Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Agricultural Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa: experiences from multiple-stakeholder approaches

Agricultural innovation in sub-Saharan Africa: experiences from multiple-stakeholder approaches.
Adekunle AA, Ellis-Jones J, Ajibefun I, Nyikal RA, Bangali S, Fatunbi O and Ange A.
Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Accra, Ghana
ISBN 978-9988-8373-2- 0 (print)
ISBN 978-9988-8373-2- 4 (pdf)
160 pages

The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) has promoted the integrated agriculture research for development (IAR4D) approach based on an innovation
systems framework. This brings together multiple actors along a commodity value chain to address challenges and identify opportunities to generate innovation. The approach creates a network of stakeholders or partners who are able to consider the technical, economic, social, institutional, and policy constraints in an environment. The network facilitates research and learning that not only generates new knowledge, products or technologies, but also ensures the use of research products.

The IAR4D approach is being tested at three pilot research sites across SSA: in Eastern and Central Africa around Lake Kivu (Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda); Southern Africa (Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe); and West Africa (Niger and Nigeria). This has involved the establishment of 36 stakeholder innovation platforms thus: creating functional linkages between farmers, the private sector, and service organizations; integrating productivity, natural resource management, markets and policy; establishing effective mechanisms for organizing and learning processes for farmers; and ensuring action research oriented toward problem-solving and impact. There are strong indications that IAR4D is an effective concept, applicable across a broad spectrum of agricultural systems.

This review examines the experiences of 21 case studies covering a wide range of African farming systems over broad geographic and historical landscapes. Each case study was reviewed by accessing and analysing existing data sources, published material and grey literature. It also involved important consultation with stakeholders in each country.

Commodity associations: a tool for supply chain development?

Commodity associations: a tool for supply chain development?
Les associations interprofessionnelles sont-elles un outil de développement des filières?
Andrew W. Shepherd
Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division (now value chain expert at CTA Wageningen)
Jean-Joseph Cadilhon
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Eva Gálvez
Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division

Commodity associations are organizations that bring together a wide spectrum of interest groups related to a particular commodity or sector (such as horticulture) in a particular country, whether the commodity is for export, for the domestic market or for both. Such associations can draw membership from individual farmers or their associations, from crop buyers, processors, distributors and exporters, as well as from suppliers of support services. Sometimes government agencies are also members.

Drawing on a literature review and case studies of relevant associations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the paper explores the role of commodity associations in improving supply chain performance. There have been significant donor efforts to promote commodity associations recently, although some have encountered problems. Thus donor organizations may find the paper to be of use.

Friday, 20 January 2012



The African Union Commission is seeking proposals for research focusing on the following thematic priorities articulated in Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA) and its Lighthouse Projects: (a) Post-harvest and Agriculture, (b) Renewable and Sustainable Energy, and (c) Water and Sanitation in Africa. The programme is financed through the Financing Agreement between the European Commission and the ACP Group of States under the ACP Research for Sustainable Development Program of the 10th EDF Intra-ACP Envelop.

The full Guidelines for Applicants, Application form and other supporting documents are available in ENGLISH and in FRENCH

Thursday, 19 January 2012

FARA Weekly Update

News and Events

  1.     Global Conference on Women in Agriculture. 13 – 15 March, New Delhi

Opportunities for training, scholarship and fellowship

  1.  International Training Program on "Improving Agricultural Productivity and Net Returns among Smallholder Farmers through Efficient Use of Nutrients and Water", Tel Aviv, Israel, May 6-10, 201
  2.   IIRR courses for the first half of 2012
  3.  The Norman E. Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (LEAP) is seeking applications for fellowship grant opportunities for students from sub-Saharan Africa.  Deadline is February 3, 2012.
  4. Call for Article to a New Agriculturist edition on Extension Approaches.
  5.  Proposal for a paper presentation for the second national Rural Research Workshop (RRW) “Policy and Research in Community Investment” May 24-25, 2012 Ottawa, Ontario.
  6. Call for Applications-- African Climate Change Fellowship Program


1.       FARA- UniBRAIN Project Accountant

2.       FARA-Protocol Assistant

3.       CORAF/WECARD -  WAAPP Programme Officer

4.       Program Director, Agriculture - Winrock International

Call for funding proposals/ job applications

  1.        Research Africa Funding Opportunities - Highlights of the Week - January 2012
  2.        Expression of Interest - International Recruitment Firm search for the recruitment of ED
  3.        Call for communications - CORAF/WECARD 3rd asw-wca & general assembly for 2012

New Resources

  1.       FARA Annual Report 2010

Saturday, 7 January 2012

WIPO's World Intellectual Property Report 2011

WIPO's World Intellectual Property Report 2011 focuses on the Changing Face of Innovation. It describes key trends in the innovation landscape - including the increasingly open, international and collaborative character of the innovation process; the causes of the increased demand for IP rights; and the rising importance of technology markets.

Against this background, the Report explores the ways in which economists' views of the IP system have evolved. Finally, it takes a closer look at collaborative innovation models, analyzing how best to balance private collaboration and competition, and how best to harness public research for innovation.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Feeding the Next Generation: Science, Business, and Public Policy

December 2011
Authors: Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development; Director, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project; Principal Investigator, Agricultural Innovation in Africa, Josh Drake, Former Belfer IGA Fellow 2009-2011, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, L. Val Giddings

Today, three of ten people on the planet rely on others to grow their food and 900 million remain chronically food insecure. By 2050 the global demand for agricultural production is expected to double. Half of the global population will live in cities and will need to be fed through market channels. Meeting these demands will require significant increases in agricultural productivity. Modern, science-driven farming including genetically modified crops represents the best chance of generating the increases in agricultural productivity necessary to feed our future. 

This paper's overall conclusion is that genetically modified crops can and should play a critical role in agricultural productivity. It is offers a roadmap for those interested in objectively evaluating both the risk and benefits of biotechnology in agriculture.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Inventory of Foresight Thinking in Agriculture

Through the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), an inventory by means of electronic media is now being launched. This inventory aims to identify and record forward-thinking activities that have been developed, in a systematic and documented way, on issues related to agriculture, rural development and farming systems for the next 10-20 years.

  1. This inventory should help identify a) individuals and organizations that are or have recently been engaged in such forward-thinking activities and b) what future scenarios were envisaged. It is open to anyone who has engaged in this type of activity over the past five years. 
  2. The objectives of this inventory are to inform: i) whether and how these activities have helped to change the research and innovation in agriculture and rural development and ii) what the major challenges are for the future.
  3. This inventory will contribute to the operation of the Global Foresight Hub which will enable all those engaged in forward thinking to share experiences, advances, to exchange with others on tools and methods, and to get linked with decision makers (see

Participation in the implementation of this inventory is thus an opportunity to share work, publications and interact with other professionals. Select the link in your preferred language.(English)(French)(Portuguese)(Spanish)(Arabic)(Russian)(Chinese). The survey link is accessible from 07 December 2011 to 15 January 2012.

Announcement: Innovation System Perspective in Agriculture and Rural Development for smallholder farmers

The eleventh regional conference of the Southern and Eastern African Association of Farming Systems Research-Extension (SEAAFSRE) will be held on 19-21 November 2012 in South Africa. The conference, whose theme is ‘Innovation System Perspective in Agriculture and Rural Development for smallholder farmers’ is intended to share experiences and best practices in moving agriculture from subsistence to commercial among resource-constrained farmers in the region. In particular, the conference will share practical experiences on the role innovation, agricultural training, research and extension can play in enhancing a value chain orientation in smallholder agriculture.

Call for papers
Papers are invited on research and other experiences on the above theme. Those working, or have worked, on these issues are particularly encouraged to submit their papers. While conceptual papers will be considered, preference will be given to papers based on practical experiences. Papers will be considered under the following sub-themes:
  1. Innovation systems in smallholder farming
  2. Farmer level value chain orientation
  3. Value chain oriented policies
  4. Capacity building
The deadline for submitting abstracts is 31st March 2012 and the deadline for submitting full papers is 30th June 2012. Details on venue, etcetera, will come with the second announcement end of April 2012.

African nations look to India for seeds, farm inputs

Participants of the 2nd Africa-India Agricultural Economic Mission
during the Business to Business (B2B) meeting in Hyderabad
17 December 2011. Hyderabad, India. 2nd India-Africa Economic Mission laid groundwork for South-South collaboration. It was organized by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Brussels-based EMRC International.

The 25-member mission from Nigeria, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Chad, Malawi and South Africa comprised of academicians, planners and strategists, top executives and technical directors of private firms brought together by the economic need and the desire to ensure sustainable development in Africa.

In addition to the discussions, the field visits and the knowledge sharing, several Business to Business (B2B) meetings allowed the participants and their Indian counterparts to get down to business and forge partnerships.

KK Sharma of ICRISAT and Idit Miller
of EMRC International at the B2B meeting.
“It was an eye opener for me. During the B2B, I explored various business opportunities in India. Our population is far less than that of India but still lots of people sleep hungry. I want to use the technologies of India and implement them in our country,” says Mr Muhammed Nurallah Abubakar, Executive Director, Livestock and Fisheries Development and Marketing Company, Federal Ministry of Nigeria. “This was a great initiative by ICRISAT and EMRC. I have been in touch with the ICRISAT office in Nigeria since 10 years to understand various agricultural technologies. Setting up an agribusiness platform in Nigeria will be a great help to our country,” he added.

“B2B meetings are essential and one of the main reasons for taking part in these economic missions. One needs to be introduced to the most fitting business partner,” explains Idit Miller, EMRC International’s VP and Managing Director. “This mission emphasizes the need for private and public sector dialogue and partnerships”.

EMRC supports AFRICA op 8 dec 2011. Idit Miller on Voxafrica TV talks about the promotion of SMEs in Africa.

The Enterprise Europe Network helps small business to make the most of the European marketplace. Working through local business organisations, we can help you:

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Climate Analogues: Finding Tomorrow’s Agriculture Today

Scientists have issued an analysis of East Africa’s future climate as the first step in a new programme that will help farmers grow crops that will best thrive in the changed weather conditions 20 years from now, a new study has shown.

“Climate change will significantly alter growing conditions, but in most places the new farming environment will not be novel in the global context,” said Julian Ramirez, a scientist based at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia and a lead author of the study.

The report is compiled by the Consultative Group on International on International Agricultural Research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. Titled, Climate Analogues: Finding Tomorrow’s Agriculture Today, the report forms the platform of a global programme to exchange knowledge between communities on current agriculture practices that can help maintain productivity in the future, despite potentially dramatic shifts in growing conditions.

Under Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), researchers have developed a software-based tool that offer farmers a glimpse into their future by identifying places where growing conditions today match those expected in their fields in two to five decades’ time. The tool can be used to link climate and crop models with agricultural technologies, including improved varieties and agronomic practices, by matching sites that could offer ideas for adaptation to shifting climate patterns. The software offers two interfaces developed for different user groups. The first, known as an R-library - a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics - is targeted at those with some background in programming and statistics. The second is an online interface that draws from the R-library, built for scientists working in agriculture but with more limited technical skills. The tool uses a series of statistical functions applied onto future and current climate data, as well as input from the user (target-site location and some tool-specific parameters) to find out where the analogue areas of a particular site’s future or current conditions are located. Hence it answers the very important question: how will my site look in 30 or 50 years?

The CCAFS programme will also fund a series of farmer exchanges between South Asia (involving India, Nepal, and Bangladesh) and East Africa (covering Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya). This initiative, called “Farms of the Future”, is being coordinated by social and agro-climate scientists, and aims to evaluate farmers’ responses to changing climatic conditions. The key idea is to use the climate analogue tool to acquaint farmers with their possible climate futures via physical farm visits in different regions of the world. 

Criteria missing from climate investments

DECEMBER 28, 2011. POSTMEDIA NEWS. The International Development Research Centre, that is distributing millions of dollars of the climate funding, said that research is the first step toward identifying credible projects and ensuring federal dollars are spent well.

``This is really kind of a critical priority because in my view, there's a whole lot of noise around (adaptation issues), but not that many effective projects,'' said Mark Redwood, a program leader on climate change and water at IDRC.

IDRC chose seven research projects in Africa, working with local stakeholders that deliver development projects on the ground to find the most effective investment options.

``One thing that they observed and which I also noted is that there are many, many adaptation projects that would not pass basic criteria for a development bank or a private investor,'' said Redwood, who specializes in urban and environmental planning. ``The benefits are difficult to identify, sometimes with climate change adaptation. The field is still sorting itself out a little bit, so basically there's a disconnect . . . between those projects and the number of projects that a development bank could fund.''

Fast-start funding, a key commitment by developed countries in recent international climate change negotiations, was supposed to build a foundation for a global green climate fund, worth about $100 billion per year by 2020, to help developing countries cope with escalating impacts of global warming on their economies and way of life. But lacking any tools to measure the value of dollars spent, the proposed fund is different from the Clean Development Mechanism and other provisions under the Kyoto Protocol that allow private companies or countries to invest in projects that measure and track the level of emissions reductions.

``There's no standardized reporting format (to evaluate the value of fast start funding announcements by countries) and either you believe it or you don't,'' said David Waskow, climate change program director of Oxfam America. ``We don't have those measurements and so we have countries putting out their own numbers and their own formats . . . without any clarity.''

On November 25, 2011, Canada's Environment Minister, the Honourable Peter Kent, announced funding for seven winning projects from across Africa. Also in attendance at the Ottawa announcement were two of the AARC recipients: Saïd Hounkponou from Benin's Initiatives pour un Développement Intégré Durable and via video from South Africa, Lindiwe Majele Sibanda from the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Network.

AARC supports seven centres of excellence across Africa to enable each to conduct research and strengthen organizational capacity in the field of climate change adaptation. Its goal: to improve the ability of African research centres to deliver scientific advice to decision-makers that will inform national adaptation strategies and investment decisions.

The initiative is a three-year, CA$10 million project managed by IDRC’s Climate Change and Water program and funded through the Government of Canada’s $400 million Fast-start Climate Financing, announced in 2010 as part of Canada’s commitment under the Copenhagen Accord. It builds on the accomplishments of the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa program, a six-year initiative (2006-2012) jointly funded by IDRC and the UK’s Department for International Development.

AARC Research Projects
The AARC initiative supports seven projects across Africa in:

Emerging Policies and Partnerships under CAADP

December 2011. IFPRI Discussion Paper 01145. Emerging Policies and Partnerships under CAADP Implications for Long-Term Growth, Food Security, and Poverty Reduction.

The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) is one of the main components of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). CAADP is an initiative launched by the African Union Commission (AUC) in 2002 to serve as a continent-wide framework to facilitate faster agricultural growth and progress toward poverty reduction and food and nutrition security in Africa. CAADP seeks to promote policies and partnerships and raise investments in Africa’s agricultural sector and achieve better development outcomes.

This paper (December 2011, 32 p.) examines the new policy and investment planning and the review, dialogue, and partnership modalities and evaluates their likely impact on future growth and poverty-reduction outcomes.

The emerging trends are encouraging and point in the right direction: growth in the agricultural sector is being sustained; funding levels are rising; the quality of policy and planning documents is getting better; the availability of analytical tools, data, and capacities is improving; and strategic dialogue and partnerships around the agricultural sector are getting stronger and more inclusive.

Monday, 2 January 2012

South Sudan joins ASARECA

14-16th December 2011. Entebbe, Uganda. The world’s newest country was unanimously accepted to become the 11th member of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (Asareca) during its first general assembly.

According to Harvard professor Calestous Juma, who gave the keynote address, South Sudan will play a key role in developing agriculture in the region by providing opportunities to apply the latest technologies on untested ground.

“South Sudan is lucky because it will get started with the latest and best agricultural technologies as it embarks on developing its economic base,” he said adding that since agriculture is the most viable industry the country can tap into and reap substantially because of being endowed with unfarmed soils and plenty of irrigation water from the Nile, it has potential to feed the region and generate more for selling into a food deficit world.

By an interesting coincidence, a young Sudanese researcher who is studying in Kenya at the Kenyatta University’s department of biotechnology, Rashar Omer, has made history by developing the first drought-resistant maize gene that was unveiled at the conference and named Asareca gene. Slated for commercialisation in 2018, the gene is being touted by scientists who are excited by the breakthrough as having the potential to finally lead Africa to an agrarian revolution that has evaded the continent for decades.(source: The East African 28/12/2011, South Sudan - Africa's Next Farming Frontier)

The Need for Educated People to Take Up Farming

28 December 2011. Joseph Nkandu, executive director of Nucafe (National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises), believes that for as long as farming is shunned by the well educated people, it will continue to be largely conceived as an occupation for the poor. He says there is a need for a new generation of farmers capable of blending scientific knowledge and entrepreneurial skills for farming to become a paying venture.

"Even in school, agriculture is regarded as a science subject," he says, "and indeed that's what it is. So it must be practiced by well educated people who look at farming with an entrepreneurial mind and are capable of broadening it beyond the farm; by taking the commodity value chain approach, mapping and judging at what level they can make more money."

Educated breed of farmer

Nkandu is a breed of agricultural scientists and social entrepreneurs with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree from Makerere and a Masters of Business Administration Degree in Social Entrepreneurship and Management from the Catholic University of Milan, Italy, and despite the fairly prestigious qualifications he holds, he is continuing with coffee farming. He has 60 acres of land at Bunjakko village, Buwama Sub-county in Mpigi District most of which is now already under coffee. He says the market for any form of coffee is not our biggest challenge but rather Africa's entrepreneurship and institutional deficit.

"There is need to institutionalise entrepreneurship especially in the agricultural enterprises beginning with families so that generations after generations go on producing agricultural products, amassing experience and expertise, a practice that has not been here in Uganda and Africa as a whole," Nkandu further says. "The first institution should be the family and the business rotating around the family before expanding it to the community."

Ever since he got that land in Bunjakko, Nkandu and his wife Eva, who is a medical doctor, have been encouraging neighbouring farmers to grow coffee. "That's how the entire village has now become an island of coffee," he said proudly.

A well educated farmer is in a better position to practice scientific farming practices which is key to getting bigger yields. He is likely to keep book records and to search for better markets for his commodity. Governments in Africa must create an environment that fosters a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among farmers.

Nkandu's advice for educated people in well paying jobs is that they should use their savings to acquire land and become farmers because, according to him, the economic future of our country lies in promoting agricultural innovation and entrepreneurship.