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

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!

CEO’s letter


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SACAU CEO Mr Ismael Sunga

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Annual Conference have come and gone by. Indeed, the year is moving very fast, and it is already mid-year. The build up to our very successful AGM and Conference, as well as the actual events themselves, was very hectic. We had wished that after this, the workload would ease thereafter, and our working lives would be less hectic, but this was not to be.

From an operational point of view, the month of June has not been uncharacteristic – it has been all hectic like the past few months. Apart from the day to day operations, we have been busying ourselves with project management matters, including monitoring, internal and external reporting, organising project meetings and carrying out representation functions.

In this respect some of the highlights were field project monitoring visits to Swaziland and Zimbabwe, organising a competency development assessment workshop for young agripreneurs and related consultations, and hosting a knowledge management meeting for a continental programme (SFOAP) of the five regional farmers’ organisations under Pan African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO) which is funded by the European Commission and managed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

In strategic terms, three areas of work that were started in June are worth highlighting. The first is the beginning of two related activities, namely a strategic review of the work of the organisation over the past five years, and the development of the organisation’s strategic plan for the next 5 years. The former is assessing the performance of the organisation over the past 5 years, whilst the latter focuses on the future of the organisation for the next 5 years, in strategic terms.

The third area pertains to the assessment of current and future competencies of the young agripreneurs in relation to industry needs/requirements. This involved consultations with the young farmers and the selected agribusinesses. This is expected to feed into the process of developing a more appropriate competency development curriculum for the 21st Century farmer. We shall be keeping you informed about progress on these, as well as on our various activities.

Enjoy the read!

SACAU elects a new Board

SACAU ‘s new Board: SACAU Vice President Dr Sinare Y Sinare, Mrs Doreen Hlatshwayo, Mr Alfred Banda, Mr Phineas Gumede and SACAU CEO Mr Ishmael Sunga.

The Southern African Agricultural Unions (SACAU) recently elected a new Board at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) that was held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, on 16 May 2018. Dr Sinare Y Sinare from the Agricultural Council of Tanzania was elected as the new Chairman of the Board and President of SACAU. He replaces Dr Theo De Jager who retired at the Meeting, having served as the President of the organisation for the past 5 years.

Mrs Doreen Hlatshwayo from the Swaziland National Agricultural Union was elected Vice President, a position that hitherto had been occupied by Dr Sinare. Mr Alfred Banda of Farmers Union of Malawi was retained as an Ordinary Director, whilst Mr Phineas Gumede of Agri South Africa joined the Board as an Ordinary Director. Mr Berean Mukwende of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union stepped down from the Board.

Several resolutions were adopted by the AGM. These include the granting of Honorary membership of SACAU to the outgoing Chairman, Dr de Jager and to Mr Salum Shamte from Tanzania who retired from the Board a few years ago. This honour is bestowed to individuals that have made outstanding contributions to the development of the organisation. In the same vein, Honorary membership of Mr Ajay Vashee (Zambia) and Mr Douglas Taylor-Freeme (Zimbabwe) who are two former Presidents of the organisation was extended for a further period of 5 years.

Other resolutions adopted cover the amendments to the Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI), the appointment of new external auditors, increasing the number of elected Board of Directors from the current four to five, as well as the adoption of key messages that emanated from the Annual Conference which preceded the meeting.

Finally, Uniao Nacional de Camponeses of Mozambique will host the 2019 AGM. The AGM is the organisation’s biggest and most important governance event on its annual calendar.

CEO’s Letter

SACAU_picture for the CEO letter.

SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga

We came, we saw and we conquered! Both our Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM) turned out to be such a successin fact both exceeded our expectations. And the location of the venue could not have been any better than the majestic Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. And what an ensemble of farmers, farmer leaders, policy makers, researchers, academics, trade specialists and all who gathered to unpack the architecture, content, meaning, issues and all related to trade.

The message was clear- yes, trade indeed has the potential to be a catalyst of the muchneeded transformation of the agricultural sector. The low share of Africa in global trade and the huge bill of basic food imports that Africa can produce are testimony to this. But trade alone is not enough, and the conference concurred on a range of other related factors that need to be considered.

You can’t go wrong by investing in good corporate governance, and the AGM is where you really see good corporate governance at play in a vibrant and inclusive way. The meeting was well organised, the documentation well-arranged and the proceedings were highly engaging. The ambience was vibrant. Congratulates to Dr Sinare and Mrs Hlatshwayo on assumption of respectively President and Vice President. Welcome on board to the newest Board member, Mr Gumede.

The dance parties were part of the mix, courtesy of AFGRI, AgriBank, Agrimed, Econet Wireless and Seed Co who provided the sponsorship for the two dinners. Our sincere appreciation to these organisations for their support. Kudos to the SACAU family, our two members in Zimbabwe – Commercial Farmers Union and Zimbabwe Farmers Union – and my secretariat for making it the success it was! All those long hours and effort were not in vain.

SACAU Newsletter, March 2018

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Inclusiveness, shared values and prosperity: key to agriculture development


Mr Ishmael Sunga at the World Economic Forum meeting.

Sustainable growth and development in the agriculture sector will not happen if the sector is not inclusive and does not have shared values. This is one of the key messages coming out of this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. There is no doubt that peace and stability are pre-requisites for the growth and development of the agriculture sector.

Thus, safeguarding political and economic stability will be critical for the development of the agriculturedriven economies of southern Africa. The sector will need to be more inclusive and have shared values if it is to develop in a sustainable way.

Shared prosperity will also be fundamental in this regard. There is a greater need for a good balance between politics and economics. Meanwhile, advances in science and technology in agriculture continue to bring new dimensions, some destructive and others constructive/productive.

Indeed, the sector has become technology driven, and technology is virtually touching all aspects of lives- it is influencing the way people think, relate and behave, and it can link, connect, bend, break, fracture and so forth.Technology can facilitate greedbased exploitation of resources and consumption of goods and services.

Competitiveness in agriculture should not become a divisive wall, effectively excluding others. Instead, technology can be harnessed to increase transparency and accountability in the sector, to foster greater cooperation, facilitate integration and to manage conflict in the sector

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.

SACAU Newsletter, November/December 2017

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SACAU Newsletter, October 2017

Click here to download our October 2017