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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Chains, loops, pillars and bridges – building resilience into agricultural systems.

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

UN Photo Logan Abassi

Credit: UN/Logan Abassi

As meteorologists report that the El Niño Southern Oscillation is ending and a La Niña may be developing, spare a thought for smallholder farmers. Erratic rainfall, short growing seasons, prolonged droughts and flooding mean that crop yields suffer, and so do the livelihoods of those who rely on farming as their main source of income. And because agriculture does not only provide food, but also provides important environmental services, employment, and economic opportunities for local communities, it is not just the farmers and their families who feel the effects of the unpredictable weather that is becoming increasingly common all around the world. With increasingly global food systems, we will all suffer the consequences.

Despite the volatile weather, the food must grow on. Globally the growing population demands more, and more varied, food, to be grown with ever scarcer resources. However, current agricultural techniques have a voracious appetite for resources, consuming about 70% of all freshwater and using ever more land. But there are other viable ways of farming that are less resource intensive. In the recent submission to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 44), A4I advocated for the practices of Sustainable Intensification (SI) for agriculture. SI integrates innovations in ecology, genetics and socio-economics to help build environmentally sustainable, productive and resilient ways to produce more food with less, ensuring that the natural resources on which agriculture depends are maintained and even improved for future generations – also take a look at the A4I SI database where there are explanations and more than 80 case studies to highlight some of the best practices of SI. [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.

Food Politics Creates Rift in Panel on Labeling, The New York Times

Use of GM cotton linked to rise in aphid numbers, SciDev.Net

Climate Conversations – Forest foods should be used in fight against global malnutrition, AlertNet

Consumers don’t trust supermarkets on GM food, poll finds, The Grocer

Global Food Prices Continue to Rise, World Watch Institute

As extreme weather drives rustling, pastoralists turn to farming, AlertNet

Africa: How Do Politics and Agriculture Mix in Africa?, All Africa

How to save two million lives, The Guardian

Fancy a curry?, Global Food Security Blog

Extreme Weather Events on the Rise

Can scientists now say with a fair amount of confidence that extreme weather events such as the Texas heat wave last year, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and the European heat wave of 2003 are directly linked to global warming caused by humans?

In a new paper entitled ‘Perception of Climate Change’ NASA scientist James Hansen and two colleagues describe how climate change has increased the occurrence of unusually warm weather events in the past 30 years. There is only a small chance that the shift towards both higher temperatures and increased weather extremes would have happened in the absence of climate change.  Periods of extreme summertime temperatures have increased in geographic scope from less than 1% of the land’s surface in the base period of 1951 to 1980 to covering 13% in recent years. [Read more…]