Visiting drought prone regions in Tanzania

Originally published by WINnERS, 15 Jul 2016. Read the original post here. By William Thompson

In March, I travelled to Central and Northern Tanzania with the World Food Programme (WFP) team, to visit several farmer organisations that are participating in the Patient Procurement Platform (PPP). The PPP is an emanation of WFP’s smallholder sourcing policy, designed to catalyse increased production for smallholder farmers through co-ordinating market demand. These are farmers the WINnERS project aims to benefit.

From P4P to PPP farmers can become WINnERS
My visit took advantage of a parallel project that was evaluating the success of another WFP engagement with smallholder farmers in Tanzania, Purchase for Progress (P4P). P4P highlights some of the key challenges faced in creating well-functioning agricultural value chains: capacity building and infrastructure development for village and district scale farmer organisations, in the form of leadership training and warehouse construction. Without well-functioning farmer organisations, the individual smallholder farmers that these cooperatives serve are unable aggregate sufficient produce to become market players and are certainly not able to deal directly with the medium to larger scale processors that dominate Tanzanian grain markets.

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This work helps to shift power into the hands of smallholders to overcome an imbalance that has evolved in the Tanzanian agricultural sector, a phenomenon endemic to small-scale agriculture globally. Building on the work of P4P, in these regions, the PPP aims to harness the gains made through farmer co-operation and catalyse private sector market engagement by these smallholders. It is via these value chains that the WINnERS project – led by Imperial College to build weather and climate resilient supply chains through better risk management tools – has huge potential to enable climate adaptation through the novel risk sharing strategies. [Read more…]

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Past, present and future: IFPRI’s 2014-2015 Global Food Policy Report

CAeEPQKUQAA9iSc.png largeIn the fourth instalment of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s annual report on food policy, launched on 18th March 2015, authors report on the major developments that have happened at a global, regional and national level in 2014 but also, and for the first time, discuss the challenges to tackling food insecurity we face in the near future.

Looking to the past, the report highlights achievements as well as setbacks. For example, achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015, of 64 countries meeting the MDG of halving the number of hungry people since 1990, of global undernourishment having fallen from 19% to 11% in the past 2 decades, the commitments made at the Second International Conference on Nutrition in Rome to end malnutrition, the African Union committing to end hunger by 2025 and membership in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement continuing to grow.

But 2014 also experienced shocks and disasters such as the largest ever outbreak of Ebola, continuing civil war and conflict in the middle east, extreme weather conditions such as drought in Central America and typhoons and flooding in the Philippines, and continuing distortion of the agricultural markets with the US passing the Farm Bill and the EU implementing the latest Common Agricultural Policy. And ongoing is a lack of food security and adequate nutrition for hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

While disease, conflict and climatic upheaval are expected to intensify over the coming years, this year could be a window of opportunity to mitigate and build resilience to future shocks, and to step up in the fight against hunger and poverty as the Sustainable Development Goals are shaped and come into force and as a new climate agreement is (hopefully) adopted.

IFPRI’s report highlights some key food policy aspects of hunger and malnutrition such as the importance of sanitation, social protection and food safety, which need to be considered in future policy making. The report also discusses the role of middle income countries in combating hunger and the future of small family farmers.

Middle income countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Mexico are growing fast economically but they are also home to almost half of the world’s hungry (363 million people). These countries must be part of any strategy to combat hunger and malnutrition and they also have the resources to make a huge difference as we’ve seen in Brazil. Although the challenges faced in these countries are diverse and nation-specific, the report identifies several shared factors affecting food and nutrition security such as rising inequality, shifting diets, rapid urbanisation and the absence of nutrition-focused policies. The report points to the examples of South Korea and Chile in reducing hunger and malnutrition while promoting inclusive and sustainable growth. As the report states, economic growth is not sufficient alone to tackle hunger and thus suggests that MICs use nutrition-specific and –sensitive interventions and value chain approaches to reshape the food system; reduce inequalities, for example, through providing education to the underprivileged and supporting women in accessing productive resources; improve rural infrastructure, expand effective social safety nets and improve south-south knowledge sharing.

2014 being the UN International Year of Family Farming, the report looks to the role of small family farmers in meeting a country’s agriculture needs as well as how such farmers can become more profitable or when they might need to leave farming for a more economically justifiable pursuit. Agriculture is mainly a family affair with family farms producing some 80% of the world’s food. As such family farmers play a significant role in global food security and nutrition in both providing the food we eat but also because many small-scale farmers are themselves food insecure. [Read more…]

Key Agricultural Development Debates

ID-100214047In conjunction with World Food Day last week, the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and Institute of Development Studies (IDS) launched a series of seven papers investigating the key agricultural development debates surrounding sub-Saharan Africa.

For many years the importance of agricultural development for poverty and hunger eradication was a key issue to be argued, debated and championed but more recently this message has been largely accepted with agriculture becoming a central theme on African and international development agendas. As World Food Day showed there is general agreement that smallholder and family farms play a critical role in providing food security, livelihoods, environmental protection and rural development.

Although investing in agricultural development, and smallholders specifically, is widely believed to help tackle poverty and hunger, the way of going about this is much contested, and debates over the right policies, technologies and investments are ongoing. It is these debates that these seven papers, the first of twelve, have explored, in particular looking at how such debates have changed since 2001 and the release of an issue of Development Policy Review entitled “Rethinking rural development“. This issue suggested that the role of agriculture in driving development and economic growth was diminishing with more people leaving the sector to pursue other jobs.

Today agriculture is largely seen as both critical to a country’s economic transition and, because the sector employs millions of people and families, as a route to improving the livelihoods of people around the world. Perhaps this is because the way agriculture is viewed has changed – within agricultural development spheres discourse is as often as not full of ideas such as market development, value chains, public-private partnership and enterprise. Agriculture in developing countries is being viewed as a business with risks but also with many opportunities. Recent rises in food prices, liberalisation of markets, the rise of regional trade and economic partnerships in Africa, and new African institutions such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) have opened the door for agriculture-led development and private investment.

Whether these developments will ultimately be good or bad for African development divides opinion. Do market-led approaches marginalise subsistence farmers, increasing their vulnerability to poverty? Will small-scale farmers ultimately have to leave farming as commercial farms capitalise on market opportunities? How much control over the development of farms and agriculture should individual farmers have? The seven papers presented aim to ignite debate on how African agriculture is changing and shed light on the way forward. The topics of these papers ranges from the changing African economic, political and social landscapes and its impact on food systems; the types of investment most appropriate for smallholder farmers, given their heterogeneity; economic diversification and the link between urban and rural economies; the potential of input subsidy programmes; and the role of ICTs.

Here we suggest some key agricultural debates currently taking place but we’d love to hear from you as to what you think the most important debates are in African agricultural development, and how you think resolution can be found. [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 future of DFID, partnerships, aid and INGOs, c/o Alex Evans, From Poverty to Power

GE Critics Range as Skeptics. Groups Offer Scientific Panel a Range of Suggestions to Study Biotech Foods, The Progressive Farmer

Scientists praise and challenge FAO on agroecology, IATP

The Expanding Possibilities of Family Farmers, Roger Thurow

Cross-bred crops get fit faster, Nature

World hunger falls, but 805 million still chronically undernourished, FAO

Beyond Plant Breeding: Agro-Ecological Solutions for Climate-Smart Agriculture, Global Food for Thought

Documents reveal how poultry firms systematically feed antibiotics to flocks, Reuters

African Green Revolution Forum: Matters arising, Peoples Daily

Super bananas – world first human trial, Queensland University of Technology

ROUND-UP:Can Ban Ki-moon’s summit help build a global movement for climate action?, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Seafood labels and sourcing to become clearer thanks to new code, The Guardian

Not so mega? The risky business of large-scale public-private partnerships in African agriculture, From Poverty to Power

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…]

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 alternative economic indicators ever be any good if they are devised solely by experts?, From Poverty to Power

Misgivings About How a Weed Killer Affects the Soil, The New York Times

Seeds of Doubt, The New Yorker

Off the shelf: are people finally turning away from supermarkets?, The Guardian

Cultivating a Neglected Field, Stanford Social Innovation Review

Plants may use language to communicate with each other, Virginia Tech researcher finds, Virginia Tech News

Scraping the Seafloor for Fish Harms Biodiversity, Scientific American

Infographic: 9 plant diseases that threaten your favorite foods–and how GM can help, Genetic Literacy Project

Promoting Developmental Research: A Challenge for African Universities, Journal of Learning for Development

Uncovered, the mystery of exchanging genes with wild relatives, John Innes Centre [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.

Why nutrition-smart agriculture matters, Devex

The next steps for Africa to meet its potential, The Washington Post

Limited potential of no-till agriculture for climate change mitigation, Powlson et al, Nature Climate Change

Getting caught with our plants down: the risks of a global crop yield slowdown from climate trends in the next two decades, Lobell and Tebaldi, Environmental Research Letters.

Smart Aid for the World’s Poor, The Wall Street Journal

Crops v conservation: how farmers can solve the dilemma, Financial Times

Food, farming and antibiotics: a health challenge for business, The Guardian

Farm manager plays leading role in postharvest loss, EurekAlert [Read more…]