Tuesday, 8 April 2014

President of IFAD receives FARA Executive Director

The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Dr Kanayo Nwanze hosted the Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Dr Yemi Akinbamijo in his Rome Office on Monday 7th April 2014 during a courtesy call of the latter.

Both heads of institution discussed amongst others the modalities of increasing the collaboration between FARA and IFAD. FARA Executive Director expressed appreciation for the support provided by IFAD in support of the elaboration of the Science Agenda for African Agriculture (S3A) and acceptance by President Nwanze to serve as a member of the FARA High Level Advocacy Panel (HiLAP) – a group of eminent Africans (under the chairmanship of H.E Dr Jean Ping) tasked with the responsibility of strengthening advocacy, visibility and resource mobilization for FARA and the SROs.

FARA recognizes the very strong impact of IFAD’s contribution to the Africa’s agricultural development strategy and in particular the support it has received from IFAD within the context of the CAADPs Agricultural Science Agenda Workstream. It will also be recalled that President Nwanze was instrumental to the establishment and evolution of FARA as the Chairman of the group that helped transform SPAAR (FARA’s predecessor) into FARA. Most recently, President Nwanze serves as FARA patron and Chair of the Expert Panel Commissioned to develop the Science Agenda.

The visit was the first official visit of the FARA Executive Director since assuming office in July 2013.

PAEPARDII: Two Consortium agreements signed for PAEPARDII 4 Years Extension (4YE) granted by the European Commission (EC)

On 3rd and 4th April, 2014 the Platform for African European Partnership on Agricultural Research for Development (PAEPARD) Steering Committee (CA) met at FARA Secretariat in Accra, Ghana for its ordinary year meeting. The main objective of the meeting was to sign consortium agreement for the additional 4 years extension granted by the EC; validate the technical and financial reports for year 4 of PAEPARD implementation; approve the work plan and budget for year 5; and approve the nomination of the Independent Peer Review Committee (IPRC) needed for the assessment and selection of proposals from consortia and platforms responding to the Competitive Research Fund and Incentive Fund ( CRF/IF) also granted by the EC for 4 years.

All these objectives were achieved during the meeting. Two Consortium Agreements were signed by all partners present with the EC representative as an observer.
These are the Addendum to the existing Consortium agreement to cover the 4 years extension and a new Consortium agreement to set into operation the CRF/IF fund, granted to PAEPARD by the EC under Grant Contract DCI- FOOD/2013/308-657

The Steering Committee is the highest organ of the project. It provides overall oversight of the project and makes sure the project responds to the development goals of the two continents. It provides technical advice to the consortium as well. It is held once a year and composed of the heads of institutions that signed the Consortium Agreement:
African members of the SC: FARA, RUFORUM, PAFO, FANRPAN

AEPARD II is an eight-year (2009-2017) project registered to the EC under DCI-FOOD2009/200-228 with 80.29% from the European Commission and 19.71% from partners as own contribution. FARA is the lead partner that signed the Contract Agreement with the EC on the 16 December 2009 and amended in an Addendum on 15/12/2013.

PAEPARD II aims at building joint African-European multi-stakeholder partnerships in agricultural research for development (ARD) contributing to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). On the European side, the partners are AGRINATURA, COLEACP (representing the private sector), CSA (representing the NGOs) and ICRA, specialised in capacity building in ARD. The overall action of European partners in the project is coordinated by AGRINATURA through its secretariat.

The African partners include the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), Le Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et des Producteurs de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA), the Plateforme Régionale des Organisations des Producteurs de l’Afrique Centrale (PROPAC). All these organizations are members of PAFO for which they are currently standing in for. PAFO is leading the work package Innovation Partnerships. The African partners also include Food Agriculture Natural Resources and Policy Analysis (FANRPAN) that co-leads the work package Communication and Advocacy and The Regional Universities Forum for capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) which leads the WP capacities in PAEPARDII.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Stimulating Collective Action to Scale-up Climate Smart Agriculture (SCA) Practices in Africa

A well-attended back-to-back CSA and FS CSA workshop kicked off at the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, Kenya today 31st March 2014. The workshop is co-organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the NEPADPlanning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF). The workshop will run from the 31st March to 4th April 2014.
The purpose of the workshop is to stimulate collective action to leverage political (policy), technical and financing support to grass-root, national and regional-level programmes and initiatives to scale-up the adoption of climate smart agriculture (CSA) practices in defined farming systems in Africa. The workshop brings together over 60 experts from 15 countries, sub-regional, regional and international organizations working on climate change issues as they affect agriculture.

A statement delivered at the opening ceremony on behalf of the Executive Director of FARA, Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo noted that Climate Change is an important global externality that calls for a global collective action and that Africa is already experiencing the impacts of climate change that are expected to become more severe. In the coming years, many African countries are likely to experience more severe droughts and declines in water supply, which would further aggravate food shortages on the continent. The statement pointed out that from a research perspective, Climate Smart Agriculture as a solution, should be an integral part of Africa’s economic transformation process. It noted further that there is need to generate data and research outputs to support evidence-based policies that promote adoption of CSA practices; and that the increase in production expected from adoption of CSA should be driven by sound strategic analysis and foresight, enhanced CSA capacity building and an enabling policy environment for implementation of CSA initiatives.

Participants at the workshop are expected to discuss the relationship between evolving Climate Smart Agriculture and Africa’s economic transformation; discuss local political economy factors and drivers that promote or hinder the adoption of CSA practices; deliberate on the effectiveness of CSA policies and how they could be improved through evidence-based policy design; examine successful CSA initiatives, reasons for success, lessons learned and options on how they can be up- and out-scaled. Participants are also expected to develop a framework for a common African-aligned application of CSA as well as agree on a set of guidelines to identify and measure the implementation of CSA in Africa.

Before closing his statement, the Executive Director expressed FARA’s appreciation to the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation for funding the project on Research to Support Accelerated Scaling of Climate Smart Agriculturethat FARA and its partners are currently implementing.

Monday, 31 March 2014

The Sorghum Value Chain Development Consortium (SVCDC) UniBRAIN Incubator launched in Kenya.

The Sorghum Value Chain Development Consortium was launched on 14th March 2014 at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Nairobi, Kenya. The SVCDC is aimed at expanding the band in use of sorghum as food, feed, fuel and fibre. It is among the six incubators under the UniBRAIN programme targeting agribusiness minded farmer groups, disadvantaged groups such as women and youth and graduates with potential entrepreneurship skills to start up agribusinesses.

In attendance was Mrs. Sicily Kariuki (Principal Secretary Ministry of Agriculture Kenya), Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo (the Executive Director FARA), Dr. William Dar (Director General ICRISAT) and Mr. Alex Ariho (FARA-UniBRAIN Facility Coordinator) among others.

During the event 18 trainers of trainees in gender mainstreaming in agribusiness received certificates.

During the launching ceremony, Sicily Kariuki indicated the commitment of the Kenyan government in agribusiness promotion for transformation of agriculture. She indicated the central role that government plays in value chain development targeted at specific crops such as sorghum as avenues for food security promotion and improving farmers’ livelihoods.In addressing the launch attendees, Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo stressed on the need for agricultural commercialization for Africa; “we need not produce more prototypes, but need to market what we have already made,” he said. He also emphasized that agricultural transformation is a strategy for writing the future for Africa; “our history as Africans is well behind us, our future is unwritten.” He concluded.

As for the UniBRAIN facility coordinator, Dr Alex Ariho, he underlined the importance of tertiary education and research more relevant to business development in Africa for economic transformation. He insisted that the best way to predict the future is to invest today; “agriculture in Africa should no longer be looked at as a development issue but as business.” He pointed out.

He was particularly grateful to the support of partners such as ICRISAT, ASARECA, CORAF, CCARDESA, PanAAC, ANAFE and national governments, financial institutions, African farmers, NGOS in promoting agribusiness development in Africa.

As a way for fast tracking agricultural transformation in Africa, the SVCDC launch concluded noting the importance of:
Agribusiness promotion through agribusiness incubation
Tertiary agribusiness education and research
Linkages and strategic engagement of private sector
Mobile phone technology usage

UniBRAIN pioneers a new approach to promoting agricultural innovation and improving tertiary agribusiness education in Africa.

The UniBRAIN initiative promotes innovation by improving the flow of technology and knowledge by removing barriers between actors in the value chains. It is the synergy and linkage between the diverse actors that catalyzes and drives innovations. UniBRAIN links university education, research and business in sustainable agriculture.

Friday, 28 March 2014

10th CAADP Partnership Platform brief: Goals, Actions and Targets Proposed for the Science Agenda

The Pre-CAADP PP and main sessions on the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa organized by FARA in Durban on 18th March, 2014 gathered about 100 participants from the continent and beyond. 
Participants emphasized that Africa needs to take advantage of advances in science and technology to increase the pace of achieving the required agricultural productivity and competitiveness that will ensure food and nutrition security, gender equality, increased incomes, reduced poverty and increased resilience to shocks. that the meeting exhibited the formidable AR4D coalition of actors; (ASARECA, CORAF/WECARD, CCARDESA, NASRO, RUFORUM, ANAFE, AFAAS, PANGOC, PanAAC, PAFO, AFAPP, NARS, CGIAR) committed to the implementation of the Science Agenda towards ensuring achievement of the CAADP goals at the country and regional levels within the current results framework of the “Sustaining the CAADP Momentum”. 
The sessions on the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa were organized in plenary and working groups. 
After discussions and deliberations, participants came up with the following short, medium and long term goals as well as the related actions and targets for the Science Agenda.
Short term goalIncrease domestic public and private sector spending and create the enabling environment for sustainable application of science for agriculture.
Medium term goal: Build basic science capacity at national and regional levels with special attention to the youth and women.  
Long term goal: Double the current level of Agricultural Total Factor Productivity (ATFP) by 2025 through application of science for agriculture. 
Actions and targets for short term goal: 
  1. Adopt the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa as the principal vehicle and framework for operationalizing the AR4D component of the Sustaining the CAADP Momentum
  2. Develop and implement country specific strategies and operational plans for implementing the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa; 
  3. Establish an African Science for Agriculture Transformation Fund (ASATF), in consultation with key African financial institutions (e.g. the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)), a funding mechanism for science, technology and innovation to mobilize additional resources for purposes of up-scaling successful agricultural innovations in Africa.
  4. Increase national budgetary allocations for science and innovation for agriculture
  5. Set up Chairs in universities as vehicles for attracting investment from the private sector
  6. Promote the adoption of IAR4D through the development of functional innovation platforms at country level;
  1. Country specific strategies and operational plans for implementing the Science Agenda for Agriculture developed and implemented in 10 countries by 2016
  2. Establish an African Science for Agriculture Transformation Fund (ASATF), by 2016
  3. Double national budgetary allocations for science and innovation for agriculture by 2018
  4. Set up Chairs in universities as vehicles for attracting investment from the private sector by 2016
  5. Innovation platforms set up in 15 country level by 2016; 
Actions and targets for medium term goal: 
  1. Mobilize collective action to take advantage of science and technology in resolving common problems across member states and building the basic science capacities;
  2. Develop and mainstream a framework for human capital formation in science, technology and agri-prenuership in schools, colleges, vocational institutions and universities
  3. Support regional mobility programmes 
  1. Regional mobility programmes for research, extension and education established and functional by 2024.
  2. Identifying and prioritizing common regional and continental interventions for collective action by 2024. 
  3. Develop and mainstream a framework for science, technology and agri-prenuership in schools, colleges, vocational institutions and universities by 2018
  4. Identifying and prioritizing common regional and continental interventions for collective action by 2024. 
Actions and targets for long term goal: 
  1. Develop appropriate technologies, policies and institutional innovations for increasing total factor productivity
  2. Promote access to and use of factors of production including new varieties and breeds, inputs  by end users
  3. Promote access to more efficient local, national, regional and international markets for increasing total factor productivity
  1. Appropriate technologies, policies and institutional innovations for all commodities available for use by 2024
  2. Factors of production including new varieties and breeds, inputs  accessible to at least 50% of end users by 2024
  3. More efficient local, national, regional and international markets available to at least 50% of end users by 2024
The Science Agenda outcomes from the 10th CAADP PP provide the critical step towards preparations for the Ministerial meeting and the Heads of State Summit in June. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Breakthrough in Agricultural Research and Development: Integrated Agricultural Research for Development

On 18th March, 2014, a big crowd witnessed the launch of the book titledMaximizing Impact from Agricultural Research: Potential of the IAR4D Concept, at the International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa. This was at the opening of the meeting marking the 10th anniversary of CAADP.

The book contains the report of the proof that IAR4D using Innovation Platforms works better than conventional approaches in the generation, dissemination and adoption of technologies for increased food security, poverty reduction and the protection of the integrity of the environment.

The launching ceremony was chaired by Dr Jean ping, Chairperson of the FARA High Level Advocacy Panel (HiLAP), assisted by Dr Mark Holderness, the Executive Director of GFAR, Dr. Benard Rey, representative of the European Commission, and Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director of FARA.

‘As you take this book, you should not just keep it on your shelf, but you should read it and spread it’’ said Dr. Ping in his address.

‘We are happy to associate ourselves with FARA in the work’, said Dr Holdernes in his address at the launch, adding ‘we should work together to get the IAR4D approach disseminated to other parts of the world by working with other regional organizations’.

After the book was officially launched the crowd rushed to the table each onegrabbing his copy. Dr Ping autographed the book for tens of participants.

About the book

The acknowledged poor performance of traditional ARD approaches led the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) to suggest the Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D) as an approach to enable agricultural research play more effective roles in catalysing development, by embracing a broader system of agricultural innovation that will facilitate interaction and enhance the flow of knowledge among all key actors in agricultural systems and value chains. FARA developed a programme around the concept of IAR4D and this was accepted by the CGIAR as the Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Programme (SSA CP).

The focus of SSA CP is to facilitate substantially greater impact from agricultural research for development (ARD), leading to improved rural livelihoods, increasedfood security, and sustainable natural resource management throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Through the SSA CP, IAR4D is being implemented in three Pilot Learning Sites (PLS) across the continent with the central aim of reversing the underperformance of agricultural research in Africa. Specifically, this is being done by developing, testing (proving whether it works) and scaling out/up an approach for conducting agricultural research for development in Africa, which overcomes the shortcomings of conventional approaches. Each PLS defines the domain within which the project’s research sites are sampled. This study is focused on the three PLSs that made up the SSA CP.

With clearly defined outputs in mind, the SSA CP was mandated by the Science Council (SC) of the CGIAR to commence a proof of the concept research phase, with the aim of answering three vital questions as to the relevance and effectiveness of IAR4D in delivering developmental benefits and its relative performance when compared with conventional approaches in promoting impact.

These questions were as follows:

• Does the IAR4D work?

• Does the IAR4D deliver more benefits than the conventional R&D if given the same environment and resources? And

• Can the IAR4D be scaled up and out?

These questions were the motivation for this book which documents a study on the concept of integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D).

Reports from the study show that with IAR4D using Innovation Platforms the time has come for a real transformation of the agricultural sector.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

FARA Champions the Discussion on Agricultural Research and Development at the Brazil-Africa Leadership Forum 2013

The South-South partnership is fast becoming vital to the development of the Africa continent in the coming years; this is in the light of the emerging development of these regions and growing trade between Africa and the countries in the South. Africa seems to stand at the center of the manifold increase in the BRICS trade in the last ten years as the BRICS countries now trade more with Africa than with each other.Brazil is gradually becoming a vital strategic partner in the Africa developmental issues, such as agriculture, infrastructure and technical cooperation. The well-known old similarities between Brazil and Africa in terms of culture, development circumstances, agricultural situation etc., make the country a more potent source of lesson and partnership for the Africa continent. The development of agriculture in Brazil has been attributed to the countries concerted efforts towards investments in sector towards research for generation of relevant technologies, infrastructural development and supportive policies.The Brazil-Africa leadership forum for 2013, was organized by the Financial Times Live, on the 27th of November 2013, the forum assembled leading trade, finance, business and agricultural research and development experts to discuss the future of Brazil-Africa trade and cooperation. The forum also examined the activities of the government of both continents towards trade policies that drives economic development around the prime sectors. The agricultural sector is considered as a key sector driving development in the two continents; issues around how the Brazil success in the agricultural sector can inform Africa agricultural transformation drive was examined in a panel discussion. FARA representative alongside with the representatives of Standard Bank of Africa, IFAD and Pinesso Group participated in the session.Africa agriculture stands as a “Bundle of Potentials” that are yet to be unlocked, unlocking the potentials will require all it takes to make Africa agriculture yield its contribution to national economy growth and the wellbeing of Africa majority that depends on it for their livelihood. While the spate of agricultural technologies remains an issue for urgent attention, there are many institutional and infrastructural issues that would still limits benefits from the best technologies if they are not addressed. The on-going strategic alliance program between Brazil and Africa on agriculture named “Africa-Brazil Innovation Market Place” has fostered series of collaboration between Africa researchers and Brazilian researcher from EMBRAPA. This has led to exchange of germplasm, technologies and different production and processing techniques. The projects within this partnership have generated a handful of successes that could be scaled-up and out for the benefits of more farmers in Africa. However, Africa will benefits a lot better from this strategic alliance if it’s debilitating infrastructure deficit could find a solution within this strategic alliance, especially if it could draw the attention of the Brazilian investors in bridging the financing gap for infrastructure development in Africa.Apparently, the growth of Africa agriculture will be driving by its growing middle class population which had its height of 33% in 2012. The demand for more processed commodities will increase compared to raw commodities, while the supermarket mode of retailing agricultural food commodities will also grow.  This projection could be satisfied either by importation of the processed and packaged commodities or a response from within Africa to develop its commodity value chain. The latter is the best for the continent and could be achieved by development of infrastructure, acquisition of needed technologies for post-harvest processing and provision of affordable financing for the willing investors.Possibly, the share of Africa in agricultural commodity trade at the global level is very low compared to other continents in the short run; it may increase in the medium term, if the necessary investments are made to support the sector. But it will surely increase steadily in the long term based on reported availability of 60% of the available arable land in Africa.The efforts of FARA to foster the development of agriculture on the continent have generated a number of initiatives that could fast-track the development of the sector. The debut IAR4D concept has been proven to foster quick and higher returns from agricultural research and development efforts; while its Innovative Fund for Agricultural transformation (IFAT) has projected an innovative mechanism for extension of affordable credit to transform the smallholders to small scale enterprises. As it relates to the developing appropriate technologies, FARA is working with all stakeholders in Africa agriculture to develop the Africa Agricultural Science Agenda; this is expected to drive the direction of the Africa agricultural research for development. The role of Brazil-Africa collaboration is vital and a positive partner that is willing to aid the Africa agricultural development.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Empowering youth in agriculture

The following post was written by Marina Cherbonnier, Web and Communications Officer of the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD)  The post first appeared on YPARD blog earlier this week and was originally titled as “Big Thanks to Youth Supporters.”

Agriculture is an ageing and undervalued profession for which there is a declining interest among young people. Youth, as key stakeholders in the future of agricultural research for development, must not only be involved but also empowered.

“The road is long towards full inclusion of young professionals into strategic international actions for agricultural development.But the adventure enables you to meet and work with outstanding people who understand the critical role youth play for sustainable development. It is time to celebrate youth supporters and look at the achievement made together so far.”
GCARD2, 2012, represented a milestone for making youth voices stronger at key agricultural research for development (ARD) events. Through our collaboration with GFAR and the CGIAR, more than 25 young professionals from YPARD were involved in discussions through social reporting of the global conference. Our team truly made agriculture cool again!
Enrica Porcari of the CGIAR was key to making this happen. In 2010 at GCARD1, while YPARD was involved in a side event with 40 young researchers, Enrica was already trying to get the youth involved into bringing ARD messages beyond the doors of the conference room.  She also worked to make it a capacity development exercise. GCARD2 Youth Social Reporting Programme is the “ripe fruit” of her efforts.
The GCARD2 as a process catalyzing action goes beyond a one-time event. One month after the conference, a series of initiatives generated by young professionals was born as a result of their experience at the GCARD2.
The freshly wrapped-up AASW6 – 6th African Agriculture Science Week, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research for Africa (FARA), also gave a chance to more than 40 young people to yet again experience the power of social media for ARD for youth to get a voice. The participation of these young people was made possible by the collaboration of FARA, CTA, CGIAR, GFAR and YPARD.
It is our pride to see one of the GCARD2 young social reporters at the heart of the initiative to replicate the magic formula for the AASW6: Idowu Ejere, the Communications and Public Awareness Officer at FARA. She was supported by Sam Mikenga, Media Coordinator at CTA, Marina Cherbonnier, from YPARD and Peter Casier from CGIAR, the knowledge broker and utmost inspiring social media coordinator who undertook the coordination of the social reporting experience  at GCARD2 and AASW6. The encouragement and support from Prof. Monty Jones, immediate past Executive Director of FARA and Dr. Michael Hailu, Director of CTA made the social media initiative possible.
This is one very concrete success story of “GCARD as a process and not a mere conference” – as asserted by GFAR; we can tangibly see the progress made for youth empowerment through the collaborative work of ARD organisations!
Yes, young professionals are full of capacity. Give them a chance to take responsibility and you will see the positive impact!
We couldn’t have such a range of action without the support of experienced people and key organisations willing to give the little push to get young professionals on board. We want to thank them for listening to and opening the doors for us.
While there is continuous effort to provide opportunities for youth to be recognized and involved as an equal stakeholder in the implementation of ARD actions, it is our duty to take responsibility to make sure it happens.
“AASW6 over; what’s next?” Stay posted!
The following post was written by Marina Cherbonnier, Web and Communications Officer of the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD)  The post first appeared on YPARD blog earlier this week and was originally titled as “Big Thanks to Youth Supporters.”
Visit the Events page for more information on the CGIAR Consortium’s involvement  in supporting youth in agriculture through social media and other efforts.
Photo credit: cc: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

FARA Supports a Consultative Dialogue on the Path to Prosperity in Sierra Leone

The economy of the Republic of Sierra Leone has for a long time been tied to investments in the mining sector with emphasis on diamonds, bauxite and iron ore. With more than 60% of the population deriving a living from an agricultural sector that is blessed with abundant arable land, water and a favorable climate, agriculture offers the best prospects for achieving economic development. The Government has therefore embarked on an Agenda for Prosperity that is strongly aligned to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP); which is the vision of African Heads of State and Government for transforming the agricultural sector. The agenda calls for diversification of the economic base and repositioning of agriculture as the pivot along with fisheries, tourism and industry to drive the economic development of the country. 

Transformation of the agricultural sector calls for the strengthening of science, environment, technology and innovations as the key drivers of the agricultural growth required for wealth creation and poverty reduction. The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is supporting the Government’s efforts to bring science, technology and innovation to bear on agricultural development of the country. 
In collaboration with the Office of the President of Sierra Leone, the World Bank, FAO and CORAF/WECARD, FARA is supporting a three-day consultative dialogue organized at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown, Sierra Leone from 11 – 14 November, 2013. The dialogue is intended to set the vision for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in promoting agriculture, fisheries and industrial development in Sierra Leone. Welcoming participants to the dialogue, the Special Adviser to the President of Sierra Leone and Ambassador at Large, Prof. Monty Jones underscored the need to place science, technology and innovation at the forefront of agriculture, fisheries and industrial development of Sierra Leone. Opening the three-day dialogue, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma called on all participants to come up with concrete suggestions on the type of science and technology that is required to transform agriculture, fisheries and agro-industrial development of the country. 
Delivering a statement on behalf of FARA, the Executive Director Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo noted that the dialogue on visioning for environment, science, technology and innovation is congruent with FARA’s new strategic orientation. As a continent-wide forum, FARA’s role is to support its constituents in strategic analysis and foresight so that they can determine the type of agriculture that they want; build their capacity to develop agriculture; and help establish the appropriate policy environment for a highly productive and competitive agricultural sector. All of these, he said, are part of the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) that FARA and its partners including the SROs, IFAD, CGIAR, World Bank are currently developing as one of the five work streams of the Dublin process.

To promote experience sharing and learning from the Sierra Leone case, FARA is supporting the participation of CAADP country focal persons from other West African countries. Apart from supporting the dialogue, FARA has also assisted the institutional reforms of the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) and is currently implementing the region-wide initiatives on the Dissemination of New Agricultural Technologies (DONATA) and the Regional Agricultural Information and Learning Systems (RAILS) in Sierra Leone. Through FARA’s interventions, Sierra Leone has adopted the Innovation Platform (IP) and Innovative Fund for Agricultural Transformation (IFAT) concepts. It is worth noting that through these concepts, we now see a Sierra Leone brand of rice not only on the shelves of many supermarkets in the country, but also being exported to neighboring countries. 

FARA’s resolve is to continue to advocate for policies that lead to increased investments in agriculture and agricultural research for development in particular, as this is a necessary condition for increasing agricultural productivity and competitiveness in Africa.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Though the African continent is undergoing significantly positive reforms and macroeconomic metamorphosis, its share of total regional trade comprises a mere 12 per cent in 2010. In fact, the continent lags behind other regions in terms of export diversification, and is actually gravitating towards further concentration in its export commodities. The general trend over the last decade is one of gradual move towards less diversification for Africa.
Against this background, in January 2012, the African Union Summit of African Heads of State and Government endorsed the theme of ‘Boosting Intra-African Trade’, paving the way towards fast-tracking a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA)[1] with a tentative timeframe of 2017. The Summit which also recognized the low level of trade between African countries, called upon Member States, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the African Union Commission (AUC) to promote industrial development policy and value addition in order to diversify African economies and thereby move away from heavy reliance on traditional primary exports.
There are copious evidences on the direct relationship between export diversification[2] and growth dynamics (UNECA and AUC, 2007, 2011; Karingi and Spence, 2011). Kilnger and Lederman (2006) and Cadot, Carrere and Strauss-Khan (2008) discuss that the process of diversification (as opposed to export growth) in low income countries is driven by inside the frontier innovation (emulations) and extensive expansion, suggesting that African countries should undertake new export activities if it is to succeed in diversifying its exports, but that they should be in industries in which there is already existing expertise.
In fact, some countries have struggled to diversify and orientate into new sectors due to rising commodity prices which subsequently results in an ever increasing concentration of exports, enclave economies and Dutch disease syndrome[3]. Further, countries such as Mozambique, Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which experienced conflicts and negative diversification prospects in the past, are currently exhibiting positive diversification outcomes in more stable years.
The traditional strategy of export promotion which focuses on the international marketing of final goods appears increasingly inappropriate for African economies, but the adoption of different routes to diversification which could include resource-based manufacturing and processing of primary products. Africa needs to promote diversification by strengthening regional markets, competitiveness and economic integration. In other words, African countries need to diversify their total exports bases in order to foster better market access conditions, together with increased productivity in traditional and non-traditional crops. The creation and facilitation of such trade, and its diversification, foster economic transformation, and also reduces the risk from concentrating in very small numbers of agricultural export commodities.
Gbadebo Odularu
Policy and Markets Analyst, FARA

[1] The need to enhance intra-African trade among African countries led to the formation of the EAC-COMESA-SADC   (East African Community; Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa  and the Southern Africa Development Community)  tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) as well as the proposed 2017 Continental FTA (CFTA) between Cairo and Cape Town. The tripartite agreement is expected to enable participating economies take full advantage of the economies of scale and other benefits (such as income and employment generation) of greater market integration.
[2] Export diversification is the expansion of exports due to new products—extensive margin—or export more of current products—intensive margin. Amurgo-Pacheco and Pierola (2008) provide a useful narrower definition by introducing a geographic dimension which precise that intensive margin is the expansion of exports based on existing products to existing export markets.
[3]  Dutch Disease theory states that a ‘resource export boom has an inherent tendency to distort the structure of production in favour of the non-traded goods sector vis-à-vis the sectors producing the non-booming tradeables. The Syndrome originates from the experience of the Netherlands after its 1960’s natural gas and oil discovery, which resulted in an export boom and balance of payments surplus for the Dutch economy

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Policy Options for Improving the Management of Natural Resources Booms in Africa

The revenue accruable from agriculture as well as the oil mineral sectors portends bright and promising socio-economic prospects for Africa. Africa’s agricultural and oil-blessed economies could contribute individually and collectively to promoting positive structural transformation and also address poverty, inequality and youth unemployment by capitalizing on their resource endowments and high international commodity prices. Against this background, increasing number of African countries have continued to experience economic growth over the past two decades, partly due to their commitment to achieving the CAADP objectives, as well as the unprecedented inflows of foreign direct investments (FDI) to the strategic sectors of their economies. According to the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2012, investment in extractive industries remains the most important driver of FDI to African countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, Mozambique and Uganda. Further inflows to Mozambique, for example, doubled to USD5.2 billion, attracted by the country’s huge offshore gas deposits. The discovery of gas reserves in the United Republic of Tanzania and oil fields in Uganda drew increased FDI to East Africa, expanding the value from USD4.5 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion in 2012. By implication, natural resources (including agriculture-related) are still the mainstay of FDI flows in Africa, though FDI in consumer-oriented manufacturing, agro-allied and services are beginning to climb, reflecting the growing purchasing power of Africa’s emerging middle class. Invariably, these Greenfield investments (investment in businesses or economic sectors that are new to a given recipient country) partly reinforces the role of diversification policies as levers for economic transformation in Africa. However, poverty is still quite high and governance institutions remain pathologically weak, thereby, undermining the capacity of the regional economy to manage its oil wealth and agricultural booms in an accountable and transparent manner. In fact, Africa’s growth has been non-inclusive and highly characterised by insufficient poverty reduction, persistent unemployment, increased income inequalities and political tyrannism. At the 2012 UNECA Eighth African Development Forum (ADF-VIII) on Governing and Harnessing Natural Resources for Africa’s Development, during the roundtable on ‘mineral resources for Africa’s development: anchoring a new vision’, it was emphasised that Africa should have a vision that dispels the misconception of linking Africa with resource curse.’ In other words, natural resources and agricultural booms should stimulate blessings rather than invoke curses on Africa. A strategic policy dialogue should be organized in order to identify the conditions under which oil rents will be efficiently collected in order for it to positively transform African economy. According to the 2013 AfDB African Economic Outlook, this dialogue should build on the following two key pillars: (i) how to maximise the utilization of the oil revenue collection while ensuring predictability of outcomes and an adequate rate of returns on investments; (ii) how to develop, establish and strengthen oil revenue management, institutions and governance, such that, managing revenue volatility should be based on the adoption of transparency and accountability tools.
Gbadebo Odularu

Friday, 26 July 2013

Mobile network operators have much to gain from agriculture

Ghana's six mobile network operators have been slow to take advantage of agricultural value chains in the promotion of mobile services.
Ghana’s six mobile network operators have been slow to take advantage of agricultural value chains in the provision of mobile services.
Visit Ghana and ask for the phone number of any ordinary person on the street, and most likely you’ll be given the option of two or three different mobile network operators (MNOs) to choose from. Ghana has 19 million cell phone subscribers for its over 24 million inhabitants — an impressive proportion — most of whom subscribe to more than one operator. 
Ghana is one of Africa’s most vibrant and innovative communications markets. It launched the first cellular mobile network in sub-Saharan Africa in 1992, and was one of the first countries on the continent to be connected to the Internet and introduce ADSL services. A market leader in terms of liberalization and deregulation, Ghana Telecom in 1996.
Ghana is serviced by six MNOs, including: Scancom (MTN) with 50% of the market share; Millicom (Tigo), 21%; Vodafone Mobile, 18%; Bharti Airtel, 10%; and Expresso and Glo, the most recent additions with the smallest market shares.
In mid-2010 the voice market reached more than 70% penetration, but huge potential still exists for the 3G broadband services that were launched in 2009.

Mobile services

In terms of economic impact, the telecoms sector has contributed significantly to the country’s increase in GDP over the past twenty years and there is still massive room for growth. The question, then, is how many of these businesses have ever rolled out an innovation to support agriculture?
Value-added services such as mobile money have created jobs in the telecommunications and banking sectors as well as for the more than 4000 merchants in Ghana’s mobile money system. MTN’s Mobile Money was the first mobile or branchless banking  initiative in the country and operates in partnership with nine of Ghana’s banks. They currently have more than two million active users and MTN expects this number to grow through the education of subscribers on the benefits of switching from cash payments to electronic ones.
But outreach activities rarely address the needs of our smallholder farmers. Is it because MNOs consider farmers to be poor to use the services, or perhaps not sufficiently savvy on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)?

Operator Risks

Risks factors for mobile banking operators come in the form of strategic, reputational, compliance and operational risks. Operators need to keep a close eye on their outsourced providers, ensuring their activities are consistent with the overall strategic goals of the regulated entity — a task that may not be easy in the isolated, rural areas where most of our smallholders are located.
The same is true of reputational threats, which come in the form of poor service via third-party agents or consumer experiences that are inconsistent with the overall standards of the operator. Operators may have difficulties with ensuring that privacy, consumer and prudential laws are complied with at all times.
Operational risks are usually the biggest risk to operators. Technology failure, human error, cyber fraud, agent fraud, insecurity and unreliability of services and lack of customer education are just a number of factors that put operators at risk when lending their services to all users, smallholder farmers included.

Operator benefits and Africa’s booming mobile market

With so many potential risks, what are the incentives for getting involved in mobile services?
The simple answer is to have the ability to reach millions of new customers and offer a multitude of services from bank loans to account payments. Or, let’s not forget, to supply vital agricultural updates that could improve the quality of lives of millions of people and assist in the economic growth of many countries.
The rapid growth of the mobile market across Africa has had a positive impact on the continent’s economic growth. As the telecommunication sector grows, jobs are created not just within the MNOs, but also for their agents and supply chain partners.
Local businesses are benefiting from mobile banking as payments are easily made in the business to business and business to customer arena. Mobile application development has resulted in initiatives which have a massive effect on agriculture, medicine and the non-profit sector.
My worry is this: During the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) conference held recently  in Accra, Ghana, over 90 booths were sponsored by exhibitors attempting to speak to the theme of the event, “Africa feeding Africa through agricultural science and innovation.” Fascinating technologies like the the all new ‘fufu’ making machine and fresh research findings like the “Push-Pull” strategy for pest management were exhibited by individuals, institutions and research organizations from Africa and the world over.
Among all these happenings, I failed to recognize any of the booths being occupied by an MNO. Maybe they don’t have anything to exhibit. But farmers use their services too — so why aren’t they here?
Full inclusion of the various mobile money services in the agricultural value chain could benefit both farmer livelihoods and the bottom line of mobile operators.  I am of the strong opinion that its about time that MNOs are tasked with factoring farmers in to their innovation strategies. Maybe in three years’ time, at the next AASW, we’ll see a couple of MNO booths in the lineup.
Blogpost by Nana Darko, Rite 90.1 FM and a social media reporter for AASW6.
Photo: W. Vota

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