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.

Tropical forests illegally destroyed for commercial agriculture, The Guardian

FAO food price index drops to four-year low, FAO

Rise in greenhouse-gas concentrations continues at alarming rate, Nature

How will the new EU team line up on GMOs, TTIP and energy?, Ecologist

Agricultural revolution in Africa could increase global carbon emissions, Purdue University

Demand for agricultural products drives ‘shock’ tree loss in tropical forests, BBC

Women are much more powerful in agriculture than you might think, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Plant diversity in China vital for global food security, University of Birmingham

Amazon deforestation jumps 29%, The Guardian

Report: A new approach to governing GM crops? Lessons from Brazil, Mexico and India, University of Durham

Harmonizing crop trait data: Crop Ontology, Bioversity International

Corporate influence through the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa, Wolfgang Obenland

Field trial of Xanthomonas wilt disease-resistant bananas in East Africa, Nature [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.

G8 and FAO’s open-agriculture projects set to join forces, SciDev.Net

Agriculture: Engage farmers in research, Nature

Can you be resilient on one acre or less?, IFPRI 2020 Policy Consultation and Conference

Center for Food Safety Report Warns TTIP Could Undermine Critical Food Safety and Environmental Regulations, Center for Food Safety

A bigger rice bowl, The Economist

Miracle grow: Indian rice farmer uses controversial method for record crop, The Guardian

AGRA-backed companies become largest seed producers in sub-Saharan Africa, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The Birth of the Great GMO Debate, Scientific American

Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change, The Wall Street Journal [Read more…]

Agribusiness for Africa

ID-10038867The role of big business in African agriculture often divides opinion. Some seeing it as an opportunity for sustainable economic growth in the sector, some as a new form of colonialism with richer countries exploiting Africa’s food growing conditions and spare land to supply their own countries. Whether a positive development step or a risk to food security, agribusiness on the continent looks set to grow.

Agriculture, particularly the development of agribusiness and agro-industry sectors, has been the driver of economic growth in countries across the globe. In Africa, agribusiness and agro-industries account for more than 30% of national incomes as well as the bulk of export revenues and employment. Given its links to smallholder farming, development of agribusiness could be used to help tackle poverty and hunger in rural communities.

Colonial systems of governance were designed to extract resources from Africa for use elsewhere rather than processing and adding value within the continent. Agribusiness could develop the value addition arm of the agricultural industry and help reduce Africa’s dependence on unprocessed commodities where the bulk of the average retail price is retained by the countries in which the commodity is consumed. The introduction of new players in the agricultural sector could also help diversify sources of growth and exports to reduce reliance on a limited number of export commodities.

Kenya since the 1990s have invested in products, internal systems, and supply chains to supply fresh vegetables to British supermarkets. Considered a success, Kenya’s experience shows that a well-organized industry in a low income country through collaboration between the public and private sectors and the strengthening of links between businesses and educational institutes, can use standards for competitive gain.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) book, Agribusiness for Africa’s Prosperity, outlines the current status of agribusiness and agro-industrial activities in Africa, and situates them in historical and global context. It analyses the opportunities for diversified growth, and assesses the existing and potential sources of demand growth for agribusiness development in Africa.

With the advent of agribusiness, the whole agricultural sector could benefit through improved infrastructure, access to technology and better functioning markets. Indeed for companies to invest in African agriculture, an enabling business climate must be developed through government and international partnership, action that may enable farmers to capitalise on market opportunities coming from better trade links and growing urban populations. An emerging, productive and modern agricultural sector may also act to engage youth in the agricultural sector (youth unemployment is a growing concern on the continent).

The 2013 World Bank report, Growing Africa. Unlocking the potential of agribusiness, documents the potential of the agribusiness sector in Africa through examples and highlights the important of good policies, a conducive business environment, and strategic support from governments. Agribusiness in general being seen as needed to build global competitiveness and as an opportunity for growth employment and food security. [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.

Aid to Africa: private sector investment becomes new priority, The Guardian

Africa & agriculture infographic, B4FA

Learning from AGRA’s Market Access Programme, PAEPARD

Has Africa’s focus on farming borne fruit?, The Guardian

What do we know about food riots and their link to food rights? Some interesting new findings from IDS, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Rice Seed Treatments Effective, Worth Investment: Study, Science Daily

Ugandans and pork: A story that needs telling, ILRI

Change in grain policy signals China’s intent to boost meat production, IATP

Kellogg to Stop Buying Deforested Palm Oil Amid Pressure, Bloomberg Businessweek

B4FA travels to AAAS Chicago with all-African panel of speakers, B4FA

GM foods and application of the precautionary principle in Europe, UK Parliament

G8 New Alliance condemned as new wave of colonialism in Africa, The Guardian

2014: Africa at last?, The Hill

Helping Smallholder Farmers Succeed

n11ke2255-NileSprague (2)Author: TechnoServe

Photo credit: Nile Sprague/TechnoServe

A new UN report stresses the need to recognize diversity among smallholder farmers and adopt more targeted approaches for linking farmers to markets.

Small-scale farmers like Janise Gitonga, shown here tending a passion fruit vine on her farm in Kenya, are crucial to global food security. After all, smallholder agriculture is the main source of both food and income for millions of families in the developing world. A new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) calls for better integration of smallholder farmers into markets in order to alleviate hunger and poverty.

The report emphasizes the need for more nuanced strategies and policy-making to boost smallholder farm output. “Smallholders and small family farms are not homogeneous and face different sets of constraints to participation in markets,” the report states. Therefore, approaches for enhancing farmers’ integration and participation in markets should reflect this diversity.

TechnoServe has been working to help smallholder farmers participate in markets and improve their livelihoods for more than four decades. Programs like Project Nurture — a partnership with The Coca-Cola Company and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that aims to help more than 50,000 small-scale fruit farmers in East Africa double their incomes — utilize key strategies identified by the FAO, including supporting inclusive market development, strengthening farmer organizations and fostering private-sector investment. We understand that confronting the challenge of rural poverty requires thoughtful, market-based solutions.

Read the full FAO report.

For more information about TechnoServe’s work connecting smallholder farmers to markets download “8 Views for the G8: Business Solutions for African Smallholder farmers to Address Food Security and Nutrition”, a joint publication with Agriculture for Impact.

ONE 2013 DATA Report: Financing the Fight for Africa’s Transformation

US-press-669-491Content for this blog is taken from here, authored by Ben Leo, Global Policy Director at ONE.

Ahead of the G8 summit on the 17th and 18th June, the ONE campaign published their 2013 Data Report, which focuses on tracking how developing countries are progressing on the Millennium Development Goal targets using the ‘MDG Progress Index’.   The report also measures how sub-Saharan African governments are faring against their own spending commitments in three poverty-busting sectors: health, agriculture and education. Finally, it offers recommendations for how the global community can intensify its efforts in a sprint to the MDG finish line.

The report shows that some significant progress is happening.

  • There are 10 sub-Saharan African MDG ‘trailblazers’ and dozens of countries have improved their performance.
  • Sub-Saharan African resource flows have quadrupled since 2000, including domestic government expenditures, which account for almost 80% of all available finance. Domestic revenues, foreign investment, donor assistance and remittances are all playing an important role in boosting growth and development.
  • Countries that allocate more of their budget to health, agriculture and education are, on average, progressing faster on the MDGs. For example, over the last decade, Burkina Faso spent a whopping 52% of its national budget on these three sectors and is currently on track to achieve four MDG targets (out of eight) and partially on track for another two.

But also areas that need considerable work.

  • Some countries are falling behind on the MDG targets and slowing down regional progress. Nine of the fourteen global ‘laggard’ countries are in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • African governments are falling far short of their own spending targets, and this has very real consequences. Take a large country such as Nigeria, which alone accounts for 11% of annual child deaths – if it were to meet its health spending commitment over the next three years, the additional resources could amount to $22.5 billion. This could pay for vaccinations for every single child, anti-malarial bed nets for every citizen, and treatment for every HIV-positive person, saving millions of lives.
  • Many donors are also off track in delivering on their promises, such as reaching aid levels of 0.7% of GNI by 2015 and delivering half of those increases to Africa. While aid flows rose dramatically from 2000 to 2010, we have now seen two consecutive years of decline, and, shockingly, sub-Saharan Africa is bearing the brunt of these cuts. [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.

Global Action on Nutrition, ICRISAT

Can Women Deliver a New Development Agenda in 2015?, New Security Beat

Ending Malnutrition, Jose Graziano Da Silva, Huffington Post

Global hunger: Expert calls for fresh action on child malnutrition, BBC

International community must focus on reducing food loss on farms, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Malnutrition identified as root cause of 3.1 million deaths among children, The Guardian

Biotech crops vs. pests: Successes and failures from the first billion acres (Update), Phys.org

In Pictures: Fighting malnutrition, BBC

In defiance of the New Alliance, World Development Movement

Kenyan MPs to champion rural women’s influence on climate policy, Thomson Reuters Foundation

How do you feed 9 billion people?, Michigan State University

Smallholder Farmers Key to Lifting Over One Billion People Out of Poverty, UNEP

David Cameron talking tough on tax as G8 nears – but what can he deliver?, The Guardian

Land Rush – Why Poverty?, YouTube

Zambeef: A rare meat success in Africa, The Economist

Genetically Modified Crops and Food Security, Qaim and Kouser, PLOS ONE