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Africa needs more contract farming schemes to reduce food import bill

AFRICA has been gradually turning into a net importer of food, as countries have continuously failed to produce enough to cover their consumption needs.

Although agriculture remains the mainstay of many economies in the region, a consistently growing population and a little diversifying agricultural sector has seen an increase in demand for food, which cannot be met locally.

The continent is abundantly endowed with approximately 50 percent of the world’s uncultivated land, abundant fertile soils and favourable climate.

Yet it still fails to feed itself, depending mostly on imports.

Grains top the list of foods that Africa imports, especially wheat, rice and maize.

However, due to the massive volumes that are traded on the global market every year, grains attract more traders and speculators resulting in volatile prices.

But this has not deterred African countries that continue to buy.

A Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-CS) meeting held last year, revealed that Africa spends approximately US$15 billion every year on grain imports.

SARD-CS co-ordinator, Dr Solomon Assefa, said it was unfortunate that Africa was spending billions of dollars to import food when it had the potential to be self-sufficient.

“Africa has huge arable land but cannot meet its potential. About 49 percent of the population in the region is living on less than US$1.20 per day. By addressing productivity, we will ensure people have decent lives. The US$15 billion being spent by Africa on importing food can be spent on other developmental programmes,” he said.

Market watchers have said Africa cannot reach its full economic potential without food security. They say the continent will remain poor as long as it continues to depend on other nations for food it can grow in its backyard.

And how can Africa address food self-sufficiency?

To be able to do this, there is need for greater private sector participation in the agricultural sector. If the private sector can join hands with government to come up with out-grower schemes that will benefit both the farmers and the company, economies will automatically benefit from a reduced import bill.

And contract farming is nothing new. It has existed since time immemorial.

In ancient Greece, the practice was widespread, with specified percentages of particular crops being a means of paying tithes, rents and debts. China and the United States also had such a practice at the turn of the century.

The concept has over the years been modified to benefit both the farmer and the contractor instead of favouring one partner.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the contract farming system should be seen as a partnership between agribusiness and farmers.

“To be successful, it requires long-term commitment from both parties. Exploitative arrangements by managers are likely to have only a limited duration and can jeopardise agribusiness investments. Similarly, farmers need to consider that honouring contractual arrangements is likely to be to their long-term benefit,” FAO said in a 2014 report.

One such arrangement has seen Dangote Group coming in to fund rice production in Nigeria.

Earlier this month, the group announced that its subsidiary Dangote Rice will launch a multi-million-naira rice out-grower scheme in Nigeria’s Sokoto state.

Dangote Rice projects when operational, are expected to generate a “significant number of jobs and increase income for smallholder farmers, all while diversifying Nigeria’s economy and reducing the nation’s food import bill”.

Official statistics in Nigeria show that rice demand stood at 6.3 million metric tons in 2015 but local production has been failing to satisfy that demand, only reaching 2.3 million tonnes.

The gap of about 4 million tonnes left by local production has been filled through rice imports.

Nigeria, along with South Africa, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania and Angola are the continent’s top rice buyers, contributing to an import bill of more than US$3.5 billion every year.

But Africa has been growing rice for more than 3,500 years but due to the huge demand, local producers fail to meet demand.

So, if more companies can invest in rice production, the continent can significantly reduce that import bill.

Wheat has been part of the African every-day diet for decades. Wheat flour is used by bakeries and food processors across the continent to make bread, noodles, biscuits and several other pastries.

Up to 85 percent of wheat consumed in Africa is imported so Africa spends no less than US$6 billion on imports every year.

The leading importers are Nigeria, South Africa and Angola.

While Zimbabwe’s import bill is small compared to these big economies, it is still necessary to mention it.

Agro-processing firm, National Foods, has been investing into contract farming for wheat production, but this has not been enough to improve production to meet Zimbabwe’s requirement of between 350,000 and 450,000 tonnes of wheat per year.

This means that there is need for more firms to contribute towards wheat productions if that is to happen.

Contract farming schemes are also needed in maize production, which is a staple food for over 500 million Africans.

Africa produces roughly 50 million tonnes of maize every year, but still imports nearly 30 percent of its maize consumption. This is largely because most maize is rain-fed making it susceptible to droughts, as was the case last year when most parts of the continent, especially Southern Africa, were hit by the El Niño-induced drought.

More agribusinesses need to take up such schemes and correct the continent’s ineffective grain supply value chains.

This includes production, processing and marketing.

We have already seen such organisation in the brewing industry in Africa, which has been growing tremendously with several companies contracting farmers to grow their sorghum, barley, cassava and other grains used in beer production.

In Uganda, contract farming of sorghum for brewing purposes was first pioneered in 2008 by SABMiller. Sorghum-based beer now accounts for half of SABMiller’s 55 percent share of the Ugandan beer market.

In Zimbabwe, Delta Beverages last year injected more than US$4 million into its Beverages Sorghum Contract Farming Scheme (BSCFS) and received about 15,675 tonnes of the grain, which was more than enough to meet its annual requirement of 15,000 tonnes.

So if there is the same organisation in out-grower schemes for food crops, as there is in the brewing industry, we can begin to see a shift in Africa’s need to import.

Source: southernafrican

Do We Really Need To Double Food Production To Feed The World By 2050?

For nearly a decade, an oft-repeated factoid holds that, to feed a growing world population, food production needs to double by 2050.

A new study from Penn State, though, calls that figure into question—not so much disproving the fact, but modulating it to give us more of a holistic view of the way the entire agriculture system will have to change. Well, also, the study sort of disproves the double-by-2050 fact. According to the study, that figure is more like an increase of 25-70%.

The “double food production by 2050” assertion dates back originally to 2009, from a study done by the UN, as well as another one done by an ecologist from the University of Minnesota. But that claim is limited in its scope as it looks specifically at population growth over time and compared to the number of sheer calories needed. That’s a nice baseline figure, but, say the Penn State researchers, it isn’t quite the whole story—and if we’re going to actually feed the planet, we need the whole story.

By reviewing all kinds of environmental and agricultural trends, the Penn State researchers find a few interesting things. First of all, the 2009 study was based on 2005 data, and production hasn’t stood still since then; it’s increased, so we no longer have to double our current production. At best, we’d have to double the 2005 production, which is, depending on which study you’re looking at, somewhere between a 26 and 68 percent increase from the most recent figures, done in 2014.

But even that still doesn’t give us the full picture, because, say the Penn State researchers, it doesn’t include environmental and health impacts of farming. A proper timeline to feed the world population would have to include stuff like reducing water pollution, reducing emissions, and maintaining nutrients in soil. Without taking those environmental factors into consideration, we’d eventually drive ourselves off a cliff: with a damaged environment, returns would begin to diminish, and huge sections of arable land would become un-farmable, thus throwing off any reasonable calculations.

It’s an interesting study, one that’s far from simply trying to prove some oft-cited math wrong. Instead, they’re looking to not only to figure out how to feed the world in 2050—but also in 2051, 2052, and beyond.

Source: modernfarmer

Become a member of the African Agri Council and benefit at our Indaba

In partnership with WESGRO and the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, the African Agri Council invites you to attend the 2016 African Agri Investment Indaba. All African Agri Council members will receive a discount of R 1,000 ($100) on the registration fee by simply quoting the code: AAC.

In addition to the Investment discovery sessions, the Indaba will include an interactive exhibition, a dynamic programme and excellent networking opportunities.

Numerous expert speakers will be presenting including:

  • Senzeni Zokwana – Minister, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, South Africa
  • MEC Alan Winde – Minister of Economic Opportunities, Western Cape Government, South Africa
  • MEC Lebogang Maile – MEC, Gauteng Department of Economic, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development, South Africa
  • Yemi Akinbamijo – Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa – FARA, Ghana
  • Nigel Chanakira – Chairman, Zimbabwe Investment Authority, Zimbabwe
  • John Mutunga – Chief Executive Officer, Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF), Kenya
  • Nhlanhla Nene – Resident Advisor, Thebe Investment Corporation and Non-Executive Board Member, Allan Gray, South Africa
  • John Purchase – Chief Executive Officer, Agricultural Business Chamber (AgBiz), South Africa

The programme will cover key topics across the entire agri value chain such as agri-processing, manufacturing, food processing, farming, investment opportunities and many more. For more information, please view our brochure.

With all the market leading solutions vying for attention, all African Agri Council members will receive a 25% discount on exhibition and sponsorship packages, allowing you to position yourself as market leaders. The AAC has allocated a pavilion at a prime position for its members – only 10 stands available! View the floorplan here.

We look forward to welcoming you to the African Agri Investment Indaba next month.

For enquiries, contact Spell Sigxaxhe: +27 21 700 5511 or spell.sigxaxhe@agricouncil.org

Source: agricouncil

SA farmers must embrace the new, water-constrained normal

As the impact of an extended period of drought across much of South Africa and the Southern African Region continues to be felt, the realisation is setting in amongst both commercial and small-scale farmers that a water-constrained environment is no longer a short-term challenge but could, in fact, become their new normal.

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While this realisation is also dawning amongst agriculture stakeholders across much of the planet, it’s a reality that is particularly difficult for farmers in SA to deal with. That’s because they’re already challenged by having to operate in an environment of very low water supply per capita, compared to most other countries, not to mention an extremely low ratio of annual rainfall to annual water run-off. In fact, research done by WWF-SA showed that only about 9% of rainfall actually makes it into our rivers.

Since irrigated agriculture already accounts for more than 60% of SA’s total water usage, it’s highly unlikely that farming is set to enjoy a higher allocation of this scarce, vital resource anytime soon. In fact, the opposite is probably true. National government has declared its intention to significantly expand irrigation-based crop farming land use in the country, but no increased allocation in water rights have been specifically earmarked for this purpose.

A shift in farming mindset required

Clearly then, the onus now falls on SA’s agriculture sector – and its commercial farmers in particular – to shift the farming mindset from one of water usage to water stewardship, and proactively embrace more water-friendly technologies, practices, and attitudes.

The latter is arguably the most important paradigm shift that has to take place in order for agriculture in SA to achieve the levels of sustainability required. In previous eras, it has been acceptable for farmers to focus more on the profitability and yield potential of crops than on how thirsty they were. Today, the picture is vastly different, and profit margins have to be carefully balanced with water demand considerations of crops. That’s not to say that farmers with established water-intensive crops like tree nut or citrus orchards need to pull up their orchards and replace them with water-friendly alternatives. But where new farms or crops are to be established, indigenous or water-wise crops should now take precedence over high-profit, water intensive options.

There is also much that farmers with existing non-water-wise crops can do to lessen their impact and dependence on water. In many cases, achieving this merely requires a willingness to challenge practices that have been passed down for generations. It may also involve some short-term financial investment into water saving technology, but this will almost certainly deliver long-term sustainability returns.

One prime example of this change in mindset is being willing to invest time, effort and capital in converting a farming operation from spray to drip irrigation.

Then there are of course also the proven water and soil preservation benefits of shifting from the historically accepted practice of seasonal tilling of farmland to a low-till or no-till farming approach.

The bottom line is that there is so much information and technology available to farmers today, that there really is no excuse for anyone to be practicing farming methods that involve excessive amounts of water usage or wastage. And the simple truth is that only those farmers who are willing to invest the time and effort into learning how best to manage their farm’s water requirements will be the ones who are still in business, and producing, a decade from now.

The future of SA farming rests on emerging farmers

While it’s relatively easy for large-scale commercial farms to invest in water management technology and processes, the future of SA farming undoubtedly rests on the long-term success potential of its growing contingent of emerging farmers. In this regard, the industry has a clear responsibility to educate, enable and support this vital agriculture sector when it comes to instilling an attitude of water stewardship and effective water management at the outset.

Key to this large-scale adoption of water-efficient practices is the understanding by farmers – established and emerging – that managing water more effectively is not just a green consideration, it has become a prerequisite for ensuring long-term economic viability. For SA’s farmers the bottom line is that, when it comes to water usage, there is no longer a place for business as usual. The new, water-constrained ‘normal’ demands an absolute commitment to water efficiency – even if that means drastically changing the way they farm.
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Web TV aims to boost youth interest in African farming

Ouagadougou – With the logo of his internet TV station on his black T-shirt, Inoussa Maiga energetically plucks corn stalks in northern Burkina Faso for a programme on farming in Africa.

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Maiga, 30, launched Agribusiness TV in May in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, determined to change poor opinions about agricultural work held by African youth and to help develop the continent.

“All those who went to school up to a certain level consider going back to the land as a failure, as something demeaning. Yet and we see it every day in our broadcasts, there are many opportunities for young people,” he says.

In Bagre, 245 kilometres (150 miles) north of the city, Maiga has found one of the unusual topics he likes to promote: a teacher who gives classes in maths while raising pigs and growing maize, rice and groundnuts.

Other characteristic subjects are a woman in Benin with a degree in banking and finance who works in a “man’s universe of crop production” and an inventor of helpful machines for agricultural cooperatives in Togo.

The TV channel, available on the web and mobile phones, has steadily garnered a network of correspondents in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mali and Togo, with Mauritius next on the agenda.

‘Maximum age of 40

The editorial stance of Agribusiness TV has clear rules.

Features focus on people of “a maximum age of 40” who have a “pretty interesting” background in farming, stock-breeding and other “different links in the food chain”, Maiga explains.

Programmes can cover “food processing, green jobs, everything related to the environment and the business of sustainable agriculture”.

“We want people whose careers can inspire other people,” says the broadcaster, who set up the enterprise with his wife Nawsheen Hosenally.

Himself the son of a peasant farmer, Inoussa studied at the University of Ouagadougou, where he specialised in communications for development before founding Agribusiness TV.

He seeks “above all to showcase young Africans who are courageously committed to agriculture, who invest in the area, and possibly to bring a different outlook among young Africans to this sector,” he says, calling it “the motor for the development of African economies”.

‘Massive youth unemployment’

“When you look at the economic structure of our countries, you see that it’s in agriculture where one can create the most jobs and fight massive youth unemployment,” adds Inoussa.

“We want to spotlight young people who are doing interesting things. We seek to motivate and encourage those who would like to start out in agriculture. May this inspire them!”

Inoussa’s work won support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a joint institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states and the European Union.

The CTA provided funding worth 58 000 euros ($65 000) to help launch Agribusiness TV. Inoussa came up with a further 65 000 euros from his own communications firm.

Hosenally also works full time on the channel. She translates material into English and deals with technical aspects of putting broadcasts online and managing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The founders surpassed their aims during the first year, with 45 000 fans on Facebook and about 800 000 viewers for their broadcasts. The website is bilingual, full of videos and a blog.

But on a continent where internet access remains patchy, the founders of Agribusiness TV are happy to make their videos available to various associations to be shown in rural settings.

“We project videos ourselves when we’re invited to conferences or meetings with players in the rural world,” says Inoussa, who hopes that his channel will benefit from the gradual progress of the internet in Africa.

“Every day, at least 15 people get in touch with us asking for the contact details of such and such an entrepreneur to whom we devoted a video,” Hosenally says.

“We’re also encouraged by the messages and the comments we receive each day,” adds Inoussa.

“These are videos that inspire people, we get a lot of feedback from the entrepreneurs we meet. Some of them tell us about contracts they have signed thanks to our work.

“All this gives hope.”

Agribusiness TV is available in French and English on dedicated apps for smartphone at www.agribusinesstv.info.
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Web TV aims to boost youth interest in African farming

Ouagadougou – With the logo of his internet TV station on his black T-shirt, Inoussa Maiga energetically plucks corn stalks in northern Burkina Faso for a programme on farming in Africa.

Maiga, 30, launched Agribusiness TV in May in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, determined to change poor opinions about agricultural work held by African youth and to help develop the continent.

“All those who went to school up to a certain level consider going back to the land as a failure, as something demeaning. Yet and we see it every day in our broadcasts, there are many opportunities for young people,” he says.

In Bagre, 245 kilometres (150 miles) north of the city, Maiga has found one of the unusual topics he likes to promote: a teacher who gives classes in maths while raising pigs and growing maize, rice and groundnuts.

Other characteristic subjects are a woman in Benin with a degree in banking and finance who works in a “man’s universe of crop production” and an inventor of helpful machines for agricultural cooperatives in Togo.

The TV channel, available on the web and mobile phones, has steadily garnered a network of correspondents in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mali and Togo, with Mauritius next on the agenda.

‘Maximum age of 40

The editorial stance of Agribusiness TV has clear rules.

Features focus on people of “a maximum age of 40” who have a “pretty interesting” background in farming, stock-breeding and other “different links in the food chain”, Maiga explains.

Programmes can cover “food processing, green jobs, everything related to the environment and the business of sustainable agriculture”.

“We want people whose careers can inspire other people,” says the broadcaster, who set up the enterprise with his wife Nawsheen Hosenally.

Himself the son of a peasant farmer, Inoussa studied at the University of Ouagadougou, where he specialised in communications for development before founding Agribusiness TV.

He seeks “above all to showcase young Africans who are courageously committed to agriculture, who invest in the area, and possibly to bring a different outlook among young Africans to this sector,” he says, calling it “the motor for the development of African economies”.

‘Massive youth unemployment’

“When you look at the economic structure of our countries, you see that it’s in agriculture where one can create the most jobs and fight massive youth unemployment,” adds Inoussa.

“We want to spotlight young people who are doing interesting things. We seek to motivate and encourage those who would like to start out in agriculture. May this inspire them!”

Inoussa’s work won support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a joint institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states and the European Union.

The CTA provided funding worth 58 000 euros ($65 000) to help launch Agribusiness TV. Inoussa came up with a further 65 000 euros from his own communications firm.

Hosenally also works full time on the channel. She translates material into English and deals with technical aspects of putting broadcasts online and managing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The founders surpassed their aims during the first year, with 45 000 fans on Facebook and about 800 000 viewers for their broadcasts. The website is bilingual, full of videos and a blog.

But on a continent where internet access remains patchy, the founders of Agribusiness TV are happy to make their videos available to various associations to be shown in rural settings.

“We project videos ourselves when we’re invited to conferences or meetings with players in the rural world,” says Inoussa, who hopes that his channel will benefit from the gradual progress of the internet in Africa.

“Every day, at least 15 people get in touch with us asking for the contact details of such and such an entrepreneur to whom we devoted a video,” Hosenally says.

“We’re also encouraged by the messages and the comments we receive each day,” adds Inoussa.

“These are videos that inspire people, we get a lot of feedback from the entrepreneurs we meet. Some of them tell us about contracts they have signed thanks to our work.

“All this gives hope.”

Agribusiness TV is available in French and English on dedicated apps for smartphone at www.agribusinesstv.info.
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African hunger policy silent on climate risks

A deal aimed to double agricultural production and end hunger in Africa has underestimated the impact climate change will have on the continent’s food production, a report has found.

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The African Union’s Malabo Declaration, adopted in 2014, fails to push for investments in Africa’s scientific capacity to combat climate threats, according to a report produced by the UK-based Agriculture for Impact and launched in Rwanda this month (14 June). “Food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart”, says Gordon Conway, director of Agriculture for Impact.

Ousmane Badiane, director of Africa at the US-headquartered International Food Policy Research Institute, and a Montpellier Panel member, tells SciDev.Net that: “African smallholder farmers are among the most vulnerable groups to the effects of climate change globally, and they are already feeling the effects.”

He explains that the Malabo Declaration seeks to make 30 percent of farming, pastoral and fisher households resilient to climate change by 2025. It also plans on scaling-up climate-smart agriculture practices that have been shown to work.

Badiane adds that many innovative agricultural practices and programmes are already taking place across Africa, but these can be small in scale and may remain largely unknown. “There is an urgent need for these to be identified and scaled up, with support from both the private and public sectors,” he says. “Governments need to build climate change adaptation and mitigation into their agricultural policies.”

The report highlights 15 success stories from countries such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia. These include technology and innovation, risk mitigation, and sustainable intensification of agriculture and financing.

Badiane tells SciDev.Net: “It is important that African governments have a voice in the international discussions and commitments on climate change. They also need better access to climate funds such as the Green Climate Funds that can help to implement climate-smart programmes.”

Shem O. Wandiga, acting director, Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation of Kenya’s University of Nairobi, says that the declaration acknowledges the threats posed by climate change but does not recognise the need to integrate resilience into the activities of governments. “No progress towards the goals of the declaration can be achieved without sound scientific knowledge,” he says. “Such knowledge cannot be borrowed. This is often ignored by African governments.”
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Africa: New Protocol Aims to Cut Trillion-Dollar Food Waste Bill

Four years ago, 27-year-old Tsering Dorji of western Bhutan’s Satsam village took to organic vegetable farming. Since then, thanks to composted manure and organic pesticide, the soil health of his farm has improved, and the yield has increased manifold.

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Dorji, once a subsistence farmer, now has about 60 bags of surplus food every two months to sell and earn a profit. But come the rainy season and he still loses thousands of rupees carrying his produce to markets that are miles away.

“Vegetables like radish, carrot and cucumber often break and tomatoes get squashed when I transport them. So I have to either sell them for [the deeply discounted price of ] 5-10 rupees a kg or just throw them away. This is very a hard time for me,” Dorji told IPS.

The young farmer is not alone. The world over, but especially in developing countries, farmers lose millions of dollars due to food loss. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the total bill for food loss and food waste is a whooping 940 billion dollars a year.

The scenario could, however, change significantly in coming years courtesy of a new global mechanism called the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard. Launched at the 4th Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) a two-day conference held in Copenhagen from June 6-7, this is a protocol to map the extent and the reasons for food loss and food waste across the world.

The conference, which brought together governments, investors, corporations, NGOs and research organisations, termed it a great ‘breakthrough” – one that could lead to effective control and prevention of global food loss and food waste.

“The new Food Loss and Waste Standard will reduce economic losses for the consumer and the food industry, alleviate the pressure on natural resources and contribute to realising the ambitious goals set out in the SDGs, “said Christian Jensen, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Denmark, launching the protocol.

The protocol

The Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW) has been developed jointly by the Consumer Goods Forum, the FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Specific guidelines for how the standard will instruct countries and companies to measure their food waste are still being drafted, but the protocol includes three components.

The first is that the standard includes modular definitions of food waste that change based on what an entity’s end goal is – so if a country is interested in curbing food waste to fight food insecurity, its definition of food waste will be different than a country looking to curb food waste to fight climate change.

Secondly, the standard includes diverse quantification options, which will allow a country or company with fewer financial or technical resources to obtain a general picture of their food loss and waste.

And finally, the standard is meant to be flexible enough to evolve over time, as understanding of food waste, quantification methods, and available data improves.

Sustainable Development Goal 12.3

Food loss and waste has significant economic, social, and environmental consequences. According to the FAO, a third of the food produced in the world is lost while transporting it from where it is produced to where it is eaten, even as 800 million people remain malnourished.

In short, food loss increases hunger. The lost and wasted food also consumes about one quarter of all water used by agriculture and, in terms of land use, uses cropland area the size of China, besides generating about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addresses this he global food challenge by seeking to halve per capita food waste and reduce food losses by 2030.

The FLW Protocol can help steer the movement forward, say UN officials. According to Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the protocol could not only help understand just how much food is “not making it to our mouths, but will help set a baseline for action”.

The protocol has also triggered the interest of business leaders like the world’s largest food company, Nestle. “What gets measured can be managed. At Nestle, we will definitely benefit significantly by using the standard to help us address our own food loss and waste,” said Michiel Kernkamp, Nestle Nordic Market chief.

Benefiting the poorest growers

But can the FLW protocol benefit the smallest and the poorest of the food producers in the developing countries who lack modern technology, innovation, and regular finance and are surrounded by multiple climate vulnerabilities such as flood, drought, salinity and other natural disasters?

“Yes,” says Khalid Bomba, CEO of Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency.

The protocol, by identifying the pockets of food loss, can highlight the areas that need urgent intervention, he says.

“For ordinary proof producers, food loss happens for a number of reasons such as lack of innovative tools, improved seeds, market opportunity and climate change. The new protocol can be a tool to find out how much losses are happening due to each of these reasons. Once this data is collected, it can be shared with the NGOs and the business communities. Accordingly, they can decide how and where they want to intervene and what solutions they want to apply.”

Bomba, however, cautions that the protocol should not be mistaken for a solution. “This protocol in itself cannot end food loss. It is just a tool to understand the problem better and find the appropriate solution.”

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World’s First Off-Grid ReGen Village Will Be Completely Self-Sufficient Producing Its Own Power and Food

ReGen Villages, a completely self-sufficient village that can power and feed itself, is rising across Europe—and hopefully, one day, around the world.

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ReGen Villages Holding, B.V., a visionary real estate development company founded by entrepreneur and developer James Ehrlich, is piloting its first 100 homes across 15,500-square-meters in the planned city of Almere in The Netherlands with construction set for this summer. The company is also developing four other eco-villages in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany and has partnered with Copenhagen-based architectural firm EFFEKT as the global architectural framework company.

The village features a slew of already-existing green technologies such as energy-positive homes, mixed renewable energy sources, energy storage, organic food production, vertical farming, and aquaponics, water management and waste-to-resource systems. ReGen itself stands for “regenerative,” an apt name for a village that aims to have its input and output entirely full circle.

“Today we spend 40 percent of the surface of our continents producing food,” EFFEKT co-founder Sinus Lynge explained to DW. “Food production is the single largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, the biggest driver of deforestation and responsible for 70 percent of our global freshwater consumption. We ship our food from one end of the world to another just to waste 30 percent of the total production before consumption.”

The village’s pre-fabricated homes are enveloped in a glass shell to protect the building from area’s cold and wet climate. The units also include passive heating and cooling systems, built-in solar panels, a garden and water collection. Household waste can be composted or converted into biogas.

effekthouses

ReGen homes are encased in glass to protect itself from the elements. Now thats truly a greenhouse. Photo credit: EFFEKT

As for food production, the village will host aquaponic and vertical farms. Both urban farming methods require much less space compared to traditional farming methods, meaning they have minimal impact on the surrounding area’s forests and fields and will help preserve its natural beauty.

Public areas in the village also include electric car stations, space for livestock, communal dining and community centers.

“ReGen Villages is all about applied technology,” the company points out on its website. “Already existing technologies are simply being applied into an integrated community design, providing clean energy, water and food right off the doorstep. ReGen Villages adds not only environmental and financial value, but also social value, by creating a framework for empowering families and developing a sense of community, where people become part of a shared local eco-system: reconnecting people with nature and consumption with production.”

According to Gizmag, funding for villages has come from investors who have been looking to divest from fossil fuels “into impact and knowledge-based investments.” The company is also working with national and local municipalities that support the project.

verticalgardeneffekt

On-site vertical farms produce hyperlocal organic food. Photo credit: EFFEKT

Lynge told DW that if all goes to plan, the first ReGen Village is just the beginning. “We are launching our prototype in Almere, Holland, but the big potential for ReGen lies in developing countries, where billions are moving away from rural communities in search of better living conditions,” he said.

Ehrlich explained, “We tackle the first two hardest climate areas [wet and cold]. Then from there we have global scale—rural India, sub-Saharan Africa, where we know that the population is going to increase and also be moving to the middle class. If everybody in India and Africa wants the same kind of suburbs that we’ve been building so far, the planet’s not going to make it.”

area

The off-grid neighborhood is comprised of power positive homes, food production units, renewable energy facilities, water management and waste-to-resource systems, and community areas. Photo credit: EFFEKT

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Africa needs best and brightest to embrace agriculture as a career

EVERY year, thousands of young Africans join an exodus from their families’ small, often struggling, farms in the countryside. Their dream — sometimes fulfilled, often not — is to find a more rewarding and stimulating life in the continent’s rapidly growing cities. Few return, but even fewer ever completely sever their ties.

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It’s a complicated connection and one I deeply understand. My own exodus to the city as a young man opened up a lifetime of opportunity that culminated with serving as president of Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. But not only did I retain my ties to agriculture, I have now returned to my roots. I’m a farmer again — at Obasanjo Farms Limited — and I’ve never been happier.

Working the land once more has given me a better perspective on two of the biggest challenges facing Africa today: how do we provide employment opportunities to the millions of young Africans, who are the world’s largest population of people under 25 years of age so they can stay in the village and farm? And how do we put an end to the seemingly endless cycles of food crises that are, as I write, playing out again with dismaying familiarity in parts of eastern and southern Africa?

Fortunately, more and more Africans like myself are seeing these issues as intertwined. We see agribusiness as Africa’s biggest opportunity to not only end hunger and malnutrition, but also as Africa’s best hope for generating income and employment, particularly in rural regions. The World Bank estimates that by 2030, demand for food in our rapidly growing urban areas will create a market for food products worth US $1 trillion. This market needs to be owned and operated by African farmers, African agriculture businesses and African food companies.

But one thing is clear to me as I return to farming: to achieve its potential, African agriculture needs a fresh infusion of innovation and talent.

I have many fond memories of my childhood in a small farming settlement near Abeokuta, the capital of Nigeria´s Ogun State. By the age of five, I was accompanying my papa to the fields where we grew cassava, maize, plantain, oil palm and other crops. A proud Yoruba man, my father was considered the most successful farmer in our village. While living with few modern amenities, we grew plenty of food, and we enjoyed the cultural wealth of our Yoruba traditions and history.

Ultimately, this way of life was unable to withstand pressures that would soon intensify — population growth, political turmoil, land scarcity and soil degradation.

Today, African farmers need several things that my father lacked but which farmers elsewhere in the world take for granted. We need improved crop varieties developed to resist disease and tolerate drought. We need access to modern inputs, like fertilisers. We need markets where farmers can profit from their labour and thus justify investments in improved production. We need affordable credit that all small businesses require and extension services that help us keep abreast of sustainable farming practices.

But ultimately we need people. Specifically, we need Africa’s best and brightest to embrace agriculture as a calling and a career.

Recently, I agreed to chair the selection committee for the new Africa Food Prize, an award that aims to recognise outstanding individuals or institutions taking control of Africa’s agriculture agenda. It started out in 2005 as the Yara Prize. But moving it to Africa in 2016 and rechristening it the Africa Food Prize has given the award a distinctive African home, African identity and African ownership. It is also a substantial award: $100,000 for the winner.

The hope is that the Prize itself and its cadre of winners will signal to the world that agriculture is a priority for Africa that all should embrace. It can call attention to the individuals who are inspiring and driving innovations that can be replicated across the continent.

I sometimes portray my return to farming as coming full circle. But in reality, while I cherish my childhood memories, I don’t want to return to the past. I want to be part of the future, where farming in Africa is a lucrative, exciting entrepreneurial pursuit and young people aspire to be farmers because they see talented men and women building a rewarding career in farming and farm-related work.

I hope that the Africa Food Prize quickly becomes a symbol of all that agriculture in Africa can offer and that one day soon, we will see a shift, when young people in urban areas will look longingly to countryside and think: there lies the land of opportunity.

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