New markets book showcases livestock insurance scheme that is helping Kenyan herders protect their marketable assets

NP Kenya 211011_36

Herders who took out livestock insurance under the Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project in a 2011 meeting in Marsabit, Kenya. A new markets book highlights the role of the insurance scheme in helping farmers protect their assets (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

A new book on markets development for African smallholder farmers has highlighted a pioneering livestock insurance project as a key innovation that could enable African farmers reduce their losses in crop and livestock production.

The new publication: Towards priority actions for market development for African farmers, says lowering production and efficiency losses in agricultural production and improving agricultural markets will, among other actions, ‘level the playing field for smallholder farmers’ and support human and economic development in Africa. The books calls for the ‘right mix’ of policy and investments to not only ‘strengthen African policy expertise’ but also encourage ‘a more diverse array of investments and initiatives, including those initiated by the private sector.’

One such initiative that brings together private and public sector actors to support African agriculture is an Index-Based Livestock Insurance project in Kenya. The project is featured in a chapter in the new book.

Started in 2010 by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in partnership with UAP insurance, Equity Bank, Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative program at the University of California at Davis, the Index-Based Livestock Insurance project provides livestock insurance against forage losses to over 2500 households in Kenya’s Marsabit District. Freely available satellite imagery is used to assess conditions of pastures. When pasture vegetation is reduced to a level below a specified threshold, the insurance company pays herders who bought insurance. Yearly premiums cost USD100 for 6-8 animals.

Pastoral livestock sectors are at the heart of agricultural markets in Africa. Kenya’s livestock industry, for example, is estimated to be worth about USD800 million per year and produces most of the meat consumed in the country and is critical to the country’s food security. Research by ILRI shows that long-term solutions to food security in Kenya and other countries in the Horn of Africa need to support livestock herding. Pastoral systems are critical for the survival of livelihoods here and offer the most efficient way of managing the region’s large arid and semi-arid lands.

This insurance scheme is currently being piloted in other parts of Kenya and in Ethiopia. In late 2011, 600 livestock keepers insured through the project received insurance payments for vegetation losses arising from the drought that struck the Horn that year. The project is also now making use of mobile phones to widen its impact in remote communities.

Notes:

The new book, which is published by ILRI and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), warns that ‘it will not be enough to simply produce more food from the fields and grazing lands of Africa.’ More effort is needed to create better markets and improve access to these markets’ especially in remote regions.

The book describes the outcomes of an international conference held in Nairobi three years ago that examined the ‘priority actions’ that if taken could speed up the development of African agricultural markets.

Authors of the markets books recommend enhancing markets for poor people, improving market information, lowering transaction costs associated with trading and adding value to farm produce by upgrading value chains and processing mechanisms.

Read more about the book

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/8786

http://marketopportunities.blogspot.com/2012/03/agra-and-ilri-publish-proceedings-of.html

Download the full book or different sections:

http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/16491

Read recent stories on the Index-Based Livestock Insurance Project from ILRI news:

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/8149

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/7348

View short films about the project

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php/archives/7374

 

 

 

Five ways to enhance agricultural markets in hungry regions of East and West Africa

 

Causes of livestock deaths

Causes of livestock deaths, figure reproduced in ILRI-AGRA book: Towards priority actions for market development for African farmers: Proceedings of an international conference, Nairobi, Kenya,13-15 May 2009. Nairobi (Source of figure: J McPeak, PI Little and C Doss. 2010. Livelihoods in a Risky Environment: Development and Change among East African Pastoralists, Routledge Press, London.)

With food shortages being predicted for dryland communities in both East and West Africa this year, it seems an appropriate time to revisit a major way African experts see that the continent can feed itself: Get Africa’s markets working.

Three years ago, 150 of the world’s leading market experts gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, to document the best ways to drive agricultural market development in sub-Saharan Africa. Both the proceedings of this international conference, Towards Priority Actions for Market Development for African Farmers, held 13–15 May 2009, and a synthesis of its outcomes, Priority Actions for Developing African Agricultural Markets, were published last year by ILRI and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

The synthesis of this major African markets conference begins by referring to the sudden escalation in food costs that began in late 2010 and persisted into 2011—the second time in only three years that rapid food price rises, caused by a combination of production shortfalls and market failures causing dramatic gaps between supply and demand, rocked developing countries worldwide. With Africa’s long-term struggle with food insecurity, this continent and its economies and people are especially vulnerable to any sudden rise in food prices.

Even before the price shocks of 2008 and 2011, expert opinion had begun to coalesce on the centrality of agriculture in addressing African hunger and poverty. Much of the discussion has focused on increasing agricultural productivity through improved crop varieties and animal breeds, along with increased access to inputs and veterinary services, to boost farm yields. And, indeed, with crop and livestock yields on African farms typically a fraction of that in other regions, there appear to be big opportunities for new breadbaskets and milk sheds emerging across the continent.

But it will not be enough to simply produce more food from Africa’s fields and grazing lands. First, most Africans—including most smallholder, and even subsistence farmers—are net purchasers rather than growers of food.  Also, as more and more people migrate from rural to urban areas, more and more Africans are relying on markets to meet their food needs. And because most rural as well as urban Africans spend a significant proportion of their income on food, even modest increases in food prices can tip millions of them into poverty.

Efficient and vibrant agricultural markets would help. But Africa’s agricultural markets suffer from a dearth of processing and storage facilities, pricing information, smallholder credit, and transport. These create inefficiencies that both raise prices for consumers and restrict sales opportunities for farmers, who are stopped from selling their food surpluses in nearby food-deficit regions.

View or download the full proceedings of this international conference:
Towards Priority Actions for Market Development for African Farmers, 13–15 May 2009, published by ILRI and AGRA, 2011.

and a synthesis of the outcomes of the conference:
Priority Actions for Developing African Agricultural Marketspublished by ILRI and AGRA, 2011.

Five recommendations
The following five recommendations, highlighted here for their special pertinence to the drylands of East and West Africa, are presented in case studies published in the ILRI-AGRA markets book:
1 Support village seed trade in semi-arid areas
2 Manage pastoral risk with livestock insurance
3 Employ ICTs to raise smallholder income
4 Embrace informal agro-industry
5 Encourage intra-regional trade

Details of these recommendations follow.
1 Support village seed trade in semi-arid areas
Section 2 of the proceedings volume, Seed and Fertilizer Markets, includes a case study of the utility of Tapping the potential of village markets to supply seed in semi-arid Africa in Mali and Kenya. This paper, written by Melinda Smale, (Oxfam America), Latha Nagarajan, Lamissa Diakité, Patrick Audi (ICRISAT), Mikkel Grum (Bioversity International), Richard Jones (ICRISAT) and Eva Weltzien (ICRISAT), shows that village markets have the potential to supply high-quality pigeon pea and millet seed in semi-arid areas of Kenya and Mali, respectively.

The problem: Periods of seed insecurity occur in remote, semiarid areas when spatially covariate risk of drought is high and many farmers fall short of seed. In these remote environments, seed systems are typically informal, and farmers rely on each other for locally adapted varieties. They are not reliable clients for private seed companies because they purchase seed irregularly. Less improved germplasm has been developed for semiarid environments because of the high costs of breeding and supplying seed—a situation that has worsened with decreasing public funding for agricultural research. In the Mali study, village markets assure a supply of seed of identifiable, locally adapted, genetically diverse varieties as a final recourse in a risky environment where there are as yet no reliable formal channels, for which competitive varieties have not yet been bred, and the potential of agro-dealers to supply certified seed has not yet been exploited. In the Kenya study, well-adapted varieties have been bred, but no formalized channels of seed provision exist for pigeon pea and agro-dealers are active in selling improved varieties of maize and vegetables. In both studies, farm women are major seed trade actors. Interestingly, the characteristics of seed vendors and the locations of seed programs—not the price of seed—tend to determine the quantities of seed sold. The authors argue for strengthening and linking both formal and informal systems for non-hybrid dryland crops.

Some solutions: Several approaches piloted recently are potential candidates for improving the supply of good-quality seed on a large scale.

The West Africa Seed Alliance (WASA) and the Eastern and Southern Africa Seed Alliance (ESASA) work to help local entrepreneurs expand existing seed companies and create new ones.

Since private seed companies do not yet operate in the sorghum- and millet-based systems of the Sahel, where state agencies are underfunded, scientists at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (lCRISAT) have tested several models that draw on the comparative advantages of farmer organizations.

2 Manage pastoral risk with livestock insurance
Section 3 of the ILRI-AGRA markets proceedings, Strengthening Finance, Insurance and Market Information, has two case studies of particular relevance to the food problems facing the drylands of West and East Africa.

First is a report on Insuring against drought-related livestock mortality: Piloting index-based livestock insurance in northern Kenya, written by ILRI’s Andrew Mude and his partners Sommarat Chantarat, Christopher Barrett, Michael Carter, Munenobu Ikegami and John McPeak.

The problem: Climate extremities pose the greatest risks to agricultural production, with droughts and floods not only causing crop failures but also forage and water scarcity that harms and kills livestock. The number of droughts and floods has risen sharply worldwide in the last decade, with disaster incidence in low-income countries rising at twice the global rate. In much of rural Africa, where water harvesting, irrigation and other similar water management methods are under developed, the impacts of climate change are expected to be especially pernicious.

A solution: In the last several years, new ways to manage weather-related agricultural risk have been developed. Of these, index-based insurance products represent a promising and exciting market-based option for managing climate-related risks faced by poor and remote populations.

This paper describes research to design commercially viable index-based livestock insurance for pastoral populations of northern dryland Kenya, where the risk of drought and drought-related livestock deaths is high.

The analysis indicates a high likelihood of commercial sustainability in the target market and describes events leading up to the pilot launch in Marsabit District in early 2010. The paper concludes that this insurance tool has largely succeeded in helping Marsabit’s livestock herders better manage their risk of drought. Growing interest from both commercial and development partners is helping to take this instrument to other arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya and other countries and regions.

3 Employ ICTs to raise smallholder income
The same Section 3 of the ILRI-AGRA book offers a case study from West Africa, written by Kofi Debrah, coordinator of MISTOWA, supporting the Role of ICT-based management information systems in enhancing smallholder producers’ incomes.

The problem: Smallholder African farmers typically have little access to reliable marketing outlets in which to sell their surplus produce at remunerative prices. Furthermore, their ability to respond quickly to market opportunities is constrained by lack of labour, credit, market information and post-harvest facilities. As a result, West African farmer incomes from agriculture are low and variable and little agricultural produce is traded in the region.

A solution: A project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), ‘Strengthening Regional Networks of Market Information Systems for Traders’ Organizations in West Africa’ (MISTOWA), helped build a private-public partnership to develop and deploy an ICT-based market information system that improved farmers’ access to markets. Some 12,500 agricultural producers and traders from 15 West African countries benefited from the project, with the beneficiaries reporting USD4,080 in benefits, or USD4.33 per dollar of donor funds invested.

Evidence from the beneficiaries suggests that access to real-time market information provides smallholder farmers with incentives for investing in agriculture.

 

4 Embrace informal agro-industry
Section 4 of the markets book, High-Value Commodities and Agroprocessing, includes a paper by ILRI scientists Amos Omore and Derek Baker on Integrating informal actors into the formal dairy industry in Kenya through training and certification.

The problem:  Throughout the developing world, most food produced by smallholder farmers is delivered and processed by an ‘informal’ agro-industry, which is the principal source of food for most poor consumers and a major source of employment of poor people as traders and service providers. In spite of this, agro-industrial policy has historically tended to displace this informal sector with a formal one featuring relatively large-scale and capital-intensive production and marketing. Other policy concerns, such as public health and municipal planning, have further selected against informal agribusiness, particularly livestock’s informal agro-industry.

A solution: This paper presents a case study of interventions in the Kenyan informal milk industry that led to changes in dairy policy that in turn reduced poverty levels in the East African country. The paper identifies the informal agribusiness sector as fertile ground for alleviating poverty and supporting vulnerable groups.

Policies do well to embrace informal agro-industry, the research indicates, while helping it transform itself into a more formal industry.

The ILRI scientists show that the informal dairy industry can respond well to consumer demand for quality, particularly for safe food, and, when unjustified policy barriers are removed, can compete well when price alone becomes the basis of competition. These achievements support much conjecture in the development literature about the centrality of markets, and access to them, for pro-poor development and the idea that pro-poor markets rely heavily on policy and institutional change. The lessons of this project are being transferred to other informal commodity sectors (goats, beef cattle and pigs) in Africa and Asia and the policy changes seen in the Kenya dairy project have been adopted across the East African region.

5 Encourage intra-regional trade
Section 6 of the markets book, Encouraging Regional Trade, includes a paper on The impact of non-tariff barriers on maize and beef trade in East Africa. The paper is written by Joseph Karugia (ILRI and ReSAKSS-ECA), Julliet Wanjiku (ILRI and ReSAKSS-ECA), Jonathan Nzuma, Sika Gbegbelegbe, Eric Macharia, Stella Massawe, Ade Freeman, Michael Waithaka and Simeon Kaitibie.

The problem: In 2004, the East African Community member states established an East African Community Customs Union, committing them, among other things, to eliminate non-tariff barriers to facilitate increased trade and investment flows between member states and to create a large market for East African people. However, several such trade barriers are still applied by member states and there exists little reliable information about how, and how much, these non-tariff barriers are actually hurting regional trade. This study identified the existing non-tariff barriers on the trade of maize and beef in East Africa and quantified their impacts on trade and citizen welfare in the region. The study found that the main types of non-tariff barriers within the three founding members of the East African Community (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) are similar and include administrative requirements, taxes/duties, roadblocks, customs barriers, weighbridges, licensing, corruption and transiting.

Some solutions: The study recommends taking a regional approach to exploit economies of scale by eliminating non-tariff barriers, since they are similar across the member countries and across commodities. Specific policy recommendations include streamlining administrative procedures at border points to improve efficiency; speeding up implementation of procedures at point of origin and at the border points; and implementing monitoring systems to provide feedback to relevant authorities on progress in removing unnecessary barriers to trade within East and Central Africa. The welfare analysis of the study shows that abolishment or reduction of the existing non-tariff barriers in maize and beef trade increases trade flows of maize and beef within the East African Community, with Kenya importing more maize from both Uganda and Tanzania and Uganda exporting more beef to Kenya and Tanzania. As a result, positive net welfare gains are attained for the entire East African Community maize and beef sub-sectors.

These findings give compelling evidence in support of the elimination of non-tariff barriers within the East African Community Customs Union.

Scientists say farmers must be linked to markets to combat Africa’s food woes

Poultry seller in Mozambique

Poultry seller at the morning market in Chokwe, Gurue, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

From dairy cooperatives, text messaging and grain storage to improved credit, transport and trade initiatives, a new book presents ‘high-payoff, low-cost’ solutions to Africa’s underdeveloped agricultural markets and chronic food insecurity.

As a food crisis unfolds in West Africa’s Sahel region, some of the world’s leading experts in agriculture markets say the time is ripe to confront the ‘substantial inefficiencies’ in trade policy, transportation, information services, credit, crop storage and other market challenges that leave Africans particularly vulnerable to food-related problems.

‘We can’t control the weather or international commodities speculators, but there are many things we can do to improve market conditions in Africa that will increase food availability and help stabilize food prices across the continent,’ said Anne Mbaabu, director of the Market Access Program at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which has invested US$30 million over the last four years to improve market opportunities for Africa’s smallholder farmers.

AGRA and the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have just released a book that features a range of studies that collectively make a compelling argument for embracing agriculture-oriented market improvements as crucial to not only avoiding future food crises but also for establishing a firm foundation for rural development and economic growth. The research was originally prepared for a conference in Nairobi in which 150 experts from around the world discussed how to ‘leverage the untapped capacity of agricultural markets in Africa to increase food security and incomes.’

Its publication comes as international aid groups are rushing assistance to Niger and other nations of the African Sahel—a narrow but long belt of arid land south of the Sahara that stretches across the continent—where a combination of high food prices and poor weather has left some 14 million people without enough to eat. The food problems in the Sahel are emerging just as African governments and aid groups say they have stabilized a food crisis in the Horn of Africa that at its peak in Somalia had left 58 percent of children under the age of five acutely malnourished.

But while volatility in international commodities markets is being widely cited as a major cause of the food shortages in the Sahel, there is growing evidence that at least some of the food price fluctuation in Africa is caused by domestic factors.

Recent research—led by Joseph Karugia, Coordinator of the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System for Eastern and Central Africa (ReSAKSS-ECA) at ILRI, and colleagues at the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA)—examining food price volatility in Eastern Africa suggests domestic factors are playing a role as well. The researchers found that over the last few years, even when global prices have receded, domestic prices in the region have remained high. For example, while global maize prices declined by 12 percent in the last quarter of 2008, in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia and Rwanda, they increased.

The study finds food price volatility in these countries is at least partly due to barriers and policies impeding the flow of food among markets in the region and between the region and global markets.

‘We need to consider what can be done within Africa to reduce our vulnerability to food-related problems,’ said ILRI’s interim deputy director general for research Steve Staal, an agricultural economist with expertise in smallholder farming systems. ‘Improving regional and sub-regional agriculture markets is one way we can increase food security and the impact of even minor improvements could be impressive. Just as it doesn’t take a big rise in food prices to tip millions of Africans into poverty, it does not require a sharp move in the other direction to generate huge benefits.’

The book from the markets conference outlines a number of ‘high-payoff, low cost’ initiatives that combine ‘innovative thinking’ and ‘new technology’ along with policy reforms to give farmers an incentive to boost production—and the means to make their surplus harvests more widely available and at an affordable cost.

For example, the Smallholder Dairy Project, a collaborative project between ILRI and research and development partners in Kenya, catalyzed some 40,000 small-scale milk vendors to generate an extra US$16 million across the Kenya dairy industry by seeking policy changes and providing practical training that made it easier for them to comply with national milk safety and quality standards. Prior to the initiative, smallholder dairy farmers were not realizing either their production or income potential because complex and costly food safety standards reduced participation in formal milk markets.

‘Smallholder farmers and herders in Africa need a combination of investment in infrastructure and services, along with regulatory changes to take full advantage of growing agriculture market opportunities,’ said Staal. ‘And since smallholders produce most of the milk, meat, vegetables and grains consumed in Africa, improving their participation in agriculture markets—particularly as populations gravitate away from rural areas to urban centers—is key to the continent’s food security.’

For example, a warehouse receipt program operated by the Eastern Africa Grain Council and Kenya’s Maize Development program is offering farmers two things they previously lacked: a place to safely store surplus harvests and easier access to credit. Research has shown that on average, 25 to 50 per cent of crops produced on African farms spoil in the fields and in East Africa alone up to USD90 million worth of milk is lost per year due to spoilage.

Lack of credit is also limiting the ability of African farmers to produce and sell more food. One important aspect of the warehouse receipt program is that it allows farmers to get credit using the deposited grain as collateral. They can use the credit to purchase such things as farm inputs for the next planting or meet immediate cash requirements.

‘We understand that credit is crucial for expanding production on African farms—as it is everywhere in the world—which is why AGRA is working with commercial banks to unlock millions of dollars in loans for smallholder farmers across Africa,’ said Mbaabu.

AGRA’s partnerships with Standard Bank, NMB Bank (Tanzania), and Equity Bank (Kenya) were modeled on an initiative by the Rockefeller Foundation in Uganda that had only a 2 per cent default rate. ‘This shows that investing in African farmers makes good business sense,’ said Mbaabu.

The book also discusses initiatives that are using post-harvest processing facilities and information technology to improve market opportunities. An analysis of processing facilities in Tanzania that make chips and flour from cassava—a crop many smallholder farmers can produce in abundance—found that they were profitable even when dealing at 50 per cent of capacity. Research in Northern Ghana found farmers were getting 68 per cent more for their harvests after using a service that provides a steady stream of pricing, market, transportation and weather information via text message.

On the policy front, the market experts see an urgent need to confront the ‘hodge-podge of tariffs’ and the numerous export restrictions and customs requirements that make it hard for areas of Africa where there are food surpluses to serve those in food deficit. Critically, they recognize that private investors are in many cases playing the lead role in new investments for market development and services.

Policy-makers need to shift emphasis from a traditional regulatory approach to one of co-investment to leverage private sector activity, supporting appropriate infrastructure and information systems,’ says Staal.

A recent report from the World Bank on trade barriers in Africa recounted how in Zambia, the grocery store Shoprite spends USD20,000 per week securing import permits for meat, milk and vegetables. And its trucks carry up to 1,600 documents to meet border requirements. Overall, the Bank report estimates African countries are forfeiting billions of dollars per year in potential earnings by failing to address barriers to the flow of goods and services.

‘When many people think of a food crisis in Africa, they picture crops withering in the field or dead or dying livestock, but rarely do they think about the market issues that are part of the problem as well,’ said Namanga Ngongi, president of AGRA. ‘African farmers face many challenges in the field and pasture but they will continue to lack the means and the incentive to boost crop and livestock yields if we continue to neglect our underdeveloped agriculture markets.’

The book, African agricultural markets: Towards priority actions for market development for African farmers, and synthesis document are available for download here.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
is a dynamic partnership working across the African continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. AGRA programmes develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment. AGRA advocates for policies that support its work across all key aspects of the African agricultural value chain—from seeds, soil health and water to markets and agricultural education.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
works with partners worldwide to help poor people keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, and find profitable markets for their animal products. ILRI’s headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya; we have a principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and 13 offices in other regions of Africa and Asia. ILRI is part of the CGIAR (www.cgiar.org), which works to reduce hunger, poverty, illness and environmental degradation in developing countries by generating and sharing relevant agricultural knowledge, technologies and policies. This research is focused on development, conducted by a Consortium of 15 CGIAR centres working with hundreds of partners worldwide, and supported by a multi-donor Fund.

 More on the book

Download the full book or individual sections

CGIAR media briefing on the food crisis in the Horn of Africa: A strengthened and joined-up approach is needed

CGIAR Consortium Media Briefing at ILRI in Nairobi 1 Sep 2011

A journalist at the CGIAR Media Briefing held on 1 September 2011 at ILRI: Experts have called for a strengthened and joined-up approach of addressing food crises in the Horn of Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Meredith Braden).

A panel of experts on the Horn of Africa has called for greater investment in agricultural development, greater support for agricultural research, and greater cooperation between research, government, private sector and development actors. These can speed the adoption of innovations by farmers and herders, helping millions of food producers in the Horn of Africa now facing the severest drought in this region in six decades.

Speaking today at a news briefing organized by the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres, with the briefing hosted and backstopped by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, the experts called for a ‘matching of investments in infrastructure development with investments in knowledge’ to get more research into use.

The experts were interviewed by more than 20 journalists on the subject of ‘Famine in the Horn of Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for Mitigating Drought-Induced Food Crises’. The experts were leaders of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the CGIAR, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Food Program.

‘It is not drought but vulnerability to drought that is eroding livelihoods in these areas,’ said Jeff Hill, Director of Policy, Bureau for Food Aid, at USAID. ‘And this vulnerability is largely a result of decades of under-investment in agriculture and sustainable food security in the region.’ This is despite the fact that livestock production in the arid and semi-arid lands in the Horn of Africa contributes 35–45 and 45–50 percent of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) in Ethiopia and Kenya, respectively. ‘However,’ Hill said, ‘the current national development plans in Ethiopia and Kenya recognize the value of these regions and should be supported by all because they are offering a chance to build a coalition of support to sustainably address and tackle the challenges experienced in the arid and semi-arid lands.’

Mark Gordon, from the World Food Programme, co-chair of Somalia Interagency Food Cluster, reported that ‘Below-normal rainfall in recent seasons has dried up water points used for animals and crops, increased the prices of food and fuel, tightened global food supply chains, and led to more political- and resource-based conflicts.’

The solutions to the current problem ‘have been discussed for decades,’ noted the expert panel. It reminded the journalists that the current drought is not a ‘one-off event.’ The current problem offers an opportunity to ‘scale up the use of tested knowledge, and make research a key investment area,’ said Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. He added that ‘We have to adapt agriculture to the changing nature of our environment, change our market structures to accommodate and promote drought-tolerant crops and we should consider adjusting our food habits to make better use of crops that are adapted to the region.’

The panel proposed the creation of commodity exchanges for food crops to help reduce speculation on food prices and widening insurance protection for livestock keepers to help them rebuild their livelihoods after drought. Other ways of helping to avert future food crises mentioned include the application of community-based emergency recovery and resilience-building interventions, such as sustainable land management programs, construction of soil banks and underground reservoirs. ‘There is need to use proven, tested and appropriate technologies to work with vulnerable households for “the next time, the next shock” happens,’ said Gordon.

‘The current drought is a warning shot, an early indication of the immense challenges that we face in the future, not only in [the Horn of Africa] but around the world,’ said Lloyd Le Page, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium. ‘Despite the challenges to livestock herding and crop farming in this region, we can prevent [food crises] from happening,’ said Le Page, ‘if we are willing to embrace research and policies that give farmers in the region the tools they need to be resilient in the face of increasing uncertainty.’

Find out more about the media briefing on the CGIAR Consortium website: http://consortium.cgiar.org/hoa/

Livestock one of three ways to feed the growing world–Economist special report

Dairy cow looks out from her stall in a village in central Malawi

A dairy cow looks out from her stall in central Malawi. Can such ubiquitous backyard livestock farming in the developing world feed the growing world? (picture credit: ILRI/Mann).

A special report on feeding the world, ‘The 9-billion people question,’ appears in this week’s issue of the Economist, as the world continues to grapple with a global food crisis. The author is the Economist‘s globalization editor, John Parker. In an article titled ‘Doing more with less’, Parker argues that ‘the only reliable way to produce more food is to use better technology.’

The world has three main ways to produce more food for our growing populations, he states, and we’ll need new technology for each. The three ways are better seeds, more productive livestock systems and advanced use of plant genetics, including genetic modification.

Parker gives examples of how ‘it is possible to grow more food, more efficiently, on both a regional and a national scale.’ ‘But,’ he asks, ‘can it be done on a global scale . . . to feed 9 billion people? If so, how?’

‘The main gains will have to come in three ways,’ Parker writes: ‘from narrowing the gap between the worst and best producers; from spreading the so-called “livestock revolution”; and—above all—from taking advantage of new plant technologies.’

(1) Regarding the first way, Parker says better technology is already closing the gap between best and worst producers in comparable environments.

(2) Regarding the second way, Parker writes: ‘The second main source of growth will consist of spreading a tried and tested success: the “livestock revolution”. This consists of switching from traditional, open-air methods of animal husbandry, in which chickens and pigs scratch and root around the farm, eating insects, scraps and all sorts of organic waste, to closed “battery” systems, in which animals are confined to cages and have their diet, health and movement rigorously controlled. This entails huge losses in animal welfare, and European consumers are reacting against the system. But there are also gains in productivity and sometimes even in welfare, by reducing losses from diseases and predators that in traditional systems can be distressingly high.

‘Improving livestock farming is important because of meat’s growing share in the world’s diet. Meat consumption in China more than doubled in 1980-2005, to 50kg a year per person. Between now and 2050, meat’s share of calories will rise from 7% to 9%, says the FAO; the share of dairy produce and eggs will rise more.

‘Livestock matters for many reasons. It provides financial security in poor countries, where herds are often a family’s savings. It can affect people’s health: new infectious diseases are appearing at the rate of three or four a year, and three-quarters of them can be traced to animals, domestic and wild. Avian flu is just one example. Livestock also plays a part in global warming. Much of the methane in the atmosphere—one of the worst greenhouse gases—comes from cattle belching.

‘Since the 1980s livestock production has far outstripped that of cereals. World meat output more than doubled between 1980 and 2007. Production of eggs rose from 27m tonnes to 68m over the same period. Some countries have done better still. India has the world’s largest dairy herd. Its milk production trebled, to 103m tonnes, over a period when global milk output increased by half. Brazil increased its production of chickens fivefold in 1987-2007 to become the world’s largest exporter. Most spectacularly, China raised its output of both eggs and milk tenfold.

‘For sheer efficiency, there is little question that battery systems do a better job than traditional methods. A free-range hen scratching around might lay one or two eggs a week. Feeding her costs nothing, giving a net gain of 50-100 eggs a year. A battery chicken will lay six eggs a week. She might cost the equivalent of 150 eggs to feed, producing an annual net gain of 150 eggs. And selective breeding has made her more economic to keep. Battery chickens used to need 4kg of feed for 1kg of eggs; now they need only 2kg.

‘Moreover, it is almost impossible to scale up a farmyard operation: there are only so many insects to eat, and so many hens one family can look after. And to breed the most productive hens which convert their feed most efficiently into eggs and are most resistant to disease, you need large flocks.

‘So there are two reasons for thinking that the livestock revolution will continue. One is that some countries still lag behind. An example, surprisingly, is Brazil, which has just one head of cattle per hectare—an unusually low number even for a country with so much land. Roberto Giannetti da Fonseca, of the São Paulo industry federation, says Brazil should be able at least to double that number—which could mean either doubling beef production or using half the area to produce the same amount.

‘Carlos Sere of the International Livestock Research Institute thinks traditional systems could borrow some of the methods of closed battery-farm systems—notably better feeding (giving a small amount of animal feed makes a big difference to the weight of range-land cattle) and the introduction of new breeds for better yields (as Kabiyet did by switching from longhorn to Holstein cattle).

‘The second reason for expecting further gains is that recent genetic analysis could improve breeding dramatically. About a third of the livestock revolution has come about through selecting and breeding the best animals. Another third comes from improved feeding and the remainder from better disease control. In the 1940s and 1950s breeding relied on the careful recording of every animal in the herd or flock; in the 1970s on artificial insemination by the best sires; and in the 1980s on embryo transfers from the best females into ordinary breeding animals.

‘New genetic analysis now promises to bring in another stage, says the FAO’s Henning Steinfeld. It allows breeders to select traits more precisely and thus speeds up breeding by reducing generational intervals: if you know which genetic traits an animal has, there is no need to wait several generations to see how things turn out.

‘This will not happen everywhere. Europeans and—to some extent—Americans are increasingly influenced by welfare concerns. They jib at confining animals. The European Union has banned certain kinds of cages, and California is following suit. But, so far, people in emerging markets, where demand for meat and animal products is growing fast, are less concerned about such things, so the next stage of the livestock revolution will mainly be concentrated there.’

(3) Regarding the third way—making better use of plant genetics, Parker argues that ‘the change likely to generate the biggest yield gains in the food business—perhaps 1.5-2% a year—is the development of “marker-assisted breeding”—in other words, genetic marking and selection in plants, which includes genetically modifying them but also involves a range of other techniques. This is the third and most important source of growth.’

Read the whole special report in the Economist: The 9 billion-people question, 24 February 2011.

Read the whole article in the Economist: Doing more with less, 24 February 2011.

Listen to John Parker interviewed on this subject: A special report on food, 24 February 2011.

Hands on the plough: Kofi Annan and Forum promise to pool resources for African ‘agricultural growth corridors’ combining crops and livestock

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Kofi Annan speaking at the African Green Revolution Forum held in Accra, Ghana, September 2010 (photo credit: AGRF).

An inaugural African Green Revolution Forum has moved Africa forward in its quest to transform agriculture and tackle food security. 

Closing the Forum in Accra, Ghana, on 4 September 2010, the Forum's chair, Kofi Annan, praised efforts to accelerate a green revolution in Africa. The Forum's executive co-producer, Akin Adesina, said the meetings kick-started a new phase in an African green revolution. The Forum agreed to pool efforts and resources to scale up breadbasket project plans and investment blueprints for agricultural growth corridors. Ghanaian Minister for Agriculture, Kwasi Ahwoi, invited new partners to join the Ghana breadbasket initiative. The Prime Minister of Tanzania, H.E. Mizengo Pinda, agreed to finalise a blueprint for the Tanzania Southern Corridor by January 2011.

The Forum participants specifically agreed on the following actions:
· empower women by accelerating their access to technologies, finances and markets
· scale up farmer and agri-business access to finances
· invest in science, technology and research for food and nutritional security
· increase access to improved seed via plant breeding, seed companies and seed distribution systems
· improve fertilizer supply systems and build more efficient fertilizer value chains
· link agri-business to commercial farms and smallholder farmers
· manage water resources better
· make better and wider use of 'mixed' farming systems that raise animals as well as grow crops
 

The director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Uruguayan agricultural economist Carlos Seré, participated in the Forum and led a panel session of livestock development. A report on that livestock session will be posted here later this week.

The African Green Revolution Forum issued a detailed plan of action to the delegates. Government and development groups, including the African Union and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, will conduct peer review assessments.

'We pledge ourselves to work with all other key partners to ensure that capacity is not a limiting factor in the green revolution,' said Namanga Ngongi, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the organization that founded the Forum alongside Yara.

Mr Annan thanked the government leaders, including H.E. Mizengo Pinda, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, and the Hon. John Dramani Mahama, Vice President of Ghana, who had taken part in the African Green Revolution Forum. 'These gracious, impassioned leaders threw their political weight behind this shining moment of transformation for Africa,' said Mr Annan.

And he urged governments and parliamentarians to help eradicate poverty and realise the dream of a green revolution. 'The time for action is now. For as you leave this forum, you are carrying upon your shoulders the vibrant hopes of a generation and a continent. We will not dash the dream of the African farmer,' said Mr Annan. 'With our hands on the plough, we will till this beautiful land’s soil together, and help Africa reap a bountiful harvest.'

About the Forum
The African Green Revolution Forum brings together African heads of state, ministers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, civil society and scientists to an African-led forum to promote investments and policy support for driving agricultural productivity and income growth for African farmers in an environmentally sustainable way.

This public-private network it is a catalyst for the African Green Revolution called for by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2004. The Forum gathered momentum during three successful African Green Revolution conferences in Oslo, Norway. This year it was held 2–4 September 2010 in Accra, Ghana, co-chaired by Kofi Annan. The African Green Revolution Forum is supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Yara, the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, the African Development Bank and Standard Bank.

Read more about the outcomes of the African Green Revolution Forum, media releases and a summary of the African Green Revolution parallel sessions here.

African women scientists for African farmers: ‘The work is risky, it’s dirty, it’s hard and it’s invisible’—Vicki Wilde

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Investing in women in Africa is a smart investment;

investing in women scientists in Africa is a best bet.’

—Vicki Wilde


The quotes below are a distillation of some of the sentiments as well as celebratory remarks expressed at an event honouring 60 new 2010 African Women in Agricultural Research and Development Fellowships announced at the World Agroforestry Centre, in Nairobi, Kenya, on 27 July 2010.

* * * 
 
 
‘Women of Africa are first of all daughters, then wives, mothers and caregivers. They farm the fields, milk the cows and generate the incomes that put food on our tables—and ensure that our children are educated. We celebrate them today while honouring the research women that stand behind our farming women and men.’

—Stella Williams, retired Nigerian professor of agricultural economics and Chair of the Steering Committee of the CGIAR African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Program
 


 
‘We are announcing 60 AWARD Fellowships today. We chose 60 women representing 20 different disciplines in whom to invest in a two-year professional development program, a journey to empower them in their work to alleviate and hunger in Africa.

‘These are the women who are changing the face of African agriculture. Like our Fulani AWARD Fellow this year, who is bringing artificial insemination to West African villages, these women "are not interested in being smallholders".

‘Women represent less than 1 in 4 agricultural researchers in Africa and less than 1 in 7 of those in leadership. Experts estimate it will take another 20 years for women to reach parity with men in this continent’s agricultural affairs. We created AWARD to change that equation.’
 
—Vicki Wilde, Director of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and Gender and Diversity programs of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
 

 
 
‘The road out of poverty is lined with women food producers and sellers.’
 
— Ephraim Mukisira, Director of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
 
 
 
 
‘We have enormous talent here in Africa. I have a wife who has several scientific degrees and is several times smarter than I am. I recognize that. My family recognizes that. We must recognize talent. When women become empowered, societies prosper.

‘Agriculture is our lifeline. Almost 80 percent of Africans depend on it. We still have 300 million people living on less than a dollar a day. Our continent’s future is tied to our continent’s agriculture.

‘Women are the face of African agriculture. We need more relevant training for the unique conditions of Africa. We need women to address issues that have not been on men’s radar screens.'
 
—Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President for Policy and Partnerships of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa
 


 
‘We need women represented in our labs as well as in our fields.’

—Hilary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State (quoted by Adesina)
 
 
 
 
‘So much is at stake.’
 
—Ruth Amata, plant pathologist, senior research officer at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and 2010 AWARD Fellow
 

 
* * * 

The AWARD program is a project of the CGIAR’s Gender and Diversity Program and is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development.

 A list of 2010 AWARD Fellowship Recipients including their research topics is available at http://awardfellowships.org/~awfellow/images/stories/award/downloads/2010%20Fellows_research%20areas.pdf  

To watch the speech by Vicki Wilde, Director, CGIAR Gender & Diversity Program and AWARD, please visit http://www.blip.tv/file/3935740.

To watch the speech by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President (Policy and Partnerships) for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, please visit http://blip.tv/file/3934337.

For a related article please visit ILRI's Top Story Fruit, catfish and pigeon pea researchers among 60 African women awarded prestigious agricultural fellowships

or

http://www.genderdiversity.cgiar.org/newsletter/GD%20News96_AWARD2010_Special%20Issue_full%20story.pdf

For more information please also visit www.awardfellowships.org and www.cgiar.org