in Malawi to help identify the sources of contamination and provide the necessary solutions, to help increase farmers’ chances of meeting the MALs.

Other steps also included organising farming groups into clubs who sell their produce at designated areas to allow for easy traceability.

ICRISAT has written,

The ability to accurately detect and quantify aflatoxin contamination at an affordable cost, allowed farmers in Malawi to re-establish groundnut exports to the quality-conscious European market, and stimulated interest in the approach in Mozambique and Zambia. Many other African countries are benefiting from this technology and appropriate management practices that reduce the initial aflatoxin contamination are being employed.