Impact of agribusiness on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers

Photo credit: CIAT-DAPA

In the middle Mr. Juan Camilo Restrepo Salazar, former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia, serving in the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón.


Policymakers and other value chain stakeholders

Photo credit: ILRI

Women pounding grain for the evening meal in Khulungira Village, in central Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann)

Hard numbers and soft stories: Reaching policymakers and empowering women in Africa’s agrifood value chains


By Jo Cadilhon

The fifteen research centres collaborating in the global CGIAR partnership have all embraced gender as a cross-cutting theme for research. Understanding the differentiated social roles of men and women, and the challenges men and women face in accessing resources is key in reducing rural poverty, improving food security, nutrition and health, and sustainably managing natural resources. However, to achieve more gender-equitable goals, our development partners also need to be aware of how undertaking gender-sensitive actions could lead to a more equitable society.

Policymakers are key partners in this process as they can orient government programs and donor projects towards more gender-equitable objectives. Yet, how can we make sure that policymakers become interested gender-equity and recognize its importance?

Established in 2006 under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) supports efforts to promote evidence and outcome-based policy planning and implementation as part of the CAADP agenda.

In East and Central Africa, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) are implementing ReSAKSS activities. These include regular training workshops targeted on statisticians and economists in the statistics departments of African governments in order to help them better collect and analyse official statistical data and make robust interpretations from them to informing policymakers and other value chain stakeholders.

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Crop imvement in Morocco

Photo credit: Icarda

The Marchouch research station near Rabat is host to a model crop improvement program.

Morocco: ICARDA research platform showcases model crop improvement program 

As changing climate, growing populations and diminishing natural resources worsen the challenges facing smallholder livelihoods and food security in dryland areas, developing improved crops that can keep pace with these demands is an ongoing mission for crop scientists. Morocco, one of ICARDA’s major research hubs for crop improvement, is leveraging the country’s diverse soils and climate conditions to develop crop production technologies for both high and low potential agroecosystems.
A visit to ICARDA’s research station at Marchouch near Rabat, held in conjunction with the 56th Board Meeting (May 2-6, 2015), provided an opportunity for ICARDA’s Board of Trustees to get a glimpse of the crop improvement program that is bolstering ICARDA’s mission and mandate of food security and improved livelihoods in dry areas, while supporting breeding programs the world over.
Highlights of ICARDA’s crop improvement program: 
Durum and bread wheat are core to food security and therefore, a major part of ICARDA’s crop improvement program at the Marchouch station. The program accomplishes this through global germplasm distribution from its international nurseries of durum and bread wheat, alongside breeding of new improved varieties with traits such as drought and heat tolerance, by screening thousands of landraces and cultivars.
These new varieties are tested and adapted with national partners in countries for release. Collaboration being key to successful adoption of innovative technologies, a durum wheat project phenotyping root systems for drought tolerance and boron toxicity is working with Senegal scientists to test and validate results in the soils of Senegal. The largely rice growing country is seeking suitable wheat technologies to be able to start wheat production. The project is simultaneously building national capacities by training six PhD students from Morocco, Algeria and Senegal, while benefiting from the young talent in its team.

Read the full article: Icarda

Goats generated enormous benefits for the poorest women

Photo credit: Icarda

The project provided poor rural households, especially women, with the skills, knowledge, and inputs to engage in profitable dairy goat production

Can goats lead to lasting gains for Afghanistan’s women?

Fighting poverty is a constant struggle for rural communities in resource-scarce remote parts of Afghanistan, particularly women. Years of conflict has made it even harder to find a stable source of income. An ICARDA project that promotes the distribution and management of goats has generated enormous benefits for some of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable women, and continues to multiply impacts through its ‘Pass on the gift’ initiative. 
For decades, Afghanistan has been grappling with poverty. Rural women, though largely invisible, are at the forefront of this war with poverty. In remote communities, goat rearing is a major source of livelihood: most Afghan women, in rural areas, have at least some level of experience with goat rearing, even if they do not own one.
With limited or almost no technical expertise, however, they haven’t been able to turn goat rearing into a sustainable livelihood option. Production of goats and products such as meat, milk and cashmere have been severely constrained by a range of factors, including conflict, drought, scarcity of feed and low levels of knowledge in areas such as milk collection and processing, and animal health.
Building resilient livelihoods through livestock 
To enhance the benefits of dairy goat rearing, which is a common source of income for poor families in rural Afghanistan, a project was implemented by the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and ICARDA, and funded by the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD). Starting in 2010, this project was primarily geared to provide poor rural households, especially women, with the skills, knowledge, and initial inputs to engage in profitable dairy goat production – to improve their livelihoods, nutrition, and income.


Read the full article: Icarda

A self-sustaining value chain

Photo credit: ICARDA

With the help of the project, more efficient processes and higher quality products are generating additional incomes for rural women

Connecting rural women to global markets

In remote regions of Central Asia, where many households depend on goats and sheep for their livelihoods, a harsh climate, poor access to markets, and lack of know-how, limits income-earning opportunities. An ICARDA initiative targeting rural women used a market-driven approach to establish a self-sustaining value chain, from improved breeding and husbandry practices to the production of world-class yarns and appealing products, linked to export markets.
For small producers of sheep and cashmere and angora goats in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, international fiber markets can seem a world away. Local fiber processors – mostly poor rural women – who add value by spinning, weaving, knitting and felting, are equally cut off from these distant markets where handmade, luxury clothing and handicrafts fetch a high price.
Furthermore, the collapse of state-run breeding programs after the breakdown of the Soviet Union has left them without access to new knowledge and training programs to adequately meet market standards.
These conditions pose a serious threat to the sustainability of the yarn sector in a competitive world, and with that, the livelihoods of tens of thousands of families in Central Asia who live in a harsh climate and rely on livestock production as their only source of income.
Breeding animals for higher yields and quality 
In 2009, ICARDA began collaborating with small-scale producers in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to establish new breeding programs, using imported genetics and artificial insemination with frozen semen to improve flock quality and yields.


Read the full article: Icarda


The Great Green Wall in China

Photo credit: Rashid Faridi’s Blog

Desertification and China’s Great Green Wall

by Gary Rogers



GR:  A little reading in this article and its references quickly reveals that despite China’s massive commitment to reforestation, desertification is increasing.  Part of the problem is that the land-use practices that led to vegetation loss and soil instability are continuing.  Another part of the problem is that Chinese planners are making the same mistakes made in the U. S. and in other arid regions where managers used nonnative plants to replace depleted natives.

Many of you will be nodding and thinking that whenever land-use managers focus on Human benefits, they lose sight of the need for complete ecosystem health. They focus on potential benefits from foreign species that appear to be suited to growth on degraded lands.  Their goal is to continue profitable logging, livestock grazing, and water diversion.  Therefore, the desert grows.


Thanks to Professor Willem Van Cotthem for his efforts to provide a single Internet source for work on desertification (