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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.

Madagascan farmers reap rewards of cooperatives

SACAU, through the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded Support to Farmers’ Organizations in Africa Program (SFOAP), is providing assistance to farmers in the Bungolava region of Madagascar to get organised into cooperatives. The program which is in its third year is being implemented in collaboration with the Coalition Paysanne de Madagascar (CPM).  SACAU’s Capacity Development Officer, Mr Benito Eliasi visited Madagascar and interacted with some members of the newly established cooperatives in September.

Progress is impressive considering the increased levels of understanding on how cooperatives operate by farmers in the region. “One can observe that farmers have increased their understanding on the basic principles of cooperatives as to where it was three years ago when the project was initiated” said Mr Eliasi.  It is pleasing to note that; farmers in the region have now bought the idea of working in cooperatives and are able to appreciate the changes cooperatives have made in their productivity and profitability as farmers. One farmer mentioned that he was able to produce three tons of maize in one hectare through the support and services he has received from his local cooperative.

Prior to 2014, farmers in this region worked individually and were experiencing difficulties in accessing inputs for maize production as well as better markets for their produce.  Now through working in cooperatives, these services are relatively easily accessible. Farmers are now able to aggregate produce and negotiate for better prices. In addition, farmers are able to participate in the setting of minimum maize prices through the “Regional Maize Producers Platform” of which they are members. The platform is also responsible for allocating markets for different maize buyers. Ms Vonimanitra Maxima, CPM Projects Officer, indicated that for this year; farmers are expected to supply maize to a Mauritian animal feed manufacturing company. This is the first time farmers will be selling their produce to such a big buyer.

One of the female farmers who is the treasurer of TAMBATRA Cooperative told Mr Eliasi that she is now able to comfortably pay school fees for her children as well as buy basics for her household which was difficult before the project.

Through cooperatives, farmers are also learning modern practices of cultivating maize and they are using improved seed varieties. Through collaboration with a number of stakeholders in the region farmers are able to get advice on the production of maize and the project has also linked them to input suppliers.

For a country like Madagascar where the majority of farmers are subsistence, the support to facilitate organising farmers into structures such as cooperatives has the potential of increasing productivity and profitability of farming. It is anticipated that the experiences gained under this  project will be scaled-up in other areas in the country.

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.

Leveraging opportunities for farmers’ organisations to enhance their impact

Leaders of farmers’ organisations gathered to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Strategic partnership supporting capacity development of African farmers’ organisations through improved policies, technologies and capabilities. It took place on 21st September 2016, at a ceremony at the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), in Brussels.

Dr Theo de Jager, President of the Pan-African Farmers’ Organization (PAFO), Ignace Coussement, Managing Director of AgriCord, and Michael Hailu, Director of CTA.

Under the MoU, CTA and AgriCord will support PAFO, its five regional members and their national members in collecting and using data on precision agriculture so-called ‘smart farming.’ This will help these farmers’ organisations to support the development of inclusive value chains, with special attention to the needs of youth. The MoU provides a framework for developing a strategic technical and financial partnership that will leverage opportunities for farmers’ organisations to enhance their impact.

Visit the CTA website for more information: http://bit.ly/2doTrWb

Decisions and Commitments from the 2016 African Green Revolution Forum

1. The Sixth African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 5th to 9th September, 2016. It attracted more than 1500 delegates from 40 countries. The AGRF once again proved to be a multi-stakeholder forum bringing together a diverse range of influential change agents from across the African agriculture landscape and around the world. They included African Heads of State, global business leaders, ministers, farmers and farmer organizations, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, civil society groups and scientists, as well as international development and technical partners.

2. The theme of this year’s AGRF was “Seize the Moment: Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation.” The forum built on a campaign to “Seize the Moment” that was launched at the 12th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Partnership Platform meeting in Accra, Ghana in April 2016. The campaign is backed by the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), along with key civil-society groups, farmer groups, companies and development partners.

3. “Seize the Moment” recognizes the significant progress African countries have made over the last decade to build a foundation for a renaissance in the agriculture sector both on and off the farm across the entire value chain. But it also recognizes that much more needs to be done. Countries still have a long way to go to achieve food security and ensure equal access to economic opportunity for all Africans. Africa today is facing strong headwinds. The challenges include rapid urbanization, climate change that is generating more stressful growing conditions, significant unemployment in which one in three Africans from 15 to 35 years old are jobless and chronic malnutrition that has left 58 million children stunted. AGRF partners understand that addressing these issues requires firm political, policy and financial commitments, guided by a clear agenda and strong mechanisms for measuring progress.

4. The ambition of the forum is to accelerate the progress on agriculture’s contribution to economic growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods for all, in line with delivering on the Malabo Goals and targets. Over the course of the five-day forum, delegates put forward and began to coalesce around a set of important commitments that the AGRF platform can pursue in the medium-term to realize the ambitious goals laid out in the 2014 Malabo Declaration and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). During the next 16 months before the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit and CAADP biennial review in January 2018, the AGRF partners pledged to: pursue a political, policy and business agenda intended to accelerate smallholder-inclusive agricultural transformation in at least 20 countries; unlock at least US $200 billion in investment in African agriculture; and develop a concise scorecard for accountability and action under the leadership of African Union institutions.

They are captured in the following nine action points:

i. Refresh investment plans to unlock 10% of public expenditure on agriculture that can be clearly leveraged to attract significant additional resources from private sector and other partners.

ii.  Actualize commitments made by the private sector through platforms such as Grow Africa or others to bring at least US $20 billion of private investment into African agriculture and galvanize broader investment.

iii. Develop and launch innovative financing mechanisms, including Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) agricultural financing mechanisms such as incentive- based risk-sharing facilities for agricultural lending, social impact bonds, catalytic financing facilities and agriculture- relevant e-wallet and digital financing mechanisms.

iv. Support at least 20 countries to develop their agriculture transformation agenda, including identification and significant scaling up of five priority value chains per country with strong links to smallholder agriculture, strong focus on youth employment and a commitment to building resilience to shocks to the agriculture system.

v.  Identify and unlock five main policy and regulatory bottlenecks per country that are inhibiting agriculture sector growth.

vi. Establish and support agriculture transformation delivery mechanisms appropriately tailored to the national context and needs in at least 10 countries.

vii.Support countries to strengthen capacities, including the cultivation of a new wave of public and private sector agriculture transformation leaders.

viii. Produce and use an agriculture transformation scorecard at the heart of the CAADP biennial review process, including a one-page snapshot for Heads of State.

ix. Hold at least two Ministerial peer review roundtables prior to the 2018 African Union Heads of State and Government Summit to challenge and validate emerging biennial review reports and actions.

5. At AGRF 2016, many of Africa’s steadfast champions of agriculture stepped forward with significant and concrete commitments that have already begun to put this nine-point plan into action. They pledged more than US $30 billion in investments to increase production, income and employment for smallholder farmers and local African agriculture businesses over the next 10 years. The collective pledges are believed to represent the largest package of financial commitments to the African agricultural sector to date, and they are backed by the broadest coalition ever assembled in support of the entire agribusiness value chain.

6. African governments represented by H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials from more than 20 countries across the continent laid out a bold vision for how agriculture transformation will drive economic transformation.

i. H.E. President Kenyatta put forth concrete proposals that included a call for governments to refresh multi-year plans for agriculture development; a push to mobilize a combination of US $400 billion in public and private sector resources; and an effort to put in place the continental agricultural transformation scorecard that would measure and track all commitments to ensure they trigger action. H.E. President Kenyatta stepped forward as one of the first champions of the “Seize the a call for governments to refresh multi-year plans for agriculture development; a push to mobilize a combination of US $400 billion in public and private sector resources; and an effort to put in place the continental agricultural transformation scorecard that would measure and track all commitments to ensure they trigger action. H.E. President Kenyatta stepped forward as one of the first champions of the “Seize the Moment” campaign, committing himself to deliver this agenda. He announced his government’s commitment to invest US $200 million so at least 150,000 young farmers and young agriculture entrepreneurs can gain access to markets, finance and insurance.

ii. H.E. President Kagame stepped forward as the other initial champion of the “Seize the Moment” campaign. Building on his long-standing leadership in putting agricultural transformation at the center of Rwanda’s economic transformation and improvements in human well-being, President Kagame challenged the continent and other leaders around the world. He noted that, “We should not only seize the moment but continue momentum for transformation of agriculture and economies of our continent. Agriculture is not just one sector of the economy amongst others – it’s the backbone of the economy. We need to strengthen the involvement of other parts of the value chain, especially the private sector. Let’s have more action and less talk.”

7. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a global report entitled “A Food-Secure 2030” and set the tone for supporting Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda with its political and financial commitment through the Global Food Security Act, which is the largest development authorization the US Congress has made in a decade.

8. Other development partners including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the MasterCard Foundation, and the World Food Programme (WFP) recommitted and intensified their long-standing support for African agriculture.

9. A representative set of private sector partners including AGCO Corporation, Kenya Commercial Bank Group (KCB), Equity Bank, OCP Africa, UPL and Yara International ASA (Yara) committed to significant new investments to boost production for smallholder farmers and link them to lucrative agriculture value chains. Their work is expected to deliver, among other things, a major increase in financing for smallholder farmers and SME agribusinesses; an increase in use of seeds, fertilizers and other inputs; an increase in manufacturing capacity oriented around smallholder farmers; and the development of efficient and sustainable value chains, such as potatoes and pulses in East Africa.

10. Regional institutions led by the African Union Commission and NEPAD Agency committed to driving the CAADP biennial review process and implementing the scorecard on agricultural transformation for tracking progress in the “Seize the Moment” campaign and beyond.

11. The actions taken over the next 16 months until the January 2018 AU Summit will be critical to delivering on this agenda and contributing to achievement of the goals laid out in the Malabo Declaration. The AGRF partners intend to build on the momentum established at AGRF 2016 by developing a work plan that will tie together the most important moments and forums of the African agriculture community to secure further commitments to the “Seize the Moment” campaign and ensure progress.

12. The AGRF Partners Group concluded AGRF 2016 with an agreement that the 2017 AGRF will be co-hosted by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, AfDB and AGRA in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

— AGRF

IFAD concludes supervision mission

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) concluded its supervision mission of the Support to Farmers’ Organisations in Africa Programme (SFOAP) main phase to the southern African region on 24th August 2016. The main phase of SFOAP is implemented by the five Regional Farmers’ Organisations (RFOs) in Africa namely; Eastern African Farmers’ Federation (EAFF); the Plateforme Sous-Regionale des Organisations Paysannes d’Afrique Centrale (PROPAC); Reseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs agricoles de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA), and the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) and Union Maghrebine des Agriculteurs (UMNAGRI), as well as the Pan African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO). The overall goal of the program is to improve the livelihoods and food security situation of African smallholder farmers and rural producers. The purpose of the programme is to enable farmers’ organisations (FOs) evolve into stable, well-performing and accountable organisations that are able to effectively represent their members and advise farmers in their farming enterprises.

At regional level, the mission met with the SACAU President and the Secretariat. The mission also visited Namibia where consultations were held with the Namibia National Farmers’ Union (NNFU) Secretariat, the Ministries of Agriculture Water and Forestry, and of Land Reform, the Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB), the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA), Agribank, and the European Union delegation, amongst others.

Speaking at the wrap-up meeting at the end of the mission, Mr Nicolas Syed, the head of the supervision mission, expressed his satisfaction on the progress and the impact the programme has recorded in the region. Mr Syed said that following the field visits and consultations with FOs, national FOs (NFOs) and SACAU senior management, the team was satisfied with the progress made so far. “The activities implemented under the program have proven to be relevant and are responding to the needs of NFOs and local FOs, and have had a positive impact on farmers and their organisations, especially in terms of institutional strengthening”, said Mr. Syed. He also commended SACAU and participating NFOs for “the business entity approach” it has taken. He observed that this approach will ensure that NFOs are financially sustainable in the long run.

Additionally, the mission observed that the main challenge of the programme is to ensure that the NFOs and local FOs are in a position to continue their growth, and are capable of attracting financing from private and public sources, as well as from their own members. This is the area that SACAU needs to focus its effort on.

Namibian farmers intensify engagement with stakeholders

A recent visit by Mr Benito Eliasi, SACAU’s Capacity Development Advisor, to Namibia has revealed that mutual collaboration and coordination among stakeholders in the agricultural sector brings more benefits to farmers than a more confrontational approach.  The Namibian National Farmers’ Union (NNFU) has gone through transformation over the past two years.

The union has taken a collaborative approach with government and other stakeholders whereby they invite these players collectively or individually to a round tables and discuss issues affecting farmers and providing a chance for the stakeholders to present their views to farmers and provide information to them.

Mr Eliasi attended one of these forums and was impressed with the level of debate and openness exhibited by all the stakeholders. A number of issues from the implementation of the land resettlement policy, the impact of drought to communal farmers; high input costs, inadequate livestock markets, lack of infrastructure and financing of communal livestock farmers were discussed.

Parties at this particular forum were in agreement that communal farmers are not getting adequate feedback from government on the implementation of government programs.  On the other hand, the government officials and individuals from private sector institutions were able to inform farmers on the various programs, initiatives and interventions they are implementing in the communal areas. Most leaders were not aware of these programs. Government also bemoaned the lack of support from the leadership of NNFU in the implementation of government programs. The government indicated that the extension worker to farmers ratio is very high, making it difficult for all farmers to be reached with extension support. Thus working together with NNFU could partially address this challenge.

In addition, government and other private sector players including the Agribank of Namibia committed to work with farmers in improving the marketing of their livestock through establishment of community cooperatives. These cooperatives will assist farmers in ensuring that the superiority of Namibian meat in the international market is maintained and that standards and food safety measures are adhered to by all farmers.

The NNFU CEO, Mr Musho Mwilima, informed Mr Eliasi that the attitude of other stakeholders towards NNFU has tremendously changed because of their approach and he advised other farmers’ organisations to collaborate with stakeholders including their respective governments. However, his advice was that farmers need to be aware of what they want and that they should have undisputable evidence and facts backing their views and positions. This will make other stakeholders listen and respect their views.

Farmers’ organisations work to drive uptake of conservation agriculture

União Províncal de Camponeses de Manica (UCAMA) and Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) have been supporting farmers to scale up Conservation Agriculture (CA) in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, respectively. As the key implementing partners of a project titled “Facilitating Farmer-led Scaling-up of Conservation Agriculture in Southern Africa” which is funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation(NORAD) through SACAU, small-scale farmers across both countries have been exposed to various technical, socio-economic and environmental benefits of CA since the beginning of 2013 at the start of the project.

The approach followed by the project has been through a “Lead Farmer” approach, with the aim being to directly train and mentor lead farmers who will become “trainers” and advocates of CA in their neighborhoods. The project is scheduled to end in May 2017 and the past years have focused on improving the competencies of lead farmers, extension officers, teachers and school-based Young Farmer Clubs (YFCs). All lead farmers, teachers and extension officers were taken through intensive training, including a review of the previous season as part of building onto its successes and learning from past mistakes. Promotional and cross-learning activities through field days, learning visits and field evaluations by farmers and trainers were also undertaken throughout the project. This has led to the project achieving a number of achievements, which have been celebrated, including increasing yields for CA farmers. This has been particularly notable in Mozambique, where the national average for maize production is 0.7 tons per hectare under conventional tillage, with the project achieving anything from 2 to 3 tons per hectare. This has been seen on the demonstration plots which have been established by the lead farmers, as well the farmers who they have come to mentor.

To ensure sustainability and sufficient on-going support for the farmers participating in the project, it has become increasingly important to focus on consolidating the achievements which have been attained on an annual basis. The SACAU Secretariat together with coordinators from the two project countries had a planning session which amongst others looked at activities undertaken in the previous year and on how to consolidate the gains of the past years in the remaining period of the project.

One of the key activities as concluded in the planning meeting will include ongoing efforts to identify new stakeholders who can be partnered with in an attempt to reach more farmers to ensure that they are exposed to CA. Some of the partnerships the project has made since inception include input suppliers, research institutions, training and extension services as well as government. These relationships have been crucial in affording the project the awareness it has realised and given the project’s ambition to continue reaching and training more farmers. The meeting also allowed the team to iron out any challenges which they’ve experienced in the past year to ensure that the project would move ahead smoothly.

Farmers Union of Malawi advocates for improvements in market access for farmers

Opening Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) held its 12th Annual Congress and Policy Conference, Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Hon. Dr. George Chaponda, MP; stressed the importance of understanding the country’s comparative advantage within the tripartite free trade area. The Minister went on to state that political will, patriotism, integrity and hard work were critical ingredients for ending hunger soon. The conference which was themed “Farming for markets and developments: partnerships for increasing farmer productivity, market access and incomes” was held in Lilongwe, Malawi on 09th and 10th August 2016. SACAU’s CEO, Mr Ishmael Sunga, also attended the conference.

The conference explored various subjects such as building resilient farming systems for commercial agriculture; enhancing productivity, production and agro-processing through mechanisation; enhancing agricultural marketing, and linkages between financial institutions and farmers as well as the impact of standards on trade. In his opening remarks, FUM’s CEO, Mr Prince Kapondamgaga, stressed the need for the country to build its export capacity, and called for a shared vision and commitment between farmers and the private sector to drive agriculture into the future. The FUM President, Mr Alfred Kapichira Banda, appreciated the excellent working relationship between the Union and the government.

Delegates shared views on what needs to happen to transform agriculture. Good leadership at all levels was said to be critical for faster transformation of the sector, and it was motivated that farmers should have title to the land on which they farm. Calls were also made for government to not intervene in the market, for farmers to act with integrity and honesty and not seek to cheat the market, and for transparency amongst all players in the market. The use of cashflow-based lending instead of collateral-based lending was applauded as a good idea. This would help with access to finance which still remains one of the greatest impediments to agricultural transformation. Finally, delegates were cautioned not to make mechanisation synonymous with tractors – “mechanisation is appropriate technology”.

SACAU Newsletter, March 2016

Click here to download the SACAU News, March 2016