What we’ve been reading this week

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

Food and Nutrition Security

From promise to impact: Ending Malnutrition by 2030, Clobal Nutrition Report

2016 World Food Prize goes to scientists who developed biofortified sweet potato, Genetic Literacy Project

Fighting global hunger helps us here at home, The Hill

Biofortification Pioneers Win World Food Prize 2016, Farming First

These 2 Boys Were Born The Same Day In The Same Town, But Their Lives Will Be Dramatically Different, The Huffington Post

The Global Food Security Act, AgriPulse

Unprecedented level of food insecurity in South Sudan, UN agencies warn, FAO


107 Nobel laureates sign letter blasting Greenpeace over GMOs, The Washington Post

EU position on GMOs a blow to SADC’s food security, The Southern Times [Read more…]

Food for thought from the land of a thousand hills

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

By Gordon Conway, Imperial College London

Conversation pic

The key to Rwanda’s agricultural success is good partnership between nongovernmental organisations, the private sector and the government. Sam Thompson/DFID Rwanda


On my most recent visit to Rwanda, it was evident that farmers there are beginning to do well. I have visited the country on a number of occasions over the past ten years, and each time I am impressed to see significant improvements in the lives of ordinary people. With average annual agricultural growth rates reaching 5.7% between 2001 and 2012, and average annual gross domestic product growth of 7%-8% since 2000, the signs are looking good.

Farmland covers three quarters of all land in Rwanda, amounting to about 18,425 km². Of the agricultural land, half of landholdings are less than half a hectare in size, and two-thirds of all food produced is for household consumption. This indicates that the agricultural sector remains largely subsistence in nature, despite the fact that these small farms are becoming increasingly commercial. Rwanda is famous for its coffee and tea, which combined account for about 70% of agricultural export earnings.

Rwanda certainly lives up to the tagline “the land of a thousand hills”, with stunning mountain scenery at every turn. This is beautiful for the visitor, but it presents real challenges to farmers, who typically have a farm plot that is just 0.6 hectares in size. Plots also tend to spread over several locations, resulting in many households farming as little as 0.4 hectares.

A thousand hills

The flatter land is often used to grow crops to sell at local markets. The steeper slopes, which are more difficult to farm, are used to grow food for household consumption. But as the population swells, additional pressure is loaded onto scarcer land. This encourages people to move on to even steeper slopes, where farming is physically more demanding and the shallower soils are more prone to erosion and landslides. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

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

2016 World Food Prize Laureate, HarvestPlus

Agricultural techniques and policy in Africa

Climate-Smart Agriculture in Action, Farming First

African policy to end hunger silent on climate risk, SciDevNet

Centuries-old African soil technique could combat climate change – scientists, Reuters Africa

Climate-Smart Agriculture in Senegal. CSA Country Profiles for Africa Series, CCAFS

Food for thought from the land of a thousand hills, The Conversation

EDITORIAL: African govts should implement policies that increase food production, The New Times

Mainstreaming climate-smart practices in cocoa production in Ghana, CCAFS


Guest Commentary – Africa’s famine – will President Obama’s Power Africa and Adesina’s Light Up Africa make a difference? Chicago Council

Matt Shakhovskoy: Three Big Opportunities for Unlocking Smallholders’ Access to Finance, Farming First

Despite problems, north African consumers offer investors promise, This Is Africa

Disruptive innovation: The most viable strategy for economic development in Africa, The World Bank

“Sweet business” of beekeeping helps protect Zimbabwe’s forests, Thomson Reuters Foundation

‘GMO’ Regulation: After 30 Years, Let Science Finally Show The Way, Forbes [Read more…]

The power of working together: International day of Cooperatives, July 2nd 2016

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

International Day of Peace celeberation in Juba.

Camaraderie in South Sudan – Credit UN Photo, Isaac Billy

The International Day of Cooperatives is the perfect time to celebrate the power of pulling together in the face of adversity. Working together can create social capital that enables individuals to achieve goals that they may not be able to achieve alone. Although ‘Social capital’ might sound like something intangible, it has a huge value. It is a measurement of connections between people – the glue that binds people and the reason to work towards common goals. In other words, it’s the value of ‘who you know’ rather than ‘what you know’ and evidence shows that communities with high social capital are more able to become economically and sustainably prosperous.

A group of people that is cohesive, value each other and stick together through hardship, is more able to work together to overcome challenges. The ability to do this is particularly important for communities with low incomes, limited education and few physical assets because it can create a social safety net that helps mitigate shocks or stresses. This is where cooperatives can come in and form a framework through which people can unite under shared needs and aspirations. Agricultural cooperatives work in a number of ways that can be beneficial to individuals and communities. A group of farmers make a more attractive customer than a single farmer because they spread risk amongst them, so facilitating access to finance, agricultural inputs and external markets.

Cooperatives support one another

For example, the Association pour la vision des Eleves de Nyonirima (AVEN) is a group of twelve young men and women from northern Rwanda. The AVEN members decided to form a cooperative after participating in Technoserve’s STRYDE training program, which equips school-leavers with training in business management skills, financial literacy and personal development, then links them to financial services. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

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

Climate change

GCF Insight 2016, Green Climate Fund

EU Commission presents COP21 ratification proposals, The Parliament Magazine

New crop varieties ‘can’t keep up with global warming’, BBC News

Seven climate records set so far in 2016, The Guardian

Value chains and food systems

Who Controls The Food Supply? Forbes

Fight Poverty Through Entrepreneurship, Huffington Post

Improving global value chains key for EU trade, European Parliament

Are donors pulling back on agriculture research funding? Devex

Feeding A Hungry Urban World, Huffington Post

Senegal’s farmers adopt new tool to boost harvests: mobile phones, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Putting water in local hands: Farmers to manage irrigation systems in Rwanda, IFAD [Read more…]

Mastering the last mile to food security

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0


IFPRI, Milo Mitchell

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for achieving food and nutrition security? According to Roberto Ridolfi, Director for Sustainable Growth and Development at the European Commission, there is not far left to go, but the journey still presents many obstacles to overcome. To him, the last mile is “the last inch between the fingers of the farmer and the seed in the soil.” On June 14th, the eve of the European Development Days, delegates congregated in Brussels at a workshop entitled Going the Last Mile: Accelerating Progress in Food Security and Nutrition. The evocative title conjured up different images for each speaker, which combine to create a path along this mile:

Step one: use the brain

For a long-distance runner, like Stineke Oenema from the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition, “the last mile of a marathon can be the hardest to complete”. The last mile is when the brain must be engaged to mentally, as well as physically, push towards the finish line. Similarly, now is the time to engage the knowledge of scientists, engineers, and experts in order to overcome the final barriers, such as lack of access to a varied diet or improved seeds, which allow food insecurity and malnutrition to persist.


Credit: Scott Wallace, World Bank

Indeed, in order to create sustainable agricultural growth research is desperately needed, for instance to generate improved varieties of crops. An excellent example of the impact that this can have was delivered by HarvestPlus Country Manager for Rwanda, Joseph Mulambu, who discussed their biofortified high-iron beans. Not only can a portion of the biofortified beans provide half of the daily requirement of iron, but the beans have been shown to be drought resistant, inferring an extra advantage to those who grow them. Using conventional breeding techniques, HarvestPlus scientists have contributed a crop that is nutritious and can reduce iron deficiency while at the same time improves farmer resilience to droughts, which are likely to become more severe and more frequent due to climate change. This is exactly the kind of innovation that helps the finish line come into view. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

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

Andrew Youn: 3 reasons why we can win the fight against poverty

Climate Change

Climate-Proofing Agriculture Must Take Centre Stage in African Policy, IPS

Climate-Smart Agriculture in Action, Farming First via Youtube

Food Security

Ivory Coast experts propose “agricultural offensive” to achieve food security, News Ghana

Who will feed the Future? FARA

El Niño is over – but it leaves nearly 100 million people short of food, The Guardian

Ongoing conflicts and droughts exacerbate food needs, FAO

Feeding A Hungry Urban World, Huffington Post

Innovation in agriculture is key to ending extreme hunger – G20 ministers agree, IFAD

Resource use

African women are breaking their backs to get water for their families, The Washington Post [Read more…]