Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Role of food and agriculture research at the UN high level meeting September 19-20

On September 7th, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) hosted a seminar and panel discussion about the role that food and agriculture research can, and should, play in the high level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on September 19-20. It was a continuation of their large “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health 2020 Conference,” held in New Delhi, India, this past February.

IFPRI's seminar last week is a continuation of their conference in New Delhi this past February, focusing on leveraging agriculture to improve global health. (Image Credit: IFPRI)
Last week’s seminar addressed the alarming escalation of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in developing nations. Once perceived as threats only to developed countries, conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, and cancer actually afflict a higher proportion of people in poorer areas of the world. As many as 80 percent of NCD deaths occur in developing countries.
The upcoming United Nations’ high level meeting [19 and 20 September 2011 in New York] is only the second ever to focus on a health issue (the first focused on communicable diseases – HIV/AIDS – in 2001). Many view this as an opportunity to shift focus and funding toward NCDs.  To see videos of all three presentations, follow this link. Click here for more information on the UN high level meeting. 

Presentation by Tim Lang, City University London, at the IFPRI Policy Seminar, "Leveraging Agriculture to Tackle Noncommunicable Diseases," Sept. 7, 2011, Washington, DC

Monday, 19 September 2011

G20 Conference on Agricultural Research for Development

G20 Conference on Agricultural Research for Development

September 12-13, 2011. The French Presidency of the G20 convened in Montpellier a conference on Agriculture Research for Development, promoting scientific partnerships for food security.

This Conference provided a timely opportunity to consider how G20 Agricultural Research Systems can achieve a step-change in supporting development and to consider which actions to take forward in specific regional and inter-regional initiatives.

The main purpose of the first G20 Conference on ARD was to mobilise the G20 capacities in this field to meet the global challenges of scientific partnership for development and food security, with 4 specific objectives:
  • To build a mutual knowledge between the G20 agricultural research systems, in order to improve policy coherence through enhanced cooperation and coordination of research policies and programmes on food security.
  • To mobilise the G20 agricultural research and knowledge systems to develop effective and innovative research partnerships for development, leverage innovative research results-based mechanisms and enhance the impact of the CGIAR Research Programme (CRP) outcomes.
  • To strengthen capacities in agriculture technologies and productive systems for developing countries optimising complementarities and synergies between the G20 agricultural research systems.
  • To better involve the G20 agricultural research systems in the design of and participation in the 2nd Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) scheduled in Uruguay in 2012.

Carlos Perez Del Castillo (CGIAR Board Chair), Monty Jones (GFAR Board Chair), David Nabarro (Special Representative of the UN SG on Food Security and Nutrition), Philippe Petithuguenin (European Union, DGRTD), Feng Dongxin (Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, CAAS)

Session 2

How to establish effective multi-stakeholder research partnerships to capitalise on the knowledge and expertise of diverse research actors (e.g. North-South, South-South and trilateral cooperation) and leverage the private sector for additional investments in agricultural research (e.g. pull mechanisms)?

Session 3

How to improve effectiveness and efficiency in capacity-building programmes to generate, share and make use of agricultural knowledge for developing countries through new and existing tools?

Andrew Westby, Tim Chancellor, Paolo Sarfatti and Didier Pillot

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Ruralweb helps people apply ICT for development

Ruralweb tries to help people to make the most of the ICT available to them. It wants to help people apply ICT for development. To do that, you must first know how to use ICT (1st time online). Then you can use all the e-learning that is available online, or find and use resources that will foster development.

1st time online

This section of Rural Web is aimed at people who have never or barely ever used the internet and who do not have many people in their offline network who have done so either. In other words, it is aimed at people who will have to learn to use the internet pretty much on their own.

dev resources

This section aims at improving access to useful information that will improve the livelyhoods of rural and poor communities. It is up to them (and their development partners) to implement it.
For example, by which simple techniques can a small farmer get a larger yield? How can a mother improve hygiene or prevent malaria? How can markets be reached?


There are tons of things you can learn online. From large amounts of tutorials on youtube to online university courses. What are the most useful resources for developing communities?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

New release! Platform study on policy coherence for ARD

Bonn, 8 Sep 2011. New release! Platform study on policy coherence for ARD (106 pages).

The international community is increasing efforts to foster coherence and institutional reform in the global policy and institutional framework for food security, agriculture and rural development. The UN HLTF, CFA and G8 / G20 work on the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative and on excessive global food price volatility, along with the upcoming 4th DAC High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, are all part of this process.

This study is unique, with potential to enrich these processes with a wealth of analysis and concrete examples, including 16 case studies fromthree continents in development – Africa, Latin America and Asia.

It pulls together important evidence-based lessons from policy and practice distilled skilfully by the ODI research team from an extensive review of the literature, interviews with experts and agency staff in head office and country contexts. It provides practical recommendations to donors to identify best practices and improve policy coherence for agriculture and rural development.

Rightly, the authors point out that the current range of global initiatives in agriculture, food and nutrition security and climate change could all complicate policy coherence still further, and the attainment of our ultimate objectives.
Quote on page 42: It is to the credit of most development agencies that they have recognised the merit of CAADP as an example of regional leadership that reflects the spirit of the Paris Declaration.
The challenge now for development partners and international agencies involved in agriculture and rural development policy and practice is to seriously address the key conclusions and recommendations.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Value Chains, Donor Interventions and Poverty Reduction: A Review of Donor Practice

Value Chains, Donor Interventions and Poverty Reduction: A Review of Donor Practice IDS Research Reports March 2010 108 pages.

Value chain interventions are increasingly popular amongst donors aiming to promote market-oriented growth and poverty reduction. Based on the reflections of the community of practice itself and extensive desk research, this review critically examines the causal models underlying value chain interventions and asks how and to what extent their poverty alleviation impacts have been systematically investigated.

Concentrating on a selection of 30 donor-led value chain interventions, the review finds two main patterns of engagement: (a) one which funnels assistance by partnering with lead firms in the value chain – lead firm projects; and (b) one which works with chains without a lead firm – value chain linkage projects.

Targeting of the poor seems more effective in value chain linkage projects and in those lead firm projects where beneficiaries are identified in both the chain’s suppliers and distributors.
Controversially, despite a wealth of positive anecdotal evidence, the vast majority of projects did not carry out an impact assessment of their poverty alleviation objectives and it is therefore unclear whether the value chain intervention: (a) is responsible for the improvements observed; (b) benefits the poor disproportionately; and (c) is more cost effective than other alternative approaches.

Assessing the poverty alleviation effects of individual interventions in a rigorous way is costly and challenging but necessary to ensure long term effectiveness of the interventions as well as optimising the use of public funds.

There is a need to carry out systematic impact assessment at the programme level to develop a strong evidence base. Finally, this review provides some guidelines for designing and managing value chain interventions, particularly regarding the identification of situations in which the value chain approach is most appropriate and those where other private sector-oriented approaches (such as Business Development Services and Making Markets Work for the Poor) may be more suitable or complementary.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Under what conditions are value chains effective tools for pro-poor development?

Under what conditions are value chains effective tools for pro-poor development? Authors: Don Seville, Abbi Buxton and Bill Vorley, International institute for environment and development (IIED).

Understanding the benefits, costs and risks when connecting small-scale producers to formal markets is critical to informing companies, farmers, NGOs and donors in their decisions. This paper (IIED, 2011, 50 pages) seeks to address key questions based on a review of literature and experiences in Africa and Latin America.

Understanding how to link poor producers successfully to markets, and identifying which markets can benefit what kinds of producers, are critical steps for the development community.
Formal markets have requirements – including quality, consistency, traceability, food safety and third-party certified standards (Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance) – that necessitate direct communication and coordination along the supply chain.

While these requirements of formal markets raise the barrier of entry for new producers, particularly those with fewer assets, they also present potential opportunities for diversification, income generation and professionalization.

Some poor households can benefit from participation in formal supply chains not just as smallholder producers, but also as wage laborers in production or processing, and as providers in the service markets that support value chains.

The purpose of this paper is to draw together preliminary conclusions and open questions based on experience of IIED and a broad literature review of the impact of participation in formal value chains on the livelihoods of poorer producers. This is a critical topic for donors and NGOs as they consider the effectiveness of investment strategies.

African parliamentary support for agriculture

African parliamentary support for agriculture. Final Report for the Pilot ProgrammeAssociation of European Parliamentarians with Africa. 29 pp.

This is the final report of a pilot programme which investigated how parliamentary agriculture committees can be supported to help to provide better oversight on programmes looking at such things as achieving sustainable agricultural growth, food security and economic empowerment of smallholder farmers. It covered Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

The programme looked at ways in which agricultural committees can be assisted to develop and implement a strategic approach to support agriculture in their respective countries and constituencies.

The report acknowledges that much more work needs to be done to develop the link between MPs and government agricultural services such as the extension services at constituency level.

It also suggested that any future programme would need to put more emphasis on strengthening (or in some cases establishing) the links within a parliaments; between parliamentary committees and the executive; between different houses of parliament (two of the four countries have or will have senates as well as assemblies); and between parliamentary committees and other stakeholders such as farmers' organizations and research institutions.

DFID backs extra year of RIU activity

Ian Maudlin
RIU Director
A 12-month extension (to June 2012) to the RIU has been agreed with DFID in order to allow certain key activities more time to generate additional knowledge outputs and provide greater and more in depth evidence of impact.

RIU aspires to:
  • Strengthen innovation capacity
  • Explore patterns of partnerships, alliances or networks that span research, social, economic and policy activity
  • Tackle local problems in a global context
  • Undertake learning-orientated monitoring, with reorientation of RIU in the light of emerging experience
  • Recognize that risk is an unavoidable part of innovation
  • Champion governance arrangements that facilitate a pro-poor orientation
  • Recognize of the vital role that women play in agriculture
  • Be flexible to pursue unexpected but promising outcomes
  • Engage at different levels and scales; for example local/global or technical/policy
  • Promote new ways of working

Within the RIU website RIU has its own television channel -RIUtv. This enables RIU to place short, specially-made films throughout the website, wherever they are most relevant. 
In August 2010 RIUtv News was added to the website, this is a monthly web-cast news bulleting and it is supported by RIU Highlights which is a listing of all the news from RIU. 

RIUradio gives RIU an opportunity to share stories across Africa, where radio is often the most important and powerful medium.

RIUradio works closely with the programme AGFAX produced byWRENmedia and a wide network of journalists. and funded by DFID, to get the messages out to radio stations across Africa. Each month, AGFAX distributes free-of-charge a pack of ready-to-broadcast radio features and interviews covering the latest information and news in farming, agricultural science, and rural development to more than 80 radio stations in Africa. The packs provide an audio interview, transcript and supporting information that the programme maker might need, for example a suggested introduction and closing announcement for each interview, and contacts for further information.

RIU feeds a news story each month to AGFAX. These are produced very cost-effectively by repurposing the audio tracks from RIUtv’s films. The stories are also available as podcasts via the RIU website

Climate change


Farm mechanisation toolkit: Guideline to bundling of demands and supply of mechanised services

This is a practical toolkit [24 pp., available in English and Kiswahili of the Research Into Use Programme (RIU)] aimed at helping smallholder farmers and providers of farm mechanisation services to develop a sustainable system for increasing access to mechanisation.

It describes, step-by-step, how farmers and machinery owners can bundle demands and supply of mechanisation services and benefit from the resultant economies of scale. The guide is designed to help farmers, tractor owners, village, ward, district or regional authorities and other stakeholders in the agricultural system understand and engage in the process and make mechanised services accessible to smallholder farmers.

Identifying Market Opportunities for Rural Smallholder Producers

This new English version of the methodological tool kit developed by CIAT’s Rural Agroenterprise Development Project (Copyright © 2007 Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropicahas / Reprint edition published by Catholic Relief Services, Baltimore, 2008) (109 pages) has been extensively updated based on feedback.

The goal of this work is to enable service providers to empower rural communities with skills to engage more effectively in the marketplace so as to increase their income, their CAPACITY TO INNOVATE and ultimately improve their livelihood options.

Guide to making commodity-based projects work

Edited by Paul Mundy et al. 
Published by Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) 
Website: www.kitpublishers.nl 
2011, 150pp, ISBN 978 94 6022 156 9(Pb), €25 or free to download

From sorghum to shrimp is an accessible, sensible and practical, and a very valuable guide to making commodity-based projects work. It draws on the experience of 11 Commonwealth Fund for Commodities projects, from Asia, Africa and Latin America, guiding the reader through a series of key questions. What commodity to choose is the first: there are advantages to choosing a 'privileged' or established commodity like cocoa, cotton or coffee, but for the poorly resourced community, an 'infant' crop, such as bamboo in East Africa, or a neglected, 'orphan' crop like sorghum, will have less competition from big players and is often the best choice.

Working in a single country helps to reduce complications, which is a good idea as most commodity projects need to focus on bottlenecks at various points in the value chain, and not expect to achieve a result from action on just one issue. Being flexible throughout the project implementation, responding to unexpected problems, taking advantage of new opportunities and constantly assessing whether the project goals need to change in light of the evolving situation, are all important ingredients to success. Other chapters focus on the roles of stakeholders and partners, using market opportunities and achieving a lasting impact.