Farming in a tough environment: A visit to Rwanda

By Gordon Conway

landscape Rwanda (9)Visiting farms in Rwanda is an exercise in mountaineering, scrambling sometimes on all fours over great volcanic boulders. But the effort is worth it. As we saw on our visit there in February, farmers in Rwanda are beginning to do well.

The statistics tell a good story. GDP has rebounded with an average annual growth of 7-8% since 2000 and average annual agricultural growth rates reached 5.7% between 2001 and 2012. And you can see the effects on the ground, partly the consequences of a good partnership between NGOs, the private sector and the government. The new minister of agriculture Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, who gained her PhD in bean genetics from Michigan State University is a good example of President Kagame’s policy of appointing technically qualified ministers. She works on developing new policies while one of her predecessors Dr Daphrose Gahakwa is DDG of the Rwanda Agricultural Board that oversees research, extension and other implementing agencies.

Technoserve STRYDE schadrack with tree tomatoes

Schadrack, a farmer on TechnoServe’s STRYDE programme, with his tree tomatoes

Farm plots across the country have an average size of 0.6 hectares and tend to be fragmented over several locations. As a result, many households actually farm as little as 0.4 hectares. Farmers use the flat land to grow crops to sell at local markets, and the steeper, more difficult to farm slopes for growing food for household consumption. An increasing population density is putting additional pressure on the scarce land, encouraging people to move on to ever steeper slopes. The mountainous landscape presents significant challenges to farmers. Farming is not only physically more demanding and tiring but the shallow soils found on steep slopes are also prone to erosion and landslides. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary of the news stories, reports, and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Urbanisation, value chains, food systems

Growing Food for Growing Cities: Transforming Food Systems in an Urbanizing World, Chicago Council

Are cities doing enough on climate change? Residents say no, Green Biz

Shifting our Approach: Four Priorities for a More Sustainable Food System, The Chicago Council

Done sensibly, agricultural development can reduce poverty in Africa, The Conversation

Small-scale producers in the development of tea value-chain partnerships, ifad

Shifting our Approach: Four Priorities for a More Sustainable Food System, Chicago Council

Climate change

Promising climate for investment, Thomson Reuters Foundation

How should we compensate poor countries for ‘loss and damage’ from climate change? The Conversation

Why the Paris climate change goals may already be slipping beyond reach, The Guardian [Read more…]

Supplying the demand: growing food for growing cities.

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

Haiti earthquake: one year later

Credit, FAO

On April 26th 2016 The Chicago Council on Global Affairs released their new report, Growing Food for Growing Cities: Transforming food systems in an urbanizing world, as part of their Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, DC. According to UN figures, two-thirds of the global population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050, and this report looks at how such rapid urbanisation is changing the structure and functionality of the entire global food system, from the source of inputs to the farm and on to the consumer.

With urbanisation and the accompanying expansion of urban middle classes comes a shift in dietary expectations and demands. Traditional staple diets such as cereals, roots and pulses are increasingly supplemented with a wide variety of higher-value foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, or meat and dairy products. For example, in some African countries including Uganda and Tanzania up to 66% of urban household food expenditure is on foods other than staple grains.

Value chains have potential

valuechain, global panel

Chicago Council, 2016

According to the report, if agricultural and supply chains are to accommodate the growing demands of the cities, they will need to “lengthen geographically, increasing the potential to reach farmers in more and more distant areas.” No longer is ‘farm to fork’ a simple process that serves local populations; increasingly it is a complex and far-reaching chain, involving many actors that might cross borders and even continents. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary of the news stories, reports, and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Feeding the cities

Growing Food for Growing Cities: Achieving Inclusive Growth, Chicago council

Future of food : shaping the global food system to deliver improved nutrition and health, World Bank

Why urban agriculture isn’t a panacea for Africa’s food crisis, The Conversation

Guest Commentary – How Access to Long-Established Technology Can Help Feed Growing Cities, Chicago Council

Growth opportunities and growing pains in a changing global food system, AgriPulse

Growing Food for Growing Cities: Engaging the Private Sector, Chicago Council

Climate change 

A new start for European foreign policy, E3G

Could global warming’s top culprit help crops? Eurekalert [Read more…]

Agriculture is in every SDG: Part 1

By Alice Marks

Story-2-SDGsSkimming the eye across the colourful chart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is easy to spot a couple which are intrinsically and directly linked to agriculture, but a closer look reveals that they are in fact all linked to agriculture. A healthy global agricultural sector underpins and supports so many aims of the SDGs that its development will be important for their overall success. As sustainable agriculture is essential for sustainable food systems and livelihoods, here is a breakdown of how agriculture, farming and nutrition fit into the first 7 goals

1. No Poverty

Over 70% of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, and rely heavily on agriculture for their survival and livelihoods. According to the World Bank, evidence shows that GDP growth generated in agriculture has large benefits for the poor, and is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth generated by other sectors. Particularly with investment and growth of sustainable value chains, agriculture can help to lift people out of poverty. [Read more…]

Premise of progress – Building human and social capital for Africa’s agricultural success

By Katrin Glatzel

It is not uncommon that young people don’t want to follow in their parents’ footsteps, especially if it means a low income, food insecurity and back-breaking work.

For the agriculture sector in Africa, this is a big challenge. With over half of the population working in agriculture, the average African farmer is now between 50 and 60 years old. At the same time, the need for greater agricultural production is acute. In order to feed the projected population of 2050, global food production will need to increase by around 60%.

Africa is uniquely positioned to meet this challenge. An estimated 60% of the world’s undeveloped arable land is in Africa, there is great potential for increased irrigation and crop productivity, and a rapidly increasing population of young people are ready to transform their continent.

1However, to the majority of young people, the idea of working in agriculture is anything but exciting. More and more young Africans move into cities searching for better education and employment opportunities. Based on current trends, 59% of 20-24 year olds in sub-Saharan Africa will complete secondary education in 2030, compared to 42% in 2012. This translates into 137 million young people with secondary education and 12 million with tertiary education by 2030. Yet, only 2% of students are enrolled in agricultural programmes, compared to 26% who study humanities. [Read more…]

Entrepreneurship in African Agriculture: Sylva Food Solutions, Zambia.

By Stephanie Brittain

I recently attended an All Party Parliamentarian Group (APPG) meeting on ‘Sourcing from Smallholders’. This was the second in a series of round-table discussions to gather evidence for the APPG on Agriculture and Food Development’s inquiry into smallholder agribusiness development. One of the African entrepreneurs that spoke about her experiences of supporting smallholder farmers is Sylvia Banda, Managing Director of Sylva Food Solutions in Zambia.

Almost two-thirds of Zambia’s 14.5 million people live in rural areas, where most are engaged in smallholder subsistence farming. However, much of the food they produce is wasted due to a lack of markets for their produce and inadequate knowledge of effective food preservation techniques. The low demand for local farm produce is also driven by negative perceptions of locally-grown food. Sylvia has helped to change this perception by working with women smallholder farmers to teach post-harvest techniques, food processing, marketing skills and nutrition.

Taking root

_66027737_sylva22Sylvia started her entrepreneurial journey in 1986, whilst still employed as a Catering Officer in the Ministry of Education.

“Being  the only employee and with no start-up capital, I had to ‘borrow’ the basic materials such as cooking oil, chicken, salt and vegetables from my own kitchen at home. I had so much to arrange that I didn’t have the time or the money to buy furniture. So, on the first day my customers ate standing up! I realised that I had forgotten to buy the tables and chairs. Quickly, I told them that they were having a standing buffet! ” she recalls.

Despite this, her restaurant was a great success. Years later, however, Sylvia was frustrated at seeing how imported food is preferred by the majority, particularly in urban areas.

“Imported food has less nutritional value and is more expensive than local food. This, combined with the poverty of smallholder farmers struggling to sell their crops locally, led me to shift my focus”.

She now works to empower local farmers and promote local food for poverty alleviation. [Read more…]