Family farming adopted as a resolution

2019 – 2028 a Decade for Family Farming

Family farming adopted as a resolution

Family farming adopted as a resolution

At its 72nd Session, the United Nations General Assembly officially adopted a resolution declaring 2019 – 2028 as a “Decade of Family Farming”. The resolution is aimed at providing a framework for the promotion of better public policies on family farming.

The adoption of the resolution has presented a unique opportunity to all stakeholders in the agricultural sector to collectively focus on the role of family farming in addressing numerous socioeconomic challenges that include hunger and poverty. However, for the declaration to fully achieve its intention, there is a need for active participation of the farming community in the planning and implementation of all activities aimed at achieving the goals of the declaration at national and regional levels.

Family farming means different things to different stakeholders but the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has defined it as “all family-based agricultural activities that are linked to areas of rural development”. Consequently, they contend that family farming is a means of organising agricultural, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production which is managed and operated by a family and predominantly reliant on family labour that includes both women and men.

Regardless of which definition one wants to use, in both developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector. As such it can be concluded that most farmers in Africa including our region operate family farms.

The declaration of the United Nations should therefore provide assurance to farmers that issues affecting most farmers will receive more attention than before. In addition, the declaration provides an opportunity for farmers to link with all other stakeholders in the agricultural sector to lobby with governments (who are party to the declaration) to ensure that the operational environment is improved for increased production, agro-processing and marketing of their produce.

It is an opportunity for farmers to impress upon their governments and other partners to formulate policies and programs that will ensure that more attention is given in addressing challenges farmers face daily. If well supported (technically and financially) farmers will be able to provide information to their governments and other stakeholders on policies that work and those that don’t work.

They will also be able to provide practical solutions on what should be done to ensure that policies are working. It is against this background that governments are called upon to practically demonstrate their political commitment by putting in place regulatory frameworks as well as institutions and policies that address the needs of family farmers.

They should establish platforms for policy dialogue with farmers’ organisations to generate consensus and formulate and implement effective policies.

Dr Majola Mabuza, (4th from left) among the panellist at the Soils Advantage event at COP24 (Source: CCAFS website)

Can farmers capitalise on carbon sequestration?

Dr Majola Mabuza, (4th from left) among the panellist at the Soils Advantage event at COP24 (Source: CCAFS website)

Dr Majola Mabuza, (4th from left) among the panelist at the Soils Advantage event at COP24 (Source: CCAFS website)

A lot of human activities including deforestation, converting grasslands into arable land, repeated soil tillage, and burning of fossil fuels have disrupted the carbon cycle, taking it out of balance. To this end, scientists and climate change activists have made a clarion call to farmers, as land managers, to play an active role in taking carbon back to the soil.

Soils act as a source and sink for carbon and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Conservation agriculture and agroforestry are some of the practices that simultaneously improve soil carbon, soil fertility and water conservation, hence their adoption at scale can help increase food production to meet the needs of the growing population.

In one of the COP24 side events co-hosted by SACAU, an important point was raised to the effect that for farmers to heed the call of ‘taking carbon back to the soil’, there needs to be a compelling value proposition apart from the rhetoric of benefiting from ‘increased yield and household food security’. Farmers need to capitalise on carbon sequestration.

When polluters buy carbon credits, the financial returns are enjoyed by a company, organisation or project that has prevented an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere.

If farmers can store substantial amounts of carbon in the soils, why can’t they benefit from the carbon market? While it was pointed out that measuring the actual amount of carbon sequestered in soils and plants could be difficult and very costly, this is a matter that needs to be debated further, with the hope that more innovative approaches will be introduced.

Farmers’ level of awareness, knowledge and understanding of carbon sequestration also need to be improved for them to benefit from such an initiative.

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Climate change to worsen the plight of cotton farmers

Climate change or rather climate variability will continue to decimate cotton production. Different regions will be affected differently with lots of uncertainties leading to difficulties in advising farmers on how to respond to these drastic changes in weather patterns.

Africa, with lower average yields will be further negatively affected by erratic and unreliable rainfall seasons resulting in even lower yields. New pests and pest resistance to pesticides are also expected to increase due to global warming. The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) 77th Plenary Meeting in Abidjan brought researchers and other experts together in December 2018 to have serious conversions around these challenges.

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The possible solutions to the climate change threat, as discussed in the plenary meeting revolve around use of short season varieties, increased use of Biotech (BT) cotton and increased investments in meteorological services provision by national governments. Short season varieties mature early and stand a better chance of surviving short rainfall seasons that have become common in the region in recent times.

Biotech (BT) cotton also presents a better alternative to conventional cotton varieties with improved pest resistance and far much higher yields. The pest resistance reduces use of costly pesticides which in turn reduces farmers’ exposure to hazardous pesticides.

However, in the SADC region there is still some resistance from some countries in adopting the use of BT crops. Improved meteorological services will provide real time weather services at local level and therefore improve farmers’ decision making on what activities to carry out and when.

In conclusion, cotton production remains one of the low hanging fruit in fighting rural poverty as it is a cash crop with a long history of being produced in many countries in Africa. Cotton is mainly produced for export markets and therefore a major foreign currency earner.

Cotton production provides employment in rural areas and indeed in the whole value chain and can assist governments to deal with the ever-increasing unemployment in most countries in Africa.

Dr Sinare Sinare and Mr Ishmael Sunga at the SFOAP closing workshop

President leads a delegation to Rome

Dr Sinare Sinare and Mr Ishmael Sunga at the SFOAP closing workshop

Dr Sinare Sinare and Mr Ishmael Sunga at the SFOAP closing workshop

The SACAU Chairman, Dr Sinare Sinare, led a six-member delegation to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) headquarters for the closing workshop of the main phase of the Support to Farmers’ Organizations in Africa Programme (SFOAP) which ran from 2013 – 2018. Other members of the delegation were the SACAU Vice Chairman, Mrs Doreen Hlatshwayo, Chairman of Coalition Paysanne de Madagascar, Mr Hajasoanirina Rakotomandimby as well as Mr Ishmael Sunga, Mr Jean Bosco Rurangangabo and Mr Benito Eliasi from the Secretariat.

The SACAU delegation joined other regional farmers’ organisations (RFOs) from east, west, central and north Africa and the Pan African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO) to share and discuss achievements, challenges and lessons of SFOAP. The meeting also discussed elements of the new proposed program that will also aim at consolidating some of the achievements of SFOAP.

The new program is expected to run from 2019 to 2023. The gathering noted that SFOAP main phase played a very critical role in strengthening the capacities of FOs in African countries. This was one of the few programs that dedicated resources to support and cover the cost of core staff and core activities of FOs.

Reports from all the RFOs point to the fact the programme has strengthened the FOs at national and regional levels and services provided by the FOs to their members has greatly improved. The program has also assisted FOs to integrate smallholder farmers in value chains.

Despite the achievements, it was noted that the program also encountered various challenges among which were; slow pace in resource mobilisation by most FOs to sustain the activities of the program and inflexibility in the implementation of activities of the program.

The meeting also noted that partnerships enabled cost effectiveness of implementing activities as well as avoidance of duplication of effort, resources and time.

Delegates attending the land network meeting.

Land network for the region in the making

Delegates attending the land network meeting.

Delegates attending the land network meeting.

Among the issues that the meeting covered were regional, continental and other policy frameworks and guidelines on land rights and ongoing policy processes; land policies and on-going processes in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe and large-scale land acquisitions.

Delegates heard about the existence of several regional and continental frameworks and guidelines on land rights.
Their domestication at country level however proves to be a challenge, and national interest over common regional and/or continental interest could be contributing to this. Relatedly, the four countries represented at the meeting are at various stages in terms of land policy issues.

Land policies exist in Malawi and Mozambique but not in Zambia and Zimbabwe. This is a rather surprising situation in a region where the majority of the population derives their livelihoods from working the land. Traditional leaders were said to have a lot of power over land governance although this varies from country to country. In some instances, decisions on land issues are often taken without community consultations.

The scale of large-scale land acquisition was also put under the spotlight. Most investments are in Africa, with 422 deals, followed by Asia and Latin America with 305 and 146 deals respectively. Eastern Europe has 96 deals. Malaysia, USA, UK, Singapore and Saudi Arabia are the top five investor countries.

Investments are mainly in palm oil cultivation, jatropha and sugar cane. The meeting agreed on the establishment of a regional land network. Initially, this will involve the countries that participated in the meeting and later expanded.

The primary focus in 2019 will be the development of a strategic plan which will guide the activities of the network. This will be discussed at a regional meeting which is tentatively scheduled for the first half of the year.

katowice, poland

Climate negotiators reach agreement on “Paris Rulebook”

The 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended on a positive note after two weeks of intense negotiations. Held in Katowice, Poland, COP24 was arguably the most important climate conference since the conclusion of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, which had a commitment to finalise the implementation guidelines by December 2018.

After postponing the final plenary session more than five times, the 2018 conference saw climate change negotiators from about 200 countries across the globe finally agree on a ‘rulebook’, making the Paris Agreement operative. The rulebook gives countries a common framework for periodic reporting and monitoring progress towards their climate targets. Countries will be required to avail information on how their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) were estimated and how they consider their targets fair and ambitious in view of their national circumstances.

katowice, poland

Critics, however, lament that despite agreeing on the framework, the rulebook does not offer much to compel countries to improve their ambitions as current national pledges fall short of meeting the global warming goals of the Paris Agreement. This is despite the release of the 1.50°C special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prior to COP24, which many expected to form the spine of the climate negotiations as it details the urgent need to accelerate the implementation of climate change related initiatives.

Climate finance is another area where some agreements were made. For instance, negotiators agreed on post 2020 financing rules that seek to improve transparency on past and future funding and establish processes to help attain the finance goals of the Paris Agreement. Developed countries are obliged to report every two years on what climate finance they plan to avail.

In the same event, Germany and Norway announced their intention to double their contributions towards replenishing the Green Climate Fund (GCF). This was the first COP after the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) was announced at COP23 in 2017. While the KJWA is still in its early stages, farmers expect it to make a difference in their livelihoods through a transformed agriculture sector.

In a statement issued by the farmers’ constituency, it was noted that ‘true transformation’ will require much greater ambition from individual countries. “We are clear about what we need: innovation and the scaling up of technology transfer; investment in research and extension; and an ambitious financing framework particularly for farmers in developing countries will transform farm productivity and resilience across the world, so that no farmer, especially women farmers and the farmers of the future are left behind”, noted the representative of farmers’ constituency.

The next Conference (COP25) will be hosted by Chile in 2019.

SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga

CEO’s Letter

SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga

SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga

Greetings and welcome to our last newsletter issue of the year. We already extended our best wishes for 2019 to readers in our November issue which was published just before the end of the year. We hope you were all able to take some time off for rest and relaxation before the start of the new year.

For us, much like the many farmers of the region, 2018 ended much the same way it started – hectic. Whilst December is generally a short working month due to the holidays, it certainly felt like it was one of the busiest. This feeling is perhaps understandable as our bodies and spirits begin to experience the last mile fatigue.

The drafting of our new Strategic Framework was completed, and the document was presented to the Board for consideration. We are extremely pleased that by the end of the year the Board had approved the draft for finalisation and circulation to members.

In addition to the usual yearend related administrative and financial management functions, we also participated in a number of meetings which are highlighted in this issue. The meetings were to do with policy advocacy, knowledge management, programme development and resource mobilisation, all of which are critical in delivering our promise.

Looking back, 2018 was in the main another good year for the organisation. Many takeaways and key lessons were learned during the strategic review. The outcomes of this strategic review process provided a basis upon which members were able to craft the strategic direction of the organisation for the next five years.

The new strategic direction provides a sense of renewal and a heightened sense of anticipation for the years to come. In short, we end the year on a positive note of optimism.

See you on the other side- 2019

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Rainfall predictions for January to May 2019

story 3, weather and cellphoneIn mid-December 2018, the Twenty Second Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-22) met in Maun, Botswana to review and update the 2018/19 seasonal outlook. It was confirmed during this event that projections of the first two months (October and November 2018) were consistent in several areas with the forecasted October, November and December (OND) 2018 rainfall outlook released in August 2018.

The rainfall received between October and November 2018 was normal to above normal in most areas of the north-western, most of the eastern, part of south-western as well as eastern Madagascar. However, most of the central and south-eastern parts of the region experienced normal to below normal rainfall.

The consensus seasonal climate outlook for the remainder of the 2018/19 rainfall season pointed out that the bulk of southern Africa will continue receiving normal to below normal rainfall between January to March (JFM) 2019, with the exception of central South Africa, south-western Botswana, southeastern Namibia, northern Angola, Tanzania, Madagascar, a greater part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mauritius, and Seychelles where normal to above normal rainfall conditions are expected.

From February to May 2019, a greater part of the region is likely to experience normal to above-normal rainfall conditions with the exception of the southwestern and most of the south part of the region where normal to below-normal rainfall conditions are expected. The detailed 2018/19 review and updated seasonal outlook can be accessed from the REGIONAL EARLY WARNING BULLETIN FOR THE 2018/19 RAINY SEASON.

The report also outlines recommended practices for climate information users, including farmers, in reaction to the updated forecast. Farmers are advised to diversify their enterprises and consider drought-and-disease tolerant as well as early maturing crop varieties.

The projected conditions also call for more investment in water-saving irrigation methods, water conservation technologies and adoption of improved post-harvest techniques to avoid on-farm food losses.

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Biannual Review of the Malabo commitments

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Since the adoption of Malabo commitments in June 2014, the first Biannual Review (BR) was conducted in 2017 and the results are indicating that very few countries are on track to achieve the agreed indicators of accelerated agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods of African people.

The African Union Commission (AUC) has through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) been supporting countries to implement the decisions of the Malabo Declaration by domesticating them into country specific National Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIPs). Though African member states have made good progress on the CAADP process for delivering on Malabo commitments, there is need to pay attention to some areas if the Malabo commitments are to be achieved within the set deadlines.

The BR has revealed that on average only 6.7% of public expenditure was allocated to agriculture as opposed to the required 10%. To address the situation, there is need for a multi-stakeholder engagement, especially with the farming community which is the most affected if funding in the sector is inadequate. However, it was clear that farmers’ organisations do not have adequate information on ongoing processes such as Africa Agriculture

Transformation Scorecard which comprises of individual country performance scores on progress made for implementing goals set in the Malabo commitments. The Scorecard which captures 63 indicators was developed based on the strategic objectives of the Malabo Declaration. This is a very important tool for the assessment of progress in the commitments.

The process of BR is that each country produces their own individual reports and convene a country sector review where the report is shared and accepted/rejected. Once the reports are adopted, they are submitted to Regional Economic Communities which compile them into regional reports that are discussed by both technical and political teams.

After they are cleared, they are submitted to the AUC for further submission to heads of states. Out of the 55 AU member states, 47 countries submitted their information; and only Burundi, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Togo, Rwanda and Uganda are on track to achieve the commitments.

The AUC shared these results with the Pan African Farmers’ Organizations (PAFO) at a meeting which took place from 28 to 29 November 2018 in Banjul, Gambia. PAFO and AUC also exchanged ideas on the best strategies of enhancing effective participation and contribution of national farmers’ organisations and their regional networks in the implementation of the Malabo commitments in their respective countries and regions.

Transforming Africa’s agriculture

Going beyond consulting farmers

Transforming Africa’s agriculture

Transforming Africa’s agriculture

Why is Africa’s agriculture not transforming as it ought to? What role can farmers play to change the situation around? This issue was discussed in one of the plenary sessions of the 2018 annual dialogue co-hosted by the Food and Agriculture Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Graca Machel Trust, Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) and the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) in Maputo, Mozambique in November.

The fundamental causal factor was identified as the lack of engagement of farmers and farmers’ organisations by the public sector in policy formulation processes. It turns out that this problem is faced by many African countries, hence governments were challenged to desist from ‘consulting’ the farmers’ constituency, but instead engage farmers as major stakeholders from the concept stage of whatever intervention that is planned under the sector.

Ideally, policy and programme formulation should include stakeholder engagements, providing interested parties, particularly farmers, an opportunity to make their inputs into the process by registering their views, needs, interests and concerns. This is one aspect that would improve farmers’ understanding as well as ownership of national agricultural initiatives. Unfortunately, policy development continues to be the preserve of governments whose agencies decide which stakeholders to involve in the formulation and implementation processes.

Such fundamental oversights have often restricted farmers and farmers’ organisations to a position where they can only react to what governments would have already formulated. It was pointed out that countries would perhaps be better positioned to transform the agricultural sector if they have baseline information on various indicators indicating what exactly needs to be transformed, how, by whom and when. It would also help to envision the kind of transformed agriculture they want to experience.