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All roads lead to the AGRF

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The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) is considered among the most important events in Africa’s annual agricultural calendar. It brings together a range of critical stakeholders in the African agriculture landscape to discuss and commit to programs, investments, and policies that can counter the major challenges affecting the agriculture sector on the continent.

SACAU is indeed proud to be part of the AGRF Partnership Group. The theme of this year’s Forum, which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda, on 5-8 September 2018 will be “Lead. Measure. Grow: Enabling new pathways to turn smallholders into future agribusinesses”.

It will take stock, evaluate actions, and learn from compelling evidence across the continent, presented by many of the most inspiring leaders including farmers, public sector thought leaders, private sector champions and agripreneurs, and many others.

The Forum is expected to follow up on the 2016 and 2017 commitments and to showcase leadership of 3-5 African Heads of State and several ministers, particularly regarding the progress made and the lessons learned from their agricultural transformation efforts, so that they serve as champions for the rest of the continent. It will also review the millions of dollars invested in programs representing the commitments from 2016 and 2017.

It will also hear of new financial commitments from partners to continue supporting African agricultural priorities. Several announcements of new business contracts between the private sector, small and medium enterprises, and communities of smallholder farmers, especially in commodity value chains of interest to smallholder farmers will be announced.

The 2018 Africa Food Prize Winner in recognition of this year’s laureate will be announced. The Prize will recognise an extraordinary individual whose outstanding contribution to African agriculture in recent years is forging a new era of food security and economic opportunity for all Africans.

More information on the 2018 AGRF 2018 can be accessed from https://agrf.org/ about-agrf-2018.

 

 

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Agricultural advisory services at a global scale

Is the global community serious about the SDGs? We would hope so, but do we comprehend the challenge ahead? In just over a decade—or to put it bluntly, in many cases only 11 growing seasons— we have to reach 500 million farmers, potentially expanding to 750 million by 2030.

These farmers need advisories to help them adapt to climate variability, improve their farming operations and enhance their livelihood. These could be climate-informed seasonal advisories; in-season advisories; information about new stress-tolerant seeds and practices, climate smart agricultural technologies and practices, and market prices; or early warnings on pests and diseases, etc.

The same advisory system could be linked to suppliers and buyers, and to credit and insurance. But how to reach half a billion farmers? Development funds and national budgets are not going to do it, especially as we have seen a trend of rolling back extension to a point where there are many challenges. We suggest five key issues that need to be tackled:

Private sector involvement

We believe that the private sector will have to be an increasingly important player as a provider of agricultural advisories, with advisories being part and parcel of expanded farmer engagement in markets. This implies commercialised agriculture and much development of value chains.

Market-oriented and demand-driven advisories. For too long, extension services have been too top-down. How can advisories be better tailored to specific kinds of farmers and their natural and economic assets? Farmers need to receive the answers to the questions they have; ultimately one would want a Q&A system that works for a farm of less than one hectare. Agricultural extension advisories need to be market-oriented and demand-driven.

Digitised information

Reaching half a billion farmers in 10 years using old methods is impossible. In a decade each farmer needs to have access to a mobile phone. We envision a system where a farmer takes a photo of a problem crop, submits it to the Internet, and receives an instant answer that is relevant to her farm, to the inputs that she can access, and to the market conditions. In a local language. We have to have this vision if we are going to reach half a billion farmers. And we are sure that through big data analytics and decision support algorithms this can be achieved.

Data ownership.

We would need a lot of good quality data to have truly contextspecific and demand-driven advisories. Data ownership issues may be challenging. Some great examples have emerged, and one promising example is the case of Danish farmers owning their own data while sharing their data with other farmers through jointly owned advisory companies. In Southern Africa, the regional farmers’ organisation (SACAU) is helping its member organisations to register their farmers on a digital platform, getting them ready for tailored services.

Bundling

To reach scale, we need cost effectiveness. One route to this is bundling, where we reach scale across products to bring down the cost of each product. ECONET, for example, is experimenting with bundling advisories, agricultural insurance, burial insurance, farmer organisation membership and cell phone connectivity. How do we move forward? For us to have agricultural advisories on a global scale, perhaps the greatest limitation is the policy and institutional environment; and perhaps agricultural policy is less important than policies around connectivity and access to cell phones; creating an enabling environment for the private sector; massive renewable energy and road infrastructure development; and much more R&D on big data analytics and decision support algorithms.

If proper strategic frameworks and enabling environments are in place, there is an opportunity to transforming agricultural extension systems, thus making agriculture more productive and resilient. This can be achieved by moving away from an approach with centrally crafted, generic and blanket messaging—which often has limited impact—to a more inclusive, context-specific, marketoriented and demand-driven digital advisory involving public-private partnerships.

Authors : Bruce Campbell, Phil Thornton, Svend Christensen, Ishmael Sunga and Dawit Solomon

This article first appeared on The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) website June 06, 2018.

 

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CEO’s Letter

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SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga

We came, we saw and we conquered! Both our Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM) turned out to be such a successin fact both exceeded our expectations. And the location of the venue could not have been any better than the majestic Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. And what an ensemble of farmers, farmer leaders, policy makers, researchers, academics, trade specialists and all who gathered to unpack the architecture, content, meaning, issues and all related to trade.

The message was clear- yes, trade indeed has the potential to be a catalyst of the muchneeded transformation of the agricultural sector. The low share of Africa in global trade and the huge bill of basic food imports that Africa can produce are testimony to this. But trade alone is not enough, and the conference concurred on a range of other related factors that need to be considered.

You can’t go wrong by investing in good corporate governance, and the AGM is where you really see good corporate governance at play in a vibrant and inclusive way. The meeting was well organised, the documentation well-arranged and the proceedings were highly engaging. The ambience was vibrant. Congratulates to Dr Sinare and Mrs Hlatshwayo on assumption of respectively President and Vice President. Welcome on board to the newest Board member, Mr Gumede.

The dance parties were part of the mix, courtesy of AFGRI, AgriBank, Agrimed, Econet Wireless and Seed Co who provided the sponsorship for the two dinners. Our sincere appreciation to these organisations for their support. Kudos to the SACAU family, our two members in Zimbabwe – Commercial Farmers Union and Zimbabwe Farmers Union – and my secretariat for making it the success it was! All those long hours and effort were not in vain.

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SACAU Newsletter, March 2018

Click here to download our March 2018 Newsletter

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CEO’s Letter

SACAU_Pic_CEO_Letter                                                     By Ishmael Sunga

This has, once again, been a hectic year, but it has also been satisfying in many respects.  It has been a good year for agriculture for southern Africa, bringing better fortunes for farmers. This good fortune should be seen against the background of a devastating drought that ravaged the region in 2016.

The threat of the fall armyworm was also not as devastating as we had initially feared.  It has been a good year for agriculture for southern Africa, bringing better fortunes for farmers. This good fortune should be seen against the background of a devastating drought that ravaged the region in 2016. The threat of the fall armyworm was also not as devastating as we had initially feared.

The SACAU Secretariat was kept busy on all fronts. On the organisational front, we continued to comply with the corporate governance requirements, including four board meetings which were held during the year and our Annual General Meeting (AGM) which we held in May.

The AGM was preceded by our traditional Annual Conference. This year our conference was a two-in-one with the first part themed tenure security and agricultural transformation in the smallholder sector and the second half focusing on skilling for the future of agriculture.

 We also made significant progress towards the creation of an agri-agency unit which is expected to be operational by mid-2018.

On the operational front, we strengthened implementation of ongoing projects, started new ones and concluded two projects. The management of climate risk, including weather based insurance, the development of a new generation of farmers and farmers organisations as well as digital technology are some of the work areas that we are involved in.

Our initiatives include the formulation of a comprehensive young agripreneurs development programme and the conceptualisation of a competency development programme for the 21st century farmer. We continued to fly the SACAU flag high, and our presence was felt at fora such as the World Economic Forum in Davos, the African Green Revolution Forum in Abidjan and COP 23 in Bonn.

 In addition, we were able to attend key meetings and events hosted by the AUC, NEPAD, SADC, COMESA, CTA, EU and others.  Finally, on behalf of the SACAU Board, the Secretariat and, indeed, on my own behalf, I wish to take this opportunity to thank our members and all stakeholders for their support and cooperation. We look forward to being of service to our members, and to valued partnerships and collaboration with other stakeholders in the coming year. Wishing you all a joyous festive season and prosperous New Year and agricultural season.

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SACAU participates in Access to Seeds Index Expert Review Committee for Eastern and Southern Africa

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SACAU participated in the Access to Seeds Index Expert Review Committee for Eastern and Southern Africa which met in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 12th October 2017. The Index, which is published by the Access to Seeds Foundation, evaluates and compares seed companies according to their efforts to improve access to quality seeds of improved varieties for smallholder farmers.

The Committee evaluated the first Index which was published in February 2016 and reviewed the draft methodology for the second Index which will be published at the end of 2018 or early 2019. Amongst others, the Committee considered the companies list which was updated through a landscaping study for Eastern and Southern Africa whose outcomes will inform the methodology and the scope, type of information needed from companies, indicators and other regional issues and challenges to address.

Data collection for the index itself will be done through questionnaires answered by companies themselves. On this, it was observed that companies were initially very sceptical to the Index but are now open to participating. This is a positive development since the amount of information available on companies affects their ranking.Other matters raised/proposed for inclusion in questionnaires were around the need to establish membership of companies to seed associations, more information on varieties offered, quality aspects of the seed varieties, promotion activities and affordability.

Expert Review Committees play a key role in validating the methodology and inputs from regional committees that are taken to the global Committee. Thus, these are extremely useful for providing advisory input to the development of the Index. Outcomes of this meeting will thus also be integrated into the methodology together with inputs from the other regions.

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CSA partners collaborate on promoting practices and technologies

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The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) current projections suggest that in the next 30 years, food production will have to increase by at least 70% to meet the demands of the world’s growing population. However, this may not be easy to accomplish, given the extensive impact of climate change and weather variability on the sector, and on smallholder farmers in particular. It is necessary, therefore, to build resilience and help farmers to adapt to the changing climate in a way that ensures that a growing population can be fed sustainably without further depleting natural resources.

With Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) showing the potential to achieve the above, efforts are under way to develop, organise and scale up CSA practices. In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where the adoption of CSA practices is currently low, the literature points to the necessity to make significant investments in agricultural research and development, institutional support and infrastructural development. Worth noting, however, is the need for a platform where agencies responsible for the various interventions can engage and learn from one another such that future interventions are planned and coordinated from a better informed position. One such attempt was made by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), which convened a meeting of CSA partners in Lusaka, Zambia, from 12th to 14th October 2017.

The purpose of the meeting was to draw inputs from the various organisations with the aim of developing collaborative CSA promotion interventions in East and Southern Africa. Amongst others, the meeting agreed on the establishment of Conservation Agriculture Centres of Excellence (CA CoE) in countries where they are currently not in existence. This initiative is meant to improve knowledge generation on CA practices through research and training. In addition, the need to provide empirical evidence on the relative profitability of CA under different locations and to link farmers to markets in order to reduce transaction costs, as well as the establishment of incentive arrangements for farmers practising CA/CSA was highlighted.

Represented in the meeting were several organisations, including the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), African Conservation Tillage Network (ACT), Conservation Farming Unit (CFU), FAO, World Food Programme (WFP), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and SACAU. The event was a success such that participants proposed to have such consultative meetings on an annual basis. It was also suggested that in future meetings, the public sector should be invited given their strategic role in the agricultural sector. As Norad project implementing partners ACT, CFU and SACAU were expected after this meeting to identify possible areas for collaboration as provided for in their respective agreements with Norad.

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IFAD successfully completes the supervision mission in SACAU

SACAUstory1IFAD Mission team and representatives of NFOs in Swaziland

The Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), together with four other regional farmers’ organisations (RFOs), on the continent has been implementing a Support to Farmers’ Organizations in Africa Programme (SFOAP) which is funded by the European Union (EU), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), French Development Agency (AfD) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) since 2013.

Every year IFAD organises supervision missions to RFOs to review progress of the programme and provide technical support where necessary. The 2017 mission for SACAU took place from 18th to 26th October and was conducted at regional level (SACAU secretariat) and in Swaziland where five implementing national farmers’ organisations (NFOs) namely Agricultural Council of Tanzania, Coalition Paysanne de Madagascar, Lesotho National Farmers Union, Seychelles Farmers Association and host Swaziland National Agricultural Union joined the team.

The mission this year was extremely critical considering that the programme is coming to an end in December 2018. Consequently, much of the time was dedicated towards planning activities for the final year of the programme. To this effect, all parties agreed that with 16 months of implementation left, there is an urgent need to expedite the implementation of project activities. The preparedness of NFOs to sustain activities after the SFOAP funding was also discussed. Regarding the contribution of SFOAP to the capacity of participating NFOs, the mission noted that the programme has contributed to making farmers’ organisations central players in the development of agricultural policies in their respective countries and in the region amongst others.

This was confirmed by the doubling of the number of invitations NFOs received to participate in policy consultation meetings over the period of one year. In addition, participating NFOs are much more present in specific working groups, taskforces and committees discussing agricultural development in their respective countries. In 2013, NFOs were present in only 41 of these structures, but as of August 2017, they were participating in 78 of these. This increase is a proxy evidence that other stakeholders in the sector have confidence in the NFOs and that the credibility of NFOs is being enhanced by the project.

The overall conclusion of the mission was that activities implemented at regional and national levels are relevant and are responding to the needs of the NFOs and farmers. In addition, the IFAD mission appreciated the business-oriented approach by SACAU and NFOs in their operations. This will ensure financial sustainability and reduce dependency on external financing in the long run considering that globally the funding landscape for farmers’ organisations is changing. The mission also commended SACAU for its focus on youth and ICT.

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SACAU Newsletter, October 2017

Click here to download our October 2017

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Facilitating farmers’ access to Weather Based Index solutions

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SACAU recently signed a funding agreement with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) for implementation of a project titled “Development of a regional framework for Weather Based Index Solutions for Southern Africa.”

Working with insurance companies and farmers’ organisations amongst others, SACAU will develop a proposal for regional policy and regulatory framework for supporting the development of climate resilient solutions. This proposal will be used to engage with regional regulatory authorities to address cross-border issues on insurance, particularly the creation of an enabling environment to encourage cross-border pooling of risk by the private sector and subsequently facilitate farmers’ access to such solutions.

The focus on this was motivated by the fact that farmers, particularly smallholders, have limited access to existing adaptation solutions that could assist them in coping with acute weather patterns and climate change, which in turn affects food security, nutrition and household incomes. One particular challenge that stands out is the lack of a regulatory framework and policy at regional level which results in high insurance costs. This ultimately affects the uptake of available insurance services to mitigate against shocks emanating from adverse weather conditions.

The development of a regional framework was also considered critical by stakeholders at a meeting that CTA co-hosted with SACAU in September 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to build partnerships and synergies with stakeholders in the implementation of the CTA flagship project that seeks to promote climate-resilient cereal and livestock farming in Southern Africa and for technical validation of the proposed scaling up-strategy. SACAU’s project is part of the CTA flagship project.