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Tanzania - Modern Market plans in Dar es Salaam Underway

13 September 2010 | By Thomson Reuters

Dar es Salaam — THE Dar es Salaam Municipal Council plans to construct of an international market for agricultural products and a terminal for trucks at Mbezi Luis in Kinondoni District.

 

The Dar es Salaam City Director, Bakari Kingobi, told the 'Daily News' in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that the project is expected to be ready before end of the year.

 

He said that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed with the Local Authorities Pensions Fund (LAPF) which will fund the project.

 

"We have reached a significant step with our project partner towards the implementation of the project that was designed some years back but failed to

take place for lack of funds," Mr Kingobi said. He said the project aims to

decongest the city and its close suburbs from heavy-tonnage trucks.

 

He said that other financiers interested to invest in the project will have to

consult the main financier. Mr Kingobi said a number of local banks have also

shown interest to fund the project. However, he declined to reveal them.

 

"The municipal council has preferred this kind of project to harness fully all the opportunities available. We do expect to have more projects of this nature in the future", he said.

 

He said the city economists are working out a plan with LAPF that will show the total cost of the project and would be presented to the fund's board for approval. He said the city has allocated a ten-acre plot for the twin-projects.

 

To start with, he said the project would begin with the erection of a terminal for trucks and the second phase would involve the set up of the international market. He said that when completed, no truck ferrying agricultural products would be allowed into the city centre or its suburbs

 

He said a directive has been issued to all three municipalities to improve the existing markets to cope with the supply demand of the planned international facility.

 

 

Green Revolution Plan Agreed at Ghana Meeting

10 September 2010 | By Naomi Antony

 

A private sector-led drive to contribute to a 'Green Revolution' in Africa took a step forward last week with the agreement of a "very clear action plan" to draw the continent out of its food crises.

 

The plan was drawn up at the first meeting of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), in Accra, Ghana, which claims that, by including detailed mechanisms for monitoring and review, it will avoid the fate of other plans that have not achieved what they hoped for in Africa.

 

"This is the first time we have laid out a very clear action plan on what needs to accelerate the pace of the Green Revolution in terms of technologies, policies, finance and infrastructure investments," Akin Adesina, vice president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and executive co-producer of the AGRF, told SciDev.Net.

"This was not a conference, it was not a workshop, it was a 'doing-shop'."

 

He added: "You cannot have a [green] revolution if you don't have a larger constituency supporting the move. What we were able to achieve in Accra was to have a huge group of stakeholders saying yes, Africa can and should end its food crisis."

 

The forum, which met last week (2-4 September), is an outcome of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan's challenge to the private and public sectors to contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

 

Adesina said that the forum will hold a series of in-country workshops with all relevant partners to review the tasks they have committed to. It has already set up a sub-committee to produce indicators for measuring progress.

 

And the forum will also work with the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) to monitor the extent to which the areas being worked on at country level are feeding into the roundtable processes of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme - a NEPAD initiative that deals with agricultural policy and capacity-building issues, and is aiming for a six per cent growth rate in African agriculture by 2015.

 

"We will not relent on making sure we push all the people that need to be pushed to ensure that they deliver on what they say they have committed to," said Adesina.

 

He urged African countries to keep their promise, made in the 2003 African Union Maputo Declaration, of allocating ten per cent of national expenditure to agriculture. Other sources of finance will be the private sector and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

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Tanzania - 100bn/- set aside for crop buying

19 September 2010 | By Mgaya Kingoba

CCM Union presidential candidate Jakaya Kikwete, has assured farmers of swift purchase of their crops.  Addressing residents of Babati in Manyara Region on Sunday, Mr Kikwete said the government had set aside 100bn/- to buy crops from farmers for proper storage through the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA).  Bumper harvest realized in many parts of the country made it necessary for the government to have in place arrangements to buy more than 200,000 tonnes of food. 

 

“Subsidy on inputs to farmers has boosted harvests. The focus now is to ensure stability in the crop market,” President Kikwete explained. He said the aim was to buy from farmers, 400,000 tonnes in the next three years to help them realize profit from this year’s recorded good harvest.  “At least 10bn/- has already been released to buy maize this season being part of the government’s decision to buy crops from farmers for the country’s food security,” he explained.  However, farmers whose crops would not be bought promptly by the government had nothing to worry about as the candidate said they would be allowed to sell their crops to private buyers.

 

While in Katavi Region, last month the residents shared concern with the candidate that the region expected to harvest 700,000 tonnes but NFRA was set to buy 40,000 tonnes only.  Meanwhile, President Kikwete has defended the government’s performance saying it delivered on its electoral pledges to people’s expectations.

 

He also promised to have water problem adequately addressed to the convenience of the people in the district. Introducing the party’s candidate for parliamentary seat in the area, Mr Jitu Soni, Mr Kikwete asked people to vote for him to speed up development in the area. 

 

 

Zimbabwe - 1,7 Million Euro for Irrigation

17 September 2010 | By Government of Zimbabwe

Harare — The European Union in partnership with the Ministry of Finance has availed 1,7 million euro for rehabilitation and expansion of irrigation schemes countrywide.

 

The principal director (irrigation) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Conrad Zawe, on Wednesday said the money would be channelled towards rehabilitation of 23 projects in communal areas.

 

The projects cover more than 650 hectares of land. Dr Zawe said; "To date, we have received US$430 000 of the US$830 000 that Treasury allocated us in the national budget," said Dr Zawe. The majority of small-scale farmers do not have the capacity to secure and install irrigation infrastructure, a situation that leaves them especially vulnerable to adverse weather.

 

A2 and large-scale commercial farmers have access to funding from local financial institutions to upgrade infrastructure, though these facilities are often expensive.

 

Initially, Treasury allocated US$1,8 million to the Agriculture Ministry for expansion and resuscitation of irrigation schemes countrywide. The figure was subsequently reviewed downwards to US$830 000. Irrigation gives farmers leeway to produce crops all year round and intensify production. It also makes it possible for farmers to harness all exploitable water resources and use these in tandem with the best available water-saving technologies.

 

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Africa - Fish - Continent's Most Valuable Natural Resources

24 September 2010 | By Amadou Jallow

The vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy has stated that fish is one of Africa's most valuable natural resources that the continent is richly endowed with, but is largely under-utilised because of the unavailability of requisite infrastructure, facilities and gadgets that are needed to promote it.

 

The vice president was speaking on behalf of the Gambian leader at Sheraton Hotel Resort and Spa in Brufut while presiding over the opening of the meeting of African ministers of fisheries and aquaculture in Banjul. The meeting was convened to approve or disapprove the fisheries experts report and recommendations as well as the strategy plan for the African fisheries sector and aquaculture which was prepared in Banjul last July.

 

VP Njie-Saidy lamented that indiscriminate fishing methods have destroyed many of Africa's juvenile fish, while poaching is carried out by unlicensed vessels often from outside the continent. "This is indeed a disturbing reality and I wish to urge this conference to discuss thoroughly and come up with workable resolutions to address this issue," she tasked the fisheries ministers.

 

She told the gathering that aquaculture is an area that demands special attention to counter the threats of decline of Africa's fish stock adding that it is not only the fastest growing food production system in the world today, but constitutes a fall-back in moments when countries want to conserve their fish stocks from declining.

 

She said The Gambia has huge potential in aquaculture development given the sustainability of the country's topography to the smooth implementation of any form of aquaculture -from pond aquaculture to sea farming and ranching. She further told the fisheries ministers that Gambia

plans to exploit aquaculture as a means to reduce dependence on traditional fisheries, and enhance the conservation of the continents fish stocks in order to arrest the problem of declining or depleting fish stocks.

 

The vice president then used the opportunity to thank the fisheries ministers for their tireless work. She also thanked the experts for their relentless efforts in preparing the report that will meet the sustainable demands of the continent's fisheries sector. She finally thanked NEPAD and the AU Commission for funding the conference and assured of Gambia government's unreserved commitment to the promotion and development of Africa's fisheries sector.

 

 

Kenya's Benchmark Coffee Climbs by 8.5% Amid Lower Supplies

06 October 2010 | By Alastair Reed

Kenya’s benchmark coffee grade rose 8.5 percent at auction yesterday amid lower supplies, the Nairobi Coffee Exchange said. The top AA grade sold for an average of $281.71 for a 50- kilogram (110-pound) bag, compared with $259.62 a fortnight earlier, the exchange said in an e-mailed statement today. Supplies of the grade fell 20 percent to 3,236 bags, it said.

 

The average price for all coffee traded gained 5.2 percent to $216.69 a bag as buyers replenished their stocks, the exchange said. “The quantity in the market is down and that’s why we’re now holding auctions every two weeks,” said Sam Kimani, a manager at Taylor Winch Ltd., by phone from Nairobi. “The quality is low but demand is high because of low stocks.” Sales at the auction jumped 80 percent to 13,131 bags worth $3.47 million, from 7,279 bags valued at $1.82 million, the exchange said. Kenya harvests the bulk of its crop from October through December, while a secondary crop is reaped from April to June.

 

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Woolworths starts nitrogen refrigeration truck trial

06 October 2010 | By Irma

In a quest to operate quieter delivery trucks and to reduce its carbon footprint, retailer Woolworths has announced that it will start testing nitrogen refrigerated trucks for the delivery of perishable goods. The retailer says ecoFridge refrigeration “is fundamentally different” from the widely-used mechanical systems, and that it is one of only a handful of retailers in the world to pilot the system. “With no moving parts, it is designed to be one of the quietest transport refrigeration systems of its generation, operating at zero decibels.”

 

Woolworths says the ecoFridge can accurately maintain multiple temperature zones in one truck, which allows it to transport products that may need to be stored at different temperatures in one vehicle. It is also said to be 70% to 80% faster than mechanical systems in reducing the temperature to the required level, with the drop from 30°C to –18°C achieved in less than 40 minutes. (Diesel systems can take up to 120 minutes, says the retailer.)

 

Woolworths says that the ecoFridge system is virtually maintenance free, requiring annual inspection only. 

 

Woolworths Supply Chain and IT national transport GM Johan Schafer tells  that the purchase price of the ecoFridge system is roughly the same as that of the normal refrigerated systems. “This could, however, change if increased volumes find their way to South Africa.”  

 

Schafer says that the benefit in cost is currently achieved through the lower operational and maintenance cost of the unit, as it has no moving parts. The life span of the unit is also roughly twenty years, compared with the average five to eight years of normal diesel-operated units. Another benefit is that the ecoFridge uses naturally occurring nitrogen instead of diesel, which means that the refrigeration units can eliminate between 24 t to 30 t of carbon dioxide a year, per truck.

 

“Woolworths operates likes a think tank for retail innovation,” says Woolworths IT and supply chain divisional director Fawza Essa. “Road transport emits carbon dioxide which can damage the ozone layer, ultimately resulting in climate change. We have a responsibility to mitigate the negative impact of our transport on the environment."

 

More hotels, restaurants needed, TTB tells investors

September 2010 | By Felister

The Tanzania Tourist Board has challenged local and foreign investors to construct more hotels, and more restaurants in the country, but that they should be of international standards. Speaking in Dar es Salaam on Thursday, the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) managing director Dr Aloyce Nzuki said when hotels and restaurants to accommodate tourists are plenty, they actually do attract more tourists. He said that so far tourist arrivals are mainly directed at Zanzibar scenery and site seeing, and national parks, while other locations and forms of tourism are under-served. He said the challenge is to make sure there are more facilities, in which case investors need to construct more hotels and restaurants and invest in diverse facilities in such spots.

 

He said apart from providing more facilities for tourists, construction improves the surroundings and enhances visits, where local people benefit by selling goods and services to such facilities and the government obtains revenue. For her part, a tourism expert Fortunata Temu, said the sector's achievements are tied to “the scale of the pro-poor benefits derived from the relatively high levels of out-of-pocket expenditure by tourists.” “Tourism is an important industry for poverty eradication as stipulated in MKUKUTA. Items such as foodstuff, beverages in restaurants are highly pro-poor in their impacts,” she said.

 

Various expenditure items relate selling goods directly to tourists, while the pro-poor impact of such goods and auxiliary services in wages or income for the informal sector is quite substantial, she said. According to her tourism creates job opportunities, boosts sales of agricultural products andartifacts made by local people, mostly the poor.

 

Fruits and vegetable growers, fishermen who supply fish and other seafoods, retailers of the different items all obtain benefits from tourism even though not meeting the tourists or selling to them directly, she elaborated. “Critical in terms of scale of pro-poor impact, is the fact that the demand for food generated by tourists is such a large component of total tourist expenditure,” she said.

 

More rigorous implementation of policy commitments particularly in the provision of adequate infrastructure to enhance accessibility was vital, as well as human resource development, she said.

 

“There is a need for more colleges to develop much needed competencies particularly in customer care,” she declared, noting that the focus should not be on the number of graduates but the quality of education or training offered. “What we have realized is that the hospitality industry is challenged with skilled human resources. We understand that the Government and the private sector are running tourismcolleges which train staff for the hospitality industry,” she said.

 

Government intervention is also required to improve the country's competitiveness through various strategies including aggressive promotion of its country's attractions to the outside world, introduction of new leisure products other than game safaris etc. “It is true our country has plenty of resources but we are competing with other countries to attract tourists,” she cautioned.

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4 million ha requested for biofuel production in Tanzania

October 2010 | By Beatrice

At least 4 million hectares of land have so far been requested for biofuel production in Tanzania especially for jatropha, sugar cane and palm oil, it has been revealed. A research carried out by Emmanuel Sulle and Fred Nelson both from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) based in London shows that, out of the area only 640,000 ha have so far been allocated and of these, only 100,000 ha have been granted formal rights of occupancy. Apart from that some firms are proposing biofuel projects involving initial investments of up to USD1bn or several billions dollars over the next 10-20 years.

 

According to the researchers, the land obtained or in the process of being obtained by biofuel firms is village land that is not permanently settled but is used for various economic activities. “Much of the land lies in the coastal areas like Bagamoyo, Rufiji, Kilwa and Kisarawe districts and most of it is Miombo woodland with patches of coastal forest and thickets and is generally used for forest-based economic activities, including charcoal production and harvesting products such as traditional medicines, mushrooms, fuelwood, and building materials,” the researchers reveal.

 

Also the Tanzanian and foreign investors have been promoting this surge in biofuel production, although the government has also delayed some projects while the National Biofuel Task Force works to complete formal guidelines (due to be launched this month) for biofuel investments. The research findings show that biofuel production in Tanzania has the potential to provide a substitute for costly oil imports (currently standing at USD1.3-1.6bn per year) of the country’s total foreign exchange earnings.

 

Biofuel also, according to the researchers, has the potential to provide a new source of agricultural income and economic growth in rural areas and a source of improvements in local infrastructure and broader development. It indicates that although many biofuel investments involve large plantations, biofuel production can also be carried out by smallholder’s farmers as well as through outgrowers or local contracted farmer arrangements.

 

Meanwhile, the government will soon start reviewing the legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks to identify existing gaps so that it can formulate a new policy and legislation that will govern the sustainable development of liquid biofuel industry in the country.

 

There is need to conduct review in all the biofuel related legislations because development of the industry involves many sectors, including agriculture, wildlife, forestry, land, environment and minerals.

He said “we need to review all the regulations that touch those sectors because we don’t want to come up with a new policy or law that will have an effect on them”. “To meet those initiatives the ministry is looking for consultants from Dar es salaam and other parts of the country to do the review,” he said, adding, “it has already asked those interested to show interest—and today is the deadline.” Tesha said the output of the review would provide indication to the government on what should be done in terms of developing a new policy or amendment of the existing legislation or both.

“We need them to support us in this context because to formulate a new policy is a long process and as a ministry we have to review all the regulations before formulating a new policy or law to ensure the sustainability of the biofuel sector,” he noted.

 

Although we plan to do it, both foreign and local investors eager to invest in sector, the Ministry has a Biofuel One Stop Centre which provides information and guidance on biofuel investment. The core function of the centre is to monitoring biofuel investment and development, endorsement, coordination and act as a source of information. He said the ministry will soon start distributing the guideline for public consumptions.

‘This month we intend to create a total of 15,000 soft and hard copies of biofuel guidelines and distribute them all over the country free of charge. Besides, we are going to put them in our website so that investors and other people can access them easily,” he said.

Among those, 5000 will be in English version while the remaining 10,000 will be in Kiswahili, he said.

 

 

Tanzania's Tea Sells Cheap As Kenya Tops

10 October 2010 | By Austin

 Almost 14.4 per cent of tea that was offered for sale at the Mombasa tea auction last week was not sold. Offerings during the week had totalled 102,930 packages (6,526,452.90 kilos) against 115,215 packages (7,364,164.00 kilos) for the same period last year. The weekly report on the sale released by the Africa Tea Brokers (ATB), an affiliate of the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) indicates that only 6,116,633.90 million kilogrammes of the commodity was sold at the auction from initial offerings totalling 6,526,452.90 million kilogrammes.

 

During the same period last year, 7,158,866.50 million kilogrammes were sold against 7,364,164 million kilogrammes on offer. According to the report, there was improved general demand for the 6.52 million kilogrammes of the crop which was sold at irregular rates with 14.40 per cent unsold. Kenya sold 4,418,877 million kilogrammes to capture the top slot during last week's sale from offerings totaling 4,693,787 million kilogrammes. The Kenyan tea fetched an average auction price of 2.27 US dollars.

 

Uganda, which had offered 871,697 kilogrammes, managed to sell 779,793.50 kilogrammes at an average price of 1.80 US dollars while Tanzania sold 314,722.90 kilogrammes from initial offerings totaling 332,973.40 kilogrammes at an average price of 1.48 dollars. The average auction price during this auction was 2.14 dollars. Burundi sold 148,562 kilogrammess from offerings totaling 156,894 kilogrammes while Rwanda which had offered 392,585.50 kilogrammes managed to dispose off 372,643.50 kilogrammes. Tea from Burundi was sold at 2.11 dollars while Rwandan tea fetched 2.15 dollars per kilo. Malawi offered 78,516 kilogrammes and managed to sell 77,168 kilogrammes for 1.32 dollars. The report said that Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar did not make any offers during the week under review. During this sale, Sudan reportedly lent strong support with more interest from Egypt and Kazakhstan while Afghanistan also showed big interest on the commodity Other countries which showed interest but at lower levels include Yemen and some other Mid-East countries.

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Pepsi comeback stirs up battle of soft drink titans

 

A Coca-Cola processing plant. The market for soft drinks in Kenya is set for stiff competition following the re-entry of PepsiCo and SABMiller. Photo

Two international soft drinks manufacturing companies have set up local operations in a major shift tipped to shake up the industry currently in the tight grip of global giant Coca-Cola.

 

US multinational Pepsi Cola, and London based SABMiller are in the process of establishing a manufacturing presence in Nairobi even as market data points to a flattening market for soft drinks.

 

PepsiCo, which stopped bottling in Kenya under competitive pressure from Coca-Cola in the 1970s, is putting up a Sh2.4 billion plant off Thika and Baba Dogo roads while SABMiller has taken control of family owned Crown Foods, the bottlers of Keringet brand of drinking water.

 

PepsiCo made a marketing re-entry into Kenya late last year relying on imports to serve the local market with its brands such as Pepsi Cola, Pepsi Diet, Mirinda, Evervess Soda Water and Seven Up. Importing the soft drinks is more expensive than having a local production unit.

 

“We have already recruited 120 Kenyans — engineers, architects and technicians — to handle the development phase. We expect to have about 300 employers on board once it is completed,” said Mr Moldenhauer.

 

In the London and Johannesburg-listed SABMiller, Coke will be facing a familiar operator.

It has franchising deals with the Coca-Cola Company allowing it to bottle and distribute their brands like Fanta, Sprite, Coke and the Minute Maid range of juices.

 

The company also produces its own brands of Appletiser juices, sparkling mineral water, sport and energy drinks.

The Kenya toehold is seen as part of a process to revamp its newly acquired juice and bottled water arm whose current value is Sh934 million.

These revelations may further fuel speculation that the Molo-based Keringet plant may eventually diversify into other soft drinks and cheaper water

products.

Kenya becomes the transnationals’ 12th African market, including its mother home of South Africa.

 

The Gateway To The 380 Million Consumer Market Of The East African Region

The 15th FOODAGRO 2011 - International Trade Exhibition is the largest trade event held annually in Tanzania, the hub of the vast East African market.The exhibition attracts exhibitors from more than 30 countries and visitors from all over East & Central Africa, thus giving exhibitors an excellent opportunity to explore several countries in one time.

 

Over the past few years, Tanzania has emerged as a major regional trade centre. This is mainly due to a very friendly and business like atmosphere it offers to foreign investors and products. Duties are considerably low and re-exports to neighbouring countries are either very low or exempted. Read more about Tanzania..

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Making Farming a Profitable Business

June 29 2011

“I did not know how to organize and manage my farm. I did not know the amount of resources I spent on the farm including labor and when I sold my produce, I did not know if I was making a profit or a loss,” says farmer Felicien Ndayisenga of Gitega in Burundi, one of the many beneficiaries of a business plan training co-organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (TSBF-CIAT) and the Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU) in Burundi.

 

Now he says he views farming as a business venture and plans for all activities and resources required. He religiously keeps records of his production expenses including his own labor and that of his family – inputs that are traditionally not regarded as costs by most farmers. He is also now able to better assess what the buyers want, negotiate for fairer prices for his crops, and properly determine his profit margins.

 

Most small scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, who make up a majority of the population and of the poor, lack proper business and marketing skills. Therefore, they are not able to maximize the benefits of their investments and remain poor despite all their hard work. 

 

To address this, the Consortium for Improved Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA) has been training smallholder farmers to enhance their business and marketing skills to enable them to better manage their farm enterprises and engage with markets to improve their livelihoods.

The training covers a broad spectrum of activities, from basic farm management principles such as farm record keeping and analyzing the profitability of the farm enterprise to identifying good markets and laying out a business plan.

 

According to one of the lead trainers, Emily Ouma, an agricultural economist with IITA, business skill training is very important because it enables farmers to identify lucrative markets,  plan their resources, and fine tune their production according to the demands of the market.

“With the training, these farmers will be able to determine for themselves if they are making profit or not. If they are not, then they will be able to shift strategies. If they are, then they would be able to plan better to increase their profits even more, for example, through value addition such as sorting, grading, processing, and storing their produce, and selling when supply is low and demand is high,” she says.

 

Another facilitator, Eliud Birachi, an agribusiness specialist with of TSBF-CIAT, adds that most smallholder farmers neither keep records nor plan their production, harvesting and sales according to market demand. “Usually they first grow the crops then look for markets,” he says, “It should be the other way around.”

 

“This often leads to a glut in the market and the farmers are forced to sell their produce at markedly lower prices than their production costs. Obviously this results in huge losses for them,” he said.

 

Organizers of the project follow a training-of-trainers approach. Here, staff of government agencies and NGOs are trained and they pass on the knowledge to the farmers as facilitators. So far the project has trained 107 facilitators from Rwanda, DRC and Burundi who come from a diverse group comprised of farmers’ associations, church groups, Eglise Presbytérienne au Rwanda, and local and international NGOs such as Plateform Diobass, Confederation des Associations des Producteurs Agricoles pour le Développement, Agakura Youth Agricultural Project, World Vision, Concern Worldwide Burundi, andLouvain Development and Vredeseilanden-DRC, among others. These facilitators have, in turn, trained over 400 smallholder farmers in the three countries

 

 

Former Presidents of Ghana and Brazil Receive Top World Food Prize

June 24 2011

The world's top honor in food and agriculture this year goes to two former presidents who led dramatic reductions in hunger and poverty in their countries in the past decade.

 

Ghana's President John Agyekum Kufuor and Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva have received the World Food Prize for what the prize citation called "visionary leadership" in reducing poverty and malnutrition.

The world's top honor in food and agriculture this year goes to two former presidents who led dramatic reductions in hunger and poverty in their countries in the past decade.

 

Ghana's President John Agyekum Kufuor and Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva have received the World Food Prize for what the prize citation called "visionary leadership" in reducing poverty and malnutrition.

At a ceremony at the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development chief Rajiv Shah said they demonstrate an important fact about fighting hunger.

 

"As much as the scientists need to work at it, and as much as we need support from so many agricultural experts, at the end of the day political leadership at the highest levels makes the biggest difference," Shah said.

 

During Mr. Kufuor's eight-year term, Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to cut the percentage of hungry people by more than half from 1990 levels. Economic reforms targeting the agricultural sector helped boost the country's economy substantially. And a successful school meal program reaches more than a million primary school children in a country of about nine million kids.

 

President da Silva made breakfast, lunch and dinner for all Brazilians a central goal of his administration. World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn said his "Zero Hunger" policy strengthened family farms, cut poverty, and reduced child malnutrition by about 60 percent.

 

"President Kufuor and President Lula da Silva have set an incredibly powerful example for other political leaders in the world," Quinn said.

Quinn noted that this is the first time in the 25-year history of the World Food Prize that it has been awarded  to heads of government.

The two presidents will share the $250,000 prize, which will be awarded at a ceremony in October in the U.S. state of Iowa.

 

The World Food Prize was established by plant breeder and Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug. Borlaug is considered the father of the Green Revolution, which greatly increased rice and wheat yields and averted famine in Asia in the 1960s.

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Velvet Bean Boosting Harvests in DRC

June 13 2011

“Ever since we started using this plant, we haven’t had any problems with infertile soil. Thanks to the plant, this year our family has produced five bags of groundnuts, whereas in the past, without the Mucuna utilis, we were getting only one and a half or two bags,” says Nicolas Mimpaka, a peasant farmer from Kwenge, 25 kilometres from Kikwit, the capital of the mainly rural province of Bandundu.

 

Smallholder farmers in Bandundu Province are boosting their harvests with the help of the sweetly-named velvet bean.

For some time, farmers in Bandundu, particularly in the Kwilu district, have been battling static or declining agricultural output – not entirely surprising when they were forced to plant on the same land without applying fertiliser or allowing fields a fallow period.

 

But several dozen smallholders in Kwilu have adopted Mucuna utilis – the velvet bean – as a means of protecting soil fertility.

“Ever since we started using this plant, we haven’t had any problems with infertile soil. Thanks to the plant, this year our family has produced five bags of groundnuts, whereas in the past, without the Mucuna utilis, we were getting only one and a half or two bags,” says Nicolas Mimpaka, a peasant farmer from Kwenge, 25 kilometres from Kikwit, the capital of the mainly rural province of Bandundu.

 

Mimpaka and others in the the Kwilu district in the south of the province come to Kikwit to sell their produce – groundnuts, maize, cassava, rice, marrows, beans, and other vegetables – to traders or to transport companies who provide Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, with fresh food.

 

Valuable Cover Crop

The velvet bean has been introduced to the area by the Support to Peasant Farmer Development Initiatives (known by its French acronym, AIPD), an umbrella organisation for agriculture in the area.

 

“From 2008 to 2009, we carried out experiments in the Kwenge and Lukamba regions, and we observed positive results,” says Emmanuel Malenda, an agronomist and one of the managers of AIPD.

 

Mulenda says out of 50 fields under observation during that research period, 45 became more fertile thanks to Mucuna utilis, and produced great quantities of cassava, maize, groundnuts and marrows. The plant is a legume that is grown in conjunction with other plants as a cover crop, a live mulch that helps retain moisture and transfers nitrogen from the air to the soil via its the nodes on its roots.

 

During workshops to promote the plant, agronomist Cyprien Ngeleto highlighted the plant’s useful characteristics. “Mucuna utilis can be planted towards the end of the rainy season, as it is drought resistant. After cultivation, it protects and regenerates the soil, due to the rapid germination of the plant’s seeds over a period of four to six days.”

 

Farmers Enthusiastic

“As agriculture is our livelihood, this plant is helping us a lot. My husband doesn’t have work, but we eat nearly every day,” says Jeanne Mplilikwomo, a Kikwit farmer. She says farming has allowed her to buy her children’s school uniforms and pay their school fees.

 

On a community radio programme, another smallholder, Jeanine Mandondo, comments: “Instead of practising the system of making forests fallow, a system that takes five, six or eight years, we prefer to grow this plant ourselves, and it is definitely the secret to increasing our agricultural production.”

“Six months is enough for Mucuna utilis to fertilise the soil,” adds Robert Manianga, a farmer from Lubungu, another village within a few kilometres of Kikwit.

The velvet bean is quickly securing a place in the farming practice in this corner of Bandundu, where it is contributing to food security and rural livelihoods.

 

 

Improving Agricultural Productivity at the Root

June 24 2011

Every summer, the world’s farmers and gardeners face the sometimes unfortunate reality that the weather is out of their control. Vegetables wilt in the heat, and the rain never seems to come when it’s needed. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where the summer heat is intense and water shortages are common, it can be particularly difficult to keep crops healthy and productive through the growing season.

 

But one innovative company—Roots Sustainable Agriculture Systems Ltd. (Roots Ltd.)—has developed a system that could help farmers beat the heat. The company’s Root Zone Temperature (RZT) Optimization technology uses geothermal energy to enable farmers to control the soil temperature at root zones, increasing plant growth and production dramatically.

 

Every summer, the world’s farmers and gardeners face the sometimes unfortunate reality that the weather is out of their control. Vegetables wilt in the heat, and the rain never seems to come when it’s needed. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where the summer heat is intense and water shortages are common, it can be particularly difficult to keep crops healthy and productive through the growing season.

 

But one innovative company—Roots Sustainable Agriculture Systems Ltd. (Roots Ltd.)—has developed a system that could help farmers beat the heat. The company’s Root Zone Temperature (RZT) Optimization technology uses geothermal energy to enable farmers to control the soil temperature at root zones, increasing plant growth and production dramatically.

 

Using a low-pressure pump that can be powered easily by a solar panel, water is circulated from an above-ground tank into a system of pipes buried nearly two meters underground that acts like a radiator. In the summer, the ground cools the water, and in the winter, it warms it. The water is circulated back to closed pipes embedded beneath the vegetable rows, cooling or warming the roots before it returns to the tank for re-use.

 

By maintaining plant roots at an optimal range of 22–30 degrees Celsius, this system can increase the rate of carbon dioxide exchange in plants, as well as the transport of sugars from leaves to roots, boosting plant growth. In trials conducted by Roots Ltd. on Israeli farms between 2007 and 2010, the system successfully raised yields of strawberries, cucumbers, and peppers and helped crops reach maturity earlier.

 

Roots Ltd. has developed a similar technology that irrigates crops via condensation. Instead of going through an underground radiator, the water is pumped through a solar-powered unit that chills it. The chilled water is then circulated through un-perforated pipes next to the plants, causing water vapor in the air to condense on the pipes, just as it would on a glass of ice water. The condensation then drips off, simultaneously irrigating and cooling the crops. By utilizing water from the air, the system conserves water supplies elsewhere.

 

These innovations can be used on both covered and uncovered crops, require very little energy, and can operate “off the grid,” meaning that they can be installed in remote locations. Following installation, costs are minimal and upkeep is simple, making the systems inexpensive and viable options for small farmers in developing countries. By keeping it cool (and hot) Roots Ltd.’s technologies could help smallholder farmers grow more food at less cost.

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Quality inputs for Kenya's farmers

April 18 2011

The government of Kenya is helping poorly resourced farmers gain access to quality fertiliser, which will boost their crop yields and address the pressing issue of food security in the East African nation

Through the initiative, the Ministry of Agriculture will sell 1.5-million bags of fertiliser to the producers at a subsidised rate.

 

Aiding crop cultivation
David Wanjala, a Rift Valley province monitoring and evaluation officer, said: "If every farmer uses fertiliser in farming, we will automatically achieve high production of food and the problem of food insecurity and low income will be dealt with satisfactorily."

 

The government will supply diamonium phosphate (DAP), calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) and nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) fertilisers to National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots countrywide.

The subsidised fertiliser will be far more affordable than other brands on the market of the same quality. It will be clearly marked "Government of Kenya Fertiliser" and will not be allowed to be sold for profit by private retailers.

 

 

 

To access the subsidised fertiliser, farmers need a local agricultural officer to come and evaluate their farms to see how many bags are needed. After the farm is evaluated, farmers are able to go to NCPB depots to purchase the goods.Romano Kiome, the permanent secretary for the agriculture ministry, said: "Special arrangements would be made to take the farm inputs closer to farmers living in interior areas." Kiome also warned that those found trading in the fertiliser would be prosecuted.

Wanjala said: "A 50kg bag of subsidised fertiliser retails at 2 500 shillings (US$30), while the market price for a similar bag is 3 400 shillings ($40)."

 

Kenyan agriculture
The Kenyan farming community is overseen by the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, which helps facilitate the production of food and agricultural raw materials in order to find ways to advance food security in the country and to make sure farmers are able to earn a living.

The ministry has various corporations that are involved in different aspects of agriculture, including the Agricultural Finance Corporation, which finances agricultural programmes; the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, which researches better agricultural productivity to secure food security in the country; the Cotton Development Authority, which coordinates the cotton industry of the country; and the Kenya Seed Company, which facilitates the supply of high quality seeds to farmers.

 

African agriculture lacking resources
Many parts of Africa have a favourable climate and fertile soil, making agriculture well suited to the area, however, the right equipment and expertise is often lacking - and food security is not always guaranteed.

South Africa's Standard Bank is determined to make food security a sustainable reality in Africa. In 2009 it decided to help all categories of farmers in the countries in which it operates, prioritising those in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda and Zambia. Next it will assist producers in Mozambique and Tanzania.

 

Jacques Taylor, Standard Bank Africa's director of agricultural banking, said: "The changing landscape patterns in Africa have created opportunities for agriculture on the continent.

 

"Countries have been rated on the basis of risk factors, which include good infrastructure, economy, stable macro-economic and political environment, trading across borders and agribusiness potential."

 

Standard Bank also provides tractors and fertiliser to farmers to make African producers more effective and thus more competitive.

 

 

Ivorian rubber to boom on China demand

29-Jan-10


Ivory Coast's rubber output is rising and will jump next year as soaring demand from China encourages its farmers to switch from growing cocoa and coffee.

 

"Production has increased slightly this year ... after 2010 it is going to rise sharply as thousands of hectares of new plantations come in," Akpangni Attobra, general secretary of the Ivorian natural rubber association (APROMAC), told Reuters in an interview.

 

Attobra said demand from China was far in excess of Ivory Coast's ability to meet it.

"We have no problem with our markets -- all our produce is being sold," he said. "Chinese demand is getting stronger and stronger. A lot of Chinese clients are coming here to see us for supplies but we are failing to meet their demand."

Ivory Coast is expecting to produce 218,000 tonnes of natural rubber in 2010, up from 205,000 in 2009, and output should rise sharply afterwards as new rubber plantations come on tap, he added.

 

 

Ivory Coast is Africa's leading producer of natural rubber.

 

It planted some 3,000 hectares (7,413 acres) of new rubber plantations between May and July as part of a long-term policy of increasing rubber output to 600,000 tonnes of rubber per year by 2025, Attobra said.

 

The West African country is also the world's top cocoa grower, but farmers complain of volatile prices and irregular payments for the cocoa beans they produce. Rubber is seen by many as more attractive because of a regular monthly harvest.

Attobra said 8,000 hectares of new rubber plantations would be planted in 2010, subsidised by the state.

"We have already begun to select farmers who are interested in benefiting from this project," Attobra added.

 

He added that the number of factories for processing rubber rose last year to 11 from 8 in 2008, but local processing remained just 5 percent of the total market.

A plan to produce tyres locally had not yet taken off.

"The country has not set up industrial units to manufacture the tires because they are heavy industries that require much investment," Attobra said.

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Israel predicts booming agriculture for Kenya

29-Jan-10

Ivory Coast's rubber output is rising and will jump next year as soaring demand from China encourages its farmers to switch from growing cocoa and coffee.

 

"Production has increased slightly this year ... after 2010 it is going to rise sharply as thousands of hectares of new plantations come in," Akpangni Attobra, general secretary of the Ivorian natural rubber association (APROMAC), told Reuters in an interview.

 

Attobra said demand from China was far in excess of Ivory Coast's ability to meet it.

 

"We have no problem with our markets -- all our produce is being sold," he said. "Chinese demand is getting stronger and stronger. A lot of Chinese clients are coming here to see us for supplies but we are failing to meet their demand."

Ivory Coast is expecting to produce 218,000 tonnes of natural rubber in 2010, up from 205,000 in 2009, and output should rise sharply afterwards as new rubber plantations come on tap, he added.

 

Ivory Coast is Africa's leading producer of natural rubber.

 

It planted some 3,000 hectares (7,413 acres) of new rubber plantations between May and July as part of a long-term policy of increasing rubber output to 600,000 tonnes of rubber per year by 2025, Attobra said.

 

The West African country is also the world's top cocoa grower, but farmers complain of volatile prices and irregular payments for the cocoa beans they produce. Rubber is seen by many as more attractive because of a regular monthly harvest.

Attobra said 8,000 hectares of new rubber plantations would be planted in 2010, subsidised by the state.

"We have already begun to select farmers who are interested in benefiting from this project," Attobra added.

 

He added that the number of factories for processing rubber rose last year to 11 from 8 in 2008, but local processing remained just 5 percent of the total market.

A plan to produce tyres locally had not yet taken off.

"The country has not set up industrial units to manufacture the tires because they are heavy industries that require much investment," Attobra said.

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