Wednesday, 30 April 2008

FARA/SCARDA Inaugural Workshop


The DfID sponsored SCARDA initiative is having its Inaugural Workshop in Accra 30th April-2nd May 2008. The major output of the workshop will be a detailed consolidated SCARDA Activity and Learning Plan, endorsed by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, the Sub-Regional Organisations(SRO), the Focal Institutions(FI), and the Lead Service Providers(LSP). This plan will be implemented and monitored closely through a SCARDA monitoring and Evaluation Process throughout the duration of the Implementation Phase.

The Focal Institutions are:
  • Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), Mali
  • Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Crops Research Institute (CSIR-CRI), Ghana
  • National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), The Gambia
  • Centre de Recherches Agronomiques de Loudima (CRAL), Congo-Brazzaville
  • University of Zambia – School of Agricultural Sciences
  • Natural Resources Development College (NRDC), Zambia
  • National University of Lesotho (NUL)
  • Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), Botswana
  • Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA)
  • Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Rwanda (ISAR)
  • Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU)

The Programme is structured into two main components:

  • Strengthening competencies and capacity in agricultural research management.
  • Strengthening the capacity for professional development (of agricultural scientists
    and extension workers) in research and development.

The first component focuses on improving research management by equipping personnel involved in stewardship of research at all levels, with the needed skills through
continuous training, mentoring and short-term attachments to institutions where they can update or gain new special skills.

The second component aims to enhance the depth and breadth of skills needed for NARS to conduct quality research that will assure impact to end users. It also aims to generate empirical information on the relationship between increased investment in strengthening agricultural research capacity; and agricultural productivity and profitability.

Abdou-Salam Ouédraogo Fellowship for research on conservation and use of forest genetic resources in Sub-Saharan Africa

Bioversity International is pleased to announce the Abdou-Salam Ouédraogo Fellowship for research on conservation and use of forest genetic resources in Sub-Saharan Africa for the year 2008.

The Abdou-Salam Ouédraogo Fellowship scheme was launched in 2002 to honour the memory and celebrate the work of Dr Abdou-Salam Ouédraogo on forest genetic resources. National scientists from Sub-Saharan Africa are now invited to apply for the Abdou-Salam Ouédraogo Fellowship for 2008, to work with Bioversity International for a period of up to six months, in one of the organization's locations in Africa (Nairobi, Cotonou, Douala, Kampala).

Bioversity International will support the travel, subsistence and research expenses of the Fellow up to an amount of US$10,000. Closing date for applications is 30 May 2008. Announcements, application form and guidelines can be downloaded:
ASO Announcement 2008 (PDF, 29Kb)
ASO application form 2008 (DOC, 127Kb)
ASO Guidelines for full proposal writing 2008 (PDF, 30Kb)

ARC Sudan receives prize for Science and Technology of Islamic Development Bank

The selection committee of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Prizes for Science and Technology has decided 12/04 to award the prize for S&T in the category "Noted Scientific Research Institutions in IDB least developed countries" to the Agricultural Research Corporation in Sudan.

Agricultural Research Corporation Head Quarters
Wad Medani - Sudan

The prize of a cash award of 100.000 USD and a certificate shall be presented to ARC's Director General professor Azhari Abdelazim Hamada on 4 June 2008 in a special ceremony to be held on the occasion of the 33rd IDB Board of Governors Meeting in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Profile: Professor Azhari Abdelazim Hamada is Director General of the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC - Sudan) and is also the Current Board Chairman of ASARECA. He is a specialist in Weed Science - Chemistry of Pesticides.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The growing potential of Mali’s fruit industry

One of the fastest growing industries is the fruit industry, although it is still relatively small compared to rice and corn. Most of the fruit is exported to neighbouring countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal which produce fewer mangos and have slightly different harvesting periods. Potential buyers in other regions, such as Europe, also seem to have an interest, especially in mangos, but so far Malian producers have failed to enter the European market. This is a great loss to them as exports to Europe could be highly lucrative.

There is a growing demand for fresh mangos and for products derived from mangos such as dried mangos, mango pulp etc. One of the bottlenecks for mango producers and exporters is that fruits for countries in the North need to meet very stringent criteria with regard to the origin of the product, the way it was grown, if and what fertilisers and pesticides were used, and how it was packed. Up until now it has been impossible for Malian producers to collect and process this data as there is no information infrastructure or system in place to compile, register and make this information accessible. But things are about to change.

Fruiléma, a business venture consisting of 5 mango producers, recently launched a web platform with help from the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) - an international NGO based in the Netherlands and Manobi - a private sector company based in Senegal. The platform enables potential buyers to follow the whole production chain, right from where and how the mango was grown to as far as the company that is offering them for sale. Thanks to this platform, the fruits sold by Fruiléma can be compared with the quality criteria defined by GlobalGap (formerly known as EurepGap); a European certificate that guarantees insights into the origin of the product, the way it was grown, the circumstances under which it was grown, the way it was treated (fertilizers, pesticides), and how it was packaged, etc. The platform will help Fruiléma enter new markets and should attract new importers for their produce.


Monday, 28 April 2008

The future control of food: a guide to international negotiations and rules on IPR

In today’s world, there is massive over-production and over-consumption, yet millions experience scarcity and hunger.

This book looks at some of the forces and rules shaping the food system and who has control over it. In particular, the book focuses on rules on intellectual property – for example patents, plant breeders’ rights, trademarks and copyright – and their relations to other rules on biodiversity, an essential requirement for food security. It looks through the lens of intellectual property (IP) at the future control of food and farming, arguing that rules on IP are
central to struggles over the distribution of wealth and power in the 21st century.

The book concludes by discussing civil society responses to relevant changes and developments in these issues, how they affect the direction of research and development, the nature of global negotiation processes and various alternative futures.
(By G. Tansey and T. Rajotte, IDRC, 2008)

'This is a timely book, providing useful insights on how international policies can, directly, indirectly and inadvertently, impact on food security. All stakeholders engaged in policymaking that affects the human food chain have a lot to gain by reading it.'

Emile Frison, Director General, Bioversity International

'In a field dominated by slogans, mistrust, rhetorical claims and counterclaims, this is a welcome factual account – you do not have to agree with all it contains but it helps the reader towards a better understanding of the issues. That understanding could help create a critical mass of people who want the fair, practical and deliverable changes that will be essential as we move to meet the challenges of more people, climate change, equity and ecosystem conservation. Ownership may not be the issue – but control and choice are.' Andrew Bennett, Executive Director, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

Thursday, 24 April 2008

New project to support communication and networking on adaptation

A new project to enhance communication and networking on adaptation in Africa was approved in December 2007 by the CCAA program. The three-year project will explore how the livelihoods of vulnerable people in Africa can be improved by sharing climate adaptation knowledge between CCAA research partners, policy makers, civil society organizations, and vulnerable groups themselves.

Four core partners with complementary skills will lead and coordinate the activities:

A network facilitated by African research organizations, linking among and beyond CCAA participatory action research projects, will provide a starting point for a continent-wide model of knowledge sharing.

The project is due to start in April 2008. For more information, please contact the Programme Manager, Dr. Tom Mitchell


IDRC Environmental and Natural Resource Management

Briefing paper on the causes of rising food prices

The latest briefing paper of ODI (Arpil 2008) examines the causes of rising food prices, expected trends, the likely impact, and possible policy responses.

Uncertainty and controversy surround technical agricultural advances. Most agricultural research is by companies that may not prioritise boosting outputs of food grains. Biotechnology promises much, but has delivered relatively little for staple food production. That may change with higher prices for grains and it seems that marker-assisted selection is leading to rising grain yields. Higher orices may make countries more inclined to introduce genetically modified organisms. Furthermore, how much can output be raised given limited land and water, and anxieties over conservation and pollution?
ODI Briefing Paper April 2008 Rising food prices: A global crisis. Action needed now to avert poverty and hunger
SciDev 14/04 West Africa to boost food crops with biotechnology
The 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States have agreed to use biotechnology to increase food production in the region. Ministers of agriculture, environment, science and technology met to discuss the issues surrounding biotechnology in agriculture at a meeting held last week (28–30 March) in Accra, Ghana.

Technology License to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation to Develop Nitrogen Efficient and Salt Tolerant African Rice

Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., an agricultural technology company focused on products that benefit the environment and human health, and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a not-for-profit organization focused on the access and delivery of new agricultural technologies for African smallholder farmers, have entered into a licensing agreement for the use of Arcadia’s technologies to develop rice varieties that will be available royalty-free to smallholder farmers in Africa.

Under the agreement, AATF receives a license to Arcadia’s Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) and Salt Tolerance technologies for use in African rice. As part of Arcadia’s stated commitment to agricultural and environmental improvement in the developing world, the company will not receive monetary compensation for the research and commercial rights granted in the agreement. In addition, Arcadia will complete the early-stage research and development work for the project and will provide improved rice lines to African research collaborators for field-testing.
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is an African-led charity designed to facilitate and promote public/private partnerships for the access and delivery of appropriate proprietary technologies with potential to increase the productivity of resource-poor smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Press Release AAFT 24/04

China Earmarks U.S.$5 Billion for Food Production on Continent

A visiting Chinese delegation headed by the Chief Executive Officer of China-Africa Development Fund says about 5 billion United States dollars have been earmarked for the production of food and cash crops in Liberia and other African countries over a 50-year period.

Mr. Chi Jianxin, at a head of a Chinese delegation, is in the country to explore investment opportunities in the agricultural sector.

Chi said his company has the financial capacity and expertise to develop and stabilize the food situation in Liberia "particularly in rice production and other cash crops".

During an acquaintance visit with Liberia's Agriculture Minister Chris Toe, the Chinese delegation summed up its exploratory visit in averring that an increased investment in the agricultural sector would provide more food as well as jobs for thousands of Liberians.
AllAfrica 23/04: China Earmarks U.S.$5 Billion for Food Production on Continent

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Gender Issues in Information and Communication Technologies for Agricultural and Rural Development in Africa

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (Hivos) and the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) are inviting applications for the third round of the GenARDIS small grants programme.

The third phase of GenARDIS grants follows two rounds of the implementation of successful projects and an in depth external evaluation. Round 3 will involve a deeper focus on capacity-building, knowledge-sharing and policy outputs. It aims to sustain and deepen the integration of gender perspectives into rural development and ICT4D initiatives, taking into account developments such as web 2.0 in agriculture and rural development and Free and Open Source Software solutions (FOSS).

Organiser: APC as GenARDIS administrative partner (Association of Progressive Communication)

What? A Small Grants Fund to address Gender Issues in Information and Communication Technologies for Agricultural and Rural Development in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP Countries) : 15 grants @ 7,000 Euro

Submission Deadline: June 2, 2008

Reference: 2008 Call for Applications: GenARDIS Round 3
Related: 2005 Winners:
Awareness-building, training and implementation project of an agricultural information system based on ICTs, at the benefit of ten women's groups in the Dassa-Zoumé district in Benin
Burkina Faso,
Project to strengthen the ICT skills of 30 peasant women
Promoting the cultivation of healthy vegetables by farmers: a gender approach to using information and communication technologies
Engendering Equality: A Health and Agriculture Community-Based Information and Communication System Project
Widening the Wellhead. Creating and Using a dedicated cellular phone network to add Information, Value and Dignity to the Work of Women in Lesotho’s Agricultural sector
South Africa,
Developing rural expertise in spatial dynamics – participatory GIS in the rooibos tea lands of the Suid Bokkeveld (Northern Cape Province)
South Africa,
Mobile Learning for Change in agricultural production

Food crop diversity is key to sustainability

SciDev published on 17th April an article of Dr. Monty Jones.

Thousands of traditional crop species could help break dependence on a few global food crops, and offer valuable environmental services, says Monty Jones. Only 150 crop species are grown commercially on a global scale, with wheat and maize alone providing over half of the world's protein and calorie needs. Another 7,000 species play crucial roles in poor people's livelihoods but are otherwise underutilised.
Oryza glaberrima and oryza sativa
are examples of the benefits of m
aking better use of non-commercial crops

These underutilised species have important traditional uses for food, fibre, fodder, vegetable oil and medicines. But they also have unexploited commercial potential and, if used more widely, could provide important environmental services.

They could be developed to improve food security, alleviate poverty, improve nutrition, raise incomes, and sustain critical and fragile ecosystems.

Growing them commercially could make a vital contribution to halting and indeed reversing the loss of biodiversity in farming systems — which will be the inevitable result of continued reliance on a narrow portfolio of crops.

Reference + Read more: SciDev 17/04

New version of the SciDev.Net website

A new version of the SciDev.Net website has been launched. The site has been completely rebuilt to present material in different ways. In addition to grouping material geographically into six separate regional gateways, material is brought together into six new topic gateways on agriculture and environment, climate change and energy, health, new technology, science and innovation policy, and science communication. Topics are divided into subtopics, each bringing together news, features, opinion and analysis relevant to a specific issue. Content is also available as regular targeted alerts.

The site is also more accessible to non-English speakers, appearing in four different language versions (English, Spanish, French and Chinese), where headlines and summaries of all new material (and sometimes the full text) is available in the different languages. Search functions are also improved as is optimisation for bandwidth and interaction with social networking tools, such as, Digg and Facebook. Registered readers can now post comments on all articles, an innovation aimed at stimulating debate about the issues covered. is supported by three main core donors, including DFID, and redevelopment costs have also been supported by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Swiss Development Agency (SDC).

More information:
See a full press release on the SciDev.Net site here

DFID's Research Strategy on Sustainable Agriculture

The livelihoods of 75% of the world’s poor will continue to depend on agriculture for the foreseeable future. At the same time, rising food prices are likely to make problems of hunger and poverty worse for urban and rural people. Research that produces innovation in agriculture is therefore more important than ever for reducing poverty.

DFID has promised to double funding for research on agriculture, fisheries and forestry to £80 million a year by 2010. To meet that promise, DFID will continue to work on the research priorities in the 2006 Strategy for Research on Sustainable Agriculture. It will also focus on key emerging issues related to agriculture and natural resource management that fits its broader agenda of inclusive growth and climate change.

A Working Paper on Sustainable Agriculture provides more details of the approach to sustainable agriculture and the consultation process which helped to inform the Research Strategy.

DFID Senior Livelihoods Adviser John Barrett argues that investments in agricultural research will only payoff when they are "complemented by other policy reforms and investments."
"We need clear, sound policies to be in place, that support agriculture and rural development..."
He also explains some of the support DFID provides to the agriculrural and rural development sector in Africa.


Other information:
UK Secretary of State for
International Development,
Douglas Alexander

UNCTAD launched the second phase of the BioTrade Facilitation Programme

Accra, 22 April 2008 - UNCTAD launched the second phase of the BioTrade Facilitation Programme (BTFP II), which helps developing countries benefit from the sustainable use of their biodiversity, during the twelfth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, held in Accra, Ghana from 20 to 25 April 2008.

The decision reflects the growth in international trade of biodiversity products, such as the plants, extracts and oils increasingly used in cosmetics and natural remedies. Launched in 2002 in Johannesburg, the BioTrade Facilitation Programme works with governments, companies, civil society and small-scale producers. It aims to promote trade while at the same time conserving the biodiversity of developing countries.

Biotrade involves the collection, transformation, production and sale of goods and services derived from natural biodiversity – the millions of microbial, plant and animal species that inhabit the planet. Biodiversity also comprises oils, dyes, resins and fibres and other substances used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, as well as timber, handicrafts, medicinal plants, nuts and tropical fruits. In addition, biodiversity contributes to the services sector in developing countries, most notably eco-tourism.

The expanding trade in biodiversity products is due in part to the popularity of cosmetics, care products and remedies based on natural ingredients. For example, the European Union market in natural cosmetics grew by about 20% in each of the past two years and was estimated at €1 billion in 2007. The market for “cosmeceuticals” is expected to reach €3.6 billion in the EU next year.

Reference: African Press Organisation 22/04

European Commission plans to provide a further €117.25 million for food

The European Commission plans to provide a further €117.25 million for food assistance as a tesponse to the impact of the increase in food prices on the world's most vulnerable people. Louis Michel, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said:

"The rise in basic food prices is a worldwide humanitarian disaster in the making. Ongoing humanitarian food programmes are under enormous pressure with less food available for people already on the brink of starvation. Millions more, who were just about coping before, now risk going hungry. Addressing food price issue is a global challenge requiring long-term solutions but the emergency is now. We have an obligation to act – and act quickly."
Commissioner Louis Michel announces €117.25 million food aid boost.
International Hearld Tribune 22/04: EU: rising food prices call for trade deals that encourage more food output
EU Observor 22/04: EU fears food price rises will lead to 'spiral of protectionism'

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Food crisis and Land Crisis?

The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Luc Gnacadja warns in a press release issued 19/04 that the current food security crisis needs to be examined in line with the environmental change such as desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD). A new strategy to engage the international community and its collective action to combat DLDD must be implemented in this context, in order to prevent negative impacts, notably on the poorest countries, and to improve food security and access to water.

"We need to greatly intensify efforts on combating land degradation and drought impacts in areas affected by this emerging global crisis. Global rise in food prices will continue if measures on sustainable land management and soil protection are not implemented and if the decreasing of arable land is not halted."

United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD): Food crisis and Land Crisis?

Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) CSD-16 Review Session (5-16 May 2008).
Mr. Francis D.C. Nhema, Minister of Environment and Tourism (Zimbabwe), was elected by the Commission on Sustainable Development as the Chair of its 16th session (CSD-16). He is the Minister of Environment and Tourism of Zimbabwe and has been a Member of Parliament since 2000.

BioVisionAlexandria 2008

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina organized its fourth international biennial conference, BioVisionAlexandria 2008, 12-16 April 2008 in Alexandria, Egypt.
The world risks "scientific apartheid" between rich and poor countries unless research and technology is better used to benefit the poor, says one of Africa's leading science experts.
Ismail Serageldin, director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina and former chairman of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) made the comments in his keynote address to the BioVision Alexandria conference in Alexandria, Egypt, on 14 April.
He warned that science seems to be benefiting the rich, with not enough focus on solving the problems of the poor. "We need a little more than knowledge... we need wisdom," he said.
Food security is a major challenge to the global scientific community, Serageldin said, with increasing pressure from a growing population and demands for more animal feed and biofuels, as well as the effects of climate change.

He said it was a "sad indictment" on government spending that philanthropists like Bill Gates are contributing most to addressing the scientific challenges of the developing world.
Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, said that the world needs to run on two scientific tracks: putting existing technologies into practice for the poor, whilst simultaneously developing new technologies to address problems.

Secretary-General UN calls for food security measures

20 April 2008 – The forces of trade and globalization that have driven a “virtuous cycle” of economic prosperity around the world in the last two decades must be allowed to continue or the current crisis in poor countries over soaring food prices will only worsen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a major gathering of trade and development officials today.

Speaking in Accra, Ghana, at the opening of the twelfth UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Mr. Ban warned that neither the food crisis nor the chance that some regions may be poised for a slowdown should be used by governments as an excuse to turn towards protectionism.

“One thing is certain: for the past three years, the world has consumed more
food than it produces. Grain stocks are at their lowest in 30 years. The
situation is unsustainable.”

Mr. Ban told the conference that immediate steps must be taken to guarantee the world's food security, starting by ensuring the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has the additional $755 million it needs to cover the rising costs of its existing emergency operations.

In the long-term, he said, agricultural production must be expanded, especially in the developing world and sub-Saharan Africa. “Simply improving market efficiency can have a huge effect. Roughly a third of the world's food shortages, according to the WFP, are the result of bottlenecks in local markets and distribution systems.”

Welcoming the World Bank's plans to increase its agricultural lending in Africa from $400 million to $800 million next year, the Secretary-General said the rest of the international community must take similar measures to alleviate the problems of the developing world.

From left to right: President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva of Brazil during UNCTAD XII opening ceremony

Reference: UN Newscenter: Secretary-General Ban warns against impulses towards protectionism

Related: America Gov 17/04 Food Crisis Has Long-Term Global Challenges, Rice Says

FARA collaboration with Sierra Leone

Dr. Monty Jones shaking hands with
the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & Food Security of Sierra Leone: Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay
Between 21st -24th April, a FARA delegation visited Sierra Leone with objective to honour the invitation of the Ministry/SLARI to participate in the launching of SLARI (Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute) and to discuss potential areas of collaboration between FARA/AGRA and SLARI and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Overviews of both institutions were made to put into context the respective functions and roles of FARA/AGRA and to enable the Ministry of Agriculture and SLARI identify which areas are appropriate for collaboration.

For FARA, the FARA-SRO-NARS relationship was explained. It was stated that FARA operations through the SROs and these operations are based on the principles of subsidiarity, which involves decision making at the lowest level possible. Further that FARA’s niche is to support networking among its stakeholders, hence the creation of the 5 networking support functions through which FARA operates at the Secretariat level.

E-Agriculture in India: An Interview

Agriculture in India is considered to be a primary occupation for a major segment of population in India. A vast majority of rural population depends upon agriculture as their primary occupation. However, agriculture in India is in doldrums and needs rejuvenation. In this interview with Mr. Praveen Dalal, the Leading Techno-Legal ICT, Cyber Security and Cyber Law Specialist of India and Managing Member of AFPOH, the agricultural development aspects are analysed keeping in mind the benefits of e-agriculture in India.

Farmers in India must use Information and Information Technology (ICT) for agricultural purposes.

How can ICT be used for strengthening agriculture in India?
India’s food production and productivity may be increased by an effective use of ICT for agricultural purposes. The Developed Nations are using laser technology instead of tractors to plough lands. This helps in optimising the use of various inputs such as water, seeds, fertilisers, etc. The problem is that Indian farmers cannot afford this technology and unless government comes in support for agricultural infrastructure the same remains a dream only. Further, power and electricity also remains a major problem for Indian farmers and alternative means of power like solar energy panels, regulated and optimised by ICT, can be a blessing for them. Thus, e-agriculture in India can put India on the higher pedestal of Green Resolution making India self-sufficient in the matters of food grains.

What are the advantages of ICT/e-agriculture in India?
Some of the benefits of ICT for the improvement and strengthening of agriculture sector in India include timely information on weather forecasts and calamities, better and spontaneous agricultural practices, better marketing exposure and pricing, reduction of agricultural risks and enhanced incomes, better awareness and information, improved networking and communication, facility of online trading and e-commerce, better representation at various forums, authorities and platform, etc. E-agriculture can play a major role in the increased food production and productivity in India.

Reference and full interview:
Legal News and Views Friday, April 18, 2008

Seminar on Meeting Information and Knowledge Needs of Farmers in Africa Through e-Agriculture
The Africa Chapter of the International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists (IAALD) has announced a one-day seminar on "Meeting Information and Knowledge Needs of Farmers in Africa Through e-Agriculture" to be held as a pre-SCECSAL XVIII Conference event at the Lusaka Hotel in Zambia, on 14 July 2008. The seminar will examine some e-agriculture initiatives in Africa, the potential role of information professionals in e-agriculture, and the need for information professionals in Africa to participate in the e-Agriculture Community of Expertise global initiative.

Evaluation report on ICT4Dev
2008:07 Sida's support to Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) for Development (En, PDF 228kB)
This report is part of Sida Evaluations, a series comprising evaluations of Swedish development

Moctar Fall on Fair Trade standard setting and the involvement of producers

Brussels, 16 April 2008. Speaking in the first panel of the Brussels Development Briefing on Fair Trade Moctar Fall, Interface Trading, argues that for producers there are two main issues to take in consideration. Firstly, in terms of standard and certification setting, Mr. Fall argues that producers need to be involved at the beginning of the process in order to be able to take part in the system on an equal footing. Secondly, referring to the involvement of the food retailers, he askes for more transparecy in the way they operate.

Profile: Moctar Fall is the director of the Fair Trade organisation Interface Trading in Senegal. Interface Trading exports agricultural products and handicrafts. He is an economist with a master in business administration. He works with the national chapter of Transparency International in Senegal and is a member of the advocacy working group of IFAT (International Federation for Alternative Trade) and of the Fair Trade Advocacy Steering Committee.

Interface Trading was created in 1995 by Moctar Fall and a group of his friends with whom he worked in an international rural development NGO. Taking advantage of their experience they set up a private company which supports small scale producer groups marketing their products in local markets as well as internationally.

L a hausse des prix alimentaires au Sud : causes, conséquences, propositions

Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement CIRAD, jeudi 17 avril 2008. De nombreuses causes ont été évoquées depuis le début de la crise alimentaire dans les pays du Sud. Quelle est la part réelle de ces causes dans la situation actuelle ? Quelles seront les conséquences de la hausse des prix sur la sécurité alimentaire et sur l'agriculture dans ces pays ? Quelles sont, les solutions envisageables pour gérer et sortir de cette crise ? Le Cirad propose ici des éléments d'analyse et de réponse issus de l'expertise de ses chercheurs ayant une connaissance fine de la situation dans les pays touchés.

Cette synthèse est alimentée par les contributions de chercheurs du Cirad spécialistes des questions d'agriculture vivrière et de sécurité alimentaire, dont un grand nombre sont en poste dans les pays du Sud. Elle sera mise à jour régulièrement au fur et à mesure des analyses en cours sur les causes et les effets de la hausse des prix.

Global Consultations: Towards a Strategic Framework on Climate Change and Development for the World Bank Group

Using the Concept and Issues Paper 27/03/08 as a basis (38 pages), the global consultation process of the World Bank will allow the Bank Group to elaborate a full Strategic Framework on Climate Change and Development (SFCCD) for the World Bank Group.

This phase of the consultations will run through June 30, 2008. The World Bank is currently in the process of developing a schedule of face to face meetings with stakeholders. These will take place in various locations in all regions. Videoconference participation and on-line consultation will also be used to allow a broad range of stakeholders in many different countries to provide feedback. The World Bank will use this website to post a schedule of upcoming consultation sessions, gather your comments as quickly and as easily as possible, and post summaries of consultation sessions.

The silent tsunami: the food crisis and how to solve it

The new face of hunger
Apr 17th 2008 From The Economist print edition

“World agriculture has entered a new, unsustainable and politically risky period,” says Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC. To prove it, food riots have erupted in countries all along the equator. In Haiti, protesters chanting “We're hungry” forced the prime minister to resign; 24 people were killed in riots in Cameroon; Egypt's president ordered the army to start baking bread; the Philippines made hoarding rice punishable by life imprisonment.

The food scare of 2008, severe as it is, is only a symptom of a broader problem. The surge in food prices has ended 30 years in which food was cheap, farming was subsidised in rich countries and international food markets were wildly distorted. Eventually, no doubt, farmers will respond to higher prices by growing more and a new equilibrium will be established. If all goes well, food will be affordable again without the subsidies, dumping and distortions of the earlier period. But at the moment, agriculture has been caught in limbo. The era of cheap food is over. The transition to a new equilibrium is proving costlier, more prolonged and much more painful than anyone had expected.

Related article:
The Toronto Star 20/04: Let them eat dirt?
CIRAD: La hausse des prix alimentaires au Sud : causes, conséquences, propositions

Monday, 21 April 2008

Robert B. Zoellick - New Deal for a Global Food Policy

In a speech Apr 2nd, World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick called for a "new deal" to combat world hunger and malnutrition through a combination of emergency aid and long-term efforts to boost agricultural productivity in developing countries.

The "New Deal for a Global Food Policy" is part of a suite of initiatives Zoellick outlined to advance development in the face of skyrocketing food and oil prices. He also called for a global trade deal to be agreed as soon as possible, detailed an initiative to help countries manage their wealth earned from high energy and mineral prices in a more inclusive way, and encouraged sovereign wealth funds to create a "One Percent Solution" for equity investment in Africa.

YouTube video of 11/04

YouTube video on Rising Food Prices - The World Bank
World Bank Video: Spring Meetings

Head of the World Trade Organization calls for aid policies to be refocused to improve agriculture

Speaking to the BBC 19/04 and in the week that the world woke up to the food price crisis, Mr Lamy's, demand is radical. The Chief of the World Trade Organisation said food aid needed to be increased but, more than that, improvements in agriculture needed to be put back at the heart of development spending. He said it was complex and could not be done overnight.
The shift in emphasis is essential. As far as development assistance is concerned, agriculture has not been the main focus of the last decade and has to be the main focus of the coming times.
Mr Lamy said he believed that after seven years of negotiations, the Doha round, a new deal designed to make trade freer and fairer for the poorest countries, could be achieved.
But the immediate reaction of a number of countries to the food price shock has been in the other direction, with France wanting higher subsidies for farmers, and a number of food-exporting countries imposing restrictions on exports.


Brazil opens agricultural research office for Africa in Accra

Brazil on Sunday 20/04 inaugurated a Regional Office of its Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) in Accra to spearhead agricultural revolution in Africa.Ghana's President John Kufuor and visiting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva jointly performed the inauguration, with Ghana contributing US$500,000 towards the Office.

The Accra Office, among other things, will facilitate technical co-operation activities for agricultural development, technology transfer, ensure availability of research findings to industry and enhance human resource capacity building.Additionally, it is designed to help to deepen South-South co-operation through collaboration of Ghanaian and Brazilian scientists to the mutual benefit of Ghana and other African countries.

EMBRAPA, established in April 1973, has developed into a major world player in agricultural research and technology development, contributing an estimated US$40 billion to Brazil's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Dr. Silvio Crestana, Brazil Director-General, EMBRAPA (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation). In addition to leading EMBRAPA, one of the world's largest agricultural-research enterprises, Dr. Crestana is also a Research Scientist at the National Center of Research and Development in Agricultural Instrumentation in São Carlos. Read more

Afrique-en-ligne 20/04
The Ghanean Journal 20/04
IPS 21/04 AGRICULTURE: Brazil Shares Technology with Africa

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Asia-Pacific Workshop on Agricultural Research for Development (ARD).

16 – 18 April 2008, Bangkok, Thailand. FARA is participating at the Asia-Pacific Workshop on Agricultural Research for Development (ARD).
  • To build bridges of partnership amongst Asia Pacific NGOs and APAARI and its member ARD institutions
  • Determine NGO priority research interests based on the APAARI identified research for development interest
  • Discuss principles and various options on modalities of engagement between NGOs and APAARI both at regional sub regional and national levels
  • To share Sub-Saharan Africa NGO Consortium (SSA NGOC) engagement in the FARA-SRO-NARS ARD model
Organizers: Organized jointly by APAARI-ANGOC-GFAR

Dr. R.S. Paroda is Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) and Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). He was also the chairman of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and Executive Secretary of the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI).

AGRA-sponsored PhD scientists

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)’s sponsored second group of agricultural PhD candidates from a number of African countries have just graduated (15/04) from their advanced studies program at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The graduates, expected to employ the knowledge gained in their studies to improve African food security across eastern and southern Africa are accredited for initiating a number of programmes.

For example, Dr. Joseph Kamau, a prior graduate student of University’s Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) from Kenya, initiated the first cassava breeding program in his country, and in only three years, developed virus resistant, fast growing, high-yielding varieties that farmers liked for their cooking qualities. Dr. Francisco Miti from Zambia bred maize for small-scale farmers’ conditions, in other words, for drought and low fertility, acid soils. In only three years, he has developed maize that shows a dramatic improvement in its yield potential under these harsh conditions, which is what the majority of Zambia’s farmers need.

On 12 March WACCI and AGRA welcome the inaugural class of Agricultural PhD Students. The first eight doctoral candidates sponsored by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa are entering their advanced studies at the University of Ghana, Legon, hoping to discover new ways to improve crops across West Africa.

Second group of AGRA-sponsored PhD scientists graduate in South Africa
Eight West African Students to Begin Elite Studies at West Africa Crop Improvement Centre to Discover New Ways to Improve African Crops

Time for changes in agricultural production

The way the world produces food will have to change radically to better serve the poor and hungry if the world is to cope with a growing population and climate change while avoiding social breakdown and environmental collapse.

This is the message from the report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) launched on the 15 April 2008.

The report addresses the following questions:

It then considers the options for action in relation to fighting poverty and improving rural livelihoods, enhancing food security, using natural resources in a sustainable way, improving human health and helping achieve greater equity in agriculture.

The assessment, the result of a 3-year effort by about 400 experts from around the world, was sponsored by the United Nations, the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), an independent financial organization that provides grants to developing countries. Five U.N. agencies were involved: the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), the U.N. Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Additional individuals, organizations and governments participated in a peer review process.

Summary of the report or view the summary and the full IAASTD Synthesis Report online.
IAASTD Press Release
BBC News item - Global food system 'must change' (15/04)
AllAfrica: Africa: Reinventing Agriculture
The East African: UN scientists say industrial agriculture has failed (14/04)

Aligning Global Agricultural Research Investments with National Development Activities: the CGIAR experience.

The CGIAR released an interesting report on Aligning Global Agricultural Research Investments with National Development Activities: the CGIAR experience.

The 84 pages study identifies factors that affect how effectively the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) aligns its research to support country programs of the World Bank and other Members of the Group. Its point of departure is a set of 12 factors widely agreed to be major strengths of CGIAR, which were first articulated in 1986 by Warren C. Baum, a former CGIAR chair. Using case studies in several countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the study presents a number of lessons tied to Baum’s dozen factors and grouped by alignment domain.

The first such domain is aligned support from CGIAR Members and other donors to the 15 international research Centers supported by the Group. This reflects Baum factors 1, high-priority objective; 2, clearly defined mandate; 8, stability in mobilization of funds; 9, viable system of research and development; 10, professional scientific management; and 11, minimized

Aligned support to policymakers and national agricultural research systems (NARS) reflect Baum factors 5, transparent policymaking; 6, evident accountability; and 7, internationally orchestrated legitimacy.

Aligning the technical and institutional innovations developed by CGIAR Centers and NARS facilitates their adoption by farmers, communities, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations, thereby fulfilling the CGIAR mission of improving food security and reducing poverty in environmentally sustainable ways. This particularly reflects Baum factor 12, proven or promising technological foundations.

Aligning policy analysis with recommendations brings together policymakers with CGIAR Centers and NARS. This helps to promote policy that supports the adoption of technical and institutional innovations and, so, the CGIAR mission. This process reflects Baum factors 3, mission-oriented strategy, and 4, clear setting of priorities.

Networking in support of development

The Community is invited by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) to participate in a free 4-day online e-learning course, which will take place for applicants in Africa on 6-9 May 2008. The deadline for applications is 23 April 2008.

The Networking in Support of Development Online Course will cover how different information and communication technologies (ICT) in a country - local, national and international - fit together to provide a workable means of communication, and the issues that affect each level. The course will include e-learning materials, online discussions, and individual assignments. It is one of many modules offered in The Information Management Resource Kit (IMARK), a partnership-based e-learning initiative to train individuals and support institutions and networks world-wide in the effective management of agricultural information.

The course is aimed at anyone who is currently, or would like to be, involved in the development and use of information and communication technology to support existing communication traditions and networks, especially in rural areas.

The content of the course is as follows:Day 1 - Information and Communication Technology as media Day 2 - ICT's influence on the shape of the futureDay 3 - Costs and effectiveness of the links in the ICT chainDay 4 - Impact of regulatory frameworks on ICT choices and costs
For more details of the course and the link to the registration form, click here.

A course for applicants in Asia will be held in late 2008.

Just released: Emerging Issues in e-Agriculture - Policy Brief March 2008
Community members have identified the emerging issues and priority areas for strengthening information and knowledge systems for e-Agriculture.

International Conference on Renewable Energy in Africa

16-18 April 2008 Dakar, Senegal. Making Renewable Energy markets for Africa. Policies, Industries and Finance for Scaling-Up.
The obejctives of the conference are: Making use of lessons learnt and experience gained with renewable energy projects in Africa and elsewhere, the conference will examine how bottlenecks to renewable energy market related to policies, technologies, financing and capacity can be addressed so as to increase access to energy in Africa.
The conference will bring together high-level decision makers to provide visible leadership and commitment to a common strategy for market-based scaling up of renewable energies that is informed by lessons learnt from concrete case studies and the energy situation that obtains in Africa.
Reference: UNIDO

6th Annual Digital Africa Summit

April 15th-17th, 2008 in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference takes an in depth look at technology convergence from an African perspective.

The conference aims at assisting African operators by providing information that will help them developing a focussed, practical strategy moving forward. This will be achieved by orchestrating a debate between:
  • Leading regulatory authorities from Africa and the World (ICASA, ETSI and more)
  • Solution providers such as Alcatel, Nortel, Ericsson and Motorola
  • System integrators such as IBM and Dimension Data

Participating executives are expected to leave this debate with greater clarity and understanding about the challenges they will face in developing their networks.

The former (5th Annual) Digital Africa Summit attracted participants from over 22 African countries ranging from Government Ministers, Chief Accounting Officers (Permanent Secretaries, Director Generals, Principal Secretaries etc) and public sector professionals to Chief Executives and Managing Directors of leading information and communication technology companies in Africa. For further information, please visit the conference web site.

SciFest Africa

FARA is participating at the SciFest Africa, the biggest science festival in sub-Saharan Africa, Grahamstown, South Africa, 16 - 22 April.

It is NOT a gathering just for scientists – it is for anyone with an inquiring mind and wanting to know more about the fascinating world of science …. including scientists!
This year there are over 600 events which will take place at the festival including lectures, exhibitions, workshops, educational theatre, field trips, a soap box derby, laser show, high school quizzes, Science Olympics, science shows, tours and a FilmFest.
Dr. Monty Jones gave on Wednesday, 16 April a lecture on Beating hunger and poverty with ancient rice and modern science. See page 15 of the SciFest programme.

It took several cycles of backcrossing with the sativa parent to produce young plants with robust fertility. Another culture was used to double the gene complement of male sex cells and produce true-breeding plants. Ultimately NERICAs (New Rice for Africa) were produced that are as well adapted as their glaberrima parent but have the high yield potential of their sativa parent. This is having huge impact in improving the livelihoods of rural and urban Africans and their national economies.
Download the Official Programme (PDF, 7MB) (a beautifully edited programme over 84 pages!)

Briefing on Fair Trade

The bimonthly Development Briefing organised by CTA, the European Commission/DG Development, the ACP Secretariat, Euforic, Concord and IPS-Europe - in collaboration with the Fair Trade Advocacy Office in Brussels - was held on 16th April on Fair Trade.

It will aimed at (i) raising awareness on existing and emerging key challenges on Fair Trade; (ii) promoting exchange of information and expertise sharing among the development groups based in Brussels, by providing an updated source of information and a platform of discussion; (iii) feeding in the debate on Fair Trade by bringing various perspectives around the table which could support future EC support to Fair Trade in ACP countries.

This half day meeting discussed some key issues involved in the fair trade initiatives: the benefits of Fair Trade for development and poverty reduction with special reference to the ACP countries; challenges for market access for ACP producers; the role of the supermarkets on standards and labelling; the awareness and information campaigns linked with the consumers education.

View the programme, presentations and video material, speaker information, video interviews, and further readings.

FARA & EFARD Consultation on Agricultural Research Programming

The European Commission (DG RTD and DG AIDCO, with DG DEV and DG RELEX) prepares the annual programming of FP7 and FSTP for 2009 and beyond, and is willing to coordinate these programmes.

As a starting point, the Commission began with the coordination of the Thematic Food, Agriculture, Fisheries and Biotechnology of FP7. To do so, the Commission convened 14 - 16 April a workshop in Brussels of European & African experts.

This workshop was organized by FARA and EFARD (European Forum on Agricultural Research for Development), making use of their existing Platform for African – European Partnership on Agricultural Research for Development (PAEPARD). The workshop was supported and facilitated by CTA (ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, based in Wageningen, the Netherlands).

The general objective of the consultation is to establish priority areas of cooperation to increase the impact of agricultural research and knowledge systems on rural productivity, poverty reduction, food security and sustainable management of natural resources. More specifically, it is to identify targeted research topics and activities, taking into account the 10 broad priority areas to be funded in 2009 and beyond by FP7-FAB and the FSTP global non-CGIAR components in order to assure coherence, complementarily and synergy among the two programmes.

The participants were 40 African and European experts from Africa and the EU.

Brussels, 18 April 2008. Paolo Sarfati, DG Development, explains the importance of agricultural research for the EC and the areas where it currently focusses.

CTA: FARA & EFARD Consultation on Agricultural Research Programming for FP7-FAB and FSTP

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Agricultural education and information systems in Asia and Africa

Last year Cornell University and partners put together a 'WorldAginfo' Design Team to test the premise that:

"new collaborative information technologies offer an exciting opportunity to transform agricultural education and information systems in Asia and Africa."
The Team was charged by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to explore the landscape of agricultural education and information systems in Asia and Africa, and to come up with
"a set of recommendations for areas of investment that have the potential to
improve the lives of smallholders through better access to agricultural
education, training and information."
The 300+ page report - entitled Building Pathways out of Rural Poverty through Investments in Agricultural Information Systems - is now available online. It provides a summary of the activities undertaken and recommendations for areas of investment. See also the list of participants of the Design Team.