How can young agricultural entrepreneurs make the most of the continent’s opportunities? Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact reports on the Montpellier Panel’s latest report.
The time has come to debunk a common myth about agriculture. It is not a dead-end profession that requires eternal, back breaking labour on a farm. At least, it does not have to be. With the right investments to support entrepreneurs in agriculture beyond the production stage, in processing, retail, marketing and even business management, profitable careers await Africa’s young population.
Continue reading Why Africa’s youth should not shun agriculture
Diet before conception affects a baby’s genes. Paula Dominguez-Salas from the MRC International Nutrition Group reports from the field.
In recent years evidence has been accumulating that nutrition during pregnancy can have a profound effect on the offspring. Our group, the MRC International Nutrition Group, works in maternal and child nutrition and is particularly interested in this ‘fetal programming’ idea, because a child’s health (and possibly even its children) could be effected throughout its whole life – not just its early years.
Continue reading Why a mother’s nutrition is so important
We need to be better prepared for shocks, says Rajul Pandya-Lorch of the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Poor countries and vulnerable people are being hit hard by a barrage of shocks: economic shocks such as volatile food prices and financial crises; environmental and natural disasters like droughts, floods, and earthquakes; and social and political upheavals including conflicts and violence. Climate change, competition for resources, and growing inequality and social exclusion are likely to intensify the risks for food and nutrition security.
Continue reading Bouncing back: building resilience for food and nutrition security
If 2014 is truly to be Africa’s Year of Agriculture and Food Security, then Africa’s production potential has to be addressed, says IFA Vice President for Africa Alassane Diallo.
Africa has awoken. Ten of the world’s fastest growing economies are now in Africa, with around one third of our 54 countries seeing annual GDP growth of over 6%.
However, this momentum has not yet spread to all sectors. Cereal crop yields in Africa are only one-third as high as in developing Asia, and only one-tenth as high as the United States. When one in five Africans still goes to bed hungry – how can this sector be ignored?
Continue reading The Africa fertilizer gap
It’s not enough to sing their praises: let’s work on legal rights, market access, community-based support, and more equitable households say Melinda Fones Sundell and Marion Davis.
If you know anything about agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, you know that women grow the majority of food crops. In Ghana, for example, women produce 70% of the nation’s food crops, provide 52% of the agricultural labour force, and contribute 95% of the labour for agro-processing activities. Across the region, 62.5% of women work in agriculture, compared with 36.4% globally (report p.57, A8).
Yet women farmers often work under very difficult conditions. Many don’t even control the land on which they grow their families’ food, and their access to fertilizers, tools, equipment and other inputs is also constrained. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that if women had access to the same productive resources as men, they could increase their farm yields by 20-30%.
Continue reading The whole package for Africa’s women farmers
Agricultural markets in sub-Saharan Africa are fragmented for the people who need them most. Two new reports set out the solutions, says Michael Hoevel.
At the same time, across Africa it is estimated that 80% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. Transforming this sector’s markets will not only help address food insecurity and undernutrition, but it can also unlock Africa’s trade and development potential more broadly, if implemented responsibly and sustainably.
Continue reading Linking African smallholder farmers to markets
A focus on the link between energy and food production in Africa at the Durban Climate Change Conference is much needed, says Robin Sanders.
The recent Durban Climate Change Conference is a follow on from Cancun which did not move a lot of things forward on key environmental issues ranging from CO2 emissions, carbon sequestration and credits), to land and water resource management.
The important fact that the conference is taking place on the African continent for the first time should not just boil down to its mere presence in Durban. But just like key sub-Saharan African economies are emerging, Africa’s emerging voice on climate change policy is vital to a number of future developmental areas, not least of which is food security – including all of its pillars from food production to improving the continent’s ability to feed itself and using renewables to spur better agricultural energy use.
Continue reading Africa, climate change and food security
It’s time to rebalance the scales for African researchers in agriculture, says Jo Seed.
During the launch of the Montpellier Panel Report last year I was inspired by the talk on women in agriculture presented by Vicki Wilde. She is the Director of the CGIAR’s Gender and Diversity Programme and the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) project – a professional development program that strengthens the research and leadership skills of African women in agricultural science.
After Vicki’s speech, something inside me seemed to click and I decided from this point that I really wanted to help make a difference for women in African agriculture.
Continue reading Food, families, and women in science
Scientists and international organisations are well placed to eliminate another deadly animal disease, says Michael Baron.
The eradication of the long-feared cattle disease rinderpest, announced by OIE and FAO in June 2011, is a momentous achievement. John Anderson has already written on this blog about the lessons learned during the rinderpest eradication programme, which I’ve also described on video.
If we can do it once, we can do it again; the only question is: what should be the next target?
Continue reading The cattle plague virus is gone: what’s next?
We are too reliant on too few crop species. Using more underutilised plants will improve global food security, says Sean Mayes.
The world depends for its basic diet of carbohydrates, fats and proteins on a very limited number of crop species.
For carbohydrates, three related species, wheat, rice and maize, dominate human consumption. Any short term improvement in food security will need to include modification (either transgenic or through conventional breeding) of these and other staple crops.
Continue reading Breaking the dependency