Monday, 30 March 2009

2009 FARA Secretariat Annual Program Planning and 4th Executive Board meeting

23-28 March. FARA Secretariat Accra. The Annual Program Planning Meeting was divided into 3 sessions i.e. sub-committee meetings, SRO-CSO-FARA retreat and Board Meeting to endorse the Secretariat’s 2009 program.

The subcommittee meetings (23-25 March) were further subdivided into programs, Audit and finance and nominations. It reviewed the previous’ years outputs and expenditures against planned activities and budget, highlighting key challenges and lessons learnt. The 2009 annual workplan was also discussed and presented for approval to the Board.

The SRO-CSO-FARA retreat on 26 March, looked at the activities in the subregional organizations and civil society organizations. Discussions identified areas that require continental interventions and support. It looked into the current challenges and lessons learnt while implementing the regional initiatives and improving accountability, ownership and sustainability.

Solutions and the way forward were proposed for endorsement by the Board. The Board meeting held on 27-28 March reviewed the Secretariat’s 2008 achievements and expenditure against its planned activities and budget. It reviewed and approved the Secretariat 2009 workplan based on the recommendations of the subcommittee meetings and SRO-CSO-FARA retreat.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Dr. Monty Jones receives degree of Doctor Honorus Causa at the university of Gent/Belgium

The Chancellor of the Ghent University Prof. Dr. Paul Van Cauwenberge
 gives the degree of Doctor Honorus Causa to Dr. Monty Patrick Jones.

Extract from the ceremony on 20th of March at the Gent University in Belgium. The laudatio about Dr. Monty Jones is presented by Prof. Dr. Patrick Van Damme from the Faculty of Bio-sciences.

Meeting with the professors of the Faculty of 
Bio-sciences of the University of Ghent


Lecture of Dr. Jones on Regional agricultural Research in Africa which 250 people attended on 18th of March.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

SIST Meeting

3-10 March 2009. The Système d’Information Scientifique et Recherche (SIST) network of scientists and persons in communication held a week long meeting in Dakar, Senegal. The meeting was organized to draw up the final workplan for the various SIST networks and train network representatives in web content management, effective web-browsing and web-design.

FARA belongs to the SIST-BVB, the Plant Biotechnology and Biosafety network of SIST, and participated in its workshop. The SIST-BVB workplan covered a review of the communication plan to improve sensitization of the scientific community on SIST-BVB issues, an update on biotech information on Africa and the hosting of the SIST server to be transferred from France to the UCAD (University of Cheik Anta Diop in Dakar).

Background: SIST
SIST is the Scientific and Technical Information System set up by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and supported by CIRAD to collate and disseminate web-based information to members of specific networks in science and technology in universities and research institutes in Africa. Support has been provided for the 2006-2009 period.

The 5 SIST networks are: integrated management of water resources; epizootic diseases, emerging and re-emerging diseases in animals; plant biotechnology and biosafety (biotechnologies vegetales et biosecurité- bvb); information and communication technologies in education and research; and promotion of cultural heritage in digital formats.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

LK Data Management Workshop

16-20 February 2009. A meeting of the Lake Kivu Project Learning Site (LK PLS) of the Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Programme (SSA CP) took place in Ruhengeri, Rwanda. The meeting set out to achieve the following:
  • Give an update on progress within the SSA CP at the LK PLS, the various task forces (TFs) and at the Project Coordination Unit (PCU); and
  • Provide participants with skills needed to manage and analyze the data collected from the baseline surveys within the different countries:
    • Share a better understanding of tools & methods;
    • Get started on data cleaning;
    • Prepare for data future analysis workshops;
    • Prepare the Monitoring and Evaluation forms for data collection;
    • Get started on a Training Manual; and
    • Provide a data clinic service.

Discussions on the first day centered on updates from the PLS, FARA and updates on the baseline surveys from the three taskforces. Participants spent days 2 – 4 learning how to use the Quefax tool practically. On the last day, Prof. Sakary Nokoe, the CRST member responsible for biometrics introduced participants to data analysis and the various techniques and methods required to analyse the data collected in the baseline survey.

Data Cleaning workshop of the KKM PLS of the SSA CP

10-12 February 2009. IITA, Kano Station, Nigeria. The workshop for the Kano-Katsina-Maradi Pilot Learning Site (KKM PLS) of the Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Programme (SSA CP) was conducted to provide the much needed data management skills for the entry and handling of the SSA CP baseline data that was collected by task forces across the pilot learning sites. This is in response to the need to pull data from various locations and research subject areas together for PLS and programme wide analysis.
Other specific objectives of the workshop were:
  • To enhance a better understanding of the recommended tools & methods;
  • To get started on data cleaning exercise;
  • To prepare data for analysis and writing workshops;
  • To prepare the Monitoring and Evaluation forms for data collection;
  • To get started on a data management training manual development; and
  • To provide a data clinic service.
For more information on the KKM PLS:
Quarterly Technical Report of the Implementation Phase, July 1 - September 30, 2008

Austrailian Ambassador Visits FARA

10 March 2009. FARA Headquarters, Accra, Ghana. The Australian Ambassador to Ghana, William Williams visited FARA and met with the Executive Directory, Dr. Monty Jones, to discuss possibilities of support.

The Ambassador William Williams with Dr. Monty Jones ED FARA, Emmanuel Tambi director NSF 3, Adewale Adekunle director NSF 5, Samira director NSF 1

Monday, 16 March 2009

New GFAR website is officially online

The new GFAR website is officially online! Please visit to discover how easy it is to be a part of shaping the future of agricultural research for development. The web space features the new look of GFAR, while building on its role as a Global Forum for all those who care about the future of agriculture.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Mobile World Congress 2009

16 - 19 February 2009. Barcelona. More than 47,000 visitors from 189 countries attended the GSMA Mobile World Congress, the leading event for the mobile communications industry. The four- day conference and exhibition attracted executives from the world's largest and most influential mobile operators, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies and media and entertainment organisations, as well as government delegations. 50 per cent of Mobile World Congress attendees hold C-level positions, including more than 2,800 CEOs.

Hereunder are the vodcasts and podcasts related to Africa:

Market Intelligence: How Mobiles are Helping Farmers and Fishermen
In markets throughout the developing world, mobile phones are playing a significant part in trade and commerce. Godrey Fwamba works for the Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange. Each day he visits the Nairobi market, collects prices from the local traders, then sends them back to his office via SMS, where they are made available to farmers. Pradeep Kumar is the skipper of the Sreevaltsom, which trawls the seas of Kerala, India. He uses mobiles to check fish prices, ensuring he lands his catch at the most profitable quayside market. An exclusive TelecomTV Report from Kenya and India. Recorded: 13/03/2009 - Nairobi, Kenya and Kerala, India

Mobile Money
Mobiles are enabling micropayments and even full alternative banking facilities, in both the developed and developing world. So much so, that the GSMA has launched a new Mobile Money for the Unbanked initiative.
Panel: Hans Paulsen, Vitalis Olunga, Lucas Skoczaowski, Patrick Kariningufu, Gavin Krugel / Title: CCO, Head of International and Wholesale Services, CEO, CEO, Director of Mobile Money / Company: Uganda Telecom, Safaricom, Redknee, RwandaTel, GSMA / Recorded: 05/03/2009 - Barcelona, Spain

Peter Bladin, VP, GF Director, Technology Center, Grameen Foundation
The Grameen Foundation's Technology Center develops micro-finance systems using Telecommunications technology to bring financial services to some of the poorest, emerging nations in the World. Recorded: 20/11/2007 - Landmark Hotel, London, UK

Executive Insight: Chris Gabriel, CEO, Zain Africa
Pan-African operator Zain has rewritten the rulebook on roaming, by allowing cross-border access without additional charges for its 56 million customers. With operations in 22 countries in Africa, Zain is now expanding globally. Recorded: 09/12/2008 - London, UK

Michael Joseph, CEO, Safaricom
The CEO of leading Kenya mobile operator Safaricom explains how CSR helped his company establish its brand, and how offering low value prepay scratch-cards matched the "live for today" model of low income customers in the emerging country. Recorded: 18/11/2008 - London, UK
Interview with Hamadoun Toure
The ITU's Secretary General talks about the commitments of African leaders to develop ICT in Africa. Recorded: 17/06/2008 - ITU Telecom Africa, Cairo, Egypt

Rwanda: Using Mobiles to Combat AIDS
Today, over 300,000 people live with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. But providing healthcare and education requires good communications. The government has recognised the ability of mobile phones to connect its network of hospitals and clinics, and has created TRACnet; an innovative scheme to help with the treatment and prevention of AIDS. Recorded: 13/03/2009 - Various locations, Rwanda

Friday, 13 March 2009

Agricultural Innovations in Dryland’s Africa (AIDA)

5 - 6 March. Wageningen, the Netherlands. FARA participated at the second meeting of the steering committee for the EU funded Agricultural Innovations in Dryland’s Africa (AIDA) project, from 05.

CIRAD, FARA, CTA and the external advisor, Dr. Amir Kassam are represented on the SC. The project, now at its final stage, aims to deliver a comprehensive and critical assessment of successful innovations in dryland Africa and to propose policy options for increasing investments for sustainable agricultural development. Fourteen postgraduate students attached to CIRAD and University of Nairobi, Kenya; Bunda College, Malawi; AGHRYMET and University of Niamey, Niger and Makerere University, Uganda are expected to complete their degrees through the project.

CAADP pillar IV reviews agricultural productivity in COMESA

2 - 3 March. Nairobi. A meeting focusing on advancing the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Pillar IV in the COMESA region was held in Nairobi in collaboration with Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (ASARECA).

The meeting focused on various issues including the modalities and progress in incorporating FARA initiatives in the CAADP Round Table process; discussing the role of CAADP Pillar IV to the overall implementation of CAADP and the role of Centres of Excellence for selected agricultural commodities and Pillar lead institutions in the CAADP agenda.

The meeting noted that agricultural productivity in Africa has been stagnant and is faced with many challenges. Producers of maize for example, which is a major staple in the region, realize only an average of 1.3 tonnes per hectare compared to the world average of 5 tonnes per hectare. Poor infrastructure, low adoption of modern technologies, unfavorable external markets and institutional weaknesses were cited as some other reasons contributing to low productivity levels.

Reference + Read more: COMESA 13/03/2009

ISAAA Biotech Press Briefing

26 February 2009. Accra, Ghana. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) conducted its annual press briefing this year at the FARA Secretariat to formally launch its 2008 Biotech Brief: Global Stutus of Commericalised Biotech/BM Crops. The briefing highlighted the current global status of the commercialization of biotech crops and Genetically Modified crops.

Professor Walter Alhassan, a Consultant for African Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy Platform and a member of the FARA Secretariat, discussed the status of Biotechnology and Biosafety in Africa. He indicated that Mali, Togo, Malawi, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Cameroon had their legislations in place but were yet to commercialise their production. Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Mozambique have legal frameworks but were yet to commence field trials with GM crops. He noted that with the current low levels of agricultural productivity, there was the likelihood that Africa would not meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of poor and hungry by 2015.

Prof. Alhassan also focused on the situation in Ghana where field trials will soon begin with Genetically Modified crops, which, when successful, will help enhance agricultural modernization and productivity. This follows the coming into force of a legislative instrument in May 2008 allowing research into GM crops pending the passage of the Biosafety Bill. A secretariat is to be set up to ensure the smooth administrative implementation of the field trials.

Background: ISAAA

The ISAAA is a not-for-profit organization that delivers the benefits of new agricultural biotechnologies to the poor in developing countries. It aims to share these powerful technologies to those who stand to benefit from them and at the same time establish an enabling environment for their safe use.

ISAAA Brief 39-2008 identifies challenges in the agriculture sector such as low technological deployment, climate change problems, market constraints, low levels of investment in agriculture, conflicts and farming systems. "Biotechnology is one of the tools that can make a meaningful contribution to the challenges facing the continent. Therefore it would be wise for us to embrace this idea to meet the challenges." For the first time, the accumulated area of biotech crops for the period 1996-2008 exceeded two million hectares


"Ghana to undertake field trials on GM crops,", February 27, 2009
ISAAA website

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Monitoring the use of mobile phone for market prizes in Ghana


Mohammed Mounouni of SAND/Ghana reflects on the cost of monitoring and evaluation to measure the impact of the use of mobile phone for market information. He hopes new developments in the Esoko platform will make farmer's feedback easier and suggests they should not pay credit time when they do so. But field visits to the farmers remain essential to see their use of market information.

He also answers the question if there is a lot of competition in Ghana among MIS systems and if there are complains on the bulk messages from the mobile phone providers.

May 2009 launch of new mobile phone market information system creates high expectation

A preview of the new Esoko platform was presented at the Esoko Partners Workshop on 12/03/09

Interview with software developer DAVID MCCANN of BUSYLAB - GHANA about the new Esoko platform. The platform includes an SMS gateway with a centralised computing power in combination with an extendable mobile application.

He explains (a) why mobile phone is so important for agriculture in Africa, (b) what this new platform is about, how the application can be adapted to needs: agricultural surveys, wheater applications, market information etc. (c) how complicate the software is behind it (d) and how farmers can use it.

A reaction from one of the participants. Interview with Deroua Ali Cherif of Technoserve Mozambique at the Esoko Partners Workshop of 9 - 13/04 about the new Esoko platform for Market Information Prizes collection and dissemination using mobile phone.

Deroua expresses his amazement on what this new platform can bring to rural communities and why it is also interesting to make business: "Africa is still largely under estimated as consumer"

Transforming Food Security and Agricultural Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Forum on Improving the Effectiveness of US Assistance for African Ag

23-24 February 2009. Washington, D. C. The event was organized by the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa. Participants included academics, researchers, and members of the private sector, representatives from organizations such as the World Bank, NEPAD, COMESA, IFPRI, Bread for the World and USAID and ambassadors to the US from various African countries.

The first day of the meeting explored issues most relevant to agricultural development in Africa. Topics explored included why agricultural development remains a key challenge to Africa, food security in Africa in the context of the converging food and financial crises and the role of various factors/institutions/groups in agricultural and rural development such as science and technology, regional economic communities, marketing and trade, emergency and humanitarian food availability, infrastructural development, capacity building, the private sector and grassroots organizations.

The ED of FARA was in attendance and presented a paper entitled "What Does Africa Need to Harness Science and Technology for Its Agricultural Development, and How Can the United States Assist?"

The second day of the meeting focused more specifically on the US's current role in African agricultural development, and discussions centred on what will characterize more effective involvement in the future, focusing on specific countries and areas of current policy in which attention is required.

Background: PCHPA
The Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa was formed in early 2000 out of concern that the U.S. response to rising hunger and poverty in Africa was increasingly inadequate. The Partnership's initial focus was to formulate a vision, strategy, and action plan to significantly increase public and private investment in African economic development and to increase the effectiveness of U.S. assistance to strengthen African agricultural and rural development.

Meeting Agenda

World Bank Agriculture and Rural Development Week

2-6 March 2009. World Bank Headquarters, Washington, D.C. Agriculture and Rural Development week focused on “Agriculture in a changing world: challenges and opportunities.” Participants included World Bank staff, invitees from bilateral agencies, World Bank partners, academia, NGOs/CSOs, private sector representatives - a total of approximately 300 participants.

The objectives of the event were:
  • to enable the ARD community and partners to highlight and discuss the knowledge and technical expertise to further strengthen agriculture and rural development programs in the face of a volatile external environment;
    to provide opportunities for networking;
    to showcase cutting-edge work by the ARD community;
  • to forge and advance partnerships; and
    to promote the implementation of key recommendations of the World Development Report 2008
The first 2 days consisted of forum style sessions. Discussants used their individual/country and institutional/organizational experiences to respond to the 3Fs (fuel, financial & food) crisis to position agriculture and rural development in a changing world. Topics discussed ranged from issues of land and water management and land sector governance to role of the private sector and public-private partnerships in agricultural development to greenhouse gas mitigation in the sector. The next 2 days consisted of formal learning courses and the last day was dedicated to internal activities organized by region.

A FARA representative attended the event to use the opportunity to present and discuss DONATA (Dissemination of New Agricultural Technologies in Africa) and its Innovation Platform for Technology Adoption (IPTAs). 

AfricaAdapt Workshops

2-13 February 2009. Nairobi, Kenya. AfricaAdapt organized two workshops to train the network's Knowledge Sharing Officers (KSOs) in various skills and techniques related to the operations of the knowledge sharing network.

The Knowledge Sharing Capacity Building Workshop, which took place from February 2-6, 2009, focused on enhancing skills such as facilitation, collaboration, editing, content management, planning and coordination. It also initiated the KSO mentoring program.

The Outcome Mapping Training, which took place from February 9-13, 2009, introduced participants to the Outcome Mapping approach to planning, monitoring and evaluation. The KSOs were able to develop an Outcome Mapping framework to complement the Project's planning, monitoring and evaluation.

Interview with FARA KSO Jacky Nnam

Interview with ENDA KSO. Binetou Diagne's thoughts on Day 1 of the KSO Workshop

Interview with Carl Jackon (IDS-UK). Carl's thoughts on the first day of the workshop.

Short interview with Tom Mitchell, AfricaAdapt programme manager, ahead of the Nairobi KSO workshop.

Background to AfricaAdapt

AfricaAdapt is an independent network focused on Africa and primarily led by African organisations. It facilitates the flow of climate change adaptation knowledge for sustainable livelihoods. AfricaAdapt is comprised of individuals, organisations and other networks dedicated to climate change adaptation in Africa.

The network is currently being developed by four organisations: Environment and Development in the Third World (ENDA), Senegal; The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Ghana; The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), Kenya; and The Institute of Development Studies (IDS), United Kingdom.


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

How market information systems help privatise the Agri input sector in Nigeria

Interview with Emmanuel Ozoemena of IFDC Nigeria during the Esoko partners workshop organised at the FARA secretariat in Accra 9 - 13 March 2009.

The government of Nigeria has embarked on a programme of privatisation of the Agri inputs. Emmanuel explains how 1400 agro-dealers are targetted by the IFDC supported project: the Nigerian Agro dealer support project. Exchange of information through the mobile phone market information system plays a vital role in the exchange of information on the prize of agri inputs.

Reference: New Project Aims to Bring Quality Seeds to Nigerian Farmers 09/10/08

Monday, 9 March 2009


TradeNet/Esoko is holding this week with support of FARA/NSF2 at the FARA Secretariat a partner conference from March 9 – 13. The purpose of the conference is to explore solutions to partners’ challenges with deployment of MARKET INFORMATION SYSTEMS, and conduct an in depth analysis of best practices.

Related FARA blog post: Announcement: Partner conference on Market information

Related: special bulletin of CTA: ICT Update – (February 2009 issue) on MARKET INFORMATION SYSTEMS

Elamien Hassan Elamien Mohamed, FAO, Sudan
Mohamed Saad Ali Bayoumi, FAO, Sudan

Miranda Pabby, Esoko, Ghana

Andrea Biardi, Busylab, Ghana
William Agyemang, Esoko, Networks Ghana
Andrew Kpeleku, Esoko, Ghana
Philip Asihene, Esoko, Ghana

Sefa-Bonsu Attakora, Esoko, Ghana
Yacouba Ballo, AMASSA, Mali
Ibrahim Ouettara, APROSSA, Burkina Faso
Diomande Daouda, ANOPACI, Cote D'Ivoire

Olivier Kabre, ATP, Ghana

Deroua Ali Cherif, Technoserve, Mozambique
Patrice Annequin, IFDC, Ghana

Mohammed Moumouni, SEND, Ghana
John Ross, Mercy Corps, Afghanistan

Rija Ravelomanana, Chemonics, Madagascar
Jim Forster, Network the World, USA

Sarah Bartlett, Esoko, Ghana

Laura Drewett, Esoko, Ghana

Brian Herbert, Busylab

Mark Davies, Esoko, Ghana