Why partnerships are key to boosting smallholders’ resilience to climate change

By Katrin Glatzel and Gordon Conway

This article was originally posted by The World Farmer’s Organisation e-magazine. Read it here.

As we all know, crops, grazing land, fisheries and livestock are already negatively affected by climatic changes and extremes. The recent El Niño, likely to be the strongest on record, has affected the food security of a vast number of people across the world. Among them, millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries, who own less than one hectare of land, live on less than US$1 per day and do not grow enough food to feed their families.

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Credit: HarvestPlus, Zambia

Across Africa, achieving food security for all will become increasingly difficult, and governments are under more pressure than ever to boost productivity and accelerate growth. However, the agricultural growth and food security goals set out by the African Union’s Malabo Declaration have underestimated the risk that climate change will pose to food and nutrition security, according to a new briefing paper by the Montpellier Panel.  The paper, “Set for Success: Climate-Proofing the Malabo Declaration” argues that the Declaration, adopted in 2014 by African Union nations to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025, is an important step in the right direction, but has failed to emphasise the risk for smallholder agriculture to climate change. [Read more…]

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Institutional support of weather index insurance for smallholder integration

By Christopher Au, PhD candidate, Imperial College London, and 2016 Next Generation Delegate

Originally posted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, July 21st 2016

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Credit: Flore de Preneuf/World Bank

Growing Food for Growing Cities, by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, delivers prescient conclusions on the future manifestation of supply chains, as urbanization and wealth generation influence the structure and orientation of social activities. Currently, the quantity of smallholder produced food to meet domestic demand is underwhelming, primarily caused by lagging productivity rates. From a social welfare perspective, smallholder agricultural underperformance constitutes a drain on economic activity.

Stagnant productivity rates are in part due to sparse use of improved inputs, where uncertain crop performance and risk of lost income deters investment, locking smallholders into a low risk, low return production strategy. Uninsured risk prompts costly self-insurance strategies, stunting economic development, hindering poverty alleviation efforts, and preventing a meaningful contribution from smallholders to food security. [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

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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…]

Protecting Africa’s Backbone: transforming agriculture in the face of climate change

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

Smallholder farmers in Africa are already aware that the climate is changing. For many, the growing seasons are becoming shorter and more difficult to plan, because of erratic and unpredictable weather including droughts and floods. Often this means that crops fail or yields are lower and livelihoods are impacted with less produce to feed the household, let alone surplus to sell at markets to gain an income. Unfortunately, the climatic conditions are likely to only get worse, with mean temperatures across Africa expected to rise faster than the global average, reaching as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels. The pressure on African countries to boost productivity and accelerate growth is now higher than ever and is being further complicated by the potential adverse impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.

In this context the Montpellier Panel  has launched a new briefing paper today – Set for Success: Climate-proofing the Malabo Declaration . The Panel urges African governments to fully recognise the scale of the threat posed by climate change to smallholder farming and to build climate-smart agriculture strategies into their National Agricultural Investments Plans that will help farmers mitigate the risks and adapt to the changing weather conditions. The paper also highlights more than 15 examples of success stories and programmes that have been shown to be impactful and can be scaled-up. Building resilience will be key to achieving the shared agendas of the Malabo Declaration, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To this end, the Montpellier Panel make the following recommendations:

  1. diagramSupporting the Malabo Declaration by building comprehensive information on climate-related stresses and shocks, both nationally and regionally, as well as their impacts on food and nutrition security.
  2. Mainstreaming climate-smart agriculture programmes into the next generation of National Agriculture Investment Plans to ensure a stronger focus on climate change and extreme weather events.
  3. African countries need support, through the African Union, NEPAD, CAADP and regional associations of National Agricultural Research Systems, to develop country investment plans that reflect a stronger, collective voice for Africa in international climate policy processes
  4. Facilitating African governments’ access to climate funds through the Green Climate Fund and other innovative finance mechanisms that will help countries implement climate-smart agriculture programmes.
  5. Improving Africa’s scientific capacity which will guide climate change adaptation and mitigation interventions in agriculture.
  6. Improving training for farmers on sustainable farming techniques, through improved extension services, farmer field schools and utilisation of digital technologies.

[Read more…]

Eight TED talks about the environment

In 2013 we brought you our six favourite TEDx talks about food security, which we followed with 9 more in 2014. This time, to celebrate World Environment Day on June 5th we bring you some of our favourite TED talks about climate change, biodiversity and the environment. We’d love for you to share your favourites and to hear your thoughts about our list on twitter using #TEDenvironment and our handle, @Ag4Impact

 

  1. Jonathan Drori: Why we’re storing billions of seeds highlights the importance of biodiversity for supporting life, and looks into the Millennium Seed bank where billions of seeds, including non-food plants, are being stored for posterity.

 

 

2. Cary Fowler: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food takes this idea further, by looking at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault that stores millions of specifically food-crop seeds. Cary describes biodiversity is the ‘raw material’ of agriculture and highlights the importance of storing these seeds for “whatever tomorrow may bring”

 

[Read more…]

On this Africa Day, we need to talk about nutrition

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0. Originally posted by the Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London

Photo Credit  Fintrac Inc - kenyan families feeding children nutritious foodAs we celebrate Africa Day 2016, it’s time to reflect on the state of nutrition in Africa and the weighty effect malnutrition has on the continent’s ability to prosper. Progress has been made over the past decades, for example through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to reduce extreme hunger and starvation. However, it is the quality of food that people consume and a lack of variety that is of increasing concern. A few weeks ago, Roger Thurow, a Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, released a new book, The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children—And the World. The book lays out that nutrition, or lack thereof, in the first 1,000 days of life – from conception to the age of two – has a profound and lasting influence on a child’s ability to grow, learn, develop and work.

Stunting is a measurable impact of malnutrition, but the height of a child doesn’t tell the full story. The development of the child’s brain is also affected, so stunted children are more likely to fall behind in school, fail to achieve decent incomes, and perpetuate the cycle of poverty for the next generation. The cumulative effect of widespread malnutrition in a group of people can therefore directly impact, and limit, a society’s ability to develop and prosper. Thurow’s book highlights Uganda in particular, where half of women of childbearing age are anaemic and about 35% of children suffer stunting due to malnourishment. Indeed, a staggering 40% of all under-five deaths in Uganda are caused by malnutrition. Tragically, Uganda is not an isolated case in sub-Saharan Africa, where 40% of all children under the age of five are stunted. [Read more…]

The new ‘golden age’ of agronomy

Originally posted on CGIAR’s Thrive blog on February 25, 2016
By Fred Pearce

Not since the Green Revolution half a century ago has there been such a golden age for agronomy. But unlike the hey-day of new high-yield varieties of rice, wheat and corn, there is no consensus today about where the science of farming should be headed and what it should be trying to deliver.

Is the aim to maximise yield, to feed the world’s growing urban masses, to improve the lot of rural households, to rescue the world’s soils from rampant over exploitation, or to drive economic growth in developing economies?

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Rice production in Eastern Uruguay from the air. Photo Credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Can all be delivered at the same time? Or is agronomy being taken over by fads – many with a green patina, such as conservation agriculture, agro-ecology, climate-smart agriculture and sustainable intensification – that promise all but too often deliver little. Do they too often turn into a new imposition on the rural poor? [Read more…]