Promoting the adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture in southern Africa

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.

Meet Ruramiso Mashumba, SACAU’s Young Agripreneur Ambassador

Ruramiso Mashumba in one of her maize fields

Ruramiso Mashumba in one of her maize fields

Ruramiso Mashumba is a young female farmer from Marondera, Zimbabwe. She started farming in 2012 on a farm she inherited from her parents. At the time, the farm was just a bush with no equipment and the necessary infrastructure.

In 2013, she started growing snap peas for export to the European Union and Africa. She has since expanded her operations and now grows a variety of horticulture crops, indigenous organic grains that she mills into our under the brand Mnandi organic and traditional, brown rice as well as commercial maize. Ruramiso is also involved in forestry – in 2014, she partnered with Sustainable Afforestation Association, a Zimbabwean-based organisation, and planted 100ha of gum trees. She is also venturing into seed production after securing a contract with a renowned company to grow 30ha seed maize and 20ha seed millet.

Her interest in farming started while she was working in the United Kingdom for one of the leading agricultural equipment companies.
It was there that she realised the potential of equipment and technology in transforming agriculture. This led her to commit to change the image of agriculture, and she embarked on farming upon her return to Zimbabwe. Ruramiso has never looked back since she started farming and is continuously looking for ways to improve and grow her farming business. The many opportunities that she knows exist in agriculture keep her interested in remaining a farmer.

Ruramiso holds a BA Degree in Agriculture Business Management from the University of West England (UWE). She is the National Chairperson of The Zimbabwe Farmers Union Young Farmers’ Club to which she was elected in 2014. Ruramiso also founded Mnandi Africa, an organisation that helps rural woman to combat poverty and malnutrition by empowering and equipping them with skills and knowledge in agriculture, nutrition, markets and technology; assisting them to access affordable and effective agro technology through an input-sharing program; and collectively purchasing and selling goods and services. Mnandi’s vision is to ultimately end hunger and poverty.

Her work was noticed by AGCO and she was invited to attend their Africa Summit in Berlin in 2015. After sharing her story, she won an award for in uence and leading woman toward mechanisation in Africa. In 2016, she was selected to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship, which is the agship program of Barak Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. Ruramiso was selected to be a panelist at the World Food Prize in Iowa and gave input on the importance of nutrition in Africa.

She also became a member of the global farmer network and was nominated for The Zimbabwe Businesswoman award. She has also been featured in a number of publications, including The Zimbabwean Farmer magazine and also on the New Alliance for food and nutrition publication, which is endorsed by the African Union.

On attracting and keeping young people in farming, she believes that there should be efforts tobrand agriculture as a success and showcase opportunities in the value chain.

Tenure security and agricultural transformation: highlights of the conference

Lena Martens Kalmelid addressing delegates at the land conference.

Lena Martens Kalmelid addressing delegates at the land conference.

The primary focus of the conference was on the impact of land tenure security on agricultural transformation in the smallholder sector in southern Africa. This event brought together over 86 delegates from Farmers Organisations (FOs), land-based organisation, young farmers, private sector, inter-governmental bodies, academia and cooperating partners.

The conference was officially opened by Mr Gugile Nkwinti, the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform of the Republic of South Africa. Dr Janet Edeme from the African Union Commission (AUC), Mrs Lena Martens Kalmelid from We Effect Southern Africa and Dr Theo de Jager from SACAU also made opening remarks. Dr Edeme informed delegates of the AU Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges of 2009 whose key resolutions include ensuring that land laws provide for equitable access to land related resources and to strengthen security of tenure of all holders, including women.

The AUC has been working with partners to support member states to implement this declaration. Mrs Kalmelid highlighted that last year, the Board adopted a global strategy called “equality first” in which gender equality and the rights for women are central. She stated that gender equality in its full sense cannot be achieved if land rights of women are not addressed. In his remarks, Dr de Jager welcomed delegates and encouraged them to engage in the discussions openly, stating “we are the voice of farmers out there and after the session we will be able to say that farmers of southern Africa feel this way about tenure security.” A keynote paper commissioned by We Effect and SACAU on the subject formed the basis of the discussions. It highlighted that there is much more to agricultural transformation than tenure security. Another key observation from the paper was that security of tenure is more important than the form of tenure system.

Three other presentations were made focusing on the case study on the implementation of the Mozambican land law in Niassa, the AU agenda on land and on the German Land Tenure example. Key messages were drawn from the presentations and deliberations. They are within the context of land tenure security and not broad land issues and highlighted as follows: 1.Rural transformation depends on reforming the architecture of the national budgets. 2.Land governance agenda, especially land tenure security to be located within the context of agricultural and rural transformation. 3.Tenure security alone is not enough, it does not lead to transformation, it needs to be accompanied by other support. 4.FOs should develop their own capacities to engage in land initiatives at all levels (sub-national, national, regional and continental levels). 5.There is need for harmonisation and alignment of statutory and customary laws and their administrative and institutional arrangements. 6.There is need to strengthen land governance (particularly the relationship between chiefs and governments) at all levels in order to secure the rights of marginalised groups, especially women and young farmers.

7.SACAU and member organisation should develop and implement gender policies affirming gender equality in all structures. 8.The conference recognises the multiplicity of land tenure systems which are not mutually exclusive and the need for countries to recognise multiple forms of tenure. In this regard, security is more important than the type of tenure. 9.There is need to establish, develop, maintain and manage state of the art information systems at country level, including the use of digital technology. 10.The conference recognises and supports the efforts by the AU in addressing land issues, including tenure security and gender. Thus, the conference appeals to the AUC to find more effective ways of disseminating and engaging the countries on land issues. 11.There is need for enforcement and implementation of AUC guiding principles on Large Scale Land Based Investments (both local and foreign) in order to attract quality investments. 12.There is need to involve and support young women and men farmers to improve their access to land and secure their land rights. These were adopted by the SACAU Annual General Meeting that met two days after the conference.

Minister Gugile Nkwinti addresses land tenure security conference

Minister Gugile Nkwinti opening the land conference.

                   Minister Gugile Nkwinti opening the land conference.

Mr Gugile Nkwinti, the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform of the Republic of South Africa, addressed delegates at the consultative meeting for Farmers’ Organisations (FOs) on land tenure security and agricultural transformation in the smallholder sector in southern Africa. The meeting was co-hosted by We Effect and SACAU from 22nd to 23rd May 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa (SA).

The Minister shared the various experiences of South Africa in dealing with land issues. “No political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty without land and without tangible prospects for a better life. Attacking poverty and deprivation must therefore be the first priority of a democratic government,” he quoted from the country’s National Development Plan. He stated that this was the mandate of government to which land was central. “South Africa is creating a new tenure system and trying to bring all South Africans on board, particularly women,”said Minister Nkwinti. He stated that the country is not only addressing the colonial legacy but pre-colonial legacy, particularly as there are still remnants of the feudal system that still show up now and again.

The one household one hectare concept was established and this will amongst others ensure that there is some institutional form of protection for the family, particularly women in rural areas. “The communal land tenure bill is entrenching the security of women through one household one hectare,” he said. He also mentioned that the democratic values enshrined in the constitution need to be upheld and this means title deeds need to be provided. “We don’t want people to continue living in rural areas under a feudal system when we have a constitutional democracy – the two cannot co-exist forever,” he further stated.

On the lessons learned, he first emphasised that the government wants to ensure that every piece of land is cultivated and asserted that if all South Africans who have land were using the land gainfully, “we would have a different South Africa today.” Communal property associations were created but these came with problems – trust. This involves giving land to groups of people who have never worked together, and not to individuals, thus leading to conflicts which usually result in no production and lands that are lying fallow. In other instances, people who have been given title deeds obtain loans that they eventually fail to service and the land goes back to those it was acquired from while others fight over resources provided to work the land.

People were also given land because they were unemployed thinking that they would be farmers. “These are the issues SA is addressing and we want to learn from others in Africa,” said the Minister. The Minister also highlighted that the question of sharing land equitably across race groups needs to be addressed as it undermines equity among races. On the question of how much land has been distributed, it becomes difficult to answer until such time the land audit has been finalised. The same applies to the hectares lying fallow. He also referred to the regulation of the landholding bill which does not allow foreign nationals in SA to own land but to have the right to lease it for a minimum of 30 years.

Formulating Business Plan Commences

Agriterra and SACAU team posing after working on the SACAU Agri agency business plan. From left to right: Mr Ishmael Sunga, Mr Wil Wijtsma, Ms Fhumulani Mashau, Mr Peter van Boekel and Mr. Benito Eliasi.

Agriterra and SACAU team posing after working on the SACAU Agri agency business plan. From left to right: Mr Ishmael Sunga, Mr Wil Wijtsma, Ms Fhumulani Mashau, Mr Peter van Boekel and Mr. Benito Eliasi.

The establishment of the SACAU agri-agency as directed by the 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Swaziland is taking shape and an Agriterra mission was recently hosted to advance this.

The main objective of the mission was to work with SACAU technical team in developing a five-year business plan for the agri-agency.

The development of the business plan was building on the three previous missions that were conducted to 10 members of SACAU in six countries namely; Malawi, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as the Secretariat. The Agriterra mission comprised Mr Peter van Boekel and Mr Wil Wijtsma from Netherlands, while the SACAU team comprised Mr Ishmael Sunga, Ms Fhumulani Mashau and Mr Benito Eliasi. At the end of the mission, broader areas of intervention in the business plan were discussed and agreed upon.

Also, the approach and first steps of operationalisation were agreed upon. More specifically, this looked at the services to be offered, resourcing and operational modalities. The business plan will be presented to the SACAU Board in the second or third quarter of this year.

Digital innovation can transform Africa’s smallholder farming

From left: Dr Theo de Jager, SACAU president, Mr Bill Gates, philanthropist, and Mr Ishmael Sunga, SACAU CEO at the at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Smart Farming meeting

From left: Dr Theo de Jager, SACAU president, Mr Bill Gates, philanthropist, and Mr Ishmael Sunga, SACAU CEO at the at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Smart Farming meeting.


Digital innovation and policy reforms offer the greatest prospects for transforming the smallholder farming sector, SACAU president Dr Theo de Jager and CEO Mr Ishmael Sunga told delegates while presenting at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Smart Farming convening recently which was also attended by philanthropist Bill Gates.

 The SACAU leadership was presenting “A contextual overview of smallholder farming in subSaharan Africa: Constraints, Needs and Opportunities for digital innovation.’’ De Jager and Sunga noted that smallholder farmers (SHF) were the poorest fraternity in Sub-Sahara Africa. “The smallholder sector offers the greatest prospects to move large numbers of SHFs out of poverty,” they said, adding that “digital innovation and policy reforms offer the greatest prospects for transforming the smallholder farming sector.”

 To do this would need the development of a new generation of farmers. “This, coupled with doing agriculture as a business, will be critical in the agricultural transformation agenda,” said Sunga adding that Farmers’ Organisations were best positioned as the vehicle for a digital driven change. Profile of the sector According to SACAU, about half of the population in Sub-Sahara Africa reside in rural areas where the vast majority of the population subsist as SHFs. These SHFs are geographically widely dispersed in far-flung areas and, as a result, are socially and economically isolated. But they cautioned that “SHFs are not a homogenous group.’’

 “The majority are not there by choice, but by default and they comprise an ageing population with low life expectancy of less than 60 years,” said Sunga. “Of concern is the lack of interest in agriculture by the youth,” they noted.

 These rural areas have low literacy rates. The average farm size is less than one hectare with low productivity that included yields of less than one ton per hectare.  Predominantly hoe based, these farmers recorded postharvest losses of around 40%. Marked by a high risk-low return production system, this situation is exacerbated by an inability to take advantage of existing opportunities; high vulnerability to climate changes, market fluctuations and other risks. Smallholder farmers are restricted by lack of ownership of productive assets and security of tenure; limited availability and access to finance; limited availability and access to risk management facilities (e.g. insurance); lack of physical and socio-economic infrastructure; limited access to input and output markets; lack of knowledge, experience, skills and expertise; limited access to technology; underdeveloped value chains; and, lack of efficient and effective farmers’ organisations (e.g. for markets, advocacy). Lack of investment in addition, Africa’s policy and regulatory environment is not conducive to promoting change in the sector.

There is a low level of ambition and appetite to grow and prosper and a lack of ownership of productive assets and security of tenure. There is a lack of investment in the sector, including declining gross fixed capital formation at the farm level.

The impact of limited digital infrastructure network is deepened with the discomfort with digital technology for the older generation of smallholder farmers reflected in the low ownership of smart phones. The leadership advocated improved access to digital infrastructure-connectivity underpinned by a conducive policy environment. In addition, improved access to extension services and the resultant access to information, knowledge, expertise and training as well as better linkages to markets and access to financing and collateral would help grow small holderfarmers out of poverty. Increased private and public-sector investment as well as the development of value chains within agriculture would promote return on investment.

 They noted that the continent was starting at a low benchmark. Africa’s population is young and growing fast; there is an emergence of mobile communication culture in the region with high cell-phone penetration and usage. Opportunities “There are clear opportunities for wider applications such as those to measure, register, monitoring and collect data within agriculture and so support further growth,” they said. SACAU explained that these applications included area and volume measuring, mapping, monitoring, surveillance, disaster preparedness and management, early warning and risk management, investment/ resource planning and production management, farmer and land registrations, provision of banking and financial services, data harvesting, tracking, tracing, service automation, resource use intensity and efficiencies.

 “There is an opportunity to organise farmers for markets and services more efficiently and effectively,” they noted. Use of technology could support the delivery of training, knowledge, advice and information on a wide scale as well as the production of evidence-based advocacy by using quick surveys and/or opinion polls to gauge member input. This could be enhanced by segregating and differentiating the smallholder sector for better targeting in service delivery.

 “Agriculture is best placed in the fight against poverty due to large numbers involved and availability of agricultural assets,” they said. “We need more efficient and effective ways of organising farmers; we need new generation of farmers’ organisations which are connected and data driven. The mobile technology revolution in sub-Saharan Africa has already paved the way for wider application in agriculture,” they added. “SACAU’s ambition is to catalyse a digitally driven agricultural revolution in the smallholder sector in southern Africa. We have already made investments in the technical infrastructure, and started digital registration of farmers in southern Africa towards this ambitious goal.”



SACAU AGM and Annual Conference – 2017


Farmers must harness strategic role in PPPs


Farmers should ensure they are well positioned to play a pivotal role in Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) which will drive the agro-based Fourth Industrial Revolution, said SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga.

Mr Sunga was addressing the 47th Brussels Briefing in February on the issue of “Involvement of farmers in PPPs: a practical example and perspectives.” He noted that the sector needed to develop a strategy which would maximise the “great potential for PPPs, including the involvement of local companies. We need practical mechanisms to ensure fairness and equity in the sharing of risk and return in PPPs.”

Mr Sunga said farmers needed to be supported to initiate PPPs on their own terms while farmer organisations (FOs), in turn, needed support to develop commercially and trade related capabilities. “We should establish a development facility for farmers’ engagement in PPPs, including investment in the higher value low risk segments of the value chain,” said Mr Sunga.

“We must use PPPs to drive the development of a younger generation of farmers,” he said.

The multi-dimensional nature of agricultural development positioned it for PPPs. “Commercialisation is a key driver of agricultural transformation. However, fragmentation and broken value chains are key impediments to the commercialisation of smallholder farmers,” said Mr Sunga.

He added that “PPPs might offer a solution to smallholder commercialisation.” SACAU has been involved in both the concept, design and implementation of PPP configurations. One example is the Value Chain Initiative (VCI). The VCI, a value chain-based cooperation to unlock value for all actors with financing based on the strength of the chain, was hosted and facilitated by SACAU.  The guiding principle was that risk was shared by all and profit was to be taken by everyone after marketing. “No one should walk away and leave farmers on their own,” said Mr Sunga.

Detailed implementation arrangements were important in the VCI programme. The roles and responsibilities of each partner were agreed in advance and an MOU was signed. About 67 farmers participated in the programme which secured a US$1.4m production loan with pre-financing of US$423,000 for inputs and services prior to the loan approval.

The programme saw productivity over the estimated 2000 hectares increase by more than 200% and gave the participating farmers enhanced access to finance. Other results included increased access to expert technical advice, services and extension as well as access to structured markets. The gross value created was in excess of US$3million.

Mr Sunga said PPPs could be an effective vehicle for smallholder development which is currently underutilised. “PPPs are effective in de-risking production, marketing and of financing smallholder agriculture,” said Mr Sunga. “The current narrative of such programmes are currently focused on global companies and the involvement of local agribusiness is overlooked. Because of this, farmers are missing out on the value they can derive from such partnerships,” he said.

Mr Sunga said trade benefits were not flowing back to farmers due to the imbalances in the governance of value chains.  “Farmers are rarely the initiators of PPP arrangements. The lack of commercial development capabilities is hampering the participation of farmers’ organisations in PPPs,” he said.


Agriterra completes organisational assessment of SACAU


Agriterra assessment team with SACAU secretariat staff

Agriterra concluded the organisational assessment of SACAU on the 10th February 2017 paving a way for the business for an agri agency. The assessment that spanned over a period of one week was conducted by Mr Rutger Lommerse, team manager Environment and Society at the Dutch farmers’ organisation ZLTO and Mr Tjeerd Rijpma, the Business Advisor at Agriterra based in Nairobi, Kenya.

 Apart from meeting with the SACAU secretariat staff and the chairman, the team also consulted with SACAU members in South Africa; AgriSA and the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) as well as SACAU’s stakeholders, including NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA) and AGIS Investments.

 The consultation with these organisations Agriterra completes assessment of SACAU Agriterra assessment team with SACAU secretariat staff was aimed at assessing the SACAU reputation as well as potential services that could be offered by the agri agency.

The assessment was comprehensive and it looked at aspects of human resources; cultural aspects as well as the structure of the organisation. The assessment team identified some critical conditions that need to be considered for the success of an agri agency which include the readiness of SACAU and its stakeholders to accept the changes that will be brought about by the reorganisation.

 What was emphasized was that the development and growth at the initial stages of the agri agency could be made through collaboration with other partners. The final stage is the formulation of the business plan of which implementation is expected to commence once it has gone through all due processes.

CEO’s letter


                    SACAU CEO, Ishmael Sunga

By Ishmael Sunga

One of the key highlights of February is the good rains that fell in most of the southern African region.

All indications are that this season will not be a drought year. Apart from adequate food supplies, good rains always bring with them a feeling of optimism in overall economic performance, given the intricate connection that farming has, directly or indirectly, with the economies of most countries in the region. However, the optimism of a good season was almost wiped out by the invasion of the Fall Armyworm which affected some countries in the region to a lessor or greater extent.

Current indications however suggests that the Armyworm menace did not cause as much damaged as originally feared. The region does not have to worry much about feeding its people, and there will be enough throughput to keep the wheels of industry turning, and all the commerce that goes with it.

However, unlike in the last season in which the region had a “dry” problem, the rains that fell in February were so incessant that some parts of the region are now experiencing a wet problem, so to speak.

In some cases, the rains left a trail of destruction, including waterlogging and washing away of crops, and livestock, roads, bridges and dam walls. Other critical infrastructure such as schools and clinics were not spared.

The two calamities in the form of incessant rains and the army worm go a long way to show how risky the business of farming can be. Even with all the advancement in science, technology and other capabilities for prediction, many were caught unaware, and there may be many more in this regard.

The point is, farmers, being at the frontline of production, always bear the brunt of such misfortunes. Unfortunately, when farmers are not able to produce, whole nations suffer. Yet quite often farmers have to shoulder the risk or burden alone.

We argue that such problems should not be for farmers alone to face. Everyone in the value chain should take some responsibility. Increased public sector investment in climate infrastructure including early warning systems targeted specifically on farming and weather based insurance would be a good starting point.