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.

Is it possible to achieve food production without compromising the environment?


“Is it possible for African farmers, already faced with low yields and high risks, to balance increased production with protecting the environment?” asks Mr Ishmael Sunga, the Chief Executive Officer of SACAU in an article he wrote for Farming First. The article, titled “Science-based, smarter farmer farming for Africa” is about the importance of using data to mitigate the effects of climate change on agriculture.

The article asserts that it is indeed possible for farmers in Africa to strike this balance. Foremost is the adoption of good agricultural practices which enable farmers to do more with less or with the same. This however, should go together with the necessary innovations such as improved seeds and animal breeds.

It also highlights the need to increase the level of awareness, understanding and appreciation of farmers, consumers and society at large on the effects of the current production models on the environment as well as incentivising farmers to invest in the long-term sustainability of their farms.

The article goes on to call for investment in backbone Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure and rural energy for connectivity. This is in recognition of the importance of ICT for wide scale dissemination of information and knowledge to farmers and for on-farm operations. With some of these digital instruments, data is collected, which in turn assist in determining the amount of fertiliser to be applied to reduce loss in the environment, for instance.

Adapted from article titled “Science-based, smarter farming for Africa” published on 11 October 2018 on

The power of principled negotiation

Participants attending the Principled negotiation training

Participants attending the Principled negotiation training

It is absurd that people fight, destroy, burn bridges and create a lot of unnecessary animosity between themselves and thereafter, sit around the table and try to find each other again. Selfishness, competition, greed and self-aggrandisement have led the world to become the mess it is today.

The ability to negotiate and the necessary preparation for the actual negotiation are important life skills that can make families, organisations, companies and even countries successful in their day to day undertakings. In agriculture, contracts and partnerships have become increasingly unavoidable and are not a bad idea if they are agreed upon and sealed on equal terms.

As farmers, we need to stand our ground and push our partners in business to realise and recognise that our relationships are or should be mutually beneficial. We are equal partners and our role as producers cannot be substituted by any other arrangement. So, our power lies in our ability to negotiate and capacity building in that regard should be part of our annual activities.

Recognising the importance of this skill, SACAU in partnership with We Effect hosted a principled negotiation training workshop from 15 to 17 October 2018 in Boksburg, South Africa. The training was ably conducted by Professor David Venter, a renowned expert in negotiations. The three “Cs” namely, capability, competence and confidence in negotiating were the take away message for the participants. Participants also heard that in negotiations there are two important things that empower the negotiator, namely; information and time. They also learned that negotiating creates value rather than destroy it.

The corner posts/ deal parameters of negotiation are aspiration base, the real base, the best alternative to a negotiated agreement and the first offers. The aspiration base is what we want to achieve and quite often we aspire too low. The real base is that point when a negotiator calls it quits because there will not be any reasonable gain in pursuing the deal. When one walks away, they do not necessarily stop the idea, they walk away to the best alternative and this best alternative must always be part of the planning and preparation for negotiations.

The “first offers” is the value or price a negotiator pitches at and this number must always be evidence-based from market research or intelligence. There are also danger signs or points of caution when negotiating a deal. Assumptions, mental flexibility, relationships, perceptions and framing are critical elements to be considered because they can easily make or break deals. In addition, when negotiating, a conducive climate for the negotiation process to take place in such a way that positive results are achieved for both parties needs to always be created.

The Professor concluded the training by showing a video of Dr. Robert Cialdini, currently the world’s most sought-after social scientist, summarising the six rules of human behavior and how one can get people to say yes to requests. With stunning examples, Dr. Cialdini captures one’s imagination as he deals with each of the six rules, namely; reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency/ commitment, consensus and liking.

The participants in this year’s principled negotiation training were drawn from SACAU’s members and other We Effect partners. The We Effect partners are civil society organisations mainly from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.


Published contributions

Source: WEF

Source: WEF

SACAU has for a while been involved in the World Economic Forum’s Food Systems dialogues, represented by its CEO. As part of this initiative, the CEO contributed to three of WEF’s publications.

The first is titled “Innovation with a purpose: The role of technology innovation in accelerating food systems transformation”. The CEO is quoted stating that “Smallholder farmers produce 80% of Africa’s food supplies, but they have limited access to finance, inputs, markets, information and other services.

Technology innovations can overcome all these challenges – but it won’t happen automatically. We need to combine innovation, investment and policy to harness the power of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to benefit smallholder farmers”. Published January 2018 innovation-with-a-purpose-the-role-of-technology-innovation-in-accelerating-food-systems-transformation.

The second was a whitepaper on “Bio-Innovation in the Food System: Towards a New Chapter in Multistakeholder Collaboration” which was published in October, 2018

The CEO attended a follow up workshop which articulated possible pathways forward to build a holistic governance process. The third was an insight report on “Identity in a Digital World, A new chapter in the social contract”. The CEO is quoted stating that “If designed well, digital identities can foster inclusion in almost all aspects of lives in transformational ways. For smallholder farmers, they hold the potential to help overcome the pervasive issues of social, economic and geographic isolation, and fragmentation which are at the root of poverty. And do so at an unprecedented scale”. Published September 2018

Sustainable Development Impact Summit

Source: WEF

Source: WEF

SACAU participated in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Sustainable Development Impact Summit which was held alongside the UN General Assembly in New York from 24 to 25 September 2018. The CEO participated in several meetings which covered wide-ranging topics, including feeding the planet sustainably and nutritiously, harnessing geospatial data for development, good digital identity and sustainable water management through collective action.

The CEO was in a session discussing harnessing geospatial data for development whose main aim was to outline common protocols and innovations that can support the sharing of real-time geospatial and geo-tagged data for better decision-making. The session focused on what can be done to promote the use of and facilitate access to geospatial data for data-driven decision making among small and medium enterprises for sustainable and productive operations.

Similarly, he a was a session discussion leader on “livelihoods and productivity” as part of the workshop on Feeding the Planet Sustainably and Nutritiously. The workshop was aimed at building consensus on scalable approaches to improving food systems to be more sustainable, inclusive, efficient, nutritious and healthy.

A climate change adaptation roadmap for agriculture

KKLA discussion paper titled “Feeding the world in a changing climate: an adaptation roadmap for agriculture” was recently published. The paper looks at the main issues that an adaptation roadmap for agriculture should consider, particularly in developing countries.

It explores several questions which are around the principal climate risks to agriculture and the implications of no adaptation; areas where action is required to advance in the implementation of climate resilient agriculture practices; emerging lessons from successful adaptation efforts in agriculture, and key pathways to scaling up agricultural adaptation.

Some of the highlights are the three areas in which action is required to lay the groundwork to advance climate-resilient agriculture practices, worldwide. These are scaling adaptive farming technologies and practices that work, deploying national climate policies and action to drive adaptation efforts, and mobilising finance for large scale agricultural adaptation activity.

In laying the groundwork, the paper draws out lessons to inform the design and implementation of solutions at scale within the urgent timeframe required. Some of the lessons are that a shared vision of the future of farming helps navigate uncertainty; collective actions help overcome barriers; adaptation actions need to tackle the root cause of risks and vulnerabilities; food system reform can empower women, youth, and other marginalised groups; approaches to leapfrog learning curves are key; meeting short – and long-term priorities alike; adaptation actions to suit context; realising benefits at scale, and tracking progress toward adaptation goals is a crucial aspect of any effective adaptation strategy.

It concludes by making several recommendations, amongst them the following: promoting climate-resilient and low-emission practices and technologies; expanding digital climate information services; mobilising innovative finance to leverage public and private sector investments for adaptation; strengthening farmer and consumer organisations and networks and delivering enabling policies and institutions.

According to the paper, these recommendations need to be at the centre of future agricultural research, policy, action and advocacy. Pursuing an agenda around these recommendations will help achieve major transitions across the agriculture sector and to replicate promising solutions on the scale required to address climate change risks and ensure food security. SACAU is one of the 15 authors of the discussion paper. The full paper can be accessed from assets/2018-10/18_WP_GCA_ Agriculture_1001_Oct5.pdf

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.

Nurturing the development of a new generation of young professional leaders

There is a growing realisation that many of the challenges to the transformation of African agriculture are related to leadership inadequacies at local, national, regional and continental levels. Agricultural systems are rapidly changing, being driven by, among other factors, globalisation, advances in technological and scientific knowledge as well as the advent of information and communications technologies (ICTs) and big data.

It is against this background that SACAU considers this a strategic area for its investments. Thus, the development of a new generation of young professional farmer leaders capable of driving and overseeing the future transformation of the agricultural sector in Africa cannot be overemphasised.

Lessons on what and how this can be achieved can be learned from other organisations who have successfully run with the idea. One such institution is Andreas Hermes Akademie (AHA) of Germany, with whom SACAU already has relations.

Hopefully in the distant future, the region will find itself in a position to cater for its young farmers in a similar manner and take its agriculture sector to the next level.

CEO’s Letter

SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga

SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga

Without doubt, the main highlight of this double issue of our newsletter for September and October is the milestone progress that we achieved towards the development of our next generation strategic plan. On 17 and 18 September, we had the pleasure to host our members – our shareholders, for a very important occasion outside the AGM.

The location was Centurion in South Africa, and the occasion was the strategic review and strategic plan development workshop. Members had the opportunity to reflect, in strategic terms, on the performance of the organisation over the past three years, and to provide strategic guidance on what the focus of the organisation’s work should be in the next five years.

The outcomes of this workshop were fulfilling as highlighted elsewhere in this issue, thanks to the thorough preparations and excellent facilitation. And let the drafting begin – a process that will keep us intensely busy for the next couple of months! Then, there was the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda, and the World Economic Forum (WEF) Sustainable Development Impact Summit in New York, USA- two prime events which we participated in.

Thought leadership from the perspectives of farmers’ organisations’ perspective is increasingly becoming part of our work, building on and drawing upon the various ideas and experiences that come with our membership nature and regional character. To this end, we are deliberately and increasingly ventilating some of our ideas and thoughts by publishing through blogs and other platforms in collaborative efforts with other organisations, as highlighted in this issue.

Finally, it looks like we will end this year the way we started it – very busy! Virtually all our diaries are full till the very end of the year. Some of the activities worth highlighting in this regard include drafting of the strategic plan, hosting of the last Board meeting of the year, capacity building training and other workshops for members as well as attending regional and international meetings, including the traditional climate change COP 24.

Enjoy the read, ladies and gentlemen!

Delegates to the workshop, Centurion, South Africa

Delegates to the workshop, Centurion, South Africa

There was absolutely no doubt at the end of intense and exhaustive deliberations on SACAU’s strategy that agribusiness would be the DNA of SACAU’s next generation activities. Whilst members agreed advocacy, capacity strengthening of Farmer’s Organisations and provision of agriculture Information would remain the strategic work areas, or Pillars, guiding SACAU’s work for the next five years, they were decided on agribusiness as underpinning the strategic thrust of SACAU’s work.

This follows a two-day high-level consultative workshop of SACAU members, represented by the respective presidents/chairpersons and Chief Executive Officers of member organisations, which reviewed the performance of the organisation in the past 4/5 years and developed a framework that would guide the development of the strategic plan for the next 5 or so years.

The overall conclusion of the review was that the performance of the organisation had been very good, and important strategic insights could be drawn from it. Whilst there was consensus to retain the main pillars underpinning the current strategy, it was unanimous that agribusiness would now be the overriding focus underpinning all our work, be it in advocacy, capacity strengthening or agricultural information.

With a clear mandate from members, the drafting of the strategy has commenced, and will be presented to members for their consideration, and ultimately sign off.