Mozambique ‘from the field’: Going beyond and scaling up

By Stephanie Brittain

Mozambique has overcome a prolonged period of intense civil war, and emerged as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. Despite this massive achievement, it is still one of the world’s poorest countries with more than 50% of Mozambicans living on less than $1 per day.  70% of the population live in rural areas and agriculture is the main source of income, accounting for 29% of GDP and employing 88% of the labour force. Smallholder farms account for 90% of domestic food supplies. There is scope for development in terms of food and nutrition security as a quarter of children under 5 are underweight.

Working to tackle food insecurity and bolster the lives of smallholder farmers is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA invests in creating change across the whole agricultural value chain, catalysing public and private partnerships to achieve breakthroughs in agricultural production.

I went to Mozambique to see some of AGRA’s projects and to better understand the impact that their work is having on the lives of smallholder farmers. This is the first of a series of blogs that will discuss some of the lessons learnt from this visit.

Zano Ramambo farmers’ organisation

After a tough 10km drive down a heavily eroded dirt road I arrived in the village of Boavista, Manica Province, where I was warmly greeted by the Zano Ramambo farmers’ organisation. For the past 3 years, this farmers’ organisation has been receiving support from AGRA and ADEM (Manica Development Agency), an NGO that builds the capacity of farmers and optimizes value chains for poverty reduction in the province.

Dirt roads erode easily making it difficult to pass during the rainy season

Dirt roads erode easily making it difficult to pass during the rainy season

The organisation was established in 2006 by 36 members, with an initial focus on cattle farming. However, in the past few years they have widened their focus to include agriculture and grown in size and strength.  Zano Ramambo has now grown from the initial 36 members to 60 members, of which 35 are women. The organisation established a joining fee of 250 MZN ($7) and a monthly fee of 10 MZN ($0.28) per member. In 2014, the farmers focussed on better organising their group by elected board members and setting up a bank account to help them better manage their profits.

[Read more…]

What women want

Female farmers produce more than half of all food worldwide and currently account for 43% of the global agricultural labour force according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Smallholder farming is dependent on many of these women and yet their roles often go unrecognised and unsupported. For example the majority of collective action interventions in agricultural markets have favoured men meanwhile few female smallholders are paid for their work. Societal norms can also men that women are limited in their access to land ownership, farm equipment and credit – important factors in productivity, income generation and food security.

Photo Credit: Anna Ridout/Oxfam

Photo Credit: Anna Ridout/Oxfam

By closing the gender gap that exists between men and women in smallholder farming overall production could increase, food and nutrition security could be improved and the health and well-being of households and communities could be bettered.  Providing equal access to existing resources and opportunities in farming could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people.

Oxfam have supported the Aaroh campaign in 71 districts in Uttar Pradesh, a state where only 6% of women own land, less than 1% have participated in government training programs, 4% have access to institutional credit and only 8% have control over agricultural income. Led by local NGOs, Pani Sansthan, Vinoba Seva Ashram, Samarpan Jan Kalyan Samiti and Disha Samajik Sansthan, the main aim of the campaign is to “help women gain recognition as farmers so that they own agricultural land and access institutional credit, new technologies and government programs”. After several years there is an increase in the number of women who own agricultural land and some 8,000 husbands have shown their willingness in writing for joint land titling. But despite progress women are still struggling to access land and bank credit without the presence of a male family member or husband.

Photo Credit: COLEACP PIP/Aurélien Chauvaud

Photo Credit: COLEACP PIP/Aurélien Chauvaud

Oxfam also initiated their Researching Women’s Collective Action project in 2009, running for three years, which sought to address knowledge gaps and links between gender and collective action in selected agricultural markets in Ethiopia, Mali and Tanzania. They found that women were more able to prioritise the nutrition, health and education of their children if they had a degree of financial independence. The project also investigated the common barriers women face in engaging with collective action projects – “access to formal groups, being overlooked by extension services and the need to provide the support women require and in a way that works for women.”

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) has been investigating for more than 30 years how inequalities between women and men affect agricultural productivity and food security. Their research aims to guide development organizations and policymakers in finding practical ways women’s roles in agricultural production and trade can be supported. This research suggests that “improving women’s access to resources, technology, markets and property rights will increase farm productivity, raise income and improve household nutrition”, as they explain in their video. [Read more…]

Scaling up- scaling up: food security, smallholder farmers & markets

LeapingandLearningFrontCover

Click here to download the Leaping & Learning Report

October 16th 2014 is World Food Day, and in line with this years International Year of Family Farming, the theme of this World Food Day is “Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth” aiming to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. Across Africa, smallholders account for 80% of Africa’s farmland and produce 80% of the food in Asia and Sub Saharan Africa. However due to a lack of suitable infrastructure, access to inputs, technology and storage, the majority of smallholders farmers are not well connected to markets.

After a warm welcome and opening remarks from our very own Katrin Glatzel, and introductions from H.E. Ambassador Neil Briscoe, the UK Permanent Representative to the Rome-based Agencies the panellists shared some of their experiences, successes and challenges from their diverse fields of work.

We heard first from Sharada Keats from the Overseas Development Institute as she provided a comprehensive overview of the key findings and recommendations of the 2013 Leaping & Learning report, sharing that there is no silver bullet for scaling up. Attempts to scale up often do not reach the poorest and most vulnerable and social safety nets must be put in place to ensure that those most in need are adequately supported during the uptake of the project. Thom Sprenger from HarvestPlus supported that reaching the farmers and consumers most affected by micronutrient deficiencies  is a barrier to scaling up and that there is a need to mitigate risks associated with the adoption of a new crop – through credit, insurance, input incentives, and market connections. [Read more…]

Hungry to learn: The rise of Home Grown School Feeding

By Sunit Bagree, Partnership for Child Development at Imperial College London

An innovative approach helps smallholder farmers and supports children’s education at the same time

What does it take to get a child to attend school regularly and then learn effectively when there?

Common responses to this question would probably include things like no school fees, well-trained teachers and high-quality textbooks. Others would likely argue the need to combat discrimination faced by certain marginalised groups (e.g. girls, orphans and children with disabilities) both inside and outside of the classroom. Indeed, all of these are essential for building strong education systems and ensuring that every child enjoys their right to education.

policy doc coverI doubt that many answers would highlight the role that smallholder farmers can play in educational participation and achievement. Yet a new policy paper from Imperial College London’s Partnership for Child Development shows how food grown by some of the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers is being used in school meals to feed children – with some impressive results.

These government-led interventions, known as Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF), may be described as a ‘win-win’ for children and smallholder farmers alike.

Nutritious snacks and meals can provide an incentive for the poorest children to attend school. Considering that 57 million children are still not going to primary school, school feeding can be a crucial form of encouragement. Moreover, it’s hard to concentrate if you’re hungry. Children also struggle to study – and develop cognitively – even if they’re getting enough food in terms of calorie intake but not satisfying their nutritional requirements.

The smallholder farmers benefit by having a ready-made market for their produce. School feeding programmes are predictable as they run for a fixed number of days per year and can elect a pre-determined food basket. Serving this school feeding market can reduce risks for vulnerable farmers as they seek to build their livelihoods and pull their families out of poverty.

HGSF works best when smallholder farmers, particularly women, are empowered through the provision of training, credit on reasonable terms and appropriate technology, and also when there is political commitment to protect farmers’ land rights. Complementary investments in physical infrastructure, education, health, and water, sanitation and hygiene are also necessary to maximise the impact of HGSF.

The paper stresses that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ HGSF model. Examples from Kenya, Nigeria and Mali illustrate how every country that implements HGSF programmes requires different approaches suitable to its specific context.

[Read more…]

So many metrics, so few options for resilience

By Stephanie Brittain, Agriculture for Impact

“Poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. We are therefore committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency”.

This introductory quote from the draft Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) highlights that tackling poverty and hunger are still key targets for the SDG’s, the evolution of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). Aims to ‘End Extreme Poverty including Hunger’ and ‘Improve Agriculture Systems and Raise Rural Prosperity’ show that poverty and hunger are intrinsically linked. Indeed, most of the world’s poorest and hungriest are the smallholder farmers that ironically produce 80% of the world’s food. It’s important that the SDG’s meet the needs of these farmers if they are to meet their targets.

So what are the SDG’s going to offer the world that the MDG’s didn’t? Well this time we have metrics, and potentially lots of them. So with an emphasis on developing indicators to measure change, how then are we actually going to make these changes and meet these indicators of poverty reduction and food security? Meeting these development goals isn’t purely about economics as previous development indicators would have you think. Furthermore, since no country has yet achieved all three economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development, we need to approach and achieve progress in a holistic way.

What is resilience? 

Working under a resilience framework may be the answer. Resilience can be thought of as a ‘buffer zone’, providing people with the ability to ‘bounce back’ from socio-economic and environmental stressors. In the latest report the Sustainable Development Solutions Network on the proposed indicators for the SDG’s, resilience is often referred to in the context of building resilience against natural disasters. But there is so much more that could, and should be done to encourage resilience thinking in the new SDG’s with regards to social cohesion and food security, for example.  

Recently, the Agriculture for Impact (A4I) team saw an example of building resilience in practice when we went to the Meki Batu Vegetable Cooperative, a project supported by Self Help Africa in Ethiopia. As the video below highlights, they are building resilience by creating cooperatives, giving access to credit and markets for farmers that helps them to become food secure and generate an income where they previously struggled.

emilyStronger Together: How Co-operatives Help Smallholder Farmers Thrive” 

Entrepreneurship for resilience

Part of building resilience is also creating the enabling socio-economic and political environment for people to develop. The need for entrepreneurship in Africa is highlighted in the June 2014 Montpellier Panel Report, where the Montpellier Panel believe that rural and food sector entrepreneurship can achieve sustainable food and nutrition security for the continent and significantly contribute to Africa’s rural and urban economic growth.

Agroways (U)For example, AgroWays (U), a grain warehousing system in Jinja, Uganda was first set up in 1995 by Managing Director Herbert Kyeyamwa with the intention of buying grain at the peak of harvest, storing it, and then selling it in the off-season when prices are higher.

Now in 2014, the business has grown to service 134 farmer groups with a total membership of 8,560 smallholder farmers. Herbert employs nearly 150 full and part time staff to assist with a variety of tasks from harvest, the collection and transport of grain to village aggregation centres and central warehouse staff. 

Herbert is a shining example of an entrepreneur that has responded to market demand to create a company that generates employment and wealth within the agribusiness value-chain. This, however, did not happen without external technical assistance, training, and finance—key components for any business to thrive.

Resilience for development: The SDG’s

By approaching the new SDG’s with resilience in mind, it helps us to acknowledge that development, including poverty reduction and food security is multi-disciplinary. It allows us to plan with a longer term vision and encourages a more holistic way of measuring success and failure that moves away from the traditional ‘deaths’ and ‘income’ indicators. Building resilience also means to build strong and healthy communities, as the video and our experiences in Ethiopia highlight. 

It isn’t just natural disasters that we need to build resilience against – the impacts of seasonal stressors such as poor harvests, pests, volatile food and input prices all negatively impact vulnerable communities and smallholder farmers. A poor harvest will leave vulnerable families in worse shape to recover from a major natural or economic disaster.  Because these stresses continue to drive food insecurity and poverty and increase the gap between the worlds’s richest and poorest, they also risk  endangering our ability to meet the SDG of no extreme poverty or hunger before even starting. Conversely, by building resilience across all sectors, farmers are better equipped to recover or ‘bounce back’, creating a necessary safety net for the worlds more vulnerable communities. In the face of an increasingly volatile environmental and economic climate, resilience should be actively built in to the SDG’s aims and metrics. 

How To Make An Entrepreneur: Recent blogs from the Agriculture for Impact team

Imperial College London

 

Emily Alpert from Agriculture for Impact was published on the Chicago Council’s ‘Global Food for Thought’ blog, as she discusses the skills, training and enabling environment required to allow entrepreneurship along the agricultural value chain to flourish.

Click here to read Emily’s blog “How to make an Entrepreneur“.

 

Emily was also featured on Thomson Reuters, where she explains how entrepreneurs in Africa are showing that farm labour isn’t the only way to be involved in agriculture and keep food in steady supply in the face of climate change. You can read Emily’s blog “Farm entrepreneurs feed Malawi despite climate change” here.

Agribusiness for Africa

ID-10038867The role of big business in African agriculture often divides opinion. Some seeing it as an opportunity for sustainable economic growth in the sector, some as a new form of colonialism with richer countries exploiting Africa’s food growing conditions and spare land to supply their own countries. Whether a positive development step or a risk to food security, agribusiness on the continent looks set to grow.

Agriculture, particularly the development of agribusiness and agro-industry sectors, has been the driver of economic growth in countries across the globe. In Africa, agribusiness and agro-industries account for more than 30% of national incomes as well as the bulk of export revenues and employment. Given its links to smallholder farming, development of agribusiness could be used to help tackle poverty and hunger in rural communities.

Colonial systems of governance were designed to extract resources from Africa for use elsewhere rather than processing and adding value within the continent. Agribusiness could develop the value addition arm of the agricultural industry and help reduce Africa’s dependence on unprocessed commodities where the bulk of the average retail price is retained by the countries in which the commodity is consumed. The introduction of new players in the agricultural sector could also help diversify sources of growth and exports to reduce reliance on a limited number of export commodities.

Kenya since the 1990s have invested in products, internal systems, and supply chains to supply fresh vegetables to British supermarkets. Considered a success, Kenya’s experience shows that a well-organized industry in a low income country through collaboration between the public and private sectors and the strengthening of links between businesses and educational institutes, can use standards for competitive gain.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) book, Agribusiness for Africa’s Prosperity, outlines the current status of agribusiness and agro-industrial activities in Africa, and situates them in historical and global context. It analyses the opportunities for diversified growth, and assesses the existing and potential sources of demand growth for agribusiness development in Africa.

With the advent of agribusiness, the whole agricultural sector could benefit through improved infrastructure, access to technology and better functioning markets. Indeed for companies to invest in African agriculture, an enabling business climate must be developed through government and international partnership, action that may enable farmers to capitalise on market opportunities coming from better trade links and growing urban populations. An emerging, productive and modern agricultural sector may also act to engage youth in the agricultural sector (youth unemployment is a growing concern on the continent).

The 2013 World Bank report, Growing Africa. Unlocking the potential of agribusiness, documents the potential of the agribusiness sector in Africa through examples and highlights the important of good policies, a conducive business environment, and strategic support from governments. Agribusiness in general being seen as needed to build global competitiveness and as an opportunity for growth employment and food security. [Read more…]