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.

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.

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.


Food loss/waste and climate change


The global agenda on climate change seems to have invested quite a lot of resources on areas such as energy generation, transport, forest conservation, and resilient agricultural production systems, among others. One area that continues to be overlooked despite its importance in the climate change discourse, is the reduction of food loss and waste.

This issue was discussed in one of the side events hosted by the European Union (EU) at the Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Poland in which SACAU participated as a panellist. Current estimates suggest that almost a third of all food produced is lost or wasted. In developing countries food wastage occurs at an early stage in the food chain due to poor production and post-harvest practices, while in industrialised countries, most of the wastage occurs at retail and consumption stages.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions linked with food loss and waste emanate from a variety of sources along the food chain. The first source relates to emissions from deforestations linked with producing food that is eventually lost or wasted. Secondly, there are on-farm emissions from fertiliser, energy, manure from livestock and digestive systems of cows for producing food that is ultimately lost or wasted. The production of energy to manufacture and process food and the energy used to transport, store and cook food that is ultimately lost or wasted are the third and fourth sources respectively.

Last, but not least, there are landfill emissions from wasted decaying food either on-farm due to poor post-harvest management or discarded by shops or consumers after processing. By reducing on-farm losses, managing food use and distribution better, the world could reduce emissions from the food and agriculture sector by up to 14%.

Delegates attending the Second Africa Congress on Conservation Agriculture (2ACCA) in Johannesburg, South Africa

Farmers voice their concerns on regional efforts towards scaling CSA through CA

Delegates attending the Second Africa Congress on Conservation Agriculture (2ACCA) in Johannesburg, South Africa

Delegates attending the Second Africa Congress on Conservation Agriculture (2ACCA) in Johannesburg, South Africa

In most high-level agriculture deliberations, the farmers’ voice is often neglected yet the outcomes of such events expect farmers to make substantial investments towards attaining set targets. The Second Africa Congress on Conservation Agriculture (2ACCA) held in Johannesburg, South Africa in October 2018, took an unfamiliar turn by hosting a Farmers’ Forum, which deliberated on challenges faced by farmers and existing opportunities they may explore in attempting to scale Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) through Conservation Agriculture (CA).

Held under the theme, “Making CSA real in Africa with CA: Supporting the Malabo Declaration and Agenda 2063”, SACAU participated in the deliberations alongside the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF).

Some of the contributions made were that as part of the adoption process, farmers undergo a period of learning, adaptation, and continued use. Throughout this process, experience has shown that farmers find themselves exposed to several forms of risk, which if not shared among different actors along the value chain, may see farmers not adopting CA practices as expected or disadopting after a few years.

It was also highlighted that getting into a new paradigm tends to be knowledge intensive and can be overwhelming for farmers. Hence, CA promoters need to devise innovative means of creating awareness and disseminating relevant information to the different segments of farmers. Furthermore, considerable research has been done on the effects of CA on a number of societal priorities (e.g. gender, labour, and food security), but still the rate of adoption remains relatively low. Perhaps, there is need to provide more evidence on the economic returns of CA at farm level beyond the environmental benefits.

The contributions also touched on the need for the public sector to ‘get the basics right’ (e.g. by providing better road networks, communication infrastructure and schools.) to facilitate private sector investment in CSA/CA related infrastructure.

Finally, farmers’ organisations themselves should be part of the scaling up infrastructure.For instance, apart from carrying out their advocacy function, they can facilitate the establishment of CA farmers’ networks, develop profiles of CA champions and create a platform to enhance the exchange of ideas among farmers.

SACAU successfully co-hosts the 2018 AGRF


SACAU recently co-hosted, together with the 17 members of the African Green Revolution Forum(AGRF) Partners Group, which include SACAU and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) as the AGRF Secretariat. The Forum, which was officially opened by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda and 2018 Chairperson of the African Union, was held in Kigali, Rwanda from 5 to 8 September.

SACAU was represented by Mr. Benito Eliasi and Mr. Ishmael Sunga from the Secretariat. The theme of the Forum was “Lead, Measure, Grow: Enabling New Pathways to Turn Smallholders into Sustainable Agribusinesses”. The Forum was attended by 2800 delegates from 79 countries and involved more than 46 sessions covering wide-ranging issues.

SACAU’s contribution helped shape and drive the following sessions: Entrepreneurial Youth in Agriculture: New Skills and Technologies for Growth, Transformative Action in Soil Health and Crop Nutrition for Closing the Yield Gap in Africa, Unlocking Opportunities for Agricultural Growth and Transformation through Mechanization, and the Policy Symposium: Food and Land Use.

In a letter of appreciation, the President of AGRA, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, indicated that the feedback received for the different sessions we were involved in had been excellent and our technical and thought leadership in various sessions greatly contributed to the richness of the program. Acknowledging the contribution of SACAU, the President of AGRA noted that they recognised SACAU’s leadership in Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda and in this Forum. She further, observed that the knowledge and expertise that SACAU shared will immensely contribute to the advancement of the sector so that eventually, this can translate into tangible impact in growing inclusive economies and jobs through agriculture.

Our support and presence indeed contributed to the success of the AGRF, and we look forward to the 2019 AGRF and to delivering on this shared agenda going forward.

The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF)

All roads lead to the AGRF


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 about-agrf-2018.




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.


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.


SACAU_picture for the CEO letter.

CEO’s Letter

SACAU_picture for the CEO letter.

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.


SACAU Newsletter, March 2018

Click here to download our March 2018 Newsletter