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.


CSA partners collaborate on promoting practices and technologies


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.


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.


SACAU Newsletter, October 2017

Click here to download our October 2017


Facilitating farmers’ access to Weather Based Index solutions


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.



Meet Noi Selepe, the September young agripreneur ambassador

NoiSelepeNoi Selepe at her abattoir in Lesotho

Noi Paulina Selepe is a 30-year- old female agripreneur based in Maseru, Lesotho. She holds a Bachelor of Education from the National University of Lesotho which she obtained in 2010. After spending two fruitless years job hunting, she decided to start farming with four piglets she was given by a family friend and 100 chicks she bought with her own money in 2012.

Having grown up in a farming family that made its livelihood from farming, including managing to educate the children, this was a natural choice of business for her to pursue.

Her love and passion for farming then grew day by day. Although she learned a lot of farming techniques from her late father, she had no knowledge of broilers and piggery. She embarked on several training programmes and is currently successful in running her enterprise. The piggery has now developed into a viable small-scale farm which is self-financing. She continues to breed and sell piglets to farmers in and around the Maseru area. She has stopped rearing broilers and has ventured into running a chicken abattoir through a company she has registered with two farmer friends, having mobilised farmers to supply the abattoir. The abattoir, in turn, supplies local hotels and supermarkets.

Noi serves on the boards of two organisations in Lesotho. She is the chairperson of the Young Lesotho Farmers Association, an organisation she founded in 2015. She also serves as the General Secretary of Lesotho National Farmers Union – LENAFU (an apex farmers’ union in Lesotho), a position she has held since 2015. She also tutors trainers at LENAFU, and is one of the young farmers’ ambassadors of SACAU.

Noi has made it to “The Post”, a local newspaper and an international publication of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). She has further had the opportunity to represent young farmers in a number of conferences and workshops, both locally and internationally. To mention just one, she made a presentation at the G20 conference in Berlin, Germany, earlier this year on how to improve the rural areas of Africa.

She is passionate about changing other people’s lives. She believes that agriculture has a great future, and that with the introduction of new technologies in the sector, agriculture will always be an intelligent endeavour and that many young people could secure a prosperous future in farming. Noi also subscribes to the motto “Be an agent of change, to see change”, which explains her involvement with the association she founded.


Coalition Paysanne de Madagascar (CPM) facilitates the establishment of cooperatives in Madagascar

MadagascarSACAU Capacity Development Advisor, Benito Eliasi, with farmers from Madagascar who are ready to start a cooperative

The cooperative movement in Bongolava, one of the major maize- producing provinces in Madagascar, is taking root thanks to the Support to Farmers’ Organization in Africa Programme (SFOAP) being rolled out with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The programme has enabled farmers to get training in the basic principles of cooperatives as well as assisting them to officially register their cooperatives with the authorities.

So far, four cooperatives are in operation and four more are in the process of being created. These cooperatives are organised within the jurisdiction of a commune.

During the recent visit by the SACAU Capacity Development Advisor, Mr Benito Eliasi, it was confirmed that smallholder farmers in the area are gradually becoming aware of the importance and benefits accrued through working together in cooperatives. Due to the success of the first four cooperatives that were established in the past three years, more and more farmers in the area want to belong to organised farming structures.

Through discussions with farmers and officials on the ground, Mr Eliasi noted that farmers who are members of cooperatives have increased their productivity of maize from an average of 0.6 tonnes per hectare to an average of 1.2 tonnes per hectare. This increase is due to the technical training provided to members of the cooperatives by service providers as well as the improved seed members are provided with.

“The cooperative has helped me and my colleagues to link with the company that hires tractors, and for the past two years I was able to hire a tractor to plough my land. I am also able to use improved seed and fertiliser acquired through the cooperative,” said Ms Nerina, a member of Kadimundi Cooperative.

Worth noting are the steps the cooperatives are taking to be more independent. Two of the four old cooperatives have acquired land to build their offices and storage facilities. The increase in productivity of maize has resulted in high demand for storage facilities.

They have also devised a savings and credit scheme among members, who have created a village bank that enables members to make monthly contributions and access the funds as a loan during times of need at an interest rate of 2%. The scheme is also making members more financially independent.

Coalition Paysanne de Madagascar (CPM) SFOAP project coordinator Mr Navalona Francioli Andrianjanahary emphasised that the project’s main purpose in the area is to offer training and skills to farmers so that through organised agriculture they are able to profit from their farming. “We have seen that the more we organise farmers, the more the partners are willing to work with them. For instance, farmers in this region are now linked up with agricultural equipment suppliers who are able to supply their services to farmers,” said Mr Andrianjanahary.

He, however, identified a number of challenges that included the misunderstanding by farmers on how cooperatives work. “Most farmers will register as a member of a cooperative thinking that they are going to receive aid or gifts, and once they realise that the cooperative is not meeting their expectations, they quit,” said Mr Andrianjanahary.

“We are however not worried when people leave because we know that those who remain are serious members and it is much easier to work with serious members in this endeavour,” continued Mr Andrianjanahary.

The other challenge he mentioned was the issue of insecurity in the region which caused farmers to be reticent about investing in any economic activity, including farming. All in all, though, the future looks good for cooperatives in the Bongolava area in Madagascar.


Promoting the adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture in southern Africa

Southern African countries have joined the rest of the world in declaring their commitment to developing resilient food production systems under progressive climate change and variability.

One option that has been introduced in several countries is Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA), a concept that comprises a set of practices and technologies that can enhance the climate resilience of farming systems. CSA is gradually gaining prominence due to its capacity to sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience to climatic stresses while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Worth noting, however, is the fact that despite the continued experience of climate change-related challenges and the likely benefits linked to CSA, recent studies have indicated a considerably low level of CSA adoption by farmers in several countries.

Adoption of agricultural innovations is generally influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which may also be classified into biophysical, socioeconomic and institutional factors. Among the above, institutional factors (policies, programmes, regulations, etc) are critical in creating an environment within which stakeholders make investment decisions. A conducive environment will allow, for instance, the public and private sectors’ participation through the provision of quality and affordable inputs and equipment, finance and the capacity-building of farmers.

Off-takers would provide reliable markets for products, reducing the high transaction costs that smallholder farmers generally have to contend with.

In an effort to address policyrelated bottlenecks, SACAU will in the next four years implement a project titled “Promoting the Adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture on a Wide Scale in Southern Africa”.

The project, which is financially supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), seeks to advocate for conducive policies for wide-scale uptake of CSA in southern Africa.

Its specific objectives are to (i) enhance the capacities of national farmers’ organisations (FOs) to advocate for better CSA-related policies and investments; (ii) increase the influence of SACAU in CSA policy and related processes at regional and global levels; and (iii) increase the influence of Zimbabwe Farmer’s Union (ZFU) in CSA policy and related processes in Zimbabwe.

The project will commence with a baseline study to provide background information and benchmark values that will serve as the basis for monitoring progress and future evaluations that will establish the extent to which it has achieved its stated objectives. SACAU appreciates the financial support extended by NORAD to implement this important project.



The plight of youth in the spotlight at the 2017 AGRF

The Seventh African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), under the theme “Accelerating the Path to Prosperity – Growing Inclusive Economies and Jobs through Agriculture” was held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from 4-8 September 2017. The event which was attended by as many as 1,300 delegates, provided a premier platform for individuals to highlight their successes as well as for institutions to share their stories as they strive to drive significant progress across the continent for agricultural transformation and food security.

A number of high-profile dignitaries, such as presidents and former presidents of several African states like Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania, graced the 2017 AGRF. The SACAU delegation comprised Dr Theo de Jager, the president; Mr Ishmael Sunga, the CEO; and Mr Benito Eliasi, the Capacity Development Advisor as well as Ms Ruramiso Mashumba and Ms Maness Nkhata, who represented the SACAU Young Farmer Ambassadors.

SACAU took part in four out of the more than 52 sessions that were held in various capacities, including that of organisers, key speakers, discussants and panellists.

The main areas covered in these sessions included youth employment, women in agribusiness, strengthening youths’ access to inputs, markets, financing and creating an enabling policy environment for youth participation in agriculture.

One of the highlights of the AGRF was the launch of the 2017 African Agriculture Status Report (AASR), titled “The Business of Smallholder Agriculture”, which, among others, stressed the importance of governments working with the “free market” to drive Africa’s economic growth from food production. The report also emphasised the need to substitute imports with high value food produced in Africa for a market forecast to be worth more than US$1-trillion a year by 2030. Delegates at the event emphasised that for Africa to achieve agricultural transformation, new models and new ways of doing business in agriculture are required and highlighted the need for all partners in the agricultural sector to regularly track progress against the agreed action plans to ensure more partners are mobilised and resources accounted for.

The forum also considered how governments, businesses and other partners are delivering on the political, policy and financial commitments worth more than US$30-billion made at the 2016 AGRF in Nairobi, Kenya, and the impact this is having on the lives and incomes of farmers and agribusinesses.

Commensurate with this, various organisations made commitments to promote agricultural transformation on the continent. Among these were the European Union; German Federal Ministry of Economic Corporation and Development (BMZ); Yara; Rockefeller Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the African Union.