Smallholder farmers should be supported in groups and not individual to access credit


Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos

Seed entrepreneurship critical to agricultural growth


by Gilbert Nakweya

One of the most interesting session at high level conferences for me is the debate on a critical matter of development.

As a Journalist, I value discourses where experts critically analyse matters development. It interests me more when the debates are centered on smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa because they contribute to agricultural productivity.

Such a moment came during the Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Africa Synthesis Conference last week (19-20 September) in Nairobi. ISSD Africa is coordinated by the Centre of Development Innovation (CDI), the Royal Tropical Institute Kit, and the Future Agricultures Consortium and is hosted in Nairobi by Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development.

Its pilot action research took place in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The big question was: Are grants to seed business essential for seed growth in Africa? Experts from academia, government and the private sectors were sharply divided on whether grants were essential for the seed sector development. Those for grants argued that it provides start-up capital for seed businesses and could spur business.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Success stories about food crops and drought-resistant plants





by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)

Please read this article at:



One can eat the Opuntia cactus pads (see “nopales”), drink pad soup, eat the fruits (barbary figs), make jam, use it as fodder for the livestock, ground the seeds to produce an oil, produce cosmetics and medicine against blood pressure and cancer.

Look at the nice picture above. It could have been taken in any desert or desertification affected country. What do you need more to be convinced ?  Well, maybe first read about Morocco’s initiative below !

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)


Photo credit: BBC NEWS

Women farmers find cactus plants are a real money spinner

Cactus commerce boosts Morocco

By Sylvia Smith
BBC News, Sbouya, Morocco

Opuntia in Yemen - Photo Yemen Times 1799-4117 - - get_img
Opuntia in Yemen – Photo Yemen Times 1799-4117 – – get_img

It is just after dawn in the hills above the Moroccan hamlet of Sbouya and a group of women are walking through the thousands of cactus plants dotted about on the hillside, picking ripe fruits whenever they spot the tell-tale red hue.

But these woman are not simply scraping a living out of the soil.

The cactus, previously eaten as a fruit or used for animal feed, is creating a minor economic miracle in the region thanks to new health and cosmetic products being extracted from the ubiquitous plant.

This prickly pocket of the semi-arid south of the country around the town of Sidi Ifni is known as Morocco’s cactus capital.

It is blessed with the right climate for the 45,000 hectares (111,000 acres) of land that is being used to produce prodigious numbers of succulent Barbary figs.

Every local family has its own plot and, with backing from the Ministry of Agriculture, the scheme to transform small scale production into a significant industry industry is under way.

Some 12m dirhams ($1.5m) have been pledged to build a state-of-the-art factory that will help local farmers process the ripe fruits.

The move is expected to help workers keep pace with the requirements of the French cosmetics industry which is using the cactus in increasing numbers of products.

Barbary fig (Opuntia ficus-indica, prickly pear) oil is a lucrative market –


Izana Marzouqi, a 55-year-old member of the Aknari cooperative, says people from the region grew up with the cactus and did not realise its true benefit.

“Demand for cactus products has grown and that it is because the plant is said to help with high blood pressure and cancer. The co-operative I belong to earns a lot of money selling oil from the seeds to make anti-ageing face cream.”

Read the full article: BBC NEWS


Successful examples of community-based forestry from around the world

Photo credit: FAO

Women in Mozambique are carrying fuelwood that will be sold by the roadside to create additional income for the rural forest community.


Community-based forestry can be a driving force in boosting sustainability and people’s livelihoods

FAO calls on governments to take steps to unleash its full potential

Community-based forestry has shown itself to be a potent vehicle for promoting sustainable forest management, reducing poverty and generating jobs and income for rural communities, but unlocking its true potential will require greater support by governments through policy reforms and other measures.

Many community-based forestry regimes are showing great promise as engines for sustainable development but are still performing below their potential, a new FAO report released today at the start of Asia-Pacific Forestry Week says.

Under the approach, local communities partner with governments to play a lead role in making land-use decisions and managing the forestry resources they depend on for their livelihoods.

According to “Forty years of community based forestry: A review of extent and effectiveness”, almost one-third of the world’s forest area is now estimated to be under some form of community-based management.

Yet in many cases, while in practice policies may exist for the decentralization and devolution of rights and responsibilities to communities, the right conditions may not yet be in place for them to fully exercise their rights.

The report outlines a series of actions needed to make community-based forestry more effective, including providing communities with secure forest tenure, improving regulatory frameworks, and transferring appropriate and viable skills and technology.

Access to markets and knowledge of market mechanisms are also essential if communities and smallholders are to commercialize their forest products, which can significantly contribute to poverty reduction.

“Indigenous peoples, local communities and family smallholders stand ready to maintain and restore forests, respond to climate change, conserve biodiversity and sustain livelihoods on a vast scale”, said Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division. “What is missing in most cases is the political will to make it happen. Political leaders and policy makers should open the door to unleash the potential of hundreds of millions of people to manage the forests on which the whole world depends for a better and sustainable future”.

Sharing best practices

The report also cites a number of successful examples of community-based forestry from around the world.

Read the full article: FAO

Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) for smallholder farmers

Photo credit: Africa Rising

Growing cowpea creates new business opportunities for small scale outgrowers

Quality cowpea seed production offers Zambian women farmers opportunities for quality lives

In economies like Zambia, where maize-based farming is predominant, grain legumes – such as cowpea and soybean add the much needed fertility to the soils degraded by monocropping. Legumes are widely grown as intercrops or in rotations on maize-based farming systems. They fix substantial amounts of atmospheric nitrogen through biological nitrogen fixation in the soil, help improve  soil fertility and also contribute to improved crop productivity. However, one the main challenges to growing legumes is the fact that their seeds are not easily available to farmers. But thanks to an emerging breed of bold farmers who have taken to producing seeds for their colleagues in Eastern Zambia, this challenge is being mitigated.

Mrs. Tichoke Phiri with her son, Kenneth, at their homestead in Kawalala Camp, Katete District Photo credit: Cannon Mukuma/IITA

Mrs. Tichoke Phiri with her son, Kenneth, at their homestead in Kawalala Camp, Katete District

Mrs Tichoke Phiri, a woman farmer from Kawalala camp in Katete district, Zambia is one such farmer. She is part of a group of farmers involved in the SIMLEZA-Africa RISING Project activities to promote the cultivation of legumes.

“I was attracted to the idea of producing cowpea instead of soybean seed because we don’t have sources of improved cowpea seeds in my community and also because there are already a lot of farmers producing soybean seed. Cowpea seed will give me an advantage in the legume seed market.”

To establish their seed multiplication farms, the project gave Phiri and her fellow “seed producing farmers” each a 2 kg of cowpea basic seed for multiplication after a training on how to effectively raise quality cowpea and soybean seeds. Mrs Phiri planted those and took extra care of the crop, ensuring that her seed multiplication farm passed all field inspection tests.


Read the full article: Africa Rising

From farm to boda-boda

Photo credit: CIAT Blog

Can the entrepreneurial spirit of young people be harnessed to encourage them to turn to agriculture? Credit: Georgina Smith / CIAT 

Farms without farmers?

Local vegetables R&D for smallholders

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Image credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos

Promoting local vegetables R&D to benefit smallholders

Speed read

  • Smallholders and traders of indigenous vegetables face issues marketing them
  • New post-harvest technologies could help solve the challenges
  • The impact of local vegetables on livelihoods of smallholders should be assessed

Researchers should tackle challenges smallholders face in marketing indigenous vegetables, writes Alberto Leny.

Read the full article: SciDevNet


Small-scale farmers and soybean in Argentina

Photo credit: IPS

Small farmers make carob powder, thanks to the support of an Argentine government project to boost family agriculture, in the rural village of Guanaco Sombriana in the northern province of Santiago del Estero. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

The Dilemma of Soy in Argentina

By Fabiana Frayssinet


Industrial soy production continues to expand in Argentina, pushing small farmers out of the countryside and replacing other crops and cattle. It presents a challenge in a country where 70 percent of the food consumed comes from family farms, but which also needs the foreign exchange brought in by what has been dubbed “green gold”.

In 2013, exports of soybeans, soybean meal, and soybean oil brought in 23.2 billion dollars, representing 26 percent of the country’s total sales abroad, according to the business chamber that represents producers of grains and cereals, the Cámara de la Industria Aceitera-Centro de Exportadores de Cereales.

That makes transgenic soybeans Argentina’s main source of foreign currency. And the soybean production chain accounts for 5.5 percent of GDP and 10 percent of tax revenue.

Land that has been deforested in the central Argentine province of Córdoba, as a result of the expansion of transgenic soy. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS -
Land that has been deforested in the central Argentine province of Córdoba, as a result of the expansion of transgenic soy. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS –

Impact on farming

“The growth in the surface area covered by soy and by transgenic commodities in general has meant the displacement of local farmers and an increase in cattle raised in feedlots,” Carlos Vicente, a member of GRAIN, a Barcelona-based international organisation dedicated to global agricultural issues, told IPS.

As an example of the impact, he said thousands of small dairy farms had closed down. “In the (eastern) province of Buenos Aires alone, 300 shut down,” he said.

“This means production is stagnant and concentrated in the hands of large producers, who are now acting as an oligopoly,” he added.

Read the full story:  IPS

Women’s contribution to food and nutrition security

 Photo credit: FAO

Research suggests increasing women’s access to agricultural resources would significantly improve food security worldwide.

Int’l Women’s Day 2015: Women farmers key to fighting hunger

IFAD, WFP and FAO celebrate women’s contribution to food and nutrition security

 See also VIDEO:

Marking International Women’s Day 2015 (March 8th), leaders from the United Nations’ three Rome-based food agencies gathered to remind the world that women farmers play a central role in achieving food and nutrition security.

At the Rome event, leaders from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) shared testimonials of their innovative interventions that have empowered rural women, and in doing so have contributed to food security and nutrition. They also highlighted that promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment can significantly strengthen efforts to reduce rural poverty.

This year’s event also marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 (Beijing +20).

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze delivered the opening keynote address pointing out that as men in developing countries migrate to urban centers or shift to better-paid work, a “feminization of agriculture” has occurred with approximately half of the agricultural workforce worldwide now made up of women.

“Women are the backbone of rural societies as they grow and process food and make sure their families are well-fed and well-nourished,” Nwanze said. “Too often, rural women are doing the backbreaking work. To improve women’s social and economic status, we need more recognition for the vital role they play in the rural economy.  Rural women need more opportunities to participate, improve their skills, gain access to assets, and be involved in agricultural production and marketing. Let us all work together to empower women to achieve food and nutrition security. For their sake, and the sake of their families and communities.”

Read the full article: FAO

Floodwater used to grow herbs in Dakar (Senegal)

Photo credit: TRUST

Emilie Faye stands near a floodwater retention basin in Pikine, a suburb of the Senegalese capital Dakar. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION

Dakar women grow herb business from floodwater

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Author: Kathryn M. Werntz


Though the coastal cities of Senegal are situated on the fierce Atlantic Ocean, it is floods from heavy rains they struggle with, rather than rising tides.

Inondation à Pikine -
Inondation à Pikine –

A common solution is to pump floodwaters into the ocean. But one innovative project is trying to capture the water instead, for use in gardening during water-short periods of the year.

Pikine, les Parcelles assainies et Guédiawaye, les trois villes de la banlieue dakaroise, bénéficieront, très prochainement, d’un programme spécial de lutte contre la pauvreté. -
Pikine, les Parcelles assainies et Guédiawaye, les trois villes de la banlieue dakaroise, bénéficieront, très prochainement, d’un programme spécial de lutte contre la pauvreté. –

In Pikine, a suburb of Senegal’s capital Dakar, the “Live with Water” project captures floodwater in large sandy basins, around which cash crop gardens of mint and basil provide an income for local residents.

Using the basins, floods that once wiped out houses, strained the local economy and heightened the risk of disease have been converted into a new stock of fresh water for a West African community that is dusty and dry much of the year.

“Before, one had to accept that houses here flood. But this project opened our eyes to see there is a solution,” said Emilie Faye, a local leader who has been instrumental in the project.

Faye points to the seat of her couch, indicating the flood level in years past. The wall and ceiling of her home are discoloured and peeling due to secondary damage from humidity.


The redirected floodwaters serve a multitude of purposes. The surface drainage system leads water into an underground canal which empties into a natural filtration system. Water then flows through a series of basins, creating a reservoir and a green space in the middle of a crowded, dusty suburb.

The basins, a burgeoning ecosystem of their own, are now populated with medicinal plants, fish and herons.


Read the full article: TRUST

Boosting production and income of Ethiopian women

Photo credit: FAO

Members of the cooperative whose cactus pear marmalade will soon reach Italian tables.

Ethiopian women cooperative increases incomes thanks to FAO-Eataly partnership

Cactus pear marmalade to join more traditional jams on Italian shelves

A cooperative of women in Ethiopia is set to reach the international market thanks to a partnership between Italian gourmet food store Eataly and FAO.

The two joined forces in 2013 to support family farmers around the globe in boosting their production and finding ways to reach new overseas customers. The work with the women’s cooperative is one example of this collaboration.

For a few years Tsega Gebrekidan Aregawi ran a small kiosk in the northern Ethiopian town of Mekelle, where local university students would stop by to purchase fresh fruit juice, biscuits and homemade marmalades on their way to and from class.

It was a small operation. At that time Tsega could hardly imagine that some of her own products might someday fly from Africa to reach international markets.

But things changed last year when FAO and the Italian food chain Eataly reached out to her and her five-woman cooperative with a challenging offer.

Founded in northern Italy in 2007, Eataly has grown into a global, high-quality food and beverage chain that combines culinary excellence with tradition — with a special focus on small-scale production, sustainability, and fair trade.

FAO and Eataly offered Tsega and her colleagues support in producing more cactus pear marmalade, which would be then bought and shipped to European tables.

The group rose to the challenge. So far, they’ve produced 4,000 jars of marmalade and are now looking at using the revenues to even expanding their output and the variety of what they produce.

To help them in this effort, trainings were organized to help them improve their performance during harvesting as well as to increase their quality standards. The Ministry of agriculture has been providing technical assistance throughout.

A better future

Over the last few months, Tsega and her colleagues have been working hard to produce over 1,500 kg of jam that meet Ethiopian and European food safety standards. The cooperative has also benefited from Eataly’s knowledge sharing on best practices for packaging and marketing and their 4,000 jars of jam are now ready to travel to Rome, where they will soon reach the shelves.

Read the full article: FAO

Africa: exploiting its natural ressources (extractive industries)

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Special Adviser on Africa Maged Abdelaziz. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

High-level event stresses importance of extractive industries to sustainable growth in Africa


The United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) held a meeting at Headquarters in New York today on the role of the extractive industry in Africa.

The event, which looked to the post-2015 development agenda and the African Union ‘Agenda 2063,’ explored how to enhance management of Africa’s extractive industries in order to fully harness their potential as important drivers for sustainable development, structural economic transformation and inclusive growth.

According to the OSAA, Africa has an abundant natural resource endowment, boasting 12 percent of the world’s oil reserves, 40 per cent of its gold and around 60 percent of its uncultivated arable land. With increasing global demand for primary resources, especially in rapidly growing emerging economies, the continent aims to continue exploiting its comparative advantage, with efforts so far seeing trade grow from $251 billion in 1996 to $1.151 trillion in 2011.

Despite strong export performance in the sector, African countries have not yet fully harnessed the full potential of their rich natural resource endowments or employed their natural resource advantages as an engine for inclusive economic growth.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

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