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.

Mozambique agriculture plan could displace 100,000 farmers – activists, Thomson Reuters Foundation

CTA Brussels’ briefing on Improving nutrition, PAEPARD

Paris Can’t Be Another Copenhagen, New York Times

The government’s Plan Bee, The Washington Post

Social protection schemes hold key to beating world hunger, says UN, The Guardian

U.N. Reports About 200 Million Fewer Hungry People Than in 1990, New York Times

AfDB invests N14 billion in African agriculture, Premium Times

Jobless youth turns cassava root into a Sh500,000 business venture, Farm Biz Africa

Farmers hold the key to nature conservation: let’s treat them that way, Ther Conservation

Reliance on trade makes food systems vulnerable, SciDev.Net [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.

Water for food security and nutrition, FAO

Cabbages trump coffee for Tanzania’s climate-stressed farmers, Thomson Reuters

Obama Task Force Lays Out Plan to Save Honeybees, The Wall Street Journal

Field study shows how a GM crop can have diminishing success at fighting off insect pest, Science Daily

Healthy Food for a Healthy World: Leveraging the Private Sector, Chicago Council

Reply to ‘No-till agriculture and climate change mitigation’, Nature

Policies and actions to shift eating patterns: What works? FCRN

Brazil meatpackers show supply-chain rules can protect forests – researchers, Thomson Reuters

Kenya: Maize Crop Devastated By Disease, AllAfrica

Global businesses must lead the way on climate action, The Guardian [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.

Troubling new research says global warming will cut wheat yields, Washington Post

Weather centres to arm Central Africa’s farmers against climate shifts, Thomson Reuters

African Development Bank presidential candidates outline their aims, The Guardian

Edible Insects as an Integrated Component of Sustainable Food Systems, Chicago Council

Revisiting GMOs: Are There Differences in European Consumers’ Acceptance and Valuation for Cisgenically vs Transgenically Bred Rice? PLOS one

Gut feelings and possible tomorrows: (where) does animal farming fit? Food Climate Research Network

The Precision Agriculture Revolution, Foreign Affairs

Can agroecology save us from ‘scorched-earth’ agriculture? The Ecologist

Africa: Soil Erosion May Threaten Global Food Security, AllAfrica

Malawi study reveals devastating cost of child undernutrition, The Guardian [Read more…]

Entrepreneurship in African Agriculture: Sylva Food Solutions, Zambia.

I recently attended an All Party Parliamentarian Group (APPG) meeting on ‘Sourcing from Smallholders’. This was the second in a series of round-table discussions to gather evidence for the APPG on Agriculture and Food Development’s inquiry into smallholder agribusiness development. One of the African entrepreneurs that spoke about her experiences of supporting smallholder farmers is Sylvia Banda, Managing Director of Sylva Food Solutions in Zambia.

Almost two-thirds of Zambia’s 14.5 million people live in rural areas, where most are engaged in smallholder subsistence farming. However, much of the food they produce is wasted due to a lack of markets for their produce and inadequate knowledge of effective food preservation techniques. The low demand for local farm produce is also driven by negative perceptions of locally-grown food. Sylvia has helped to change this perception by working with women smallholder farmers to teach post-harvest techniques, food processing, marketing skills and nutrition.

Taking root

_66027737_sylva22Sylvia started her entrepreneurial journey in 1986, whilst still employed as a Catering Officer in the Ministry of Education.

“Being  the only employee and with no start-up capital, I had to ‘borrow’ the basic materials such as cooking oil, chicken, salt and vegetables from my own kitchen at home. I had so much to arrange that I didn’t have the time or the money to buy furniture. So, on the first day my customers ate standing up! I realised that I had forgotten to buy the tables and chairs. Quickly, I told them that they were having a standing buffet! ” she recalls.

Despite this, her restaurant was a great success. Years later, however, Sylvia was frustrated at seeing how imported food is preferred by the majority, particularly in urban areas.

“Imported food has less nutritional value and is more expensive than local food. This, combined with the poverty of smallholder farmers struggling to sell their crops locally, led me to shift my focus”.

She now works to empower local farmers and promote local food for poverty alleviation. [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.

Can Preserving Crop Biodiversity Save the World?, National Geographic

Opinionator: Wasting Less of Africa’s Harvest in Order to Prosper, New York Times

Soil Security and Food Productivity: Researchers Outline Increasing Threats, News Wise

Link forests into food security efforts, UN told, SciDev.Net

Why ‘Natural’ Doesn’t Mean Anything Anymore, New York Times

To sustain climate adaptation, integrate it with local economies – experts, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Guest commentry: The future is now: It’s time to make Feed the Future permanent, Chicago Council

What the heck is a carbon right?, CIFOR

How can Climate-Smart Agriculture enhance Food Security and Community Based Adaptation?, IFAD

 Kenyan pastoralist women find new economic freedom – from pawpaws, Thomson Reuters Foundation [Read more…]

Emilia and her farmers

By Katrin Glatzel

Meet Emilia Abibo Savio, one of three agrodealers in the Sussundenga district in central Mozambique. Emilia used to own a small shop in the city of Chimoio. After the death of her husband in 2007, she decided to expand her business and opened a small shop to sell agricultural inputs and fertiliser. Emilia’s story is an example and also a symbol of the important role of agrodealers in helping a country harness its agriculture potential.

But let’s start at the beginning.

Civil unrest over 20 years, frequent droughts in the south of the country, coupled with heavy floods near the many waterways that transect the country, have thus far inhibited an agricultural transformation in Mozambique. Even so, Mozambique could be a regional breadbasket. The country has much potentially usable arable and irrigable land, in many agricultural production zones, particularly in central and northern Mozambique. Sesame, pigeon peas, and cashew exports are significant and rising, not to mention exports of industrial crops such as cotton, leaf tobacco and sugarcane. Yet, the production of grain and most other food crops remains stagnant, while irrigated area is way below what is needed to increase yields and total agricultural output. In addition, the use and application of fertiliser remains low.  The uptake of fertiliser at just under 5% and is an indicator that farmers find it difficult to access fertilisers, let alone purchase it at a price that will allow them to obtain sufficient and reliable returns from their investments. Agrodealers can play an important role in making fertilisers and seeds more easily and readily accessible to remote farming communities, while at the same time provide much-needed advice on the type of seeds and fertiliser suitable for certain soils.

However, relative to its neighbours, Malawi and Tanzania, Mozambique’s government does not have a long history of promoting the adoption of fertiliser by smallholder farmers, which would help increase yields and reap the benefits of the arable land still available. However, over the last several years, this has started to change. At policy level, it has involved the formulation of a fertiliser strategy and regulations for the fertiliser sector. Furthermore, a voucher-based fertiliser and seed subsidy program targeting 25,000 smallholder farmers was undertaken in central and northern Mozambique between 2010 and 2011. Finally, there has been important new private investment in fertiliser supply and blending, particularly in central Mozambique, to serve farmers and agrodealers in Mozambique and its neighbouring countries.

Going the distance

agroSmallholder farmers in Mozambique face many challenges when accessing fertilisers. One of the major challenges is the distance to the nearest supplier. Without adequate roads and infrastructure, farmers struggle to get enough fertiliser for their crops. In remote farming communities, up-to-date technology often does not reach farmers on time. Most farmers purchase fertiliser only once a year, with most doing so just before they apply it to their maize or vegetables. Farmers in some areas of Mozambique, for example, purchased two bags of fertiliser in 2010 on average, while in other provinces farmers were only able to afford one. On top of that, the average distance farmers have to travel to the nearest fertiliser supplier or agrodealer is around 22 km, usually on dirt roads using public transport, bike or on foot.

Just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Emilia in the Sussundenga district. In 2008 the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) started to support her small shop through the Mozambique Agrodealer Development project, which involved business management training and helped Emilia acquire a good understanding of best agronomic practices. At this point Emilia’s customer-base was growing rapidly to around 150 customers, and so she decided to build a slightly larger shop. [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.

Drought, expanding deserts and ‘food for jihad’ drive Mali’s conflict, Thomson Reuters Foundation

On thin ice: the farmers adapting to Peru’s melting glacier, The Guardian

Obama Nominates Gayle Smith to Lead U.S.A.I.D., The New York Times

Tragedy in Nepal highlights need to address fragile institutions, fragmented food systems and poor nutrition BEFORE disasters strike, Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition

Africa ‘Could Tackle Insecurity With Smart Agriculture Policies’, The Wall Street Journal

New study points to link between weedkiller glyphosate and cancer, Financial Times

Turning Ethiopia’s desert green, BBC news

Don’t neglect farmers when it comes to finance, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Training young scientists to help farmers, The Daily Monitor

Pesticides alter bees’ brains, making them unable to live and reproduce adequately, Eurekalert.org [Read more…]


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