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…]

Young, energetic and visionary – Welcome to the country of a thousand hills and a million smiles

By Katrin Glatzel

DSC_0198I have just returned from Rwanda. Now back in London, sitting in my office, I still feel captured by the energy and enthusiasm that emanated from all those young people we met during our visit. Rwanda, a small, land-locked country in Eastern Africa not bigger than Belgium or Switzerland, has a population of roughly 11million (in 2014), with the majority younger than 19 years old and 72% living in rural areas. With 460 people per km² Rwanda is twice as densely populated as Switzerland, and nearly as mountainous! Rwanda has the aftermath of the genocide to overcome, but it is remarkable seeing young people in particular seize opportunities for themselves and their communities. They are helping the country get on its feet again, by contributing to its economic growth and prosperity.

A Tuesday morning in February in Rwanda 

As we get into our car and make our way through the morning rush hour traffic in Kigali heading north, what strikes me is not only how tidy and organised the city is, but also the number of young people, men and women, going about their work and daily business.

The drive takes us through windy roads and stunning landscapes. 100km and 2.5 hours later we arrive at Musanze District near the borders of Uganda and the DRC, where we are spending the day with TechnoServe to learn more about their STRYDE program (Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise). Through STRYDE TechnoServe supports young people in rural areas to get their business ideas off the ground and become successful entrepreneurs. The programme provides training on business management skills, financial literacy and personal development for a period of three months; upon completion of the training, TechnoServe supports the STRYDE graduates to develop sound business plans and facilitates access to loans, through for example the BDF. [Read more…]

Sustainable agricultural intensification: Tackling food insecurity in a resource-scarce world

By Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Katy Wilson.

Reblogged from AlertNet

ID-10029986 (2)Today, the world is searching for solutions to a series of global challenges unprecedented in their scale and complexity. Food insecurity, malnutrition, climate change, rural poverty and environmental degradation are all among them.

A recent meeting hosted by the Irish government and the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ) in Dublin convened experts and practitioners from around the globe to discuss how the next iteration of development goals following the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can respond to this set of challenges, as part of the so-called “post-2015” development agenda.

Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to these threats as both supply-side and demand-side challenges are putting additional pressure on an already fragile food production system. Indeed, current systems of production will only be able to meet 13 percent of the continent’s food needs by 2050, while three out of four people added to the planet between now and 2100 will be born in the region.

Improving agricultural yields efficiently and sustainably must be central in addressing Africa’s food insecurity challenges. This calls for “sustainable intensification”. 

Sustainable intensification offers a framework for producing more food with less impact on the environment, intensifying food production while ensuring the natural resource base on which agriculture depends is sustained, and indeed improved, for future generations.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the term has taken on a highly politicised meaning, with some arguing it is synonymous with industrial agriculture reliant on a high use of fertilisers and pesticides. But this does not have to be the case.

The term’s original scientific intent was for it to be relevant to all types of agricultural systems, including smallholder farmers in Africa. It is now time that the term is re-embraced to help meet the challenges we face as a global population of 9 billion people by the year 2050.

REPORT POINTS THE WAY

A new report from the Montpellier Panel, an eminent panel of international experts led by Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact, provides innovative thinking and examples of how sustainable intensification can be used by smallholder African farmers to address the continent’s food and nutrition crisis. [Read more…]