IFPRI Kampala weekly newsletter – week of Oct 12th 2018

Hello, and welcome to a new edition of the IFPR-Kampala’s USSP news and research digest!

As usual, this collection of recent news articles related to agriculture is compiled from online news sources. We also include links to recent publications on agricultural and policy-related research topics pertinent to Uganda and the wider region.

This week, we report on Giving backyard farming a new look and on Wealth in bitter berries, for your health and pockets. We also have news articles on Pastoralism under pressure in northern Kenya and on the fact that Swapping pesticides with beetles could put money in farmers’ pockets.

Under research, we provide links to:

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Happy reading


Giving backyard farming a new look

Strange and astonishing as it may look, a farmer can put soil in used jeans, irrigate and then yield vegetables and herbs in the comfort of his home.  The denim absorbs water and allows good air circulation unlike other clothing materials like polyester and khaki.  Interestingly, it is the women jeans that work best, ‘because they have that bum space’.

Launch of National Action Plan and Strategy for aflatoxin control in Uganda

On the 31st of October, 2018, a National Awareness Campaign for the Control of Mycotoxins with special emphasis on Aflatoxins was launched by H.E Edward Kiwanuka Sekandi the Vice President of Uganda.

Ugandan women escape poverty through rice production

Agnes Apea’s social enterprise Hope Development Initiative was born in 2012. Since then, more than 11,000 farmers across five districts in northern Uganda have been supported to grow, process and sell rice under the ‘Mama Rice’ brand. “Rice has a market and is nutritious and easy to prepare, making it an ideal crop for women,” says Apea.

Wealth in bitter berries, for your health and pockets

Bitter berries, commonly known as Katunkuma was regularly eaten as the main sauce in a practice that still exists today in some homes.  However, some people eat it as a side dish because of its health benefits, among them being an immune booster for children and the elderly, who are prone to diseases.

South Sudan governor fired after teak wood exposé
East African

The governor for Yei River State in South Sudan, Frank Matata, has been suspended for alleged illegal trading in timber.  Mr Matata was recently exposed in a documentary “The Axe Forgets: The Tree Remembers”, in which Mr Matata was secretly recorded demanding $30,000 as a bribe for himself and some Ugandan security officers in West Nile for the timber, in two containers, to enter and exit Uganda.

This Ethiopian homegrown coffee brand is opening 100 cafés in China
Quartz Africa

Widely acknowledged as the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest coffee bean producers and Africa’s top grower of the plant. Coffee is also brewed and drank in the Horn of Africa nation in elaborate ceremonies, often using crafting techniques passed down from generations over centuries. In 2016 the idea for Garden of Coffee was developed – a brand that uses artisanal methods to source, process, roast, and package Ethiopia’s legendary beans.

Kenya aligns its training material on sustainable coffee farming
Global Coffee Platform

30 experts from different organizations held several workshops in the Embu and Nakuru counties to create a common understanding of the material currently used to train coffee farmers. This alignment will ensure better practices for coffee crops in Kenya, as well as increasing their productivity.

Pastoralism under pressure in northern Kenya

Pastoralists  in Isiolo county in northern Kenya feel under siege, with their way of life under threat. Isiolo has been the home of the Waso Boran pastoralists for many decades, but attacks from neighbouring Somali herders, encroachments by agriculturalists from Meru, expansion of conservancies and planned road, pipeline and resort city mega-projects are affecting all pastoral livelihoods, creating many new risks and uncertainties.

China’s public worries pointlessly about GM food
The Economist

Amid an escalating trade war with America, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has tried to reassure a nervous public by insisting that his country can go it alone in its pursuit of tech supremacy. The Chinese people must “cast aside illusions and rely on ourselves”, he said in April soon after the first shots were fired. But in one technological realm, China appears less eager to surpass America: the development of genetically modified food crops.

Bridging the information gap in cocoa production
Food Tank

Dr. Christian Andres focuses on sustainable production systems in the tropics. His research interests have led him to investigate yam-based production systems in West Africa, cotton-based production systems in India, and cocoa-based systems in Latin America. Currently a senior research scientist and coordinator at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and a Post-Doctoral fellow at ETH Zurich, Christian is focusing his efforts on sustainable cocoa production systems.

Economic empowerment: closing the agri-finance gap for women

Financial inclusion interventions are not gender-neutral and uptake gaps would be reduced if products and services suited women’s needs and priorities

Rainforest Alliance issues statement on coffee prices
Coffee and cocoa

The Rainforest Alliance (RA) says the coffee industry needs ‘systemic change’ if low prices and their impact on farmers and their dependents are to be addressed.  International coffee prices recently hit their lowest level for 12 years. According to representatives of coffee producers in Colombia and Brazil they are now below production costs,” said RA. “Low prices are having a devastating impact on 25 million coffee families worldwide”.

What more should supermarkets do to respect workers’ rights in their supply chain?

Oxfam’s Ripe for Change report highlights hunger and suffering amongst the people who grow and process our food. Across a basket of 12 common food products, we present evidence of in-work poverty and a deep disempowerment, especially among women workers. As well as this, we show the decline in the share of the consumer price going to workers and small-scale farmers over time, compared with the supermarkets. Conventional approaches to identify and manage non-compliance with companies’ codes and a reliance on sometimes superficial ethical labels, need a complete rethink.

Swapping pesticides with beetles could put money in farmers’ pockets

Every time you see a ladybug—also known as the ladybird beetle—you should tuck it in your wallet as a lucky charm to bring prosperity, according to the folklore of many countries. There’s a grain of truth in the old stories. Research shows that each ladybird in a cotton field in the North China Plain provides an economic benefit to farmers of at least 0.05 yuan, or one U.S. cent. This may not sound like much, but consider: Doubling the current ladybird density in two-thirds of Chinese cotton fields could bring farmers around $300 million per year.

Five major crops in the crosshairs of climate change

Climate change is coming like a freight train, or a rising tide. And our food, so dependent on rain and suitable temperatures, sits right in its path.  The plants that nourish us won’t disappear entirely. But they may have to move to higher and cooler latitudes, or farther up a mountainside. Some places may find it harder to grow anything at all, because there’s not enough water.


Food Price Transmission and Economic Development
Christian Elleby & Frank Jensen – Journal of Development Studies

In this paper we challenge the conventional wisdom that the world’s poorest countries are also the most vulnerable to spikes in international food prices. We derive an inverted U-shaped relationship between food price transmission and the development level of a country from a theoretical model. This prediction is subsequently tested in two sets of regressions where economic development is approximated by per capita income and where we control for a number of other potential determinants of food price transmission. The first set of regressions is based on estimated transmission elasticities and the second on actual domestic food price changes during spikes in international food prices. In both sets of regressions we find strong evidence of the existence of an inverted U-shaped relation between food price transmission and income. Thus, food prices in middle income (rather than in low income) countries respond the strongest to changes in international food prices, implying that the poor in these countries are the most exposed to spikes in food prices. We also show that the factors explaining the variation in the estimated transmission elasticities can explain the variation in domestic food price changes during spikes in international food prices equally well.

The Role of Land Use Consolidation in Improving Crop Yields among Farm Households in Rwanda
Pia Nilsson – Journal of Development Studies

Relative to other developing regions, the role of land consolidation in increasing crop yields is poorly understood in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper examines the role of land use consolidation on agricultural productivity among smallholder farmers in Rwanda. Household-level data are used to estimate a fixed-effects model with matched control groups to mitigate selection bias. The study finds a positive association between land use consolidation and crop yields, but only among farm households with landholdings greater than one hectare, which is well above the average farm size in Rwanda. Findings also point to the importance of non-organic fertilisers and irrigation as there appear to be significant benefits associated with further increases in their use among the consolidated farms.

An analysis of the nutrition status of neighboring Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Kanungu District, southwestern Uganda: Close proximity, distant health realities
J Sauer, L Berrang-Ford, K Patterson, B Donnelly… – Social Science & Medicine, 2018

Malnutrition disparities exist among Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups in Uganda. Distinct malnutrition factors appear at individual, household, and community levels. Ethnic distinction within communities may act as an upstream determinant of health.

Gender equality, food security and the sustainable development goals
B Agarwal – Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 2018

This paper examines the potential and limitations of SDG 5 (Gender Equality) in helping to achieve household food security. The potential lies in the attention it pays to women’s access to land and natural resources, which can significantly enhance women’s ability to produce and procure food. Its limitations lie in a lack of attention to the production constraints that women farmers face; its failure to recognise forests and fisheries as key sources of food; and its lack of clarity on which natural resources women need access to and why. Moreover, other goals which bear on food security as important providers of nutrition, such as SDG 15 as it relates to forests and SDG 14 as it relates to fish resources, make no mention of gender equality, nor does SDG 13 (Climate action) recognise the vulnerabilities of women farmers. A bold interpretation of SDG 5 and establishing synergies with other SDGs could provide ways forward. This includes not only SDGs which recognise the importance of gender equality, such as SDGs 1, 2, and 13 on poverty, hunger, and climate change respectively, but also SDGs 14 and 15 whose silence on gender could prove detrimental not just to attaining food security, but also to furthering their stated objectives of resource conservation.

Pursuing productivity gains and risk reduction in a multi-hazard landscape: A case study from eastern Uganda
KA Sullivan-Wiley, AGS Gianotti – Land Use Policy, 2018

Agricultural land and natural resource management has an important role to play in reducing the vulnerability of rural populations to hazard risk and to promote increases in agricultural yields. Though strategies for hazard risk mitigation and productivity gains are sometimes viewed in opposition to each other, many of the practices promoted to achieve one goal provide co-benefits toward the other. Our understanding remains imperfect with respect to the mechanisms underlying the use of such practices, and how these motivations are weighted in the context of multiple environmental hazards, multiple practice alternatives, and multiple sources of information. This study addresses these knowledge gaps by investigating the voluntary adoption of agricultural land management practices among farmers in the Bugisu sub-region in eastern Uganda. A set of multinomial logistic (MNL) regression analyses reveal that socio-economic and risk perception factors contribute significantly to the use of the more labor-intensive practices, while others are best explained by variations in household income and income streams. The village context is an important factor in explaining variation in use rates, and the contributions of village characteristics beyond the household are discussed, as is the role that risk reduction and agricultural development organizations play in facilitating adoption. The results of this study are well placed to inform the intervention targets of development and disaster risk reduction organizations seeking to increase uptake of agricultural land management practices.

Potato bacterial wilt in Rwanda: occurrence, risk factors, farmers’ knowledge and attitudes
F Uwamahoro, A Berlin, C Bucagu, H Bylund, J Yuen – Food Security, 2018

Potato is an important food commodity and efforts to increase its productivity should focus on addressing production limiting factors. Potato bacterial wilt (PBW) caused by Ralstonia solanacearum is one of the major constraints to potato production in Rwanda and no single method effectively controls the disease. Development of a sustainable management approach requires understanding of PBW distribution, risk factors, farmers’ knowledge and management attitudes. Therefore, we surveyed PBW disease and interviewed farmers in eight districts of Rwanda during March–April 2015. We detected PBW in all the surveyed districts and it was ranked as the major potato disease constraint. Among districts, disease incidence and severity varied from 5 to 24% and 3 to 13%, respectively, and was significantly higher in minor compared to major potato growing districts. Low PBW incidence and severity were associated with high altitude and low planting density, intercropping, crop rotation and avoidance of sharing farm tools. In all districts, farmers had little knowledge about PBW detection and spread, and the farmers’ awareness of PBW management was often inconsistent with their practices. This incomplete knowledge about PBW was likely caused by inadequate extension services since most information about PBW was acquired from fellow farmers, parents or other relatives. Thus raising awareness of PBW and integrated disease management, including practices that are associated with low PBW, could limit the impact of this disease and help to secure food and income for potato growing farmers in Rwanda.

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