Constraints to smallholder commercialisation

ID-100136355In the wake of the 2008 food price crisis, which exacerbated food insecurity and increased smallholder farmers’ vulnerability to shocks and stresses, recognition of the barriers smallholders face in becoming more productive and developing their farms as commercial businesses has been growing. In 2010, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation implemented the Multidisciplinary Fund (MDF) project to help develop policies supportive of smallholder commercialisation in Africa, in particular identifying the heterogeneity amongst smallholders in terms of their attitudes to commercialisation.

A new report, Understanding smallholder farmer attitudes to commercialisation – the case of maize in Kenya, by the FAO, focuses on maize producers and rural youth in Kenya by investigating “attitudes, strategies and opportunities related to maize commercialisation” in Meru and Bungoma regions in the country. The report is based on key informant interview, focus group, farmer survey and stakeholder workshop data.

At present farm management is not undertaken with commercial prospects in mind for a variety of reasons – continued reliance on maize production for household consumption and a level of mistrust in markets; production and marketing activities remaining distinct from one another; reactive rather than planned production decision-making processes; poor storage facilities; and low maize quality. That is not to say that there aren’t farmers who do think more commercially but in particular farmers are more likely to require direct payments immediately to meet their household needs rather than selling at times or to traders that might allow them to obtain higher payments for their maize. Net buyers of maize, numbering some 45% of the smallholder farmers surveyed, are found to make more objective business decisions, again likely related to the level of urgent cash needs of poorer households and net buyers of maize. One of the main concerns in finding an outlet to sell maize are the transaction costs and the risks associated with the transaction, most farmers aiming to minimise costs and risks. Those smallholders engaged in more commercial practices, in particular selling maize to more distant traders or modern market channels, were more likely to experience a lack of nearby market opportunities, to specialise in maize, to have access to better price information and to have benefited from government input support programmes.

Given the relatively small amounts of maize sold by most farmers, collective marketing whereby maize is pooled and sold in bulk (and inputs can be bought in bulk) could be beneficial but it was found to be unlikely that net buyers would become net sellers of maize purely through collective marketing. Greater institutional support to partner these collective marketing approaches and a business oriented approach may aid their effectiveness. [Read more...]

Tackling climate change from different angles

gadisymposium2014_625x333With the recent release of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, climate change has been a familiar topic in the news and media. More recently new publications have explicitly linked climate change to food security and they show that there is much to be done by governments, big business and the public sector, if our food and agricultural systems are to be resilient to predicted changes in the climate.

A new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of Weather Volatility and Climate Change, which builds on the IPCC report, explains how climate change will undermine efforts to tackle hunger, limiting food production and putting food supplies at risk. Higher temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and more frequent and severe natural disasters could reduce food production growth by 2% each decade for the rest of this century.  But, the report says, US government action can curb the risks climate change poses to global food security by integrating climate change adaptation into its global food security strategy. Recommendations include:

  • Passing legislation for a long-term global food and nutrition security strategy.
  • Increasing funding for agricultural research on climate change adaptation.  Research priorities should include improving crop and livestock tolerance to higher temperatures and volatile weather, combating pests and disease and reducing food waste.
  • Collecting better data and making information on weather more widely available to farmers.  There are significant global data gaps right now on weather; water availability, quality and future requirements; crop performance; land use; and consumer preferences.
  • Increasing funding for partnerships between U.S. universities and universities and research institutions in low-income countries, to train the next generation of agricultural leaders.
  • Advancing international action through urging that food security be addressed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

Not only does the US, and other countries, have much to gain from maintaining and improving agricultural productivity and strong, stable international commodity markets but it is imperative they tackle climate change, in particular with a focus on adaptation, as part of their commitment to food and nutrition security. As Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder, president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs stated, “For the first time since the Green Revolution, empowering the world’s poorest to improve their livelihoods is a high priority on the international agenda. But climate change puts the success of these efforts at risk.”

The report makes the link that the effects of climate change in reducing global food security and availability puts countries, developed and developing alike, at great risk in terms of national security and economic prosperity.

Yesterday, more than 500 policymakers, corporate executives, scientists, and senior leaders from international and nongovernmental organizations gathered to discuss the report, Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate (PDF), at the Council’s Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington DC. Find out more about the presentations here.

A new Oxfam report shows it’s not just governments that need to consider climate change. The world’s biggest food producers and food brands need to do a lot more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The world’s largest ten food and beverage companies have been linked to an estimated 264 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2012, this is more than the emissions of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined. If the group of companies were a nation, it would be the 25th most polluting country in the world. [Read more...]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

G8 and FAO’s open-agriculture projects set to join forces, SciDev.Net

Agriculture: Engage farmers in research, Nature

Can you be resilient on one acre or less?, IFPRI 2020 Policy Consultation and Conference

Center for Food Safety Report Warns TTIP Could Undermine Critical Food Safety and Environmental Regulations, Center for Food Safety

A bigger rice bowl, The Economist

Miracle grow: Indian rice farmer uses controversial method for record crop, The Guardian

AGRA-backed companies become largest seed producers in sub-Saharan Africa, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The Birth of the Great GMO Debate, Scientific American

Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change, The Wall Street Journal [Read more...]

The Global Youth Wellbeing Index

indexCoverHalf of the world’s population is under 25. 1.8 billion people are between the ages of 10 and 24, the largest youth population the world has ever seen, 85% of which live in developing and emerging economies. In Uganda for example, 50% of the population is under the age of 15. While on the one hand such a large youth population is viewed as a challenge, of employment, of education and of population growth, this group also has significant potential to innovate and change the world for the better.

The first ever Youth Wellbeing Index, developed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF), compares how youths are faring across six key areas: citizen participation, economic opportunity, education, health, ICT and safety and security. For each area, indicators around the enabling environment in which youth live and participate, youth outcomes, and youths’ outlook and satisfaction with their own wellbeing are combined. The overall score is a combination of the six individual scores. Thirty countries representing around 70% of this youth group (generally aged 12-25 years) were ranked from high wellbeing to low.

The report finds the majority of the world’s youth living in countries at or near the bottom of the wellbeing ranking. In some countries such as Indonesia, youth are optimistic about their future in spite of the developmental challenges the country faces while in some developed countries such as Russia, youth can have more negative outlooks. Overall youth in rich countries tend to have higher levels of wellbeing than those in poorer nations. But money is not the key to everything. Spain has relatively high levels of wellbeing, ranking eighth, but faces high and increasing levels of youth unemployment. In the US, youth health is a significant problem. This shows that countries ranking high overall may score low in specific areas and vice versa. Across all countries youth are strongest in health and weakest in economic opportunity.

Jose Graziano Da Silva, Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, at the FAO’s Regional Conference for Africa, discussed the role of youth in African farming, highlighting their potential to innovate in the sector. Making agriculture more appealing and economically beneficial to younger generations is a significant challenge. Africa is the world’s youngest region, where more than half of the population are under 25 years of age. Agriculture in many African countries is a significant and fast growing economic sector but this growth has not resulted in widespread employment and attractive incomes for young people. Salaries are generally low, risks are high and there is often little help from governments should farming businesses struggle. The FAO is calling for “greater public and private investment in agribusiness, agro-industry and market-related services to attract and keep young workers, fuel job creation, and spur new development in the agricultural sector”.

The Global Youth Wellbeing Index emphasises that now is the time to invest in programmes and policies that engage youth and equip them to be productive. The key message is that if this generation of youth thrives so do we all.

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

 
Food Security and Nutrition and the Post-2015 Development Goals, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

 
Food Giants Want ‘Sustainable’ Beef. But What Does That Mean?, The Salt

 
FAO: ‘Revolution’ in Agriculture Vital to Meet Food Targets, Voice of America

 
Meeting the Food Challenges of Tomorrow Through the Legacy of Borlaug, Roll Call

 
Climate Change Could Delay The Fight Against World Hunger For Decades: Report, Huffington Post

 
Ending hunger – the rich world holds the keys, The Ecologist [Read more...]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Food prices and poverty reduction in the long run, IFPRI

Is ‘Getting to Zero’ really feasible? The new Chronic Poverty Report, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education 2013/2014 Report from the Field, SARE

Research reveals true value of cover crops to farmers, environment, Penn State

From poverty to prosperity: A conversation with Bill Gates, AEI

Harnessing Innovation for African Agriculture and Food Systems, Meridian Institute

Pests worm their way into genetically modified maize, Nature

Scientists sound the alarm on climate, The New York Times

Scale up policies that work to eliminate hunger by 2025 – food expert, Thomson Reuters Foundation

GMOs Should Be Regulated On A National Level In Europe, British Scientists Argue, Huffington Post

Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than we thought, University of Leeds

Examining the link between food prices and food insecurity: A multi-level analysis of maize price and birthweight in Kenya, Food Policy

GM maize heads for British fields, The Times

Number of Days Without Rain to Dramatically Increase in Some World Regions, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Steady increase in incidents of low levels of GM crops in traded food and feed, FAO

Victoria Seeds: Changing lives through wealth creation, Josephine Okot

The End of the ‘Developing World’, The New York Times

Book review: ‘The Meat Racket’ by Christopher Leonard, The Washington Post

GM Crops Lead to Increase in Trade Disruptions – UN Report, Sustainable Pulse

How the global banana industry is killing the world’s favourite fruit, Quartz

Agroforestry can ensure food security and mitigate the effects of climate change in Africa, EurekAlert

What can would-be African lions learn from the Asian tigers? It’s all about how urban elites see farmers, according to ODI, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Fertilizer in small doses yields higher returns for less money, Phys.org

Storm brewing over WHO sugar proposal, Nature

Food system that fails poor countries needs urgent reform, says UN expert, The Guardian

UN expert calls for bridging gap between urban consumers and local food producers, UN

Food Tank By The Numbers: Family Farming, Food Tank

The Power of Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES) to Inform Evidence-Based Nutrition Interventions and Policies, USAID

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Highlight: the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association (NASFAM) in Malawi, PAEPARD

FAO launches new standards for plant genebanks, FAO

Africa and India cultivate agricultural research ties, SciDev.Net

Who will pay for ecosystem services?, IIED

It’s not the ‘skipping’ three who should be questioned, it’s the wasteful supermarkets, The Independent

Pesticides halve bees’ pollen gathering ability, research shows, The Guardian

Natural Gas and Albacore: What Tuna Says About the Future of Mozambique, New Security Beat

Press Briefing of H.E. Mrs. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, PAEPARD

Fertilizer nutrient imbalance to limit food production in Africa, IIASA

Genetic weapon against insects raises hope and fear in farming, New York Times [Read more...]

The International Year of Family Farming

2014_IYFFAt the heart of One Billion Hungry is an understanding that small-scale farmers are central to global food security. Approximately one third of the world’s population depends on small farms. In developing countries smallholders form the backbone of food production, and, given that agriculture often employs the majority of the population, their ability to prosper from farming enterprises plays a part in broader economic transformation.

Of the 450 million or so small farms in the world, an estimated 60% of these are largely subsistence farms and often achieve yields much lower than their potential. A large part of this is down to limited access to knowledge, technology, markets, extension and financial services. Building an enabling environment in which smallholder farmers have access to opportunities to increase their yields and sell surpluses in fair and efficient markets is a key recommendation from One Billion Hungry and Agriculture for Impact’s work.

So it’s great news that 2014 has been named the International Year of Family Farming. The aims of the year are to boost the profile of family farming and smallholder farming and to emphasise the significant role these farmers can and do play in reducing hunger and poverty. Farming families, which are the dominant form of agriculture in developed and developing countries alike, have a vital role to play in providing food and nutrition to their households and communities but also in managing natural resources, protecting the environment and rural cultures, and achieving sustainable development. [Read more...]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Disturbing Report Highlights the State of the World’s Oceans, Green Africa Directory

Africa Week Recognizes Development, Governance Progress, IISD

Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa, IMF

From Plates that Grow Food to Certified Cocoa: UN Awards Innovative Green Enterprises at Green Economy Symposium, SEED Initiative

UN highlights role of farming in closing emissions gap, BBC

Farmers dig into soil quality, Nature

An exclusive interview with Bill Gates, The Financial Times

FAO expects more balanced food markets, less price volatility, FAO

Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supplies, The New York Times

New Effort Launched to Measure and Monitor Global Food Loss and Waste, UNEP

Nitrogen fixation helps double some African farm yields, SciDev.Net

Crop pests spreading polewards under global warming, European Commission

Food waste: ‘Six meals a week’ thrown away by Britons, BBC

We’ll rise or fall on the quality of our soil, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

How complexity thinking cut malnutrition in Vietnam by two thirds, From Poverty to Power, Duncan Green

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