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Meeting Malabo Declaration Goals through Climate-Smart Agriculture

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The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in partnership with several international and regional organisations, convened the 2017 Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) Annual Conference from 25th to 27th October 2017 in Maputo, Mozambique.

Held under the theme, “A Thriving Agricultural Sector in A Changing Climate: Meeting Malabo Declaration Goals through Climate-Smart Agriculture”, the conference brought together stakeholders from within and outside Africa, including policymakers, development partners, researchers, advocacy groups, farmers’ organisations and the private sector to, among others, discuss the contribution of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) towards meeting the Malabo Declaration goals by taking stock of the current knowledge of the effects of climate change, reviewing existing evidence of the effectiveness of various CSA strategies, and sharing examples of CSA-based practices and tools for developing and implementing evidence-based policies and programmes.

One of the fundamental subjects under discussion was the contentious issue of factors affecting the adoption of CSA practices in Africa. Some of the highlighted factors include: lack of commitment from the public sector to mainstream CSA practices in national policies and programmes, lack of appropriate policies to incentivise farmers to adopt CSA practices and lack of data to conduct location specific simulations on the effects of climate change leading to researchers and policy makers making reference to global models.

In addition, the lack of capacity development was said to be another factor; hence, the need to train a new generation of scientists to develop new models adaptable to local conditions was seen as key in this regard. Finally it was emphasised that the promotion of CSA practices and technologies as a means of improving food and nutrition security under changing climate conditions should not only focus on the production aspect, but should give equal attention, if not more, to post-harvest management as well as the demand side of the chain.

From the various discussions, it seems a lot of research is still required on factors influencing/ inhibiting the adoption of CSA practices in Africa. As one presenter noted, “There are no silver bullets in fighting climate change and improving farmers’ resilience. Climate smartness in the mixed systems depends on local context. Therefore, broad-brush targeting of CSA interventions is not appropriate from a technical standpoint, given that the impacts are often context-specific.”

 

SACAU kicks off the process of establishing an agri-agency unit

From 19th to 23rd September, a team from Agriterra comprising of Dr Kees Blokland and Mr Jan Breambroek and Mr Benito Eliasi of SACAU secretariat held consultations with the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) and Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) of Zimbabwe. The consultations were conducted as part of SACAU’s assessment as it prepares to establish an agri-agency unit as mandated by the 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM) that was held in Swaziland earlier this year. The consultations focused on management and operations of the two organisations and their perception regarding different roles of SACAU as a regional apex body of farmers’ organisations (FOs). In addition, the mission investigated the capacity needs of the two organisations as well as their interest to receive or render advisory services to other SACAU members.

The two organisations pledged their support to SACAU as it is going through this process. They were also in support of skills exchange programmes among SACAU members and indicated that to a lesser extent the concept is being applied in Zimbabwe. It was also interesting to note that efforts of uniting the advocacy activities of the two organisations are at an advanced stage and so far three FOs in the country have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to start working together on common issues affecting farmers in the country. They both foresee possibilities of merging into a single union in the future though currently each will maintain its autonomy while modalities of merging are being discussed. The mission commended both organisations for taking such a bold decision which in the long run will benefit all farmers in the country.

One of the topics that was discussed at length with each FO was resource mobilisation. This was identified as a very critical issue by the two organisations and they both are working hard to devise mechanisms of increasing their financial resources base. They both consider the idea of an agri-agency coordinating and linking provision of services among national FOs in the region to be one of the mechanisms that will assist organisations to raise funds through offering services to other organisations. ZFU and CFU also indicated that they would want SACAU to continue playing a greater role of lobbying and advocacy on regional matters. In addition, ZFU appreciated the training its members and management team receive from SACAU on various issues.

Similar assessments are scheduled in November and December 2016  in Malawi and Namibia respectively.

Grain stakeholders talk structured trade

Over the course of history, world grain trade has developed from the stage where grain was only shipped as incidental cargo to its grand status today; an industry in which thousands of tons of grain are moved daily, across the world. Interestingly, as a share of total consumption, traded grain has risen from less than 0.03% in the eighteenth century to more than 10% today, making the sector highly profitable for those who are involved and have the capacity to adapt to changes and shocks which global trade contends with. Structured trading is how most grain is traded in the developed world, and is now expanding in Africa. With sophisticated trading systems already in existence for niche export commodities such as coffee and cut-flowers on the continent, it is ironic that given the growing challenge of feeding a population which is growing exponentially, such systems are still in their infancy for staple commodities in most African countries.

With the highest per capita consumption of grains on the continent reported to be in the north Africa region; Rabobank predicts that Sub-Saharan Africa will eclipse North Africa’s grain demand by 2025 and this presents a significant opportunity for grain suppliers as well as producers in the region.

It is against this backdrop of a high growth potential in our region that SACAU, through support provided by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), organised training for members of the Southern African Grain Network (SAGNET) on Structured Commodity Trade Finance Training. SAGNET is a regional network of grain value chain stakeholders from Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The three-day flagship training was facilitated by the Eastern Africa Grain Council’s (EAGC) specialised training and capacity building division, the Eastern Africa Grain Institute (EAGI).

The training provided participants with a unique opportunity to understand the prospects and risks under regional and international export/ import financing, with special attention paid to warehouse receipt financing. Furthermore, participants learnt how market information systems work to support the growth of the commodity trading environment. Through the use of case studies depicting real life experiences on the success of structured trade finance, the diverse group of individuals contributed to vibrant discussions, further expanded upon by their personal work experiences.

The area of international and regional trade policy was well enjoyed by participants, some of whom expressed the expectation of being in an improved position to influence policy and effect change upon their return to their respective countries. A session on trade contracts and dispute resolution was covered on the last day, with trainers and legal experts challenging opinions and sharing detailed experiences; a session which was truly insightful for all.

The course not only covered theoretical elements, it also encompassed a practical component for which a field visit to AFGRI’s silo in Bronkhorstspruit was organised.

The participants were received and welcomed by the silo manager, Mr Willie Pieters and his colleagues who took the participants through various operations at the very well-equipped and technologically enhanced silo. Only nine individuals run the plant visited and the company’s 84 silos and bunkers in southern Africa are all housed under the AFGRI Grain Management business which is a grain storage facility and handler. They however do not own or trade any of the products they handle.

The specific operations which were seen at the silo included grain receiving and sampling, which was noted as the single most important step in the process. Samples from every load of grain which is stored by the silo is tested thoroughly upon arrival and following departure. Offloading and stacking was also illustrated and participants were taken through the intricate process of caring for the grain during storage. AFGRI has perfected their grain storage operations and the handling thereof is a seamless process which is optimised by technology which provides on-the-minute reporting and risk management, backed by decades of experience and a staff complement which has truly earned their proverbial stripes in the industry.

The global explosion in trade volumes has been supported heavily by communication and technology, which has made it possible to share information from virtually anywhere globally on which grain is available to buyers and sellers alike. Africa currently accounts for nearly 30% of world-wide grain imports and the demand is still growing, with grain imports in sub-Saharan Africa expected to increase by 50% in the next ten years, also according to Rabobank.

The training on Structured Commodity Trade Finance has equipped recipients with information and a new-found understanding of the subject area which will assist them to steer through the highly specialised and complex transactions involved in commodity trade, amidst the disruptions which food production systems are facing which have unfortunately undermined confidence in global trade as a reliable mechanism for the delivery of food security.

Young agripreneurs extend networks, sharpen skills at conference

October 2016 will be a memorable month for three young agri-preneurs from SACAU who participated in the Pan African Agribusiness Incubators Conference and Expo that was held in the capital city of Ghana, Accra, from 4th to 6th October. The conference whose theme was “turning science into business – inclusive agribusiness incubation for vibrant economies in Africa”, exposed young farmers to different technologies and innovations that are likely going to change the landscape of agriculture in Africa. Delegates extensively discussed the future of African farming and agribusiness and considered emerging opportunities for youth in the development of the sector. The three young agri-entrepreneurs from SACAU who participated are Ms. Manes Nkhata from Malawi, Mr. Sibusiso Gule from Swaziland and Ms Magdalene Shirima from Tanzania. They were accompanied by Mr. Benito Eliasi from the SACAU secretariat.

The three-day conference involved plenary and group discussion as well as well as displays of various new innovations, technologies, services and products that are developed through the incubation programs. The event brought together more than 700 delegates from around the world from various segments of the economy including academia, policy makers, researchers, investors, development partners and incubators and incubatees in the continent. One of the youth, Mr Gule said that “what interested me most were the discussions around commitments of stakeholders to engage the young generation in promoting “value chain transformation’. This is a way to go if the sector is to attract the youth. “Looking at the enthusiasm of participants, especially the youth in this conference, I think Africa has a bright future in agriculture” added Ms. Shirima.

Also commenting on the conference, Ms. Nkhata said, “this conference has extended my horizon in business and has created greater awareness on agribusiness incubation, trade and investment options in Africa and I will definitely utilise the knowledge gained at this conference when I go back home to Malawi”. “The conference offered me opportunities to exchange information on best practices and lessons in managing agribusiness, establishing agribusiness and incubators, development and commercialisation of agro-technologies and innovations and improving agribusiness education”, said Ms. Nkhata.

On her part, Ms. Magdalene Shirima indicated that the conference has enabled her to link with partners for business opportunities. “Young agri-preneurs should love reading business books and I was impressed when one of the panellists encouraged us young people to read”, said Ms. Shirima. “I will definitely come back to Ghana for business linkages,” she continued.

Overall the conference was worthwhile and the African Agribusiness Incubation Network (AAIN) was commended for the effort they are making in Africa in incubation though some incubatees that drop out of the program. Delegates advised AAIN to consider different options of funding streams for the sustenance of the program. “AAIN should strengthen their coordination mechanisms with partners in implementing the incubation programs”, commented one participant from east Africa. Another delegate emphasised that agriculture cannot survive from lending opportunities only, thus there is need for strategic partnerships for funding the entire value chains, and in the process enable stakeholders to identify missing gaps especially for youth inclusiveness. The SACAU delegates attended the conference with support from the Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA).

Agriculture and food security affected by climate change

Agricultural production and food security are already being affected by extreme weather temperatures and drought, without urgent action it will put millions of people at risk of hunger and poverty, says Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

A report commissioned by FAO titled The State of Food and Agriculture 2016, indicates that the greatest vulnerabilities to climate change impacts are people of low income and smallholder farmers.

The Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015, represents a new beginning in the global effort to stabilize the climate before it is too late.

It recognizes the importance of food security in the international response to climate change, as reflected by many countries focusing on the agriculture sector in their planned contributions to adaptation and mitigation.

FAO has estimated that in order to meet the demand for food in 2050, annual world production of crops and livestock will need to increase by 60 percent.

The agricultural sector can benefit much from the introduction of sustainable agriculture practices such as cultivating heat-tolerant crop varieties, water harvesting, drip irrigation and precision agriculture.

SACAU supports farmers to tackle climate change

Southern African farmers are supporting global drives to ensure that agriculture meets the challenges of climate change in a quest to achieve zero hunger by 2030.

“Farmers’ organisations (FOs) play a critical role in ensuring that the complex and dynamic developments that lie ahead don’t leave smallholder farmers behind, so that they can manage the risks, and opportunities, that come with the future,” says Mr Ishmael Sunga, CEO of SACAU as the organisation marked Global World Food Day on October 16th under the banner “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that agricultural production (crops, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture) will have to increase by about 60% by 2050 to feed a growing global population.

In order to feed a growing global population in a changing climate the world must adopt to more resilient and sustainable forms of agricultural systems such as Climate smart agriculture (CSA) that can offer a strategic approach in transforming the future of agriculture and promote food security.

“The modernisation of African farmers’ organisations needs to include the use public-private partnerships, improvement of logistics, and the use of digital solutions for issues such as training, so that it becomes more accessible at a lesser cost,” explains Mr Sunga.

The negative effects of climate change are undermining food production and farmers’ productivity and sustainable agricultural practices are therefore essential to address these challenges.

“Climate change means it is no longer business as usual. We need fundamental change, a revolution in the way we farm in Africa”, says Dr Theo de Jager, the President of SACAU.

SACAU Newsletter, September 2016

Click here to download the SACAU News, September 2016

SACAU attends the 2016 African Green Revolution Forum

SACAU participated in the sixth African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) which was held from 5th to 9th September 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya. SACAU is a co-organiser of the AGRF; a multi-stakeholder forum that brings together a diverse range of influential leaders and change agents from across the African agricultural landscape and around the world. An encouraging consideration at the forum was the emphasis on scaling up successes in order to transform African agriculture. This resonated well with the 2016 theme “Seize the Moment: Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation”.

One of the highlights for SACAU was the participation of the CEO, Mr Ishmael Sunga, at the Ministerial Roundtable where he shared some of the organisation’s commitments and how it is positioning itself in the agricultural transformation agenda. Commitments delivered by Mr Sunga were signing up half a million farmers per year on a digital platform to enable them to access value-added services and for them to aggregate and have the “muscle” to do business with others as well as signing up one million young business farmers on a virtual digital platform. This was over and above the establishment of a Development Fund which will make up to 20,000 agribusiness opportunities available for young farmers.

SACAU also co-hosted a side event titled “Data Revolution: Enabling Smallholder Farmers through ICT Innovations” which sought to understand when and how digital platforms can be relevant to smallholder farmers as well as to identify “do’s and don’ts” when establishing platforms for smallholder farmers. SACAU was also a speaker at this side-event and shared some of the experiences from work done in this area. Mr Sunga remarked that ICT is going to leapfrog Africa and pointed out the need to harness innovations to increase scale as one of the answers to the “double squeeze” of high inputs costs and low output prices that farmers, particularly smallholders, face. Some of the interesting points in the session were from Ms Sara Menker, Founder and CEO of Gro Intelligence; wherein she explained that Africa is now where the United States was in the 1930s, however with technology, Africa does not have to follow this trajectory. Mr Uziel Zontag, Co-founder/ Director of AgriLift Rwanda emphasised the importance of knowing the sizes of farmers’ plots and he noted that in Africa, more than 70% of farmers do not know the size of their plots. “We need to know what is grown in the plots. Agriculture is a spatial issue”, he said.

The 2016 AGRF which brought together more than 1500 delegates including global business leaders; African Heads of State; ministers; farmers organisations; private agribusiness firms, and financial institutions provided great networking opportunities. Through this, SACAU made good contacts, particularly around the application of ICT in agriculture, some of which have already translated into collaboration arrangements.

For decisions and commitments from the event, please refer to the AGRF communique here.

Climate-smart agriculture is the solution to climate resilience

Climate change still remains a critical challenge to livestock and cereal farmers in southern Africa. Stress-tolerant germplasms, ICT-enabled climate information services, diversified livestock-based livelihoods and weather-based insurance were identified as solutions which cereal and livestock farmers can adopt to make the transition to climate-resilient agriculture.

These solutions were discussed at a regional meeting held on 13th – 16th September, 2016 at the Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This meeting was organised by the ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), in partnership with the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Union (SACAU) and other stakeholders to launch a project that seeks to promote climate-resilient cereal and livestock farming in southern Africa.

The purpose of this regional meeting was to build partnerships and synergies with stakeholders in the implementation of the flagship project and for technical validation of the proposed scaling up-strategy.

SACAU Chairman Dr Theo de Jager spoke about the negative impact of climate change on farmers’ productivity in southern Africa.

“Farmers are more vulnerable to climate change and they suffer first, so it is extremely important for farmers to take the lead in the debate of climate smart agriculture,” said Dr de Jager.

“There is a need for fundamental rapid change and a revolution in terms of how we do agriculture in Africa,” he said. “If we don’t do it ourselves, nature will do it for us.”

This was a highly interactive meeting attended by various organisations which are active in the area of climate change management and climate – smart agriculture.

The meeting explored the four areas which CTA’s flagship project for southern Africa has identified as strategic areas of focus, i.e. ICT-enabled climate information services, stress-tolerant germplasms, diversified livestock-based livelihoods and weather-based insurance.

 

Delegates attending the CTA/SACAU inception meeting and working session.

Delegates attending the CTA/SACAU inception meeting and working session.

 

ICT-enabled climate information services

ICT plays a critical role in driving key actions to create awareness surrounding the area of climate change management in addition to assisting with mitigation, monitoring and adaptation to climate change in Southern Africa. ICT-enabled climate information services are designed to provide real time information to farmers which empowers them and improves their decision making capacity.

The participants highlighted key  gaps in ICT and what measures can be taken by farmers in order to utilise ICT platforms. These gaps include limited infrastructure to capture data; misalignment of information coming from different existing sources; interpretation of available information and practical application thereof by farmers; limited documentation of past experiences and success stories to inform future actions; monopolisation of data by ‘powerful’ persons; and lack of support services provided to farmers in this field.

ICT systems or platforms are costly to establish and maintain. The key priorities raised by the participants were that farmers need to be educated on the use of ICT platforms and that stakeholders need to invest in ICT infrastructure in order to address the effects of climate change.

Stress-tolerant germplasms

Stress-tolerant germplasms refer to genetically improved varieties that have been developed to withstand heat, moisture and disease. These varieties enable farmers to produce food crops in hostile environmental conditions.

The need for upscaling the production and availability of stress-tolerant seed varieties was noted and this was discussed alongside the opportunity which exists in the liberalisation of seed movement from country to country, another gap which was cited.

Developing partnerships with the private sector can be a great opportunity for the dissemination of new seed varieties. Creating awareness amongst farmers’ can give them the knowledge and capacity to adapt to climate change, i.e. involving farmers in the process of developing new seed varieties creates familiarity and promotes improved understanding and possibly, uptake.

Diversified livestock-based livelihoods

The objective of diversification is to reduce farmers’ reliance on a single commodity and to help them to spread their production risk, i.e. diversifying to a second commodity which can either be livestock or another crop. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has implemented programmes with both a diversification and an intensification focus in the southern Africa region. ILRI’s work in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector is already informing research, policy and education in the region.

The ongoing drought has caused a lot of challenges in the 2015/16 season such as food insecurity, low incomes, inadequate and poor quality grazing for livestock. Considerable livestock losses have been reported across the region, with an estimate of 630 000 cattle deaths recorded in the 2015/16 El Niño induced drought.

Engaging the private sector can be a great opportunity to create partnerships that will promote education and distribution of research on livestock. Diversification of livestock can provide access to information on crop and livestock production and market participation.

Innovative weather-based insurance

Weather based insurance is designed to protect farmers against shocks emanating from adverse weather patterns and conditions in any one season.

Low levels of awareness on the knowledge and understanding of weather-based insurance products were identified.

In expanding the availability of weather-based insurance, service providers need to use innovative approaches to sell the insurance as part of a product offering for farmers.

 

Engaging the private sector in scaling up climate smart agricultural solutions 

Engaging the private sector was another topic that was discussed by participants at the workshop. The private sector plays a critical role in agricultural value chains and it has the ability to provide a strong link to the market place. Engaging the private sector in agriculture can be a major source of income in the form of grant funds coming possibly from corporate social responsibility funds. Partnerships with the private sector have potential benefits as well as risks, so they should only be entered when these are clear on all sides. The emerging opportunities to engage the private sector were identified as weather insurance (as part of a bundle of services for farmers), ICT-based information services like weather linked to mobile service providers, in livestock research as well as for dissemination of new seed varieties.

Cotton Producers Hope to Cash in on Cotton

Following a difficult start to the year, households engaging in agricultural production across the region have struggled to grow sufficient yields in staple as well as cash crops at the same levels seen last season. A hostile climate, the limited reach of extension services and inadequate availability and supply of inputs were some of the key challenges cited by cotton producer associations at the 2016 annual Southern African Cotton Producers Association (SACPA) meeting.

SACPA convened in Maputo, Mozambique from 12th to 14th September 2016 for their annual meeting which was co-hosted by Forum Nacional dos Productores de Algodao (FONPA) along with SACAU, supported by SACAU’s development partner, We Effect. The multi-stakeholder platform has eight members across the region, namely the Cotton Farmers Association of Malawi (COFAM), ODER Sofia of Madagascar, Sembulelo Sakotini Farmers Association of Swaziland, Zimbabwe Cotton Producers Association (ZCPA), Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ), Cotton SA and the Tanzania Cotton Growers Association (TACOGA).

In addition to receiving country updates from members and learning about the development of the cotton sector in Mozambique, the meeting explored the formulation of pricing models and elements which are applied. In understanding what is working well in member countries, cotton producers could collectively work towards overcoming some of the perennial challenges the cotton sector in southern Africa is experiencing through peer-learning and experience sharing.

 

Members of SACPA at their annual meeting in Maputo.

Members of SACPA at their annual meeting in Maputo.

 

The meeting was officially opened by the Mozambique Cotton Institute (IAM), in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security; an institution which oversees the cotton sub-sector in the country. Cotton is a strategic cash crop which is a source of income for about 160,000 farming families’ in Mozambique and while the meeting was held in the capital city, the major cotton producing areas where the crop is primarily grown are in the central and northern region. FONPA President, Mr Jose Domingos, celebrated the work that the Ministry is doing to support his organisation and encouraged better cooperation and communication between the government and themselves.

A field trip was organised to Umbeluzi Agrarian Station, a branch of the Mozambique Agrarian Research Institute and to Beluluane Industrial Park. Delegates were taken through various fields of crops planted using improved varieties, which were selected to breed higher yields of better quality crops in terms of nutrition as well as resistance to pests and adverse climatic conditions. The use of conservation agriculture (CA) by the local farmers at the Institute was also hailed in the context of climate change management, with horticultural fields mulched appropriately. Delegates were especially interested in how horticultural research was being carried out and expressed interest in exploring other types of farming activities in the down time from growing cotton.

A partnership between the government of Mozambique and the private sector partner Chiefton Mozambique has seen this Free Zone being developed, which is set to become the premier location of southern Africa for export-orientated and general industrial and manufacturing businesses, including the textile industry.

The impact of climate variability, persistently high temperatures and delayed rains were common characteristics of the country presentations which were shared. The associations shared tools and actions which they adopted over the past season to build capacities of farmers and increase their impact in their respective environments. Some of these tools and actions entailed business training for women farmers, exposing farmers to handloom technology to promote weaving and participation in crop marketing through cotton cooperatives.

Innovation was underscored as a key factor for a sustainable membership drive, with members demanding more tangible benefits from associations, forcing them to think bigger and more creatively to attract and retain their members. SACPA members left Maputo with a renewed sense of positivity, which will create the drive needed to carry the platform through its planned activities for the next few months.