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    As global demand for coffee reaches unprecedented highs, Kenyan farmers are replanting what they uprooted decades ago due to its poor returns and this time even the government is keen to reap from the international demand.

    In the 1980s Africa produced about 30 percent of the world’s coffee, but today, going by current statistics, it only accounts for 13 percent, a far cry from its potential according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture.

    According to InternatiAs onal Coffee Organization, Ethiopia with 7.45 million bags in 2010 was lead producer, followed by Uganda with 3.1 million, Ivory Coast with 2.2 million, Tanzania 917,000 and Kenya 850,000. Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil with an estimated value of $80 billion annually.

    A reality check on the performance of most African producer countries indicates that all is not well as evidenced by recent statistics that the continent produced an estimated 17 million bags in 2010. This accounts for only 13 percent of the global coffee production compared to 30 percent in the 80s. In Kenya despite the good prices and government interventions, coffee production has remained low averaging between 40,000 metric tones and 55,000 metric tonnes.

    “In 10 years the supply gap will be 30 million bags. This is a big opportunity for farmers in the country to increase production and earn more from their produce,” said Coffee Board of Kenya Managing Director Ms Loise Njeru. The government projects to introduce coffee production to 100,000 metric tonnes according to Vision 2030. This however will still be below the peak of 130,000 metric tonnes achieved in 1988/89.

    World coffee prices are expected to remain high for over 10 years according to experts with supply falling below demand last year. About 158 million bags of coffee were consumed in the world in 2010 compared to 159 million bags the previous year.
    In 2010 the country received Sh16 billion, an improvement from Sh10 billion registered the previous year. Coffee earned the country Sh22 billion in 2011. “We have witnessed crazy prices at the Nairobi Coffee exchange. Speculation may correct this in the long run, but the prices will not come to the low levels they were due to constrained supply,” said Mr. Kennedy Gitonga an economist at Coffee Research Foundation.

    He said the Columbian mild which is similar to Kenya’s coffee will be coming to the market in few years after maturing, which will tilt the coffee market with added supply. However prices will be stabilized by rising demand, estimated at 2.5 percent per year.
    Mr. Gitonga said Kenya could exploit the anticipated decline in coffee production in the world, by taking measures to mitigate the effects of climate change and increasing production per tree. “Kenya has no carryover stocks, even in times of high supply, indicating that local coffee is highly sought after at the world market,” he said.

    And as researchers brace for challenges associated with the climate change, they are advising farmers to introduce measures that ensures that production is not reduced. Some of the challenges expected are new diseases and insects, drought and floods. Coffee Research Foundation, the body charged with carrying out coffee research in the country has advised farmers to initiate primary farming practices that have long been forgotten, to cushion the crop from the vagaries of nature.”The threat of climate change is real and the time to act is now to avoid being caught up a few years down the line. That is why we shall factor in climate change in our development of new varieties,” said the director of research Mr. Joseph Kimemia.  Among the measures cited by the research body include plating coffee friendly trees to keep the crop shaded. Planting grass strips in coffee rows and regular pruning are others.

    Tree shaded Mr. Kimemia said can reduce temperature by 4 degrees Celsius while the other measures can hold more water for the plant. Firms like Kakuzi have reduced acreage of coffee to reduce risks as production plummeted. They have converted some of the land under coffee to mango growing.

    But with the fast growing markets in China, India and Brazil, global supply of coffee is expected to be in a tight supply situation for several years and Africa has an opportunity to increase its production, the meeting convened for African coffee producer states and which deliberated on how to increase production and consumption noted.

    A growing middle class in these countries that is increasingly taking to drinking coffee, has led to reduced exports from some of the traditional coffee growing countries. There are other emerging markets like Russia that the continent could use to increase exports. The continent with an estimated population of 1 billion also has a potential to increase local consumption but also has to increase value addition and produce brands for local and export markets.

    However Kenyan coffee is a favourite in the global scene where it is purchased to blend produce from other countries.  This demand is rekindling hope to thousands of farmers who had previously abandoned the crop due to poor returns.

    That coffee sector is on the road to recovery can be seen from the eyes of  farmer Jeremiah Muthomi of Meru Greens who says that in parts of Eastern and Central where his firm has contracted out growers, farmers have gone back to coffee on parcels where they were growing horticultural produce. “With the current coffee boom, farmers have started replacing horticulture with coffee trees,” he said.
    Elgon Kenya Ltd is positioning itself to be a lead supplier to the coffee industry following the encouraging developments.

    But on the flipside of all this interesting developments, local consumption remains low. Compared with other continents, Africa has an average consumption of only 750 grammes per person per year. In Brazil consumption is at 2.8 kilos. Ethiopia which is the top producer in Africa consumes nearly half of its produce while in Kenya only 3% is consumed locally. Algeria, Morocco, South Africa and Egypt which are non producing countries have a combined demand of 3.5 million bags every year and growing.

    A coffee expert from Brazil Mr Carlos Bando, said the continent needed to invest in local consumption habit surveys to understand their needs in a bid to encourage more consumption. According to ICO, coffee consumption is estimated to be growing at 2.4 percent per year, and in 2010 the volumes were 158.2 million bags, a slight drop from the 159.2 million in 2009.

    Among the reasons raised in the meeting for low coffee productions were concerns that farmers were aging and that it was necessary to encourage the youth to be active in reviving the crop. “We have to find innovative ways to encourage the youth to participate in growing coffee. Coffee has to appeal to the youth and has to be fashionable and trendy,” said Mr Ishak Lukenge from Uganda.

    He said a youth programme had been initiated in his country where tournaments are organized around coffee, where youths plant coffee and discuss the crop before tournaments.

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    The African Orphan Crops Consortium has initiated plans to research and develop over 100 more nutritious African crop species which were formerly neglected in a move aimed at improving the nutrition of African farm families, especially children. The list of the 100 species, developed by African scientists and their colleagues elsewhere, is being released so that researchers around the world can contact the consortium with suggestions for research needs regarding the selected species. The crop list, available at the consortium’s website includes African eggplant, amaranth spider plant among others.

    Through their partner funding, the consortium will undertake laboratory tests to determine the complete DNA sequence for each of the crops listed. The first orphan crop to be studied will be baobab, which can be used as a dried fruit powder for consumer products. Baobab is called "the wonder tree" in Africa because its fruit has antiviral properties and other health benefits, ten times the antioxidant level of oranges, twice the amount of calcium as spinach, three times the vitamin C of oranges and four times more potassium than bananas.

    The consortium’s goal is to use the latest scientific equipment and techniques to guide the development of more robust produce with higher nutritional content. "Orphan crops" are African food crops and tree species that have been neglected by researchers and industry because they are not economically important on the global market. Mars Inc. previously led a similar collaboration that sequenced, assembled and annotated the cacao (cocoa) genome and made these data publically available on the Internet to all researchers in 2010.

    In December 2013 the consortium opened the African Plant Breeding Academy in Nairobi, Kenya, to help reduce hunger and malnutrition among the 600 million Africans who live in rural areas, and to boost Africa’s food supply.  The academy will train 250 plant breeders and technicians in genomics and marker-assisted selection for crop improvement over a five-year period.  The resulting improved planting materials will then be offered to smallholder farmers throughout Africa.

    The academy provides scientists and technicians with a dedicated place to sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes to help develop food crops with higher nutritional value and which can better withstand climate changes, pests and disease.  The data derived will be made publically available with the endorsement of the African Union through a process managed by the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture. The consortium invites communities focusing on the development of orphan crops to collaborate with the consortium on improving the productivity and nutrition of these crops.

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    Over 100 traditional orphaned crops in Africa that were threatened for extinction have been rejuvenated and safeguarded through the establishment of the African Plant Breeding Academy, a move that spells good tidings as it will help improve the livelihoods of Africa’s smallholder farmers and their families, reduce hunger and boost Africa’s food supply.

    The new academy which is located in Nairobi has been launched through the help of African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC). AOCC aims to see the academy use the latest scientific equipment and techniques to genetically sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes of 100 traditional African food crops to guide the development of more robust produce with higher nutritional content.

    ‘Orphan crops’ are African food crops and tree species that have been neglected by researchers and industry because they are not economically important on the global market.

    The academy which is located at ICRAF, will train 250 plant breeders and technicians in genomics and marker-assisted selection for crop improvement over a five-year period.  The work will drive the creation of improved planting materials that will then be offered to smallholder farmers throughout Africa. 

    The Academy provides scientists and technicians a dedicated place to sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes to help develop food crops with higher nutritional value and which can better withstand climate changes, pests and disease.  The data derived from this collaborative effort will be made publically available with the endorsement of the African Union through a process managed by the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture. 

    "The African Orphan Crops Consortium and the new African Plant Breeding Academy represent an unprecedented opportunity to leverage the training programs we have developed for plant breeders in Africa," said Allen Van Deynze, Director of Research at UC Davis' Seed Biotechnology Center. "The partnerships allow African breeders to take advantage of the latest technologies to rapidly advance development of crops that are important to African diets and health."

    Prof. Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre noted that this was an initiative aimed at the right people and at the right time. “For the continent that is the most malnourished, the poorest, the most rural and the least forested, the AOCC gives Africa a chance through new science and its application to address many of its perennial problems of development.

    To date, the entire world has genetically sequenced 57 plant species and this uncommon public-private collaboration, based in Africa with Chinese and US support, will nearly triple this number over the next four years. The addition of so many tree species in the list, which can help rural and urban people achieve their full cognitive and physical potential, is ground breaking, and these perennial solutions to nutrition will reinforce the progress Africa is making in so many other fields.”

    He explained that the 100 targeted crops are the ‘back garden’ crops of rural Africa, home to 600 million people. So improving them will greatly improve the diets of Africa’s children, helping to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, which causes stunting which is rife among the children of rural Africa. Prof. Tony Simons sentiments were backed by Howard-Yana Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Officer, Mars, Incorporated, who made the case for the AOCC at the opening of the Plant Breeding Academy,

    “In 2010, I learned for the first time that malnutrition and chronic hunger cause a devastating condition called stunting in children. It was shocking to try and grasp the scale of this tragedy, with more than 35% of the children in Africa affected. Today, we are opening an Academy that will place fundamental science that can help in fighting chronic hunger and malnutrition in the hands of many more practitioners. This is huge leap forward for the diversity and sustainability of African agriculture and the start of a very different future for rural and urban food consumption patterns.”


    “The NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency has as its primary thematic area food and nutrition security; rightly so because of the issue of low agricultural productivity that impacts on this,” said NEPAD CEO, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki.  “Malnutrition is a direct product of food insecurity. A large number of Africans suffer from deficiencies of micronutrients such as minerals, iron and vitamin A with devastating effects on population including high mortality and morbidity rates and blindness among children, agricultural labour reduction and poor quality of life.”

    The first orphan crop to be sequenced, assembled and annotated at the Academy will be baobab, which can be used as a dried fruit powder for consumer products. Baobab is called ‘the wonder tree’ in Africa because its gluten-free fruit has ten times the antioxidant level of oranges, twice the amount of calcium than spinach, three times the vitamin C of oranges, and four times more potassium than banana, antiviral properties, gluten-free and much more.  By sharing knowledge of the genome sequences of baobab and other African crops, scientists and technicians working at the Academy will inform plant breeders and farmers of species varieties that are more nutritious, productive and robust.

    AOCC was officially launched at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in 2011 as an effort to improve the nutrition, productivity and climatic adaptability of some of Africa’s most important food crops. In June 2013, during the G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture held in partnership with World Bank Group in Washington D.C., AOCC announced it would be making its data publically available to scientists, plant breeders and farmers. At the 2013 CGI meeting, Howard-Yana Shapiro, who gave an opening speech, confirmed that AOCC had raised approximately $40 million USD in-kind contributions to date to support its work.


    Over 100 traditional orphaned crops in Africa that were threatened for extinction have been rejuvenated and safeguarded through the establishment of the African Plant Breeding Academy, a move that spells good tidings as it will help improve the livelihoods of Africa’s smallholder farmers and their families, reduce hunger and boost Africa’s food supply.

     

    The new academy which is located in Nairobi has been launched through the help of African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC). AOCC aims to see the academy use the latest scientific equipment and techniques to genetically sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes of 100 traditional African food crops to guide the development of more robust produce with higher nutritional content.

     

    ‘Orphan crops’ are African food crops and tree species that have been neglected by researchers and industry because they are not economically important on the global market.

     

    The academy which is located at ICRAF, will train 250 plant breeders and technicians in genomics and marker-assisted selection for crop improvement over a five-year period.  The work will drive the creation of improved planting materials that will then be offered to smallholder farmers throughout Africa.  The Academy provides scientists and technicians a dedicated place to sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes to help develop food crops with higher nutritional value and which can better withstand climate changes, pests and disease.  The data derived from this collaborative effort will be made publically available with the endorsement of the African Union through a process managed by the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture. 

     

    "The African Orphan Crops Consortium and the new African Plant Breeding Academy represent an unprecedented opportunity to leverage the training programs we have developed for plant breeders in Africa," said Allen Van Deynze, Director of Research at UC Davis' Seed Biotechnology Center. "The partnerships allow African breeders to take advantage of the latest technologies to rapidly advance development of crops that are important to African diets and health."

     

    Prof. Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre noted that this was an initiative aimed at the right people and at the right time. “For the continent that is the most malnourished, the poorest, the most rural and the least forested, the AOCC gives Africa a chance through new science and its application to address many of its perennial problems of development. To date, the entire world has genetically sequenced 57 plant species and this uncommon public-private collaboration, based in Africa with Chinese and US support, will nearly triple this number over the next four years. The addition of so many tree species in the list, which can help rural and urban people achieve their full cognitive and physical potential, is ground breaking, and these perennial solutions to nutrition will reinforce the progress Africa is making in so many other fields.”

     

    He explained that the 100 targeted crops are the ‘back garden’ crops of rural Africa, home to 600 million people. So improving them will greatly improve the diets of Africa’s children, helping to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, which causes stunting which is rife among the children of rural Africa. Prof. Tony Simons sentiments were backed by Howard-Yana Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Officer, Mars, Incorporated, who made the case for the AOCC at the opening of the Plant Breeding Academy,

     

    “In 2010, I learned for the first time that malnutrition and chronic hunger cause a devastating condition called stunting in children. It was shocking to try and grasp the scale of this tragedy, with more than 35% of the children in Africa affected. Today, we are opening an Academy that will place fundamental science that can help in fighting chronic hunger and malnutrition in the hands of many more practitioners. This is huge leap forward for the diversity and sustainability of African agriculture and the start of a very different future for rural and urban food consumption patterns.”

     

     

    “The NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency has as its primary thematic area food and nutrition security; rightly so because of the issue of low agricultural productivity that impacts on this,” said NEPAD CEO, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki.  “Malnutrition is a direct product of food insecurity. A large number of Africans suffer from deficiencies of micronutrients such as minerals, iron and vitamin A with devastating effects on population including high mortality and morbidity rates and blindness among children, agricultural labour reduction and poor quality of life.”

     

    The first orphan crop to be sequenced, assembled and annotated at the Academy will be baobab, which can be used as a dried fruit powder for consumer products. Baobab is called ‘the wonder tree’ in Africa because its gluten-free fruit has ten times the antioxidant level of oranges, twice the amount of calcium than spinach, three times the vitamin C of oranges, and four times more potassium than banana, antiviral properties, gluten-free and much more.  By sharing knowledge of the genome sequences of baobab and other African crops, scientists and technicians working at the Academy will inform plant breeders and farmers of species varieties that are more nutritious, productive and robust.

     

    AOCC was officially launched at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in 2011 as an effort to improve the nutrition, productivity and climatic adaptability of some of Africa’s most important food crops. In June 2013, during the G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture held in partnership with World Bank Group in Washington D.C., AOCC announced it would be making its data publically available to scientists, plant breeders and farmers. At the 2013 CGI meeting, Howard-Yana Shapiro, who gave an opening speech, confirmed that AOCC had raised approximately $40 million USD in-kind contributions to date to support its work.

     

     

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