Monday, 13 September 2010

Study Finds Substantial growth in Agricultural R&D funding in Ghana, but challenges remain

Accra, Ghana—Following a decade of minimal growth, spending on agricultural research and development (R&D) in Ghana increased dramatically after 2002. Expenditures more than doubled from 2000-2008, from 151 billion cedis to 352 billion cedis, according to a study by the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative and the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI). The amount spent, as a percentage of Ghana’s agricultural GDP, was one of the highest in West Africa. The spike in spending, however, was largely due to an increase in salary costs, the study found.

As spending on agricultural R&D increased from 2002-2008, growth in research staff was slow but steady. By 2008, Ghana had the equivalent of 537 full-time researchers working in agriculture, but only 17 percent of them were women. Despite growth in research staff, many agencies are faced with an aging pool of scientists, recruitment bans, limited support for training, and a government proposal to significantly cut salary costs. According to George Owusu Essegbey, Director of STEPRI, these challenges need to be urgently addressed if Ghana is to maintain its current capacity to conduct agricultural R&D.

Dependence on government and donor funding also poses a major challenge. Although government policy required agencies of Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to generate 30 percent of their budget from private sources more than a decade ago, only one institute has come close to reaching this target.

“Well-funded, staffed, and managed agricultural research organizations are critical to advancing agricultural science and technology,” said Nienke Beintema, head of the ASTI program. “In turn, innovations in agriculture are important to promoting agricultural productivity, spurring national economic growth, and ultimately improving the lives of poor Ghanaian families.”

Download press release.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The African Green Revolution forum

4th September 2010. The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) ended on September 4, 2010, with concrete resolutions to transform African agriculture and tackle issues of food security. Closing the forum in Accra, Ghana, AGRF Chair, Kofi Annan, praised efforts by public and private institutions, development organisations, donors and farmers to accelerate the African green revolution.

This week I saw something I have never seen before. The bankers for Africa were in attendance. The CEOs of Africa were in attendance. And they stayed for three days! This is something you never hear of on this continent. Friends said this is the first time they have ever seen such a group of top bankers and CEOs at an agricultural event. This is excellent news. We are finally getting the message across. Agriculture pays. Agriculture is a business. And we are ready to run it as one, for millions of smallholder farmer. I saw African scientists this week who are at the forefront of developing Africa’s own solutions to unlock agricultural productivity. I saw our women – from farmers to scientists, policy makers to owners of agri business – rallying behind the movement. This is encouraging for only they know, better than anyone, that the green revolution is first and foremost about them. Africa’s women will lead the change. I saw civil society organizations that are critical to the movement step up with renewed commitment. I was particularly delighted to see the cream of Africa’s parliamentarians join us. They carried a unique message. “We represent our constituencies, the majority of whom are farmers.” They pledged to step up to the plate and make sure the green revolution happen, to transform their people’s lives. Of course we had African political figures come out in force. The Prime Minister from Tanzania. The Vice President of Ghana. And the indefatigable presence of the former President of Nigeria, His Excellency Obasanjo. These gracious, impassioned leaders threw their political weight behind this shining moment of transformation for Africa. So you can feel my heart beat, for I know that we have arrived at the tipping point. We have converted words to action. We have launched ourselves on a trajectory toward taking the green revolution to scale.

A lack of adequate infrastructure, particularly access roads, has been identified by African farmers as one of the major obstacles hindering them from getting their crops to markets. They said that the high cost of transporting their produce to market made them reluctant to even consider increasing the size of their farming operations.

Lydia Sasu, leader of the Farmers Organisation Network in Ghana and second vice president of the Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, (ROPPA), said

Africans will be able to feed themselves if they can all work together and collaborate in the production of a range of crops. She cited the example of Ghana where not only rice, but a number of other crops such as yam, cocoa, plantain and cassava are also widely enjoyed.

"If we continue to propagate all those crops and put more innovation into them as researchers have been showing us, we can produce more, eat more but not only one crop. We can also diversify; in Ghana we have many - maize and others," she said.

Sasu also insisted that the voices of rural women need to be heard at all levels. She noted that women are the ones who normally keep whatever it is that requires keeping. Women are able to nurture so that even if something has been destroyed, they are able to bring it back to life. There is therefore, a need to collaborate with rural women to enable them learn more about agricultural methods which they can improve on and reach a level where new techniques can be applied and play a role in the green revolution.

Sasu appealed to women to put their house in order by coming together and taking part whenever there is something to discuss about agriculture, "because it concerns us more than any other thing in the community, we need to be involved. It is only when we know what is going on that we can be part of it".

Press Releases

The Agricultural Guarantee Fund Scheme

The Agricultural Guarantee Fund Scheme, a partnership between Standard Bank, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), Kilimo Trust, Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and Millennium Development Authority, seeks to offering the right kind of finance to its farmers and agricultural businesses.

This fund for Africa’s smallholder farmers, initiated in March 2009, is operating not only in Uganda but also in Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania. The loans have been provided by Standard Bank with support from AGRA, The Kilimo Trust and OFID. These partners have provided Standard Bank with a 1st loss guarantee/50% risk sharing agreement.

Jacques Taylor, director of agricultural banking, Standard Bank Africa says, “Ultimately the Agriculture Guarantee Fund Scheme aims to reach around 750,000 small farmers and small/medium sized enterprises (SMEs) over a three year period with businesses such as Pe Yero Millers benefitting across the African continent and ultimately contributing to Africa’s green revolution.”

AGRO2010 The International Scientific Week around Agronomy

August 29th-September 3rd. International Scientific Week around Agronomy AGRO2010Inventer une nouvelle agriculture conciliant respect de l’environnement et satisfaction des besoins alimentaires et énergétiques. C’est autour de cette question centrale que se sont réuni 550 chercheurs en agronomie de 52 pays dans le cadre d’Agro2010, à Montpellier. Une manifestation co-organisée par Agropolis International, les organismes de recherche et d’enseignements agronomiques français et l’Association française d’Agronomie (AFA).

"Lors d'Agro 2010, le grand congrès international de la société européenne d'agronomie, presque toutes les communications portaient sur l'agroécologie", confirme Michel Griffon, directeur adjoint de l'Agence nationale pour la recherche. Utiliser les processus biologiques, associer cultures, arbres et élevage dans l'agroforesterie, jouer sur la diversité des cultures pour se protéger des ravageurs, développer la fumure organique plutôt que chimique : tels sont les principes mis en avant par l'agronomie, qui ne veut plus se reposer sur l'amélioration des semences et l'augmentation de l'usage des engrais et pesticides.

Cette nouvelle démarche est reprise par un acteur important de la Révolution verte des années 1960 : le Groupe consultatif pour la recherche agricole internationale (CGIAR), qui met en avant l'expérience du "jardin potager africain" développée au Bénin et au Niger. Elle associe technologie d'irrigation au goutte-à-goutte, cultures de légumes combinées avec des arbres fruitiers, partage communautaire des frais engagés.

On day 4 (Thursday 4th of September) a seminar was organised around "Innovation and decision support in agriculture: Which Roles and Partnership for Research?": This symposium illustrated and analysed how research in agronomy can contribute to a sustainable agricultural progress, in both African and European contexts, through various types of deliverables and through diverse modes of interaction between research, farmers and their organizations, extension services and agro industry.

Parallel session “Africa”:

  • Entrepreneurship as driver of a 'Self-Organizing System of Innovation': the case of NERICA in Benin (Dalohoun Daniel Nougbegnon, Africa Rice Center, Benin)
  • From Labs to Farms: Agronomic Research Outcomes Transfer (Marie Chave, INRA, French West Indies)
  • Systems of vegetable growing in periurban area of Mahajanga. Determinants of agricultural practices of organic fertilizer for technical innovation (Heriniaina Ramahefarison, Laboratoire des RadioIsotopes, Madagascar)
  • Opportunities for enhancing crop yield in drought-prone south-east Zimbabwe (Chrispen Murungweni, Wageningen University, The Netherlands)

Le Monde 03/09 L'agriculture africaine veut faire sa révolution verte
AGRO2010 website The International Scientific Week around Agronomy

Africa investor Agribusiness Investment Awards

September 1, 2010. Casablanca, Durban, Nairobi, Lagos, Beijing, London; 31 August 2010: Africa investor (Ai), a leading international investment research and communications group, announced the winners of its prestigious 2010 Africa investor Agribusiness Investment Awards to the global agribusiness investment community.

The Awards are the first of their kind to formally recognise Africa’s agribusiness players who are changing the landscape for the continent’s agricultural sector by promoting innovative investments across the main agribusiness and finance sectors in Africa.

The Awards winners represent some of the most important institutions within Africa’s agribusiness industry. The Africa investor Agro-Processing Initiative of the Year category was awarded to Nestlé and the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development, KwaZulu-Natal, while Biofuels Initiative of the Year went to the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development, for their innovative technology and effective application of bio-gas programmes in Uganda.

Using the value chain approach for innovative partnerships in cassava

2nd September 2010. Windhoek Namibia. Interview PART 2 with Pheneas Ntawuruhunga at the fourth day of the FANRPAN regional meeting. He is the coordinator of SARRNET  (Start date: 2007 September, Planned end date: 2010 August) following his presentation of the SARRNET platform on Improving Rural Livelihoods in Southern Africa through Root and Tuber Crops. He explains how to link post harvest research to the new market potential of cassava

Linking post harvest research to the new market potential of cassava

2nd September 2010. Windhoek Namibia. Interview with Pheneas Ntawuruhunga at the fourth day of the FANRPAN regional meeting. He is the coordinator of SARRNET  (Start date: 2007 September
Planned end date: 2010 August) following his presentation of the SARRNET platform on Improving Rural Livelihoods in Southern Africa through Root and Tuber Crops. He explains how to link post harvest research to the new market potential of cassava

SARRNET is a SADC Network, implemented by IITA in collaboration with CIP and NARS.
From 1994 it focused on cassava and s/potato, covering 12 of the 14 SADC countries. Phase I

  • From 1999 it concentrated in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa and Zambia; funds on competitive grants basis; shift from production to demand-led R4D, with bias on private sector participation, income generation and food security. Phase II
  • Since 2004, Cyinyanja Triangle and Angola led by different consortiums
  • From 2005 ; activities were expanded to include yam, cocoyam and Irish potato.

The goal of SARRNET is to facilitate synergistic regional complementarities to research, production and marketing to improve food production and increase rural incomes by generating technologies that will address common constraints in Southern Africa region through research for development (R4D) of root and tuber crops: (a) Cassava, yam and cocoyam - IITA, (b) Sweet potato, Irish potato - CIP.

Post harvest technologies developed in collaboration with C-to-C engineering Services, Malawi are: Heavy-duty graters, chippers, Presses, Solar driers and Cassava peeler. Application: 3t/hour, for commercial purpose, eliminate contamination, for medium processors

  • Cassava silage: Potential to economically utilize the bulk of cassava foliage after harvest which currently is put to waste.
  • High Quality Cassava Flour: Promoting use of cassava flour in the region for baking to reduce on cost of wheat flour
On going regional activities:
  • Assessment of processed cassava products for fungal and mycotoxin contamination
  • Development and testing of processing technologies-peeler machine
  • Evaluation and selection of cassava varieties for high beta carotene content
  • Screening cassava varieties for cold/frost tolerance
  • Investigations into agronomic practices for sustained competitiveness
Information exchange, backstopping/coordination
  • Over 100 scientific papers by SARRNET scientists in various publications: ROOTS News, African Crop Science Journal, Proceedings (including ISTRC-AB), etc
  • Workshops, meetings, etc.
  • Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) meetings
  • Funds leveraging– 3 projects for Malawi, 1 for Angola, one for Zambia

CGIAR Livestock Fish Mega Program stakeholder consultation meeting

24 and 25 August 2010. Addis Ababa. CGIAR Livestock Fish Mega Program stakeholder consultation meeting.

Steve Hall, Director General of the WorldFish Centre reflects on the CGIAR Livestock Fish Mega Program stakeholder meeting. Reflecting on the role of the emerging CGIAR, Steve Hall, Director General of the WorldFish Centre outlines three ‘BBC’ roles that the CGIAR needs to take on. These are: ‘Bridging’ really good research into action; ‘Brokering’ the relationships needed for our research to really be applied and taken up; and ‘Catalyzing’ the changes that are needed, through advocacy and dialogue. These are the important roles, “much more than just doing science at the front end.”

Value chain focus of Livestock and Fish Mega Program provides opportunity for future impact. CIAT’s Brigitte Maass found the discussions to be a “wonderful opportunity to open an avenue for future research” with different partners. In terms of the Mega Program proposal, she foresees that focus on value chains will allow the partners to get away from a “very limited focus on a particular technique or technology but rather really the larger integration along a value chain.”

Tom Randolph from ILRI introduces the essential features of the proposed CGIAR Livestock Fish Mega Program. The new elements for the CGIAR are basically the ways the Centers work with partners and how they focus their research. "Instead of doing our work everywhere, in bits and pieces, we are trying to focus it now into a few selected value chains in a few selected countries around the world, and we are going to commit to transforming those value chains and to work with development partners in large scale interventions as the research knowledge partner, in real time, helping them to have impact on a large number of smallholders, producing a greater amount of animal source foods for poor consumers."

Pour N'Guetta Bosso, du Bureau Interafricain des ressources animales (UA/BIRA), présent à la récente consultation sur le méga programme élevage et pêche du GCRAI tenue à Addis Abeba les 24 et 25 août 2010, le programme aura un impact visible s’il implique les populations bénéficiaires et que les barrières, c’est-à-dire les politiques mises en place, l’accès au marché, la diffusion des technologies et les questions de genre, soient levées.

David Nyagaka from Novus International argued that the private sector has an important role to play: Once it gets hold of technologies, it can convert them into something tangible which the farmers would be able to use. However, care is needed in approaching the private sector.

World Bank consultant Cees de Haan reflects on the proposed CGIAR Livestock Fish Mega Program. What he found new in this workshop is the whole emphasis on the value chain, the focus on marketing and processing for what the consumers want; in the past, the focus of CGIAR research was more on production systems. He suggests that the main challenge will be to extrapolate results from a single value chain to larger universes and audiences.