Tuesday, 27 December 2011

China's food security challenge: what role for Africa?

Africa will in the next decade increasingly play an important role in China’s long-term food security agenda as demand for food in the world’s most populous nation threatens to outstrip its supply, according to Standard Bank research analysts Simon Freemantle and Jeremy Stevens.

In their latest paper “China’s Food security challenge: What role for Africa?” published in November 2011 (13 pages), Mr Freemantle and Mr Stevens write that China is facing serious strains on both the demand and supply side of its agricultural sector and will in the next few years have to look externally to supplement its sources of food supply.

  • Who will feed China? Malthusian concerns around the world’s ability to provide sustenance for a rising population have often, as now, centered on China. With unrivalled agricultural potential, Africa too has been thrust to centre stage. Emotionally-fuelled estimations of China’s agricultural ambitions in Africa too often miss the mark. This paper assesses where (if at all) Africa fits into Beijing’s long-term food security agenda.
  • Food demand is rising rapidly in China. Rising incomes and urbanisation are leading to dramatic increases in food consumption in China. China now consumes the second most food in the world, behind the United States. It is expected that, by 2015, China’s total food expenditure will double to over USD1 trillion (tr).
  • Meanwhile, China is facing increasing strains on agricultural supply.  Urbanisation and industrialisation are swallowing up farmland, and diminishing water tables. Between 1996 and 2006, China lost 9 million (mn) hectares (ha) of farmland.
  • Boosting domestic sources of supply will be Beijing’s core response to these challenges. Agriculture’s broader role in maintaining social harmony in China is profound. Fortunately, China has the propensity and ability to boost domestic production. China is a net exporter of food and has enormous stockpiles of most soft commodities. Given pointed state support, China’s agricultural output is expected to swell by 26% to 2019. 
  • However, clear demand overhangs exist, meaning that China will have to seek external sources of nutrition. Two principle channels exist:
  • First, China will look to enhance trade ties with food exporting nations. Between 2001 and 2010 China’s imports of soybeans rose ten-fold, from USD2.8 billion (bn) to over USD25 bn, and rubber imports from USD2 bn to USD17 bn.
  • Africa is a bit player in China’s agricultural trade prospectus. 99% of China’s soybean imports come from the Americas, and three-quarters of rubber imports from the rest of Asia. In 2009, China-Africa agricultural trade was just USD4 bn, less than 4% of total trade. A disconnect exists between African agricultural export and Chinese agricultural import dynamics. That said, recent trade growth in certain commodities, such as cotton, has been impressive.
  • Second, China will align aid and outward investment in agriculture to access new opportunities. Here, Africa’s role is pronounced.  While cooperation remains developmental, signs of commercialism and strategic intent are clear. In general, state-owned farming groups carry out Beijing’s agricultural investments in Africa. As of 2009, China had carried out over 200 agricultural projects in Africa. Increasingly, these projects are run on a for-profit basis.
  • Estimations of Chinese “land grabs” in Africa are overstated. Gulf States, as well as private investors from throughout the developing and advanced world have led the thrust of recent land acquisitions in Africa. Beijing, alarmed by local sensitivities, has remained cautious.
  • Africa desperately requires capital and skills to elevate food security. Managed well, partnerships with China can be meaningful. However, domestic food security must be placed first. Then, and leveraging Chinese aid, crops suited for China’s demand dynamics can and should be emphasised. Increasingly, green technology will provide cogent opportunities.

AFR-Brazil Ag Innovation Marketplace - third call for proposals

The Marketplace aims to benefit primarily smallholder producers. The objective of this initiative is to enhance agricultural innovation for development on the African continent through the establishment and strengthening of partnerships between African and Brazilian organizations.

The Marketplace focus on agricultural innovation thus potentially engaging the full range of actors involved in the generation of agricultural knowledge (research, academia, extension, private sector, NGOs, producers, policy makers.

This initiative lead to the generation of concrete and productive partnerships between agricultural research and development organizations in Africa and Brazil, initially through Embrapa, supporting smallholders. Ultimately, it will support the development of a mutually agreed framework for sustainable Africa-Brazil collaborations. The Marketplace will open a new source of expertise to Africa to identify and target pro-poor, smallholder-based projects utilizing Brazilian innovation research.

Key dates
Dec 12th 2011 - Feb 29th 2012 - Call for pre-proposals
Mar 01st 2012 - Mar 12th 2012 - Pre-proposal evaluation and selection
Mar 12th 2012 - Mar 15th 2012 - Announcement and invitation of selected pre-proposals for submission of full proposals
Mar 15th 2012 - Apr 09th 2012 - Submission of full proposals
Apr 09th 2012 - Apr 16th 2012 - Full proposal evaluation and selection

Technology and Innovation Report 2011: Powering Development with Renewable Energy Technologies

The Technology and Innovation Report (TIR) 2011 [PDF, 179 Pages, 2360Kb] analyses the important role of technology and innovation policies in expanding the application and wider acceptance of renewable energy technologies (RETs), particularly in the context of developing countries. Technology and innovation policies can promote and facilitate the development, acquisition, adaptation and deployment of RETs to support sustainable development and poverty reduction in developing countries and LDCs.

Four current trends lend a new urgency to the need to explore how far and how easily RETs could serve energy needs worldwide.
  1. First, ensuring universal access to conventional energy sources using grids entails high costs, which means that developing countries are unlikely to be able to afford the costs of linking additional households, especially those in rural areas, to existing grids. 
  2. Second, the climate change debate has injected a greater sense of urgency into searching for newer energy options, as a result of both ongoing policy negotiations and the greater incidence of environmental catastrophes worldwide. 
  3. Third, from a development perspective, the recent inancial and environmental crises have caused major setbacks in a large number of developing countries and LDCs, resulting in their further marginalization from the global economy. The LDCs and many developing countries suffer from severe structural vulnerabilities that are a result of their patterns of integration into the global economy. The international community needs to promote low-carbon, climate-friendly development while fostering inclusive economic growth in these economies as a matter of urgency. 
  4. Lastly, there are extreme inequalities within developing countries themselves, and lack of access to energy affects the poorest of the poor worldwide, impeding their ability to enjoy the basic amenities of modern life that are available to others at the same level of development.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Inventory of African and European CSOs involved in agricultural research for development (ARD) in sub-Saharan Africa.

19 November 2011. Nairobi. An international consultation meeting was held to discuss the findings of the inventory of African and European CSOs involved in agricultural research for development (ARD) in sub-Saharan Africa. The meeting was attended by about 30 people from research institutions, NGOs and FOs.

The study identified the formal and informal linkages between CSOs and other stakeholders involved in ARD, as well as potentials and blockages in the ARD system to realising a greater participation of CSOs in prioritising, formulating and carrying out ARD. The study also looked into resource allocation for ARD in sub-Saharan Africa, and how and where and by whom the decisions for such allocation are made.

This study was planned to contribute to:
  • Designing and implementing a consultative mechanism that allows various CSO representatives to participate meaningfully in African, European and international deliberations on ARD;
  • Triggering the necessary change in direction of the ARD system toward a more demand-led, grounded and smallholder-focused research and innovation system; and
  •  Stimulating greater resource flows to research involving small-scale farmers.
Next steps: 
  • INSARD will finalise the “CSO-in-ARD” mapping study report and make it widely available. INSARD will develop a short strategy paper on possible CSO consultation and coordination mechanisms. 
  • INSARD will develop a policy paper to provide a basis for engaging with the GCARD (Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development) roadmap, including issues of governance reforms and alternative approaches to ARD.
  • INSARD will contribute to the regional consultations for GCARD in Africa and Europe in early 2012 by informing NGOs and FOs in these regions about the international ARD process, so that they understand how they can engage in ARD decision-making, in a similar way as was done during the time of the NGO Committee (NGOC) of the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research).
Mapping EU-SSA Agricultural Research for Development, CSO Engagement and Resource-Allocation Processes, Mutizwa Mukute and Tafadzwa Marange, 7 December 2011, 77 pages.

Boosting Agricultural Higher education into CAADP

28th to 30th November 2011. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The African Network for Agriculture, Agroforestry and Natural Resource Education (ANAFE), ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development Cooperation (CTA), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the NEPAD Coordinating Agency, CORAF-WECARD and the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) held a Sensitization workshop for Engaging French Speaking African Higher Agricultural Education Institutions into CAADP.

Other key partners of the organization are the University of Ouagadougou, University of Abomey Calavi (Benin), the Association of African Universities (AAU), the African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education (CAMES), the Conference of rectors of Universities of Francophone West Africa, Central and Indian Ocean (CRUFAOCI), the Network of Institutions of higher Education in
Fishing (Afri-FishNet), the European Alliance on Agricultural Knowledge for development (Agrinatura) and the French consortium Agreenium.

During the three days conference, a number of papers were presented, followed by debates and discussions, and propositions made. This led to the following results:
  • An increased awareness about the objectives, the constants and the expected outputs of the CAADP;
  • A better understanding of the role to be played by Universities and other agricultural higher education institutions in cooperation with their supervisory ministries and those in charge of agriculture;
  • The massive presence at the meeting of Universities, other higher education institutions and technical and financial partners, is a testimony of their willingness to be involved in actions undertaken for the attainment of the CAADP objectives;
  • Important activities were formulated which will lead to a stronger involvement of agricultural training institutions;
  • Concertation frameworks were proposed with CAADP, ANAFE, RUFORUM and FARA which will be able to serve for interaction between Universities and Agricultural training institutions.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Agriculture innovation systems: An investment sourcebook

Forthcoming on February 17, 2012.
Agriculture and Rural Development Series
English; Paperback; 696 pages; 8.5x11
Published February 17, 2012 by World Bank
ISBN: 978-0-8213-8684-2; SKU: 18684
Price: $49.95
Book ordering information

The long-awaited agriculture innovation systems sourcebook is going to be published by the World Bank early in 2012.

According to some pre-materials, “the agricultural innovation system (AIS) approach has evolved from a concept into an entire subdiscipline, with principles of analysis and action, yet no detailed blueprint exists for making agricultural innovation happen at a given time, in a given place, for a given result. This sourcebook draws on the emerging principles of AIS analysis and action to help identify, design, and implement the investments, approaches, and complementary interventions that appear most likely to strengthen innovation system and promote agricultural innovation and equitable growth.”

It is “targeted to the key operational staff in international and regional development agencies and national governments who design and implement lending projects and to the practitioners who design thematic programs and technical assistance packages. The sourcebook is also an important resource for the research community and NGOs and may be a useful reference for the private sector, farmer organizations, and individuals with an interest in agricultural innovation.”

Key messages of the sourcebook are:
  • Agricultural development depends on innovation. Innovation is a major source of improvedproductivity, competitiveness, and economic growth throughout advanced and emerging economies, and plays an important role in creating jobs, generating income, alleviating poverty, and driving social development.
  • If farmers, agribusinesses, and even nations are to cope, compete, and thrive in the midstof changes in agriculture and economy, they must innovate continuously.
  • Investments in science and technology are a key component of most strategies to improve and maintain agricultural productivity and innovate.
  • Research, education, and extension investments are necessary components but have not been sufficient for agricultural innovation to occur. Other conditions and complementary interventions are needed.
  • In addition to a strong capacity in RD, components of effective agricultural innovation are collective action and coordination, the exchange of knowledge among diverse actors, the skills, incentives and resources available to form partnerships and develop businesses, and enabling conditions that make it possible for actors to innovate. These conditions and complementary interventions have not been consistently addressed to date.
  • Innovation and business development by different stakeholders does not occur without complementary investments to create a supportive environment. Enabling conditions in a given context depend on a (innovation) policy mix, innovation governance, a diverse set of regulatory matters and other investments with synergistic effects.
  • The agricultural innovation system (AIS) investments must be context specific and respond to the stage of and vision for development in a particular country and agricultural sector. Given the resource limitations, investments need to be assessed, prioritized, sequenced, and tailored to the needs, challenges, and resources that are present.


This paper (40 pages) traces the evolution of the innovation systems framework within the agricultural sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, and presents a conceptual framework for agricultural innovation systems. The difference between innovation ecology/ecosystems and intervention-based innovations systems is highlighted, given that these two concepts are used at different levels in promoting and sustaining agricultural innovations. The role of open innovation, innovation platforms, and innovation intermediaries in catalyzing, enhancing, and facilitating the innovation process are discussed, as is the role of R&D in the innovation process.

The paper goes on to consider the interconnectedness of the innovation systems perspective and value-chain analysis in agricultural R&D processes, before summarizing the current status of agricultural R&D in Sub-Saharan Africa, lessons from past experience, and implications and key challenges confronting development practitioners in institutionalizing the agricultural innovation systems concept within the agricultural R&D in the region. Finally, some key conclusions and areas for investment are presented.

Related blog post:

Friday, 16 December 2011

Land Rights and the Land Rush: Findings of the Global Commercial Pressures on Land Research Project

Land Rights and the Rush for Land
Findings of the Global Commercial Pressures on Land Research Project
Land Rights and the Rush for Land
Ward Anseeuw, Liz Alden Wily, Lorenzo Cotula, and Michael Taylor
This report, authored by leading land experts, is the culmination of a three-year research project that brought together forty members and partners of ILC, CIRAD and IIED to examine the characteristics, drivers and impacts and trends of rapidly increasing commercial pressures on land.
The report strongly urges models of investment that do not involve large-scale land acquisitions, but rather work together with local land users, respecting their land rights and the ability of small-scale farmers themselves to play a key role in investing to meet the food and resource demands of the future.
The conclusions of the report are based on case studies that provide indicative evidence of local and national realities, and on the ongoing global monitoring of large-scale land deals for which data are subject to a continuous process of verification.
But while research and monitoring will continue, this report draws some conclusions and policy implications from the evidence there is already.

Online forums to further develop the “ICT in Agriculture” Sourcebook

The World Bank and the e-Agriculture Community are collaborating in a series of online forums to further develop resources for the recently launched “ICT in Agriculture” Sourcebook (www.ictinagriculture.org).

These discussion forums, available to all e-Agriculture community members, will be vehicles to inform the World Bank of other projects/programmes that e-Agriculture members are carrying out and that could complement the research of the World Bank.
The ICT in Agriculture Sourcebook offers practical examples and case studies from around the world. A compilation of modules related to 14 agricultural subsectors, each module covers the challenges, lessons learned, and enabling factors associated with using ICT to improve smallholder livelihoods. Its aim is to support development practitioners in exploring the use of or designing, implementing, and investing in ICT enabled agriculture interventions.

Resources and the forum archives for these discussions are brought together in one convenient location.

A first discussion is ending today about Strengthening Agricultural Marketing with ICT
5-16 December 2011
This forum followed module 9, beginning with the need for and impact of ICT in agricultural marketing from the perspectives of producers, consumers, and traders. It continues to look at mobile phones as a marketing tool; evidence that ICT is changing logistics and transaction costs; the use of ICTs for market research (both for acquiring immediate market information and acquiring market intelligence over time); and the use of ICT to make input supply and use more effective. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


05-Dec-2011 to 07-Dec-2011. ASTI, together with the International Food Policy Report Institute (IFPRI), where ASTI is based, and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), convened a conference on agricultural R&D in Africa.

The conference focused on the following themes:

ICT in Agriculture e-Sourcebook

ARD and infoDev kindly announce the release of the:
ICT in Agriculture e-Sourcebook
Connecting Smallholders to Knowledge, Networks and Institutions
Click Here to Access the PDF 

The ICT in Agriculture e-Sourcebook is designed to support development practitioners exploring, designing, implementing, and investing in information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled agriculture interventions.  The book is a compilation of resources related to 14 agricultural subsectors.  Each module covers the challenges, lessons learned, and enabling factors associated with using ICT to improve smallholder livelihoods in these subsectors.  Over 200 examples and case studies from five regions are presented in the text. The e-Sourcebook and website was made possible through the Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy program and generous funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

Also announcing the ICT in Agriculture Website: http://www.ictinagriculture.org 

A central goal of the sourcebook is to expand knowledge on the nexus between ICT and agriculture, and to generate discussion on how to use ICT effectively to improve the sector and reduce poverty.  The Agriculture and Rural Development Department (ARD) and infoDev of the World Bank invites you to participate in this discussion.  See the website above to access to sourcebook and for additional information and resources on ICT in agriculture.

We are also hosting a series of forums on ICT in agriculture with FAO's e-agriculture community. The first forum, on ICT and Strengthening Markets, will be held from December 5th-16th. Please visit the website to learn how to participate.

If you would like to receive occasional newsletters on ICT in agriculture from the World Bank, please click here to send an email (ictinag@worldbank.org).

Work Programme for agriculture at the climate talks in Durban

A group of 15 leading agricultural organisations (including three United Nations agencies, the World Bank, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), the World Farmers' Organisation, CTA, FANRPAN and the International Food Policy Research Institute) have jointly endorsed a letter to the COP17 climate negotiators with a specific call-to-action, namely to approve a Work Programme for agriculture at the climate talks in Durban [under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA)] .

Agriculture is the low-hanging fruit for a deal at the climate talks this year, and this letter represents a strong consensus from key actors in agriculture on how negotiators can make progress this year -- both to mitigate agriculture's current level of emissions but also to help farmers adapt to changing growing conditions. The letter calls on negotiators to "take early action to determine the long-term investments needed to transform agriculture to meet future challenges."

The letter comes ahead of Agriculture and Rural Development Day, which takes place in parallel to the COP17 climate talks this Saturday, 3 Dec in Durban.

You can also read a Wall Street Journal article about the letter just published today:

PAEPARD Agricultural Innovation Facilitators' Workshop

28 November - 2 December 2011. Entebbe. PAEPARD Agricultural Innovation Facilitators' Workshop.

The Platform for African-European partnership for Agricultural Research for Development (PAEPARD) in collaboration with The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) has organised a five-day facilitators' Inception Workshop of the PAEPARD Project. The main objective of this workshop is to familiarise participants with their potential role as facilitators of "agricultural innovation partnerships" established with the support of the PAEPARD project.

The workshop is daily documented by one of the participants (Nawsheen Hosenally from Mauritius)

Day 1 – Monday 28th November 2011: Introduction to PAEPARDThe theme for the first day of the workshop was “Introduction to PAEPARD”.

The question of the open space was "You have been selected as a 'facilitator of multi-stakeholder innovation processes: Which theme do you think is essential to discuss - from your experience with ARD multi-stakeholder innovation processes in - in a sub-workshop?"

The 8 sub-workshops were on the following topics:
1. How to identify relevant partners within a multi-stakeholder partnership?
2. How to balance/manage power imbalances within a consortium?
3. How can we reinforce capacities to work in partnership?
4. How can we manage stakeholders in a team? Divide roles and overcome mistrust
5. How can we keep ourselves relevant and in demand by the partnership?
6. How do we harmonise our work methods when we are driven by different ideologies?
7. How can we maintain neutrality in our facilitation?
8. How can we share financial and information resources in a sustainable partnership?

Day 2: Tuesday 29th November 2011: Facilitation of ARD Partnerships
The theme for Day 2 was "Facilitation of ARD Partnerships" and the aim was that all participants know about the role of a facilitator in a multi-stakeholder partnership.

Day 3 - Wednesday 30th November 2011: Facilitation Tools
Role Play
The first session of Day 3 was a role-play by Janet Achora and Monica Kapiriri Namumbya (both from Uganda), whereby Monica had to approach Janet (consortium) as the Agricultural Innovation Facilitator by PAEPARD.
Moderation, Coordination, Facilitation and Leadership
This session discussed the differences between Moderation, Coordination, Facilitation and Leadership.There were 3 boards in front, on each one there was a question, written on a card of different colours:
Green Card: Achieve the task (Common objectives)
Blue Card: Manage the team and avoid conflict
Pink Card: Promote learning by partners
Research Questions
The last exercise for the day was about Research Questions. Each country pair had to work together on their respective concept notes and had to generate 5 research questions and 3 sub-questions for each of the selected concept notes of the Second round of the PAEPARD call ARD proposals

Day 4 - Thursday 1st December 2011: Designing a partnership facilitation process

Presentation on PAEPARD Inception Workshop - June 2011
The objective was for participants to have an idea about how an inception workshop was organised by PAEPARD in the past and the points to keep in mind while planning and implementing the workshop. There are 4 steps which are involved for a concept note to become a formal proposal and the example given was from the PAEPARD First Call:

  1. Original proposal to PAEPARD
  2. Concept Note (Draft) drafted as a result of the PAEPARD Inception Workshop
  3. Complete Concept Note
  4. Draft Proposal Write-shop to generate formal proposal (submission)

Individual plans
Each country pair was asked to design a timeline of 3 months on the type of activities they will organise with respect to their respective consortium and also the specific output/milestone achieved for each proposed activity.

Video Projection
Mrs. Habiba Hassan Wassef of Egypt, talks about how Africans should be aware of their Intellectual Property Rights before sharing their views with Europeans.

Financing ARD
To understand about how ARD can be financed, a document from ICRA, which contained key concepts on how to finance ARD were given to the participants, who were asked to read the document. Then there was a brainstorming session to find the possible finance sources at National Level, Sub-Regional Level (Africa) and International Level.

Presentation by ASARECA
To get a better idea of how ARD are financed in Africa, there was a presentation by Mr. Joseph Methu from ASARECA. He explained about how ASARECA does the coordination work regarding financing of ARD in the East Africa Region.

Statements from World Bank
This session was a presentation on a report from the World Bank: IMPLEMENTING AGRICULTURAL INNOVATION FUNDS: Lessons from Competitive Research and Matching Grant Projects.. From that Report, different statements were taken and presented to the participants.

  1. Statement 1: The more a call is competitive – and selective, the less facilitators will be asked to play an intermediation role, as the investment will have less chances to lead to a return.
  2. Statement 2: Competitive grants strengthen the strongest actors and do not reduce the disparities between the strong and the weak.
  3. Statement 3: Mainly the growing rhetoric’s among the agricultural research and development partners to become more accountable to the beneficiary and other stakeholders has necessitated the need for partnerships and new funding schemes
  4. Statement 4: Only organizations which have a minimum budget , a critical mass of staff and a research and innovation management capacity can compete in competitive grants

Proposal formulation
The last session for Day 4 was about the proposal formulation. Participants were given a document on points to be taken into consideration while doing a proposal formulation.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Enhancing partnerships between African and US scientists for collaborative GEC research

2012 Research Partnership Enhancement Awards
Announcing five Awards of $5,000 each to develop and/or enhance partnerships between African and US scientists for collaborative GEC research.

START is offering five grant awards to enhance partnerships between African scientists and US scientists who are currently engaged in Global Environmental Change (GEC) research.

1.  Who is eligible?                                    
Applications will be accepted from individual scientists from Africa who are based at an institution in Africa.  The African scientist must have an established contact with a counterpart scientist based at an institution in the United States.  

2.  Why are the grants being offered?
START sponsors a number of programs to build capacity for GEC research and outreach by scientists in Africa.  (http://start.org/programs)   Over the years, START has received many requests to provide funds to allow face-to-face visits of scientists from the US and Africa.  The Research Partnership Enhancement Awards are being offered as a way to enhance collaborative US/Africa projects for research, training, joint scientific publications and the development of communication products.  The awards are part of START’s overall goals to:

·         increase the number of scientists in Africa who are working on global environmental change issues;
·         enhance communication at the interface of science, policy and practice;
·         encourage research that contributes to understanding global environmental change in the context of regional and national development priorities; and
·         strengthen scientific networks by fostering collaborative relationships across disciplines, institutions and countries.

Training program on agribusiness incubation for SSA

Dr Ralph von Kaufmann, Technical Coordinator,
UniBRAIN-FARA, in a discussion with Dr Dar and others
21-24 November. Aiming to promote agribusiness ventures in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through value-chain based agribusiness incubators, ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program under its
Agribusiness Innovation Platform (AIP) organized a training program on “Strengthening the capacity of UniBRAIN – Agribusiness Innovation Incubation Consortia (AIIC) members” at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

The training program primarily aimed to strengthen the capacity of AIIC members in incubator planning and management, in view of UniBRAIN’s plan to set up an African Business Incubators Network (AFBIN) similar to the Network of Indian Agri Business Incubators (NIABI) of India. The training was focused on incubator management, planning for incubation operations, client selection, setting up systems and processes, and other key aspects of setting up successful business incubators to promote entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU)
Twenty six participants from the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN), Pan African Agribusiness and Agro Industry Consortium (PanAAC), Agro forestry and Natural Resources Education (ANAFE), Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), Conseil Ouest et Centre Africain pour la Recherche et le Développement Agricoles (CORAF) and SADC joined the training program at Patancheru, which had 30 resource persons from infoDev, ISBA, STC, Trec-STEP, Technopark, Villgro, etc. who provided and shared their vast and rich experiences in agriculture and agribusiness.

The training was continued at the Business Planning and Development (BPD) units of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore and Ooty.

UniBRAIN is a program of FARA supported by the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DANIDA). It is facilitated by a team of partner institutions comprising FARA Networking Support Function for Capacity Strengthening (FARA-NSF4) and its associated sub-regional organizations – ASARECA, CORAF, Centre for Coordinating Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa
(CCARDESA), African Network for Agriculture, ANAFE, PanAAC, and ICRISAT Agri-Business Incubator (ABI).

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Australia International Centre for Food Security (AICFS)

28 October. The Australian government will establish an international food security centre to offer research and technical expertise to willing governments and institutions in Africa.The Australia International Centre for Food Security (AICFS) will be established in the second quarter of next year.

It will be set up at a cost of around US$37 million and be hosted by the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR). Under the scheme African scientists will be linked to top Australian research bodies and tertiary education institutions to access solutions to the challenges of farming in tropical and sub-tropical environments.
Australian researchers will also train African scientists in the technology the country uses to cope with many of the environmental challenges it shares with Africa, such as its extreme climate, soil infertility and climate change.
Gabrielle Persley, adjunct professor at the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in Australia, said the centre will help African scientists develop drought-resilient crop varieties, an area where Australia has made great strides.
The centre will also develop vaccines for livestock diseases and conduct joint research programmes with African counterparts.
"Developing the capacity of African scientists and other experts in areas such as developing market access for smallholder farmers, and deploying Australian advanced technology in helping farmers cope with impacts of climate change will be major facets of this initiative," said Persley.
The building of the centre will be preceded by an international conference on African food security, in the first half of 2012. The conference will bring together Australian and African researchers to identify opportunities for cooperation. 

The centre will eventually have a branch in an as-yet-unidentified African country. The priority of AICFS will be to achieve food and nutritional security but that it will in future phases move towards the commercialisation of smallholder agriculture.

Bio of Gabrielle Persley

Dr. Persley received her doctorate in microbiology at the University of Queensland, Australia. Her work is focused on the role of biotechnology in developing countries. She has published widely and is editor of a CAB International (CABI) published series of books on Agricultural Biotechnology. Her most recent publications are Meta review for the International Council for Science (ICSU) “New Genetics, Food and Agriculture- Scientific Discoveries—Societal Dilemmas” and “Biotechnology and Sustainable Development: Voices of the South and North”.

Dr. Persley spent several years in Washington DC as the biotechnology advisor to the World Bank, where she managed a number of biotechnology projects, in support of the applications of biotechnology in emerging economies. She is presently a member of the Steering Committee of the African Biosciences Facility, a NEPAD-sponsored center of excellence in biosciences, established on the campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya.

12 ways how mobile technology can boost African agriculture

In a recent report, titled Connected Agriculture, Vodafone and Accenture identified 12 opportunities for mobile phone technology to increase agricultural income and productivity. Some of these platforms are already widely used in Africa, while others are still in the early stages of implementation.
1. Mobile payment systems
Mobile payment systems give farmers without access to financial services an inexpensive and secure way to transfer and save money using their mobile phones. By allowing smallholder farmers to save small amounts of money, receive payments quickly in times of need and pay for agricultural inputs via their phones, mobile payment systems replace costly traditional transfer services and the need to travel long distances to collect funds. They also provide a secure means for employers to distribute wages to agricultural workers, and for governments and NGOs to ensure agricultural subsidies go directly to farmers.
2. Micro-insurance systems
Mobile micro-insurance systems can safeguard farmers against losses when bad weather harms their harvest, encouraging them to buy better quality seeds and invest in fertiliser and other inputs. This can improve productivity and boost farmers’ livelihoods as well as enabling suppliers to expand their market among smallholder farmers. Delivering micro-insurance via mobile avoids challenges with conventional channels that can make insurance expensive. Remote monitoring of weather avoids the need for insurers to make farm visits. With mobile micro-insurance systems, farmers also benefit from quick, secure payouts using money transfer services.
3. Micro-lending platforms
Micro-lending platforms could connect smallholders in Africa with individuals elsewhere willing to provide finance to help the farmers to buy much-needed agricultural inputs. Mobile access to micro-lending platforms provides a free and secure way for rural borrowers to be matched to potential investors and gives existing microfinance providers access to those who need loans the most. Mobile payment records can be used as proof of credit history.
4. Mobile information platforms
Through mobile information platforms, farmers receive text messages with information that help to improve the productivity of their land and boost their incomes. Governments and agricultural support organisations can use the platforms to distribute information about available subsidies and programmes.
5. Farmer helplines
Farmers call a helpline and speak to agricultural experts who can provide answers to agricultural queries. The experts and researchers can use information on the issues raised to improve their understanding of agricultural trends and the challenges encountered by farmers in Africa.
6. Smart logistics
Smart logistics uses mobile technology to help distribution companies manage their fleets more efficiently – reducing costs for farmers and distributors, cutting fuel use and potentially preventing food losses. Devices in trucks communicate with a central hub via machine-to-machine (M2M) connections, providing information on truck movements. Logistics companies supporting input providers, agro-dealers or processors can combine this with information about delivery schedules, loads, trips planned, routes and number of pick-ups to minimise truck movements.
7. Traceability and tracking systems
Mobile technology can be used to track individual food products through the supply chain from grower to retailer. Detailed tracking improves supply chain efficiency and helps smallholder farmers, food distributors and retailers provide the traceability that is increasingly demanded by consumers. It can also help reduce food spoilage. Mobile phones can be used to log the location, quality and quantity of food items at key points in the supply chain. Agents buying products at a farm and workers at distribution centres can use mobile camera phones to scan product barcodes providing details of the items. This information is sent to a central system to give retailers, exporters and distributors a detailed view of product movements. This could help open access to new markets by meeting the requirements of the European Union, for example. Farmers can use the data to comply with certification standards such as Fairtrade and organic, and potentially charge higher prices for produce that complies with such standards.
8. Mobile management of supplier networks
Food buyers and exporters can use mobile phones to manage their networks of small-scale growers and help field agents collect information. Managing large numbers of small farms and growers requires networks of field agents, auditors and technical staff to gather a wide range of information. They carry out farm audits, check the quality and quantity of harvests, and report problems. Keeping detailed paper records for this information is inefficient, can be erratic and can lead to delayed decision making. Equipping field agents with mobile phones improves the supplier management process, providing a reliable, quick and cheap way of creating electronic records in a central database. Field agents visiting farms can use their mobile phones to input data on farmers’ locations, crops and expected yield. Farmers could also use mobiles to send information about their likely harvest date and other key indicators to food buyers and other organisations. Buyers and distributors could use this information to collect fresh food items more promptly and get them to market as soon as possible, reducing food waste and increasing agricultural incomes.
9. Mobile management of distribution networks
Distributors of farming inputs such as seeds and fertiliser could use mobile technology to gather sales and stock data, improving availability for farmers and increasing sales. It can be difficult for companies supplying agricultural inputs to monitor and manage their wide network of rural retailers. Communications and transport difficulties lead to information gaps. Retailers could record sales using a mobile camera phone to scan the barcode, sending this data straight to a central system for analysis. Building up a digital record of sales across a region could help distributors avoid supply gaps. Improved understanding of supply and demand could also help identify new market opportunities and tailor products to local needs.
10. Agricultural trading platforms
Linking smallholder farmers directly with potential buyers through a mobile trading platform could help them to secure the best price for their produce. Mobile trading platforms could help dealers locate new sources of food when supplies are limited and could help companies fulfil their commitment to sourcing from smaller and more diverse businesses.
11. Agricultural tendering platforms
Online platforms for submitting and bidding on tenders for food distribution, processing and exporting could make the agricultural supply chain more competitive and efficient. There are many distribution, processing and export agents in Africa and poor communications make it difficult to achieve competitive business contracts and tenders. Using mobile phones to access online tendering platforms could help users reach a wider supplier base and promote competition. For example, a food aggregator could advertise a tender to a processing facility. Distribution companies could browse tenders and submit their offers.
12. Agricultural bartering platforms
Mobile could help agricultural workers in rural areas exchange goods and services and improve communities’ livelihoods. For rural people with little or no disposable income, exchanging goods, services and skills with community members is an important part of their livelihoods. Using mobile, people could access an online bartering platform via their mobile phone, significantly extending the network of people to barter with. Users could register their location and the goods, services or skills they are offering, along with details of what they need in return. SMS adverts could be sent to subscribed users, prompting them to respond. Transient agricultural workers could also use the platform to advertise their skills and find work. Farm managers and owners could find workers at short notice, for instance when they need to harvest crops early to stop them being ruined by bad weather. Farmers could barter their surplus food items after a harvest so that food reaches community members in need, rather than spoiling in poor storage.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services

15-18 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya. Over 400 academics, researchers, extension agents, farmers´ representatives, media experts, policy makers and representatives from international organizations and donors met in Nairobi to discuss innovations in extension and advisory services for food and livelihoods.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Planning and Coordinating Agency (NEPAD Agency), the International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture (ICRA) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in collaboration with several national, regional and international partners including the African Network for Agriculture, Agroforestry and Natural Resources Education (ANAFE), Biovision, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), the Ministry of Agriculture – Kenya, the European Initiative on Agricultural Research for Development (EIARD), the University of Nairobi, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) organised this an international conference to take stock of current policies, thinking and practice, successes and failures of ongoing and past reforms in extension and advisory services and build a coalition moving forward to specifically address meeting the future needs of small-holder farmers, marginalized communities, women and youth in a sustainable and cost effective manner. This conference integrated the GFRAS 2nd annual conference.

“With the global population approaching nine billion by 2050, we need widespread adoption of farming practices that can sustainably increase yields in a changing climate to feed more people, while also creating new job and market opportunities to address high unemployment and poverty,” Michael Hailu, executive director of the Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, was quoted as saying in a statement by the organisation, which organised the conference.
“Smallholder farmers - particularly women - produce the bulk of food in developing countries, often under difficult circumstances,” he added. “National governments and international donors must redouble their efforts to boost smallholder agricultural production if we are to reverse persistent food insecurity and rural poverty.”
Some relevant presentations on multi-stakeholder consortia on ARD:

Farmer-managed innovation funds drive multi-stakeholder learning processes.
Ann Waters-Bayer is an agricultural sociologist with ETC AgriCulture in Leusden, Netherlands. She specialises in social and institutional aspects of research and development, especially innovation processes that enhance local capacities to adapt to change.

She is also team member in two European Community-funded projects: JOLISAA (Joint Learning in Innovation Systems in African Agriculture), which operates in Benin, Kenya and South Africa; and INSARD (Including Smallholders in Agricultural Research for Development), which involves NGOs and farmer organisations in Africa and Europe. She has (co-)authored several books and articles on pastoralist development and on innovation processes involving smallholders in Africa.

Empowering smallholder farmers in markets: experiences in collaborative research with national farmer organisations to improve pro-active advocacy for smallholder market access.
by Giel Ton, LEI Wageningen UR, Agrinatura

Extension, advisory services and capability building along the value chain: Do partnerships between farmers and exporters lead to learning and innovation?
Maurice Bolo, African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Impact of the breakthrough pigeonpea genome mapping on poor farmers

The International Crops Research for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and several partners, including China’sBGI-Shenzhen, have mapped the genome of the pigeonpea. The pigeonpea, or toor dāl in India, is an important food for millions of small farmers in semi-arid regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Often dubbed “poor man’s meat,” pigeonpeas are high in protein and amino acids, and flourish in dry, hot regions. The new knowledge of its gene sequence will be used to breed more productive, disease- and drought-resistant varieties of pigeonpea. This video from ICRISAT elaborates on the breakthrough and some of its implications.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Video-mediated farmer-to-farmer learning for sustainable agriculture

From June to September 2011, Agro-Insight conducted a scoping study for SDC, GFRAS and SAI Platform on the production, dissemination and use of farmer training videos in developing countries, with a focus on sustainable agriculture. Literature was consulted, the internet screened, experts and users consulted and a global on-line survey launched in English, French and Spanish.

The survey was announced via various listservs, websites and blogs (Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education; CTA; eRAILS; PAEPARD; FARA-net; FFSNet; KIT; LinkedIn Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development; Prolinnova E-group; Swiss Forum for Rural Advisory Services; and various regional farmer platforms such as ROPPA, PROPAC, EAFF).

The on-line survey, with more than 500 respondents, indicated that research institutes, universities and NGOs are better linked to professional networks and hence more easily reached through the internet than extension services, radio stations and farmer organizations. Although feedback from the food industry was relatively low, most SAI Platform members were represented.
  • There is a general consensus that farmers need good agricultural training videos, but they do not browse the web in search of them. For watching videos they rely mainly on outside agencies.
  • Farmers would watch videos on their own with their family or neighbours if video disc distribution mechanisms were in place. And they are willing to pay for video discs and video shows.
Only about 20% of all respondents have never used video to train farmers and have never searched the web for agricultural videos. Many of those didn’t know where to look for videos, hadn’t found videos on the right subject or hadn’t found videos in their local language.
“I have viewed many agricultural videos in YouTube no doubt they were interesting. But I found that they were not relevant to the conditions of the farmers where I am involved in capacity building.” A. Thimmaiah, National Organic Program, Bhuta
About 85% of the respondents found local languages very important for farmer training videos. To ensure that videos are sharable and of use to the global community of extension service providers and farmers, producing many poor quality local language videos is not cost-effective. The zoomingin, zooming-out (ZIZO) approach shows how to make regionally relevant and locally appropriate videos. Organizations are willing to translate and use videos made in other countries if they are relevant and of good quality, and if video scripts are available. Lower quality videos serve intermediaries only and are rarely used to actually train farmers. The five priority areas for new video productions are: crops and trees, water management, plant health, soil health and farmer organizations.

The report compares the pros and cons of key models of farmer-to-farmer video production and dissemination, and discusses the implications for future capacity building and how each model could contribute content to a global web-based platform.

Most (82%) public and private service providers are keen on the idea of a new web-based platform devoted to agricultural training videos only. Many people opposed including advocacy and opinion sharing, but suggested a type of a discussion forum for users of the platform to exchange experiences on video production and use.

To reach farmers with agricultural videos, a new web-based platform is required, but not sufficient. Efforts to link people with different professional backgrounds and to establish regional and national communication, translation and video disc distribution mechanisms have to be established.

A new not-for-profit organization, called Access Agriculture, is proposed to facilitate content creation and sharing of agricultural training videos through its web-based platform and an evolving network of linkages and experts. Institutional set up and operational models for Access Agriculture have been discussed with SDC, GFRAS and SAI Platform, but are not included in this report.