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          Dr. Kanayo Nwanze

    As I settle back in my homeland Nigeria since retiring as the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in March this year, I am reminded of a local saying that when you go to the stream to fetch water, your bucket will only be filled with the water that is yours. No one can take the water that is meant for you. Life will give you what you deserve, nothing more, and nothing less. But first you must walk to the stream, bend down, and dip your bucket.

    This parable inspired the title of my recently released book, A Bucket of Water, that distils lessons and experiences from my 40-year professional career dedicated to agriculture in general, and African agriculture in particular.
    I have witnessed many inspiring changes in Africa over the years. Technologies that enable farmers produce more yield per unit acreage have been developed. Access to markets and financial resources have also improved as has the policy landscape. Additionally, Africa is experiencing unprecedented economic growth with five of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies being African.

    However, this progress is ironical when Africa, rich as it is, is still unable to feed itself - poverty levels remain high and millions go to bed hungry. I see our over-dependence on minerals as the main problem.

    According to the US Geological Survey 2016, Sub- Saharan Africa produces 77 per cent of the world’s platinum metals; 60 per cent of its cobalt (used for batteries and metal alloys); 46 per cent of its natural industrial diamonds; and an abundance of gold, uranium, oil, and gas. Tragically, this immense mineral richness has not benefited the majority
    My vision for Africa’s future is not built on a foundation of extractive industries. These riches have not translated into wide-ranging job creation, or social welfare and stability. They have not fed hungry people. They have not reduced poverty.

    I see Africa’s economic growth predicated upon unlocking and fully tapping into the potential of smallholder farmers who make up 70 per cent of our population. When I insisted for many years that small-scale farms were as much businesses as large-scale operations, my views were considered at best romantic and at worst foolish. I am glad to note that the concept of smallholder farms as a business has become commonplace today.

    Achieving the kind of economic growth that leaves no one behind requires deliberate prioritization of the agricultural sector. In fact, agriculture is the surest path to Africa’s prosperity. For instance, it is well established that GDP growth due to agriculture is at least three times more effective in reducing poverty in resource-poor, low-income countries than growth in other sectors. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated to be 11 times more effective.

    We are richly endowed with what it takes to achieve greatness - ideal climatic conditions which are, unfortunately, changing in devastating ways; large swathes of arable land; huge deposits of water that can be used for irrigation; and, most importantly, the vast potential of the people themselves especially the ingenuity and vigour of our youth. Our women who do most of our farming deserve a special mention. In 2016, I was honoured as the winner of the Inaugural Africa Food Prize which I dedicated to the millions of African women who silently toil to feed their families. I am a strong believer that no nation has been able to transform itself without giving women the same rights and opportunities as men.

    However, as I have said many times before, achieving a continent-wide agricultural transformation, as the foundation for food security and poverty alleviation, requires visionary national and continental leadership. For our continent has all it needs to succeed in the right climate of leadership.

    We laud our leaders’ commitment to allocate at least 10 per cent of public expenditure to agriculture, and to ensuring its efficiency and effectiveness, in the Malabo Declaration. A lot more still needs to be done. For instance, only eight out of 44 governments in sub-Saharan Africa have kept these promises to invest more in agriculture.

    However, where the resolution has been adopted, and the will is there; where the decisions have been taken, and the actions implemented; the results have been both swift and phenomenal.

    Ethiopia, for example, has reaped huge benefits for the last two decades from visionary leadership and by honouring its development commitments. The government set up the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) to bolster smallholder farmers’ productivity, enhance marketing systems, upgrade the participation of the private sector, increase the volume of irrigated land and curtail the number of households with inadequate food.

    Today, agriculture is Ethiopia's most important sector, accounting for nearly half of the country’s GDP (46.3 per cent), 90 per cent of exports and 85 per cent of the labour force.

    Rwanda is another example where agricultural transformation has spanned land reform, land consolidation, and better access to inputs and extension for smallholders. This has increased the country’s food availability by 150 per cent, reducing chronic malnutrition and stunting significantly, and reducing poverty by 20 per cent in the last 10 years.

    Visionary leadership in agriculture, therefore, demonstrably offers rapid returns. Ethiopia and Rwanda, both among the fastest growing African economies, are good examples of countries that have walked to the stream to fill their buckets.
    Other countries should make the same walk to the river of agricultural opportunities that continues flowing.

    The landmark African Green Revolution Forum to be hosted in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire by H.E. President Alassane Ouattara, is one step towards the river. At the Forum, global and African leaders will develop actionable plans that will move African agriculture forward.

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    Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze is the 2016 winner of the Africa Food Prize and the immediate Former President of the International Fund for agricultural Development (IFAD). He is also a Board Member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

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    WeFarm, the world’s largest farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing network, today announced that it has partnered with Heifer International, a nonprofit working to end hunger and poverty with sustainable agriculture and entrepreneurship, to bring the benefits of WeFarm’s service to farmers. WeFarm’s network operates both online and over SMS, ensuring maximum reach for offline communities.

    The partnership which utilises latest mobile and machine learning technology to support farmer innovation will be targeting dairy farmers in Nakuru County, will utilize WeFarm’s technology to enable farmers to access and exchange timely and tailored information relating to farming challenges, best practices and crop and livestock diversification.

    Mary Wanyutu, a livestock farmer and Heifer project participant from Nakuru, welcomed the innovation as a way of empowering farmers. “It is great because when I ask a question, the responses from other farmers on the network are fast and very informative,” said Ms Wanyutu.


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    The farmers working with Heifer will be joining over 240,000 other farmers around the world who are already sharing vital information on WeFarm. The partnership will further enable Heifer to scale the impact and reach of their training and capability-building programs by expanding peer-to-peer support and providing regular SMS communication and insights into on the ground activities and key issues facing farmers.

    Said Kenny Ewan, CEO of WeFarm, “This partnership with Heifer is very important to WeFarm. Our mutual belief in the value of peer-to-peer knowledge and shared commitment to creating sustainable initiatives for farmers through the latest technologies – are sure to produce great results. We look forward to working with the entire Heifer Kenya team”.

    “Like anyone in business, the farmers Heifer works with need accurate, timely information that empowers them to make smart decisions about prices, markets, investments and other key factors that determine their prosperity,” said George Odhiambo, country director for Heifer in Kenya. “WeFarm provides access to this vital information and also connects the farmers to a global community that shares advice and other guidance that will help them thrive.”


    kenya bambo1A company in Kenya is training rural and urban communities on growing bamboo, propagating, harvesting and making products, giving income to hundreds and offering a viable alternative to wood that has become expensive in making furniture.

    Kenya Bamboo Center, which is now working with groups in Korogocho, Huruma, Embakasi and Suba area in Nyanza trains farmers to appreciate the wonders of bamboo farming, and the market for the over 1500 products that can be derived from the tree.

    The project which happened by chance after its manager  Pollycurp Akoko Mboyah lost a job in the civil  service after having worked for 11 years not only has however been dealing with the herculean task of popularizing a tree that takes between two to five years to mature, in a society used to quick returns. “The first group we dealt with in Huruma and which was our pilot project was such a tough task. While the group members warmed up to the idea at first, they patience died down when after an year they still could not harvest the tree. They had been used to getting instant income. They ended up uprooting the trees,” said Mboyah.

    But Mboyah said those who have braved on now know the benefit of farming the bamboo and are reaping from it.

    The center sells seedlings to the farmers, then trains the farmers on good management practices of the tree including propagation, watering, when and how to harvest to ensure that the final wood is hard enough. “Again there has been a problem with harvesting the wood by some farmers. So we train them how to harvest, dry the wood first and make sure that the final product is good enough to sell to clients. It makes all the difference in determining whether a client will come back,” Mboyah added.

    The company has gone further and imported a variety of modern and better maturing seeds which they are raising as seedlings in their nurseries with a view to introduce it to the farmers.

    According to Mboyah the market for bamboo has grown tremendously in the recent past, with the international market looking at Africa to supply the raw and finished products.

    Infact Mboyah's first seeds were given to him by an Italian social entrepreneur who was working on a bamboo project in Huruma.

    A Nowergian company, Waterstorm, working with the GreenBelt Movement has also planted two acres of bamboo in Maragua area of Murang'a county, with a view to harvesting the bamboo to make flooring tiles. Kenya Bamboo Center is working with the company to create market for its groups.

    But Mboyah want to train farmers to make low cost bamboo products tailored for the local market to get them to appreciate the monetary value of the tree. “We want to train them to make products that have a high demand locally like cooking sticks, chapati rolls and table mats for starters. Already we have received orders as far as Greece for table mats. The market has expressed huge appetite for bamboo products,” Mboyah said.

    As a champion of changing perception on the benefits of bamboo farming, Mboya has been walking a tight rope in convincing farmers of the plants' benefits. In Suba area of Nyanza where a project was introduced to get the farmers to move from tobacco farming to cultivation of bamboo, farmers uprooted the bamboo trees three months after planting for what they called ' not getting returns first.'

    But Mboyah insists that the over 200 bamboo species are more than just trees and are key in environmental conservation by being able to absorb up to 12 per cent of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, for every hectare. “The beauty with bamboo again is that you can harvest the same every year compared other trees,” he added.

    This would be welcome news to the country which has been reeling under acute shortage of timber which has seen it turn to imports, and spending over Sh3billion.

    Besides bridging the shortage, this would also open the entrepreneurs in the bamboo business to an international market with an insatiable appetite, with the industry's worth currently standing at $11 billion annually according to the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR).

    China has perfected the bamboo market and currently remains the largest producer globally, at 80 per cent of all global production, and using 60 per cent of it for local consumption.

    For more information contact below:

    Pollycurp Mboyah- Manager

    Cellphone: 0713804236

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