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    Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, 6 September 2017 - Two women, working at both ends of the agriculture supply chain in Africa, have each been awarded the 2017 Africa Food Prize. Hon. Prof. Ruth Oniang'o, a professor and advocate of nutrition from Kenya, and Mme Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly an entrepreneur and agro industrialist, from Mali were awarded for their exemplary efforts in driving Africa's agriculture transformation.

    The Africa Food Prize began as the Yara Prize, and was established in 2005 by Yara International ASA in Norway to honor achievements in African agriculture. Moving the Yara Prize to Africa in 2016 and rechristening it the Africa Food Prize gave the award a distinctive African home, African identity and African ownership.

    The Africa Food Prize honours outstanding contributions within every aspect of agriculture and food production that is clearly related to combating hunger and reducing poverty in Africa.

    Hon. Prof Ruth Oniang'o is recognized as the leading voice of nutrition in Africa and for her relentless advocacy for the availability and affordability of diverse and nutritious crops for millions across the continent. She pioneered nutrition leadership in academia, research, and policy to improve food security and nutrition. Her groundbreaking work, with farmers' groups and rural communities connects agriculture and nutrition both in research and practice providing a natural link between agriculture and nutrition.   

    READ ALSO: Multi-million dollar Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa launched

    Mme Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly, on the other hand has been feted for her mission to produce and supply improved and high-yielding seed that have led to improved incomes and nutrition for millions in Mali and other West African countries. Through sheer hard work and consistency, she has overcome multiple hurdles to build a leading seed company that is fast becoming a model for Africa's agri-businesses.  Her company, Faso Kaba, specializes in the production and sale of a wide range of improved seeds, including cereals, oil seeds, market gardening, fodder and tuber seeds that can improve agricultural yields by up to 40 per cent.

    The Prize recognizes and puts a spotlight on shining examples of agricultural projects that are transforming lives and economies. The 2017 Prize winners come from both the public and private sector representing how both groups are working together to transform agriculture into a high value industry sector. The 2017 AFP awards had over 600 nominees establishing it as the most prestigious prize for African agricultural development.

    READ ALSO: Africa’s Growth lies with Smallholder Farmers

    The Chairperson of the Prize Committee, H.E. President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, commended Hon. Prof Oniang'o and Mme Coulibaly on behalf of the Committee for their trailblazing efforts that are improving the socio-economic wellbeing of millions in Africa.

    "It gives me immense pride that this year's winners are both women. This is a clear demonstration that women in Africa are at the forefront in terms of connecting the rising food needs and the continent's vision for prosperity that is driven by agriculture and agri-business. The fact that the winners work at either end of the agriculture value chain, represent both private and public sector and are from different parts of Africa reflects the wide impact agriculture has in transforming economies and reducing poverty, way beyond the fields," he said.

    As a member of Kenya's Parliament (2003-2007), Hon. Prof Oniang'o dedicated her efforts to alleviating poverty and hunger, with special focus on science and technology, agricultural research and productivity, food security, nutrition, bio-safety legislation, use of fertilizer and other inputs, HIV/AIDS and gender issues.

     A strong believer in farming being the bridge between humankind and nature, Prof. Ruth Oniang'o spends most of her time with smallholder farmers and women in rural areas helping them to transform their household's ability to produce, purchase and consume foods in higher quality and quantities. She reckons that smallholder farmers are the most valuable part of the market and the entrepreneurial value chain.

    READ ALSO: Pan-African organizations Partner for Nature and Agriculture

    "I believe we are what we eat. I realized early on in my life, when I dreamt of being a doctor, that food is the first medicine," said Prof. Oniang'o as she received her Prize. "I am humbled to receive this Prize and believe it highlights the work we have done and more importantly, it will contribute towards shaping our continent's food future. I am a strong believer that Africa shall, one day, feed the world." said Hon. Prof Oniang'o.

    For her part, Mme. Coulibaly observed that the opportunities for Africa agribusinesses are endless. She however, decried the enormous challenges African entrepreneurs especially start-ups face as they try to set up businesses.

    "I am honored and humbled to receive this Prize. It is, in part, a validation of the hard work that I have put into building Faso Kaba with the support of my family and staff. I would like to say that it has been easy.  There are many times when I almost gave up as I struggled to raise to finance the business. I am glad I stayed true to my vision, attended much training and worked with partners that believed in my vision," “she said.  Today, we have become a model that many people that are starting businesses come to. I no longer book appointments with the banks. They call me with financing proposal. I look forward to a time when businesses will not struggle to start like I did," she added.

    The 2016 winner of Africa Food Prize is Dr Kanayo Nwanze, the former President of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD). Dr. Nwanze was awarded for his visionary leadership and passionate advocacy to place African smallholder farmers at the centre of the global agricultural agenda, and for his demonstrated success in advancing policies, programs and resources that have improved the lives of millions across the continent.

     

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    Four prominent organizations supporting African agriculture join forces in innovative strategic partnership to increase incomes and improve the food security of 30 million smallholder farm households in at least 11 African countries by 2021.

     Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, 6 September 2017 - The multi-million dollar Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA) was launched yesterday at the 2017 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF). PIATA is an innovative and transformative partnership and financing vehicle to drive inclusive agriculture transformation across the continent.

    Together, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide up to U.S. $280 million to catalyze and sustain inclusive agricultural transformation in at least 11 countries in Africa, which will in turn increase incomes and improve the food security of 30 million smallholder farm households.

    The PIATA reflects a recognition that greater impact and value can be achieved through a strategic partnership that builds on what has been achieved by each partner across the continent, and pulls them together in ways that help catalyze and sustain transformation at scale.

    The PIATA is an important collaboration between donors that aligns behind the Malabo agenda agreed to by African Heads of State and Government in 2014. It signals an enduring commitment to Africa's transformation agenda. PIATA is but one of various means by which each of the partners are supporting African countries to deliver on agricultural transformation; its partners continue to provide support through avenues including direct support to continental agencies, government bodies and in-country partners. The partnership will allow partners to align and complement existing efforts, making new investments in developing input systems, value chains, and policy where they will have the most impact.

    READ ALSO: Africa’s Growth lies with Smallholder Farmers

    Speaking at the launch, Mr. Mamadou Biteye, Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office said, "We are pleased to be part of PIATA. We see it as an opportunity to leverage even more from the partners and their huge networks, for greater impact. We are looking forward to deploying the technologies that we have helped develop over the years, together with our shared knowledge and grant support, to work with our esteemed partners. Together we hope to catalyze Africa's pursuit for prosperity through agriculture. PIATA is critical in our ongoing push to build the resilience of farmers and systems that affect them, especially in light of increasing challenges such as climate change, among others."

    According to the 2017 Africa Agriculture Status Report, Africa needs an agricultural revolution that is distinct and that links millions of small farms to agribusinesses, creating extended food supply chains, jobs and economic opportunities for large segments of the population.  Agriculture is still the best bet for inclusive African economic growth and poverty reduction.

    READ ALSO: Seeds, not Diamonds, will Make Africa Great

    Such a transformation will require greater political, policy, and financing commitments from across the public and private sectors. It will also require new partnership models like PIATA, which is hailed as an outstanding example of how partners can collaborating with African countries' visions and systems to deliver on their own transformation, in line with their national economic development strategies.

    Mr. Rodger Voorhies, the Executive Director of the Global Growth and Opportunity Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, "We've seen significant progress when countries recognize the critical importance of agriculture to their economic development and help catalyze agricultural transformation with targeted investments, evidence-based policies, and strong national plans. PIATA is an exciting platform that can help countries take the lead in driving agricultural transformation. Our investment reflects our desire to help countries develop high-quality plans linked to national and continental accountability frameworks." 

    Each PIATA partners boasts strong networks of local, private sector and implementers from across the continent, which, through this platform, will benefit from stronger integration of investments and alignment of approaches to boost not only development but business outcomes as well.

    Delivering on Africa's potential requires both the public and private sectors to engage in new ways and strengthen collaboration. The role of the private sector and non-state actors in agriculture development and in support of formulation of country agriculture plans is critical for sustainable growth. This was emphasized by Mr. Sean Jones, the Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Food Security, USAID. "PIATA offers a new way of doing business across the many public and private actors working to ensure food security and economic growth as called for in country-owned visions and the goals laid out in the Malabo Declaration. Agriculture is at its core a private sector enterprise and one of the best bets for job creation and inclusive growth when the right policies and investments allow the private sector to flourish. This partnership offers an innovative mechanism to unlock this investment and realize many of the targets laid out in the Global Food Security Strategy approved by our Congress."

    READ ALSO: Prioritise agriculture for development, Africa governments urged

    The PIATA launch comes at a critical time in the continent's agriculture history. Most African countries have undertaken a rigorous review of the sector, developing and adopting a new generation of sector development plans that prepare them to do business. Continentally, the African Union is coordinating the biennial review of the progress made towards the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) goals, which will be presented in the first Biennial Review Report, along with a scorecard for the Heads of State to guide them in the sector's transformation. 

     PIATA will shape how partners engage on the continent. Under PIATA, the partners have committed to delivering impact against a shared results framework and aligning PIATA country operations to national agriculture plans.  This is the first time a partnership of this scale that is based on a shared results framework has been launched on the continent, its shared results framework is a significant achievement and the cornerstone of this partnership.

    Welcoming the new partnership, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), expressed her belief that the initiative would contribute significantly to accelerating Africa's path to prosperity by growing inclusive economies and jobs through agriculture.

    "We have witnessed significant progress in our agricultural transformation over the past decade, with countries that have prioritized the sector recording notable drops in poverty levels, improved food security and inclusive economic growth. PIATA will be critical in bringing key players together to support governments in their push to fully unlock the potential of Africa's smallholder farming and agribusiness as the surest drivers of job creation and the continent's inclusive economic transformation," she said.

    AGRA is the primary implementing institution of the partnership under the institution's new strategy for the continent and plan agreed with priority countries. Founded in 2006, AGRA and its partners have spent more than a decade building the systems, tools, and knowledge required for an inclusive agricultural transformation. AGRA now sees the partnership as a way to scale up its support to country agricultural transformation and serve as a go to partner for governments.

    The ultimate hope is that the PIATA model will attract other public and private players in the agriculture landscape to join and work together to support Africa on a path to prosperity through agricultural transformation.

     The 11 priority countries for PIATA are: Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.

     

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    Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President, AGRA(1).jpg

    Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

    By Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President, AGRA

    As the world’s population surges towards 9 billion by mid-century, food production has failed to keep pace, creating rising food shortages and a global food crisis ahead, according to the United Nations. To avoid mass starvation, the world needs to produce 70 per cent more food by 2050.

    The greatest potential to deliver that growth exists in Africa. The African continent is home to 25 per cent of the world’s agricultural land. Yet it produces just 10 per cent of the world’s food. That compares with China, which has just 10 per cent of the world’s agricultural land, but produces 20 per cent of the global food supply.

    If Africa can now rise to the challenge of upgrading its agricultural output, it will open the way to a takeoff in GDP, greater youth employment, and the potential of positive trade balances and rising currencies.

    Yet, the continent faces two profound issues in delivering its own agricultural turnaround, with its agricultural industry both rural and fragmented, and built upon smallholder farmers. It is the continent’s rural areas that have been most deprived of resources and investment: with the straight-line consequence that the continent’s core industry continues to under-perform, and under-perform badly.

    The allure of city living has left rural areas neglected and strained Africa’s urban infrastructure and services, including health, water and sanitation, creating rising social problems and competition for city space. Indeed, Africa is now the fastest urbanizing continent in the world, with 60 per cent of all Africans forecast to be living in cities by 2050, according to UN Habitat.

    But urban areas are dependent on rural populations for food. Moreover, agriculture holds more power in creating youth employment than any other sector, at a time when 10 million youth are entering the labor market each year in Africa, according to the 2015 Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR).

     

     

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    Red cabbage farming in Kenya

    In late April this year, at the G20 Conference in Germany, panelists at the ONE World no hunger meeting powerfully demonstrated the importance of attracting youth to the agricultural sector.

    Rural youth are the future of the sector, with the capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship. Yet their participation has been hindered by the perception that the sector is unattractive due to risks, costs, low-profitability and agriculture’s labor intensive nature.

    Additionally, rural youth have limited access to educational programs that provide agricultural skills, often limited access to land, and a lack of financial services tailored to their needs, as well as poor infrastructure and utilities.

    The outcome of the ONE World no hunger meeting was the Berlin Charter, which seeks to create opportunities for the younger generation and women in the rural world by mapping out a model for rural development to achieve food security, long-term jobs and improved livelihoods.

    It calls on governments to put in place agricultural, nutrition and anti-poverty policies to “lift at least 600 million people out of hunger and undernutrition” and “cut youth underemployment at least by half” by 2025. The Charter with a core focus on smallholder farmers, was presented to the G20 leaders at their meeting in July 2017 in Hamburg.

     Agriculture accounts for 32 per cent of Africa’s GDP and employs more than 60 per cent of the continent’s total labor force. But in order to realize its full potential, the political and economic environment needs to be conducive for smallholder farmers, who make up 70 per cent of the sub-Saharan Africa population. With smallholder output hampered by insecurity of land tenure and unequal access to land, land policy formulation and reforms are critical in Africa to in order to boost agricultural production. Rwanda has provided a benchmark in this, with over 10 million land parcels now titled and owned individually.

    Other problems smallholder farmers face include limited access to markets, finance, high-yielding seeds, farm inputs and mechanization, which, invariably, lead to low levels of productivity. External shocks such as climate change have further hampered agricultural production.

     African countries urgently need to support smallholder farmers in order to capture the continent’s $300bn food market - projected to be worth US $1 trillion by 2030. At present, only five per cent of Africa’s imported cereals come from other African countries, with intra-African trade running consistently at around 15 per cent of Africa’s total trade – which is amongst the lowest intra-regional trade levels in the world (UNECA). In fact, African governments have stepped-up efforts to transform agriculture over the last decade, delivering often exceptional results.

    READ ALSO: East African farmers turn tonnes of banana wastes to briquettes, saving forests

    READ ALSO: African farmers fix sick soils planting legumes

    READ ALSO: UK charity to buy cows for poor African farmers

    Ethiopia, for instance, has invested in extension workers, rural roads and modern market-building enabling cereal production to increase and increasing the number of calories its rural people consume by roughly 50 per cent. As a result, Ethiopia is now reducing poverty at the rate of four per cent a year (ONE.org, 2014).

    Burkina Faso, a landlocked country, has also made remarkable progress in poverty reduction and food security with government investment in the sector averaging 17 per cent of total expenditure for the past 10 years (ONE.org, 2014). Ghana’s agricultural transformation agenda has, likewise, remained a top priority for successive governments, spurring reforms and heavy investment.

    Yet as these early investments now move these particular economies up the growth ladder, other African governments have been slower to prioritize agriculture, despite the demonstrable financial gains and growing consequences in protest on food shortages.

    As the G20 now reviews its strongest commitment yet to African agriculture and rural development, African governments and investors, likewise, need to heed the clarion call to action, and move agricultural reform and smallholders to the center of the continent’s political and economic debate.

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