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.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of a human rights approach to development?, From Poverty to Power, Oxfam

Africa’s farmers face ‘failed seasons’ risks, BBC

On the Horns of the GMO Dilemma, MIT Technology Review

McDonalds Can Make History — and Rescue Its Brand — With Sustainable Food, Huffington Post

Farm subsidies among OECD nations continue to fall, AgriPulse

Global Warming Is Just One of Many Environmental Threats That Demand Our Attention, Amartya Sen, New Republic

Africa an El Dorado for South Africa’s Agribusiness Giants, Sustainable Pulse

Water ‘thermostat’ could help engineer drought-resistant crops, Science Daily

Cancer deaths double in Argentina’s GMO agribusiness areas, The Ecologist

Changing global diets is vital to reducing climate change, University of Cambridge

Africa: Ambitious Effort to Confront Africa’s Soil Health Crisis, All Africa [Read more…]

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…]

UniBrain: connecting business, education and research to drive innovation

indexThe Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) recently launched a new initiative called UniBRAIN (Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation), which aims to improve agricultural research and university-level agribusiness education in Africa. By linking actors from the agribusiness, education and research sectors, the initiative hopes to drive innovation. Its objectives are:

1. To develop and implement collaborative programmes fostering innovation among universities, research institutions and the private sector.

2. To strengthen African agricultural innovation systems, which are expected to deliver the new and improved technologies that are required to improve agricultural productivity.

3. To develop and implement improved and better contextualised undergraduate and postgraduate agribusiness teaching and learning.

4. To facilitate exchange of experiences and sharing of resources and knowledge.

It is pursuing these objectives through the development of UniBRAIN Agribusiness Innovation Incubators, centres that provide training, research and advice to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), both new and existing, as well as business development services. Their value chain approach means they act to support innovation at every step of the agricultural chain from farmers and producer organisations to input suppliers, marketers and processors. Specific services offered include mentoring and training programmes, access to agricultural research, technology packaging and dissemination, advice on customer, product and business model development and networking between businesses.

UniBRAIN aims to address the lack of human and institutional capacity for agricultural innovation across Africa. On the one hand businesses may lack people who can drive innovation while on the other university courses are failing to provide education relevant to industry needs. The UniBRAIN Incubators will contribute to improving tertiary education, making it relevant to the agribusiness sector and demand driven. [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.

The global food fight: can agribusiness avert a crisis?, fDi Intelligence

While Global Bee Colonies Struggle, European Politicians Seem Determined To Kill Them Off, Forbes

Chief EU scientist backs damning report urging GMO ‘rethink’, EurActive

Is getting out of farming the best bet for smallholder farmers?, IRRI

Economic rewards of better land management: Estimated 2.3 billion tons of crops worth $1.4 trillion, EurekAlert

The Urgent Need for African Leadership in Science, Engineering and Technology to Transform African Agriculture into Agri-Food Value Chains, African Journal of food, agriculture, nutrition and development

Satisfy Your Curiosity with Our New E-Book, Can We Feed the World? The Future of Food, Scientific American

New technology and agriculture: A sluggish uptake, The Africa Report [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

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

New study: A warming world will further intensify extreme precipitation events, NOAA

Pioneers in Sustainable Food Show We Can Eat Well and Protect Environment, NRDC

You taste what you see: Do organic labels bias taste perceptions? Lee et al

Transforming lives through improved access to agricultural education in Africa, NRI

Enterprise fund, Farm Africa

Land sparing versus land sharing: new evidence, Ideas for Sustainability

Traditional weeding methods still prevail on Ugandan farms, Pathways to Productivity

How can agribusiness work best for development? The Guardian

Important source of greenhouse gas emissions from farmland underestimated, UC Davis

Uganda’s genetically modified golden bananas, BBC

Robustness and strategies of adaptation among farmer varieties of African rice (Oryza glaberrima) and Asian rice (Oryza sativa) across West Africa, PLoS One

Examining benefits and safety of genetically modified crops, Peoples Daily

Gender-sensitive climate finance crucial – experts, AlertNet

New IATP report addresses water governance in the 21st century, IATP

Loss of wild pollinators would hit crops, finds study, SciDev.Net

Fighting for family farmers, Huffington Post

The G-20 and Food Security: What Is the Right Agenda? The Stanley Institute

Obama signs ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ written by Monsanto-sponsored senator, RT

What we’ve been reading this week

ID-100135752

UNDP’s Clark: balancing water, food and energy key to post 2015 goals, AlertNet

Can we feed the world?, Vibe Ghana

 

Cutting food waste crucial to ensuring food security, experts say, AlertNet

New Book: Virtuous Circles: Values, systems, sustainability, Andy Jones, Michel Pimbert and Janice Jiggins, IIED

Our nutrient world: the challenge to produce more food and energy with less pollution, Global Partnership on Nutrient Management

What went wrong? Lessons from Malawi’s food crisis, Africa Renewal Online

New pathways to resilience: interactive report on CCAA program, IDRC

Strategies to overcome collective action challenges in the CAADP, IFPRI

Food chain alert for investors, Financial Times

India’s rice revolution: Chinese scientist questions massive harvests, The Guardian

Vandana Shiva: ‘Seeds must be in the hands of farmers’, The Guardian

India’s wheat shortage, sorry, surplus, Financial Times

Gene giants seek “philanthrogopoly”, ETC Group

Credibility across cultures – Steps Annual Symposium 2013, Steps Centre

A hopeful continent, The Economist

Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness markets set to top US$ one trillion in 2030, The World Bank

Kenya’s urban poor feel the rural pull as insurance makes farming viable, AlertNet

Land grabs and fragile food systems, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Nutrition climbs up the global agenda, Bread for the World Institute