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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.

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Food loss/waste and climate change

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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

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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

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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.