Rwandan agrodealer’s shop may still be small, but her ideas are big

By Alice Marks

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Odette Dusabuwera in her agrodealer shop

The inability to access inputs is often cited as a major barrier to increasing the productivity of farms and improving the livelihoods of rural farmers. One Acre Fund (OAF), known as Tubura in Rwanda, has served more than 113,500 farmers since it started operations in the country in 2007, and now employs more than 1,400 staff members. One of their programs aims to tackle this barrier by working with agrodealers, providing them with credit for OAF seed and other inputs, such as much-needed fertiliser so that they can stock their shops with good quality products. OAF-supported agrodealers can expect to make US$2000-3000 per year in profit.

On a recent visit to Rwanda, OAF took us to meet Odette Dusabuwera, an agrodealer from Rubengera, in Western Rwanda, to find out how this approach was working for the agrodealers and farmers. [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.

Highlight: the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association (NASFAM) in Malawi, PAEPARD

FAO launches new standards for plant genebanks, FAO

Africa and India cultivate agricultural research ties, SciDev.Net

Who will pay for ecosystem services?, IIED

It’s not the ‘skipping’ three who should be questioned, it’s the wasteful supermarkets, The Independent

Pesticides halve bees’ pollen gathering ability, research shows, The Guardian

Natural Gas and Albacore: What Tuna Says About the Future of Mozambique, New Security Beat

Press Briefing of H.E. Mrs. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, PAEPARD

Fertilizer nutrient imbalance to limit food production in Africa, IIASA

Genetic weapon against insects raises hope and fear in farming, New York Times [Read more…]

AGRA’s African agriculture report

Woman farmerLast month the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa launched their first annual report detailing the state of African agriculture, entitled The Africa Agriculture Status Report.

Focusing on staple crops, the report synthesises data from 16 African countries as well as international institutions such as the World Bank and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The report highlights some key priority areas for policy makers on the continent:

  • Reducing cheap and subsidised food imports, which weaken African agricultural market development, as well as increasing smallholder farmer access to credit, addressing trade restrictions and high transportation costs.
  • Addressing the gender imbalance in access to productive resources such as land, credit, agricultural technologies and services.
  • Boosting research and development for food security for underperforming countries. Africa as a whole has a mere 70 researchers per million inhabitants (compared to the USA, which has 2,640 researchers per million inhabitants).
  • Addressing declining soil fertility, which threatens crop yields and agricultural development. For AGRA this means addressing the high price of fertiliser in many countries of Africa.
  • Reviewing and harmonising seed laws and regulations to allow the development of Africa’s seed markets.

The value of the report lies in its synthesis of data and, due to this, of being able to make comparisons between countries. AGRA aims for the report to cover all countries in sub-Saharan Africa within a few years and has high hopes that the report will enable researchers, scientists, farmers and policymakers to access reliable agricultural data in order to make informed decisions relating to food security, data which can often be difficult to access.

 

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.

Status of development, regulation and adoption of GM agriculture in Africa: Views and positions of stakeholder groups, Adenle, A., Morris, E.J., Parayil, G.

Investing in people and evidence for sustainable farming, SciDev.net

World Food Day: New Ranking Tool to Guide Investment in Biofortified Crops Launched, HarvestPlus

Past environmental pressures affect current biodiversity loss, European Commission

Commentary – Innovation for Sustainable Intensification in Africa, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Global Hunger Index Calls for Greater Resilience-Building Efforts to Boost Food and Nutrition Security, IFPRI

Report Finds Major Challenges to Meeting Global Food and Nutrition Needs by 2050, Digital Journal [Read more…]

Agricultural Innovation to Protect the Environment

ID-10032276 (2)Food security, poverty reduction, environmental protection: increasingly the links between these three global challenges are being recognised. And a recent special feature of PNAS, Agricultural Innovation to Protect the Environment, explored this topic.

As the introductory paper by Sayer and Cassman explains, agriculture is increasingly being required to consider its environmental impact along with ways it can increase natural capital. In part this is because an unhealthy environment can limit our ability to produce food but also because the intensification of food production we require to meet future food needs could have irreversible impacts on water resources, the climate and human health.

Innovation and innovativeness are needed if we are to tackle these interacting challenges. In the past the Green Revolution allowed food production to keep pace with population growth and is estimated to have saved 17.9 and 26.7 million hectares of land but it failed to address issues of sustainability and equitability, and the problems we face now are more complex.

New concepts such as eco-efficiency and green growth, and new methods for dealing with uncertainty are being adopted. New technologies such as mobile phones, biotechnology and methane recovery can be both effective and profitable. Advanced technologies in China, for example, could cut N fertilizer-related emissions by 20–63%, amounting to a reduction in China’s total Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2–6%. The challenge is to enhance the process of innovating and ensure existing innovations are accessible to and have impact for those who need them most. [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 market solutions unlock Africa’s agricultural potential?, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Scientists’ Consensus on Maintaining Humanity’s Life Support Systems in the 21st Century, Ideas for Sustainability

A soiled reputation. Adverse impacts of mineral fertilizers in tropical agriculture, Heinrich Böll Foundation and WWF

Can a Growing World Feed Itself Without Genetically Modified Crops?, Brain Heap

Target, Giant Eagle, H-E-B, Meijer Say No to Genetically Engineered Salmon, Center for Food Safety

Declining agricultural diversity a ‘threat to humanity, Farming Online

Cassava’s huge potential as 21st Century crop, FAO

Seeking Food Ingredients That Aren’t Gene-Altered, The New York Times

Non-GM canola oil demand has crusher scrambling, The Western Producer

Mapping the Way to Even Healthier Rice, USDA

Could African Crops Be Improved With Private Biotech Data?, The Salt

Can climate-friendly development survive a fossil fuel boom?, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Preserving the Soil and Reaping Greater Harvests, IPP Media

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.

Improving child nutrition. The achievable imperative for global progress, UNICEF

The World Needs Genetically Modified Foods, The Wall Street Journal

Grassroot-level innovations may hold the key to global challenges, The Guardian

World food prices rise 1 pct in March – FAO

Primary commodity prices and global food security. Why farmers still struggle when food prices rise, Thomas Lines, Green House

Millions face starvation as world warms, say scientists, The Guardian

Half a million Kenyans and Ethiopians face conflict, hunger due to dam – AlertNet

Biofuels: ‘Irrational’ and ‘worse than fossil fuels’, BBC News

World Bank: Africa’s economic growth to outpace average, BBC News [Read more…]