Tuesday, 10 December 2013

FARA Champions the Discussion on Agricultural Research and Development at the Brazil-Africa Leadership Forum 2013

The South-South partnership is fast becoming vital to the development of the Africa continent in the coming years; this is in the light of the emerging development of these regions and growing trade between Africa and the countries in the South. Africa seems to stand at the center of the manifold increase in the BRICS trade in the last ten years as the BRICS countries now trade more with Africa than with each other.Brazil is gradually becoming a vital strategic partner in the Africa developmental issues, such as agriculture, infrastructure and technical cooperation. The well-known old similarities between Brazil and Africa in terms of culture, development circumstances, agricultural situation etc., make the country a more potent source of lesson and partnership for the Africa continent. The development of agriculture in Brazil has been attributed to the countries concerted efforts towards investments in sector towards research for generation of relevant technologies, infrastructural development and supportive policies.The Brazil-Africa leadership forum for 2013, was organized by the Financial Times Live, on the 27th of November 2013, the forum assembled leading trade, finance, business and agricultural research and development experts to discuss the future of Brazil-Africa trade and cooperation. The forum also examined the activities of the government of both continents towards trade policies that drives economic development around the prime sectors. The agricultural sector is considered as a key sector driving development in the two continents; issues around how the Brazil success in the agricultural sector can inform Africa agricultural transformation drive was examined in a panel discussion. FARA representative alongside with the representatives of Standard Bank of Africa, IFAD and Pinesso Group participated in the session.Africa agriculture stands as a “Bundle of Potentials” that are yet to be unlocked, unlocking the potentials will require all it takes to make Africa agriculture yield its contribution to national economy growth and the wellbeing of Africa majority that depends on it for their livelihood. While the spate of agricultural technologies remains an issue for urgent attention, there are many institutional and infrastructural issues that would still limits benefits from the best technologies if they are not addressed. The on-going strategic alliance program between Brazil and Africa on agriculture named “Africa-Brazil Innovation Market Place” has fostered series of collaboration between Africa researchers and Brazilian researcher from EMBRAPA. This has led to exchange of germplasm, technologies and different production and processing techniques. The projects within this partnership have generated a handful of successes that could be scaled-up and out for the benefits of more farmers in Africa. However, Africa will benefits a lot better from this strategic alliance if it’s debilitating infrastructure deficit could find a solution within this strategic alliance, especially if it could draw the attention of the Brazilian investors in bridging the financing gap for infrastructure development in Africa.Apparently, the growth of Africa agriculture will be driving by its growing middle class population which had its height of 33% in 2012. The demand for more processed commodities will increase compared to raw commodities, while the supermarket mode of retailing agricultural food commodities will also grow.  This projection could be satisfied either by importation of the processed and packaged commodities or a response from within Africa to develop its commodity value chain. The latter is the best for the continent and could be achieved by development of infrastructure, acquisition of needed technologies for post-harvest processing and provision of affordable financing for the willing investors.Possibly, the share of Africa in agricultural commodity trade at the global level is very low compared to other continents in the short run; it may increase in the medium term, if the necessary investments are made to support the sector. But it will surely increase steadily in the long term based on reported availability of 60% of the available arable land in Africa.The efforts of FARA to foster the development of agriculture on the continent have generated a number of initiatives that could fast-track the development of the sector. The debut IAR4D concept has been proven to foster quick and higher returns from agricultural research and development efforts; while its Innovative Fund for Agricultural transformation (IFAT) has projected an innovative mechanism for extension of affordable credit to transform the smallholders to small scale enterprises. As it relates to the developing appropriate technologies, FARA is working with all stakeholders in Africa agriculture to develop the Africa Agricultural Science Agenda; this is expected to drive the direction of the Africa agricultural research for development. The role of Brazil-Africa collaboration is vital and a positive partner that is willing to aid the Africa agricultural development.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Empowering youth in agriculture

The following post was written by Marina Cherbonnier, Web and Communications Officer of the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD)  The post first appeared on YPARD blog earlier this week and was originally titled as “Big Thanks to Youth Supporters.”

Agriculture is an ageing and undervalued profession for which there is a declining interest among young people. Youth, as key stakeholders in the future of agricultural research for development, must not only be involved but also empowered.

“The road is long towards full inclusion of young professionals into strategic international actions for agricultural development.But the adventure enables you to meet and work with outstanding people who understand the critical role youth play for sustainable development. It is time to celebrate youth supporters and look at the achievement made together so far.”
GCARD2, 2012, represented a milestone for making youth voices stronger at key agricultural research for development (ARD) events. Through our collaboration with GFAR and the CGIAR, more than 25 young professionals from YPARD were involved in discussions through social reporting of the global conference. Our team truly made agriculture cool again!
Enrica Porcari of the CGIAR was key to making this happen. In 2010 at GCARD1, while YPARD was involved in a side event with 40 young researchers, Enrica was already trying to get the youth involved into bringing ARD messages beyond the doors of the conference room.  She also worked to make it a capacity development exercise. GCARD2 Youth Social Reporting Programme is the “ripe fruit” of her efforts.
The GCARD2 as a process catalyzing action goes beyond a one-time event. One month after the conference, a series of initiatives generated by young professionals was born as a result of their experience at the GCARD2.
The freshly wrapped-up AASW6 – 6th African Agriculture Science Week, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research for Africa (FARA), also gave a chance to more than 40 young people to yet again experience the power of social media for ARD for youth to get a voice. The participation of these young people was made possible by the collaboration of FARA, CTA, CGIAR, GFAR and YPARD.
It is our pride to see one of the GCARD2 young social reporters at the heart of the initiative to replicate the magic formula for the AASW6: Idowu Ejere, the Communications and Public Awareness Officer at FARA. She was supported by Sam Mikenga, Media Coordinator at CTA, Marina Cherbonnier, from YPARD and Peter Casier from CGIAR, the knowledge broker and utmost inspiring social media coordinator who undertook the coordination of the social reporting experience  at GCARD2 and AASW6. The encouragement and support from Prof. Monty Jones, immediate past Executive Director of FARA and Dr. Michael Hailu, Director of CTA made the social media initiative possible.
This is one very concrete success story of “GCARD as a process and not a mere conference” – as asserted by GFAR; we can tangibly see the progress made for youth empowerment through the collaborative work of ARD organisations!
Yes, young professionals are full of capacity. Give them a chance to take responsibility and you will see the positive impact!
We couldn’t have such a range of action without the support of experienced people and key organisations willing to give the little push to get young professionals on board. We want to thank them for listening to and opening the doors for us.
While there is continuous effort to provide opportunities for youth to be recognized and involved as an equal stakeholder in the implementation of ARD actions, it is our duty to take responsibility to make sure it happens.
“AASW6 over; what’s next?” Stay posted!
The following post was written by Marina Cherbonnier, Web and Communications Officer of the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD)  The post first appeared on YPARD blog earlier this week and was originally titled as “Big Thanks to Youth Supporters.”
Visit the Events page for more information on the CGIAR Consortium’s involvement  in supporting youth in agriculture through social media and other efforts.
Photo credit: cc: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

FARA Supports a Consultative Dialogue on the Path to Prosperity in Sierra Leone

The economy of the Republic of Sierra Leone has for a long time been tied to investments in the mining sector with emphasis on diamonds, bauxite and iron ore. With more than 60% of the population deriving a living from an agricultural sector that is blessed with abundant arable land, water and a favorable climate, agriculture offers the best prospects for achieving economic development. The Government has therefore embarked on an Agenda for Prosperity that is strongly aligned to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP); which is the vision of African Heads of State and Government for transforming the agricultural sector. The agenda calls for diversification of the economic base and repositioning of agriculture as the pivot along with fisheries, tourism and industry to drive the economic development of the country. 

Transformation of the agricultural sector calls for the strengthening of science, environment, technology and innovations as the key drivers of the agricultural growth required for wealth creation and poverty reduction. The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is supporting the Government’s efforts to bring science, technology and innovation to bear on agricultural development of the country. 
In collaboration with the Office of the President of Sierra Leone, the World Bank, FAO and CORAF/WECARD, FARA is supporting a three-day consultative dialogue organized at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown, Sierra Leone from 11 – 14 November, 2013. The dialogue is intended to set the vision for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in promoting agriculture, fisheries and industrial development in Sierra Leone. Welcoming participants to the dialogue, the Special Adviser to the President of Sierra Leone and Ambassador at Large, Prof. Monty Jones underscored the need to place science, technology and innovation at the forefront of agriculture, fisheries and industrial development of Sierra Leone. Opening the three-day dialogue, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma called on all participants to come up with concrete suggestions on the type of science and technology that is required to transform agriculture, fisheries and agro-industrial development of the country. 
Delivering a statement on behalf of FARA, the Executive Director Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo noted that the dialogue on visioning for environment, science, technology and innovation is congruent with FARA’s new strategic orientation. As a continent-wide forum, FARA’s role is to support its constituents in strategic analysis and foresight so that they can determine the type of agriculture that they want; build their capacity to develop agriculture; and help establish the appropriate policy environment for a highly productive and competitive agricultural sector. All of these, he said, are part of the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) that FARA and its partners including the SROs, IFAD, CGIAR, World Bank are currently developing as one of the five work streams of the Dublin process.

To promote experience sharing and learning from the Sierra Leone case, FARA is supporting the participation of CAADP country focal persons from other West African countries. Apart from supporting the dialogue, FARA has also assisted the institutional reforms of the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) and is currently implementing the region-wide initiatives on the Dissemination of New Agricultural Technologies (DONATA) and the Regional Agricultural Information and Learning Systems (RAILS) in Sierra Leone. Through FARA’s interventions, Sierra Leone has adopted the Innovation Platform (IP) and Innovative Fund for Agricultural Transformation (IFAT) concepts. It is worth noting that through these concepts, we now see a Sierra Leone brand of rice not only on the shelves of many supermarkets in the country, but also being exported to neighboring countries. 

FARA’s resolve is to continue to advocate for policies that lead to increased investments in agriculture and agricultural research for development in particular, as this is a necessary condition for increasing agricultural productivity and competitiveness in Africa.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Though the African continent is undergoing significantly positive reforms and macroeconomic metamorphosis, its share of total regional trade comprises a mere 12 per cent in 2010. In fact, the continent lags behind other regions in terms of export diversification, and is actually gravitating towards further concentration in its export commodities. The general trend over the last decade is one of gradual move towards less diversification for Africa.
Against this background, in January 2012, the African Union Summit of African Heads of State and Government endorsed the theme of ‘Boosting Intra-African Trade’, paving the way towards fast-tracking a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA)[1] with a tentative timeframe of 2017. The Summit which also recognized the low level of trade between African countries, called upon Member States, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the African Union Commission (AUC) to promote industrial development policy and value addition in order to diversify African economies and thereby move away from heavy reliance on traditional primary exports.
There are copious evidences on the direct relationship between export diversification[2] and growth dynamics (UNECA and AUC, 2007, 2011; Karingi and Spence, 2011). Kilnger and Lederman (2006) and Cadot, Carrere and Strauss-Khan (2008) discuss that the process of diversification (as opposed to export growth) in low income countries is driven by inside the frontier innovation (emulations) and extensive expansion, suggesting that African countries should undertake new export activities if it is to succeed in diversifying its exports, but that they should be in industries in which there is already existing expertise.
In fact, some countries have struggled to diversify and orientate into new sectors due to rising commodity prices which subsequently results in an ever increasing concentration of exports, enclave economies and Dutch disease syndrome[3]. Further, countries such as Mozambique, Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which experienced conflicts and negative diversification prospects in the past, are currently exhibiting positive diversification outcomes in more stable years.
The traditional strategy of export promotion which focuses on the international marketing of final goods appears increasingly inappropriate for African economies, but the adoption of different routes to diversification which could include resource-based manufacturing and processing of primary products. Africa needs to promote diversification by strengthening regional markets, competitiveness and economic integration. In other words, African countries need to diversify their total exports bases in order to foster better market access conditions, together with increased productivity in traditional and non-traditional crops. The creation and facilitation of such trade, and its diversification, foster economic transformation, and also reduces the risk from concentrating in very small numbers of agricultural export commodities.
Gbadebo Odularu
Policy and Markets Analyst, FARA

[1] The need to enhance intra-African trade among African countries led to the formation of the EAC-COMESA-SADC   (East African Community; Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa  and the Southern Africa Development Community)  tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) as well as the proposed 2017 Continental FTA (CFTA) between Cairo and Cape Town. The tripartite agreement is expected to enable participating economies take full advantage of the economies of scale and other benefits (such as income and employment generation) of greater market integration.
[2] Export diversification is the expansion of exports due to new products—extensive margin—or export more of current products—intensive margin. Amurgo-Pacheco and Pierola (2008) provide a useful narrower definition by introducing a geographic dimension which precise that intensive margin is the expansion of exports based on existing products to existing export markets.
[3]  Dutch Disease theory states that a ‘resource export boom has an inherent tendency to distort the structure of production in favour of the non-traded goods sector vis-à-vis the sectors producing the non-booming tradeables. The Syndrome originates from the experience of the Netherlands after its 1960’s natural gas and oil discovery, which resulted in an export boom and balance of payments surplus for the Dutch economy

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Policy Options for Improving the Management of Natural Resources Booms in Africa

The revenue accruable from agriculture as well as the oil mineral sectors portends bright and promising socio-economic prospects for Africa. Africa’s agricultural and oil-blessed economies could contribute individually and collectively to promoting positive structural transformation and also address poverty, inequality and youth unemployment by capitalizing on their resource endowments and high international commodity prices. Against this background, increasing number of African countries have continued to experience economic growth over the past two decades, partly due to their commitment to achieving the CAADP objectives, as well as the unprecedented inflows of foreign direct investments (FDI) to the strategic sectors of their economies. According to the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2012, investment in extractive industries remains the most important driver of FDI to African countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, Mozambique and Uganda. Further inflows to Mozambique, for example, doubled to USD5.2 billion, attracted by the country’s huge offshore gas deposits. The discovery of gas reserves in the United Republic of Tanzania and oil fields in Uganda drew increased FDI to East Africa, expanding the value from USD4.5 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion in 2012. By implication, natural resources (including agriculture-related) are still the mainstay of FDI flows in Africa, though FDI in consumer-oriented manufacturing, agro-allied and services are beginning to climb, reflecting the growing purchasing power of Africa’s emerging middle class. Invariably, these Greenfield investments (investment in businesses or economic sectors that are new to a given recipient country) partly reinforces the role of diversification policies as levers for economic transformation in Africa. However, poverty is still quite high and governance institutions remain pathologically weak, thereby, undermining the capacity of the regional economy to manage its oil wealth and agricultural booms in an accountable and transparent manner. In fact, Africa’s growth has been non-inclusive and highly characterised by insufficient poverty reduction, persistent unemployment, increased income inequalities and political tyrannism. At the 2012 UNECA Eighth African Development Forum (ADF-VIII) on Governing and Harnessing Natural Resources for Africa’s Development, during the roundtable on ‘mineral resources for Africa’s development: anchoring a new vision’, it was emphasised that Africa should have a vision that dispels the misconception of linking Africa with resource curse.’ In other words, natural resources and agricultural booms should stimulate blessings rather than invoke curses on Africa. A strategic policy dialogue should be organized in order to identify the conditions under which oil rents will be efficiently collected in order for it to positively transform African economy. According to the 2013 AfDB African Economic Outlook, this dialogue should build on the following two key pillars: (i) how to maximise the utilization of the oil revenue collection while ensuring predictability of outcomes and an adequate rate of returns on investments; (ii) how to develop, establish and strengthen oil revenue management, institutions and governance, such that, managing revenue volatility should be based on the adoption of transparency and accountability tools.
Gbadebo Odularu

Friday, 26 July 2013

Mobile network operators have much to gain from agriculture

Ghana's six mobile network operators have been slow to take advantage of agricultural value chains in the promotion of mobile services.
Ghana’s six mobile network operators have been slow to take advantage of agricultural value chains in the provision of mobile services.
Visit Ghana and ask for the phone number of any ordinary person on the street, and most likely you’ll be given the option of two or three different mobile network operators (MNOs) to choose from. Ghana has 19 million cell phone subscribers for its over 24 million inhabitants — an impressive proportion — most of whom subscribe to more than one operator. 
Ghana is one of Africa’s most vibrant and innovative communications markets. It launched the first cellular mobile network in sub-Saharan Africa in 1992, and was one of the first countries on the continent to be connected to the Internet and introduce ADSL services. A market leader in terms of liberalization and deregulation, Ghana Telecom in 1996.
Ghana is serviced by six MNOs, including: Scancom (MTN) with 50% of the market share; Millicom (Tigo), 21%; Vodafone Mobile, 18%; Bharti Airtel, 10%; and Expresso and Glo, the most recent additions with the smallest market shares.
In mid-2010 the voice market reached more than 70% penetration, but huge potential still exists for the 3G broadband services that were launched in 2009.

Mobile services

In terms of economic impact, the telecoms sector has contributed significantly to the country’s increase in GDP over the past twenty years and there is still massive room for growth. The question, then, is how many of these businesses have ever rolled out an innovation to support agriculture?
Value-added services such as mobile money have created jobs in the telecommunications and banking sectors as well as for the more than 4000 merchants in Ghana’s mobile money system. MTN’s Mobile Money was the first mobile or branchless banking  initiative in the country and operates in partnership with nine of Ghana’s banks. They currently have more than two million active users and MTN expects this number to grow through the education of subscribers on the benefits of switching from cash payments to electronic ones.
But outreach activities rarely address the needs of our smallholder farmers. Is it because MNOs consider farmers to be poor to use the services, or perhaps not sufficiently savvy on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)?

Operator Risks

Risks factors for mobile banking operators come in the form of strategic, reputational, compliance and operational risks. Operators need to keep a close eye on their outsourced providers, ensuring their activities are consistent with the overall strategic goals of the regulated entity — a task that may not be easy in the isolated, rural areas where most of our smallholders are located.
The same is true of reputational threats, which come in the form of poor service via third-party agents or consumer experiences that are inconsistent with the overall standards of the operator. Operators may have difficulties with ensuring that privacy, consumer and prudential laws are complied with at all times.
Operational risks are usually the biggest risk to operators. Technology failure, human error, cyber fraud, agent fraud, insecurity and unreliability of services and lack of customer education are just a number of factors that put operators at risk when lending their services to all users, smallholder farmers included.

Operator benefits and Africa’s booming mobile market

With so many potential risks, what are the incentives for getting involved in mobile services?
The simple answer is to have the ability to reach millions of new customers and offer a multitude of services from bank loans to account payments. Or, let’s not forget, to supply vital agricultural updates that could improve the quality of lives of millions of people and assist in the economic growth of many countries.
The rapid growth of the mobile market across Africa has had a positive impact on the continent’s economic growth. As the telecommunication sector grows, jobs are created not just within the MNOs, but also for their agents and supply chain partners.
Local businesses are benefiting from mobile banking as payments are easily made in the business to business and business to customer arena. Mobile application development has resulted in initiatives which have a massive effect on agriculture, medicine and the non-profit sector.
My worry is this: During the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) conference held recently  in Accra, Ghana, over 90 booths were sponsored by exhibitors attempting to speak to the theme of the event, “Africa feeding Africa through agricultural science and innovation.” Fascinating technologies like the the all new ‘fufu’ making machine and fresh research findings like the “Push-Pull” strategy for pest management were exhibited by individuals, institutions and research organizations from Africa and the world over.
Among all these happenings, I failed to recognize any of the booths being occupied by an MNO. Maybe they don’t have anything to exhibit. But farmers use their services too — so why aren’t they here?
Full inclusion of the various mobile money services in the agricultural value chain could benefit both farmer livelihoods and the bottom line of mobile operators.  I am of the strong opinion that its about time that MNOs are tasked with factoring farmers in to their innovation strategies. Maybe in three years’ time, at the next AASW, we’ll see a couple of MNO booths in the lineup.
Blogpost by Nana Darko, Rite 90.1 FM and a social media reporter for AASW6.
Photo: W. Vota

Leave a comment

The rise of the matriarch

What would a women-led society look like?
What would a women-led society look like?
Imagine a community where women are the leaders at all levels, where all major decisions affecting the communities are taken by women, and men are only allowed minimal participation in advisory roles. Then imagine a community founded by women, populated by women only, and endowed with natural resources so well-managed that it becomes a tourist attraction and luxury destination. Men have to beg and plead to live there, and are granted permission only on certain terms.
Perhaps this seems like a scene out of a play (could it be Wives’ Revolt by the great Nigerian writer J.P. Clark?), or a wild dream of an over-enthusiastic feminist. Many would find it hard to even entertain such a thought, but the truth is that we may not be so far away from such a reality.
Take the example of a village community in the protected Amerindian area of French Guaina, where women were at one point in time compelled to assert themselves and take over the position of the village head from the men. The former village head – a man – was collecting bribes from illegal gold-miners who were wantonly eleasing mercury into the environment, polluting the river and poisoning the fish that were a significant source of the community’s food.
The women were enraged when they started giving birth to deformed babies as a result of the mercury-poisoned water and fish and their teratogenic effects. So they installed a woman as the village head (and banished the illegal miners from the community) with the argument that no local woman would ever go ahead with collecting bribe from the illegal miners. The implications on child-bearing and the well-being of the community were too great.
In another scenario, in a Maasai community in Kenya, women who were repeatedly abused by their husbands joined together, moved out, founded their own community. The women’s community was so well-managed and successful that it became a tourist destination and the men had to appeal for permission to live among them. Sound familiar?
Before you get carried away with the thrills of the stories, consider quickly the implication of women community leadership on agriculture and food security, taking into account the statistics in a recent post I wrote on the AASW6 blog. Envision what the state of food security in Africa (and the world) would be like if women, the “real” food producers, became decision makers and had equitable access to land and other resources for production and trade.
Visualize what future communities (and cities) would look like if women–as children-bearers, homemakers, care-givers, food producers, great managers, and leaders–also had the political power to make the big decisions that affect them and their children. Consider these possibilities vis-à-vis the world’s issues with hunger, pollution, and climate change.
Consider these things, then tell me your thoughts, ideas, dreams, and visions. I want to know: Should women have the power in the communities of the future?
Blogpost by Bunmi Ajilore, a social media reporter for AASW6.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

No weakest link in the future of African agriculture

Naomi Sakana of IFPRI with ILRI's Ewen Le Borgne at AASW6. Forging partnerships between stakeholders is the key to a productive future, and the real value of the AASW6 conference.
Naomi Sakana of IFPRI with ILRI’s Ewen Le Borgne at AASW6. Forging partnerships between stakeholders is the key to a productive future, and the real value of the AASW6 conference.
When things come to an end, it is inevitable that one begins to look to the future.
Several things came to an end this week: The 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6)  in Accra, Ghana, for one, just closed the curtains on a frenzied week of activity; Professor Monty Jones, outgoing Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), officially handed over the reins to his successor at the end of the same week; and, well, France quashed England’s run for a women’s Euros football championship with a 3-0 win, if anyone was keeping track.
The third item aside, what do these other finales mean for the future of FARA, and for the future of its most anticipated triennial event, the AASW?

Value chains link production and competition

In an interview at AASW6, Professor Jones left no doubt as to where we should be heading in agricultural research for development (AR4D), and not just for FARA but for the whole continent. “For a long time in Africa,” said Professor Jones, “all we were thinking of was production, production, production. We have to start thinking beyond that now.”
He was referring to the evolution of the concept of integrated AR4D, that is, research that leans on the principles of the value chain approach to technology generation, dissemination and adoption. The value chain includes everyone: researchers, extension officers, producers, consumers, businessmen, and policy makers. The idea is for these actors to join together and create platforms to advise the agricultural sector.
Professor Jones gave a practical example: “In one instance we stimulated the increase in production of sorghum in Uganda by 60%. In fact, there was such an increase that farmers could no longer sell all their produce.”
If farmers are given all the input and support in the world, remarked Professor Jones, but at the end of the day can’t even sell what they produce, then what good is it?
So, he continued, “The platform came together to say, why not add value to the product? They gotMakerere University and the private sector involved, and they ended up producing a beverage they called Mamera drink that they started selling in supermarkets.” At the end of the day, everyone went home a winner.
The point, concluded Professor Jones, is that, sure, FARA and its partners should think of increasing productivity. “But they should also be thinking of the competitiveness of the system. We’re starting to move away from farming just for subsistence now, so we have to think about more than just productivity.” Labor efficiency. Quality of produce. Food safety. Processing. Handling. Exporting. That’s the future of African agriculture.

 But it’s the human connections that make it all possible

Perhaps the most pressing question as AASW6 draws to a close is, what is the value of such an event for furthering the goals that Professor Jones mentions?
You might say that it’s something to the same tune as the integration called for FARA’s value chain approach to AR4D. Linking people, forging partnerships, and “ensuring that everyone that wants to participate in African agriculture is included in the process of identifying the key issues” is where the true value of the AASW6 conference lies, in Professor Jones’ opinion.
Indeed, FARA’s future direction was never more clearly laid out than during AASW6, which served as the venue for the definition of the Forum’s new science agenda for the coming years. The agenda includes, for the first time, the key content and type of science that will need to be undertaken in the short, medium and long term to be able to feed Africa, and feed the rest of the world as well.
“Our challenge,” asserted Professor Jones, “is to recognize the fact that Africa cannot feed itself today, but that it must do everything it can to be able to feed the 2 billion Africans that will be here by 2050.”
If AASW6 was any indication, then making the right connections – be they human connections or links in a value chain – is the only way to proceed towards that noble goal.
Blogpost by Caity Peterson, a social media reporter for AASW6.
Photo: P. Karaimu (ILRI)

Leave a comment