How to lead Zimbabwe farmers out of poverty and equip them to face future climate and economic shocks


Photo credit: ICRISAT

Participants at the workshop. Photo: P. Chivenge


Policy makers, researchers and agricultural extension workers came together to learn how to develop future farm scenarios and co-design pathways that will lead Zimbabwe farmers out of poverty and equip them to face future climate and economic shocks. As part of the workshop activity, the group reviewed contrasting pathways that might shape the future of farming in Zimbabwe and came up with Representative Agricultural Pathways and Scenarios (RAPS) (see box).

Need for gender-inclusive policies

The workshop specially focused on gender and nutrition. The impact of national level policies to shape the future of women in farming was among the issues discussed. “Women carry the major burden of farming in Zimbabwe, and there is no sign that this is going to change in the future; it might rather increase as male labor leaves rural areas for wage labor opportunities. Hence, what would it mean if policy evolved to ensure women equal control over resources, production factors and information? What would be the implications for food security and nutrition?” These questions were raised by Dr Amy Sullivan, Bridgewater Consulting, AgMIP stakeholder liaison.

Leveraging uptake of climate-adaptation technologies

The importance of sharing information on technologies was also stressed in one of the sessions. “Informing crop improvement programs is critical, especially for supporting the highly vulnerable smallholder farmers in marginal areas to adapt to climate variability and change,” said
Dr Dumisani Kutywayo, Director Crops Research Division, Department of Research and Specialists Services.

Mr Ben Mache, Head of Crops Agricultural Technical and Extension Services said that such dialogues help to create conditions and mechanisms that can leverage uptake of technologies and cater to shock situations, in preparation for agriculture under future climate scenarios.

In this context, the importance of web-based tools was stressed. Special mention was made of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) tool ‘Impacts Explorer’ to make information available to a broad range of users, and for revision and adjustment processes (

The science behind RAPS

Read the full article: ICRISAT

Climate change, hunger and poverty must be addressed together


Photo credit: FAO

A farmer in Tanzania in a rice paddy which uses a climate-smart system to intensify production.

World Food Day highlights that climate is changing and that food and agriculture must too

Italian Prime Minister Renzi, Pope Francis and Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco urge collective action

The resounding message from this year’s World Food Day celebrations in Rome and in many countries is that climate change, hunger and poverty must be addressed together in order to achieve the sustainable development goals set by the international community.

“Higher temperatures and erratic weather patterns are already undermining the health of soils, forests and oceans on which agricultural sectors and food security depend,” FAO Director-General José Graziano said at the global World Food Dayceremony here today.

Droughts and floods are more frequent and intense as are climate-related outbreaks of diseases and pests, he added, citing the terrible impact of El Nino in parts of Africa, Asia and Central American and more recently, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.

“As usual the poorest and the hungry suffer the most and the vast majority of them are small family farmers that live in rural areas of developing countries,” the FAO Director-General said, noting how adaptation and mitigation to climate change is fundamental, and that this requires “much better access to appropriate technologies, knowledge, markets, information and investments.”

Recent international commitments for action, including the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, recognize the fundamental role of sustainable agriculture in addressing climate change, hunger and poverty.

The World Food Day 2016 slogan: Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too underscores the fact that to feed a global population expected to reach more than 9 billion by 2050, humanity needs to produce more food, but in ways that use up less natural resources and that drastically reduce loss and waste.

Political will

In his address, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi stressed that the fight against hunger is essentially a political issue. “Italy maintains that the fight for food security is, at this point in history, a question of politics with a capital ‘P’,” he added.

Prime Minister Renzi said that the international community needs to urgently address the problems of inequality and injustice. Italy would strive to ensure that these themes are at the top of the international agenda, including at two important events in March next year: the G7 summit, which Italy will host and preside and a meeting of European Union leaders.

Read the full article: FAO

Childhood undernutrition and its disastrous effects


Photo credit: UN NEWS CENTRE

Children eating at the IDP site in Mellia, Chad. Photo: OCHA/Ivo Brandau

Undernutrition taking huge toll on Chad’s economy, new UN-supported study finds

Chad’s economy is losing 575.8 billion CFA francs ($1.2 billion) per year, or 9.5 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), to the effects of childhood undernutrition and resultant increased healthcare costs, additional burdens on the education system and lower productivity by the workforce, a new United Nations-backed study has revealed.

The Cost of Hunger in Africa: the Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition on Chad’s Long-Term Development, (CoCHA) found that more than half of the country’s adults (56.4 per cent) have suffered as a result of childhood stunting. This means that more than 3.4 million people of working age are unable to reach their full potential due to childhood undernutrition. The study equates this lower physical capacity to 63.7 billion CFA worth of loss in economic productivity, as well as 168.6 billion CFA in additional health costs.

“Africa, and Chad in particular, has the potential to reap a demographic dividend from a young, educated and skilled workforce,” said Dr. Margaret Agama-Anyetei, Head of the African Union’s Division for Health, Nutrition and Population in a joint news release.

“But,” she warned, “this potential can only be harnessed if the gains of early investments in the health and nutrition of its people, particularly women and children, are maintained and result in the desired economic growth.”

Read the full article: UN NEWS CENTRE



How big would be the smile of these kids if their parents were offered the simple means to set up a small kitchen garden with juicy veggies and herbs, yes, even in Chad ?  And yet, it’s possible.

The question of who sets the research agenda remains.


Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Sven Torfinn / Panos

Africa Analysis: Benefits of the restarted R&D alliance

“Many people argue that donors’ influence over health research agendas in Africa remains too strong.” Linda Nordling

Speed read

  • The second phase of Europe-Africa clinical trials partnership has started
  • It could help African countries increase their investment in health R&D
  • African governments need to help sustain the gains to be made


The reboot of the Europe-Africa clinical trials alliance could make Africa invest in health R&D, writes Linda Nordling.

In 2010 in Mali’s capital Bamako, representatives from over two dozen African health ministries signed a ‘call for action’ urging their governments to allocate at least two per cent of health ministry budgets toresearch. [1]

The aim of the call was for African governments to take ownership of the research agenda, which at the time was viewed as too driven by international donor priorities.

Nearly a decade on, many people argue that donors’ influence over health research agendas in Africa remains too strong. And the two per cent goal is still a pipe dream.

There is no doubt that African countries have seen increased investment in health research. But with most of this increase coming from international donors, the question of who sets the research agenda remains.

Mechanisms matter

In 2008, after the Bamako meeting, critics condemned the lack of mechanisms in the call of action for its proposed implementation. [2]

But for countries looking for a way to fulfil their two per cent ambition, a reinvented Europe-Africa clinical trials programme offers a vehicle for doing so and for directing international funding towards national priorities.

Read the full story: SciDevNet

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

Global report analyses rural development and recommends policy changes to eradicate poverty.



Hed: Global report on rural development offers targeted policies to eliminate poverty

The world is changing rapidly, across urban and rural areas. Growing demand for food – driven by population increase and rising incomes – is creating opportunities and challenges for people working in rural areas, including in smallholder agriculture and in the non-farm economy.

Rising agricultural productivity, more jobs off the farm and migration to cities are reshaping rural life – but so too are adverse factors such as climate change, environmental degradation and other risks.

Small farms continue to provide livelihoods for up to 2.5 billion people and account for up to 80 per cent of food produced in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In a fast-changing world, rural areas must transform – and rapidly – in order to be sustainably included in growing economies and to contribute to overall prosperity.

On 14 September 2016, the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) launched its flagship publication Rural Development Report 2016: Fostering Inclusive Rural Transformation.

Read the full article: IFAD




Protecting Our Planet – Securing Our Future (1998)

Posted by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM

Ghent University – Belgium

Having participated in all the meetings of the INCD (1992-1994) and all the meetings of the UNCCD-COP, the CST and the CRIC in 1994-2006, I had an opportunity to collect a lot of interesting books and publications on drought and desertification published in that period.

Book Nr. 34

Please click:

or see protecting-our-planet-securing-our-future-1998



Rural Poverty Report 2001

Rural Poverty Report 2001 (IFAD)

Posted by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM

Ghent University – Belgium

Having participated in all the meetings of the INCD (1992-1994) and all the meetings of the UNCCD-COP, the CST and the CRIC in 1994-2006, I had an opportunity to collect a lot of interesting books and publications on drought and desertification published in that period.

Book Nr. 26

Please click:

or see Rural poverty Report 2001


Poverty alleviation and land degra

Poverty alleviation and land degradation in the drylands 1994

Posted by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM

Ghent University – Belgium


Having participated in all the meetings of the INCD (1992-1994) and all the meetings of the UNCCD-COP, the CST and the CRIC in 1994-2006, I had an opportunity to collect a lot of interesting books and publications on drought and desertification published in that period.


Book Nr. 12

Please click:

or see Poverty alleviation and land degradation in the drylands 1994

Creative ways to work together and overcome drought.


Photo credit: FoodTank

Farmers in Mozambique are finding creative ways to work together and overcome drought.
Timothy A. Wise

Looking for Food in All the Wrong Places

I spent another week in Mozambique looking for ProSAVANA, the much-touted, much-reviled Japanese-Brazilian-Mozambican agriculture project that has spectacularly failed to turn Mozambique’s savannah-lands in the Nacala Corridor into a giant soybean plantation modeled on Brazil’s Cerrado region. I was there doing follow-up research for a book.

I hadn’t found much evidence of ProSAVANA two years ago (see my previous articles here and here) and I didn’t find much now. Government officials wouldn’t talk about it. Japanese development cooperation representatives spoke only of pathetically small extension services to a few small-scale farmers. Private investors were scarce. Civil society groups debated whether it is worth cooperating in the wholesale redesign of the program.

I wondered why anyone would bother. Like many of the grand schemes hatched in the wake of the 2007-2008 food price spikes, this one was a bust, by any measure. Still, ProSAVANA remains the Mozambican government’s agricultural development strategy for the region. While farmers defend their hard-won land rights, it seems they will have to look elsewhere for agricultural development.

I decided to look elsewhere as well. I didn’t have to go far. I arrived in Marracuene, 45 minutes outside Maputo, just after the rainy-season harvest and as the irrigation-fed winter season was beginning. Marracuene didn’t get much rain or much of a harvest due to the drought that has parched much of southern Africa.

One farmer in the village of BoBole told me he’d earned barely one-quarter what he had the previous year from farm sales, and almost none of that was from maize, the Mozambique staple. Across the region, production is down, prices are up, and hunger is widespread. In Mozambique, 1.5 million people are facing food insecurity, according to UNICEF, with 191,000 children expected to be severely malnourished in the next 12 months.

Diversity the key to surviving drought

In Marracuene, the maize harvest was almost a total bust. Fortunately, the farmers there grow a wide variety of crops, for home consumption and for sale. And they have irrigation, rehabilitated from an old colonial plantation, so they have a second season. I saw healthy crops in the fields – cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cassava.

And I saw young maize plants on what turned out to be the association’s collective plots, the small portion of the community’s 250 acres that this 280-member association agrees to set aside and farm collectively. They work it together every Thursday morning. I watched as women, and a few men, prepared fields, watered new plants, and sprayed for pests.

Read the full article: FoodTank




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

image copy

Having participated in all the meetings of the INCD (1992-1994) and all the meetings of the UNCCD-COP, the CST and the CRIC  in 1994-2006, I was able to collect a lot of interesting books on drought and desertification published in that period.

Book Nr. 05


%d bloggers like this: