Monthly archives: August, 2015

Partnership launched to accelerate innovation in African farming

The Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA Africa) is pleased to announce a new Partnership Agreement with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a joint institution of the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) States and the EU.
“We believe this new partnership strengthens our overall objective for GFIA Africa, to demonstrate how innovation can provide technologies that accelerate agricultural productivity and improve nutrition and social prosperity in developing countries,” says Mark Beaumont, GFIA Project Director. “CTA, through its mission to advance food security, increase prosperity and sound natural resource management in ACP countries, shares many of GFIA Africa’s objectives,” he says.
Through its partnership with GFIA, the CTA will facilitate a comprehensive programme of events at GFIA Africa when it launches at the Durban Exhibition Centre in KwaZulu-Natal from 1 – 2 December this year.
“We are pleased to partner with GFIA Africa for this event as our organisation remains dedicated to strengthening agricultural policy processes, improving agricultural value chains for small-scale producers and enhancing knowledge management capacities for rural development,” says Michael Hailu, Director of CTA. “We are always looking for opportunities to partner with initiatives that empower agricultural and rural communities in ACP countries with the knowledge and skills they need to fight poverty and hunger,” he says.
CTA will be hosting 120 African farmer organisation delegates at GFIA Africa events, which will run in collaboration with some of CTA’s long-standing associate farmer organisations, including the Pan African Farmers Organisation, Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, Eastern Africa’s Farmers Federation and the Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organisations of West Africa.
The CTA-hosted events will be focused on helping farmers to commercialise their operations – to help small-holders evolve their farms into small businesses, to help commercial farmers scale up their productions with new technologies and improved access to markets and finance. Sessions will include a Continental Briefing for farmer representative organisations, a Plug & Play Day featuring the latest ICTs used in agriculture, as well as a Hackathon and Taster Sessions for organisations interested in learning more about the applications of social media.
“Through a series of panel discussions and interactive demonstrations, the CTA-hosted sessions will address the challenges and opportunities for agribusiness offered by innovative technologies in Africa,” says Hailu. “Topics will include: climate-resilience agriculture in Africa, demonstrating the potential of ICTs to leapfrog African agriculture, and the role of capacity building, entrepreneurship support and developing young talent.”
GFIA’s African debut in December is being presented by International Events Organiser, Turret Media and will follow a similar format to its international predecessor events held annually in Abu Dhabi. In addition to an international exhibition, the GFIA Africa conference programme includes a powerful mix of multi-national, governmental, academic, not-for-profit and commercial partners.
“The launch of GFIA Africa is driven by a growing commitment from governments in Africa to promote the use of environmentally sustainable innovations agriculture, as a means of increasing agricultural productivity to end poverty,” says Beaumont. “GFIA Africa will bring industry leaders from across the continent together to facilitate conversations and develop strategies to implement real change in agriculture that promotes sustainability, long-term productivity and profitability for all those along the value chain,” he concluded.
GFIA Africa is supported by The Department of Agriculture, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), The KZN Convention Bureau, AGRA, CTA, NEPAD, CAADP, ICRAF, FANRPAN, FARA, SACAU, PAFO and NAFU.
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Innovation news

The Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) has launched an online trading platform for farmers to sell grains through a structured mechanism.
The platform called G-soko, links smallholder farmers to grain buyers and has been developed by the EAGC in partnership with FoodTrade Eastern and Southern Africa, and Virtual City, an IT firm based in Kenya.
According to EAGC, this is through a 5-year trade enhancement and promotion programme that aims to encourage trading in regional staple food markets.
Right now there is urgency to expand regional food trade due to the exponential growth of staple food imports. Linking rural food surplus production zones in Eastern Africa to major deficit urban consumption centres requires a well-functioning regional market. EAGC Executive Director, Mr Gerald Masila says the idea steamed from the need to address the deficiency but also do it in a way that is inclusive and effective, “This is why we developed G-Soko; a market transaction platform that will enhance food trade across borders, and contribute towards making trading more transparent,”
The platform performs a structured trade function that integrates the entire grain trade from farm to market.
Through G-Soko, farmers are able to aggregate their produce through a certified warehouse and also access financial services using their grains as collateral.
For the first time, grain farmers in the region including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will now be able to trade their grain free, competitively and transparently across the region, through the G-Soko platform.
— Daily Nation Kenya

Technology news

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) has developed a new, faster, low-cost laboratory-based soil analysis technique. Developed by the African Soil Information Service (AfSIS) project, the new approach measures the light reflected by a soil sample and the resulting information is used to predict a number of properties of the sample, based on calibration databases.
This soil infrared spectroscopy technique cost farmers only US$1, compared to US$100 for other conventional soil testing methods.
Keith Shepherd, principal soil scientist at the Nairobi-based ICRAF, explains further: “This technology has the capability of providing affordable soil testing and advisory services to smallholder farmers and is beginning to be deployed by rural soil testing services.” Adding further that countries can now analyse a large number of soil samples with sufficient sample density per unit area to map soil properties.
With the availability of satellite imagery from space and unmanned aerial vehicles at ever-increasing spatial resolutions, it is becoming possible to make high-resolution soil property maps at low costs. AfSIS recently launched a 250m-resolution soil properties map of Africa.
The private sector and development agents promoting good soil management practices can also afford to monitor organic matter levels in the soil at their field sites.
Soil testing before planting helps farmers to decide the quantity and quality of fertilisers they should apply, thus reducing the risks of crop failure and financial loss. Blenders of fertilisers and agencies designing liming programmes can use the data from soil testing to know acidity levels and micronutrients in the soil in different regions, allowing them to make better products. AfSIS is helping Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania to establish national soil information systems and services based on soil spectroscopy and digital soil-mapping technology. –

Agribusiness news

The European Union (EU) lifted a four-year ban on fresh ostrich meat after South Africa was declared free of bird flu.
Alan Winde, the Western Cape minister for economic opportunities, confirmed: “Resuming exports to the EU will play an important role in increasing the number of jobs in this industry, which currently employs over 50 000. The local ostrich industry is far less dependent on fresh meat as a product than it was in 2011.”
The Western Cape is the country’s main exporter of ostrich meat, chicks, feathers and eggs in an industry that is estimated to be worth more than R1bn.
The EU instituted the ban in April 2011 following an outbreak of the H5N2 substrain of bird flu.
The ostrich industry has taken steps to mitigate the financial risk should avian influenza break out again, said Francois de Wet, chairperson of the Ostrich Business Chamber.
The ostrich sector almost managed to recover after the EU embargo as demand and prices for ostrich leather increased due to fashion trends, Winde said.
Before the ban, SA was slaughtering 230 000 ostriches annually for their meat. When the EU imposed the embargo, this tumbled to 120 000 and then recovered to 190 000 by 2013 because of demand by fashion houses such as Kering SA’s Gucci and Prada SpA. –

Farming news

Tanzania has launched an agricultural development bank with the government pledging to raise US$380mn over the next eight years.
Speaking at the launch, Tanzania’s president, Jakaya Kikwete said the bank will address challenges that have hampered agriculture such as lack of financial packages, “Different financial packages will suit different categories of farmers.”
The Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB) will receive US$48mn every year for eight years from the government so that its 20-year strategic plan can be implemented.
President Kikwete urged farmers to utilise the loans to be offered by the bank to improve their agricultural productivity. TADB will work with commercial and community banks, savings and credit cooperative societies to extend loans to farmers. Individuals can also access loans directly.
Small and medium farming outfits involved in maize, rice, fruit, sugarcane, horticulture, livestock and fish farming will be given priority. Bee keepers and farmers raising indigenous chicken will also benefit from TADB.
Farming in Tanzania is dominated by smallholder farmers, with the average farm size being between 0.9 ha and three hectares. These smallholder farmers collectively cultivate 5.1mn ha of which 85 per cent is used for growing food crops. Inadequate funding, poor farming methods and over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture has affected productivity, according to
Under-investment in agriculture has limited the area under irrigation. While the country has a potential of one million hectares of irrigable land, only 150,000 ha is currently being utilised. –