IFPRI Kampala newsletter – week of March 18, 2019

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 government procures 280 tractors for farmers and on WFP spends U.S.$147 million on food purchases in Uganda. We also have news articles on the commoditisation of pastoral milk and link to Iron Works: HarvestPlus and partners improve lives with iron-biofortified crops.

Under research, we provide links to:

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Government procures 280 tractors for farmers

The government has procured 280 tractors under the National Agricultural Advisory Services to help farmers engage in large scale commercial crop production, an official said in a meeting on Tuesday.  The tractors will be given to organised and registered farmer groups, associations or cooperatives in a given locality who will manage them on business principles.

Coffee exporters top 2018 awards

Coffee exporting companies have topped the 2018 Presidents’ Export Award.  Ugacof, a coffee processing and exporting company, was the overall winner followed by Kyagalanyi Coffee.  

WFP spends U.S.$147 million on food purchases in Uganda

The World Food Programme has spent a total of $147m in the last three years in purchasing food rations in Uganda. Last year, the UN agency announced Uganda as a major hub for purchasing food.  Mr El-Khidir Daloum, WFP Country Director said of the 198,000 metric tonnes they bought last year, only a small percentage was bought from small-holder farmer groups. The rest was bought from local traders. He said they have the capacity to buy more from Uganda, adding that farmers should improve on their post-harvest handling.

How Acholi, Langi are embracing tea farming

Just like coffee which the people of northern Uganda recently started growing following decades of colonial propaganda that the soil types in the region did not support it, tea is yet another crop that now joins the list of cash crops formerly believed not to perform in the region.   

Female food heroes

Patricia Nanteza is a Communication Specialist for the National Banana Research Program in Uganda. “I think agriculture is only rivaled by education and health in tangible impact and making you ‘feel good’”.

Rwanda turns to poultry to fight malnutrition
New Times

The Rwanda Agriculture Board is set to start piloting a project that will donate chicken, for rearing, to every poor Rwandan household, which could potentially eliminate stunting and malnutrition.  The programme comes at a time when Rwandans are considered to consume low animal resource proteins, especially from eggs, meat and milk.

New technology in Rwanda that could reduce post-harvest losses
New Times

The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources is calling on the private sector to invest in cereals storage and related technology as part of the efforts to tackle post-harvest losses.  This, if followed through public and private investment in crop storage technologies, the government said, could curb post-harvest losses from the current 16 per cent to 5 per cent by 2024.

UN fears Fall Armyworm outbreak threatens Zimbabwe’s food security
Voice of America

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation fears that an outbreak of fall armyworm in Zimbabwe will affect food security in a country where more than 5 million are already in need of food assistance.

Facts and stats on women in agriculture

Did you know that only 25% of African agricultural researchers are women?  

Iron Works: HarvestPlus and partners improve lives with iron-biofortified crops

Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient challenge in the world. Poor diets lacking in iron limit brain development and learning capacity, hampering the potential of individuals and societies, generation after generation.  That’s why HarvestPlus and its partners are developing and promoting biofortified crops rich in vitamins and minerals (like iron) needed for good health.

Transforming productive sectors in Africa: markets versus firms?
Market Links

Market systems that inhibit productivity growth and depress livelihoods are familiar enough across the developing world. Barriers to improvement that turn out to be fundamentally political are two-a-penny. More often than not, this is a matter of monopolists with political backing limiting market entry by potentially more efficient competitors.  Sometimes, however, the opposite is the case: there is too much market access, for too many kinds of business. As a result, too little is done to tackle problems of stagnant productivity and declining incomes for poor producers.

A fatal public health problem in Africa that flies under the radar

Africa as a continent continues to suffer from the world’s highest per-capita rate of foodborne illnesses. A new report this month from the World Bank’s Global Food Safety Partnership points to one reason why: Much of the funding for food safety efforts on the continent come from Western donors — and most of those efforts concentrate on safety standards for foods exported to other countries.  

The commoditisation of pastoral milk

Pastoralists´ integration into market dynamics is mostly addressed through the lens of trade in meat products, involving male traders. Pastoral milk, mostly traded by women, is often ignored. Good production of healthy milk is definitely the best way to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of a pastoral system at whatever level. Milk is central in the livelihood of pastoral households.   

More Americans drinking specialty coffee
Coffee and Cocoa

The 2019 report found that more Americans are drinking speciality coffee daily and that 63 per cent of American adults drink coffee daily, which is on a par with 2018 consumption.  “Coffee is America’s most beloved beverage – and for good reason,”

Policy Briefs, Research Reports and Discussion Papers:

Striving to transform Tanzania’s cotton sector

Cotton growing and ginning is one of Tanzania’s top three agricultural export industries. It is a major source of livelihood for up to half a million smallholder farmers, mostly in the large region of enduring rural poverty lying to the south and east of Lake Victoria, known in Tanzania as the Lake Zone. The sector has been underperforming for 50 years, with productivity stagnating and international prices and therefore earnings falling in line with productivity gains in competitor countries.  Gatsby Africa’s Cotton Sector Development Programme is an important effort to turn this situation around by addressing the principal causes of low productivity in cotton growing and ginning (production of cotton lint) in the Lake Zone.  This briefing note reviews the Gatsby programme.


Farming for change: developing a participatory curriculum on agroecology, nutrition, climate change and social equity in Malawi and Tanzania
RB Kerr, SL Young, C Young, MV Santoso, M Magalasi…- Agriculture and Human Values, 2019

How to engage farmers that have limited formal education is at the foundation of environmentally-sound and equitable agricultural development. Yet there are few examples of curricula that support the co-development of knowledge with farmers. While transdisciplinary and participatory techniques are considered key components of agroecology, how to do so is rarely specified and few materials are available, especially those relevant to smallholder farmers with limited formal education in Sub-Saharan Africa. The few training materials that exist provide appropriate methods, such as compost making, but do not explain relationships and synergies between nutrition, social inequalities, climate change and agroecology. Some food sovereignty and agroecology courses aim at popular political education for those with more formal education. Here we describe the process of development of an innovative curriculum, which integrates agroecology, nutrition, climate change, gender and other dimensions of social equity across 2 weeks of training explicitly for smallholders in southern Africa with limited formal education. The curriculum is highly participatory; we use concepts in popular education, transformative and experiential-based learning, and theatre. It is also integrative; we link agroecology with climate change, human and soil nutrition, gender, and related components of social equity. Developed in partnership with Malawian farmers, community development experts and academics from five countries, the curriculum was piloted with 520 smallholder farming households in Malawi and Tanzania, and evaluated using qualitative techniques. Clashes of language, cultural norms, and terminology were as great of a challenge as agreeing on and conveying technical information, to weave into a coherent whole. However, farmers who participated in the curriculum training demonstrated high interest, comprehension of material and interest in immediate application to their lives.

Sustainable agricultural intensification in an era of rural transformation in Africa
TS Jayne, S Snapp, F Place, N Sitko – Global Food Security, 2019

Drawing on Boserupian and induced innovation principles, this review explores how the farm technologies and practices associated with integrated soil management and sustainable intensification may vary spatially according to the heterogenous ways in which economic transformation and population dynamics are influencing agricultural factor prices. Long-term trends in many areas are encouraging intensification of capital inputs, including fertilizer use. However, low agronomic efficiency of nitrogen poses a major constraint on fertilizer profitability and use. Integrated soil and agronomic management practices can improve the agronomic efficiency of fertilizer use, but achieving greater adoption of such practices will require greater understanding of best practices for the wide range of environmental conditions and farmer resource constraints in the region. Because sustainable resource managment best practices are highly localized and knowledge-intensive, massively increased investment in localized adaptive farm-level research and extension systems will be required to catalyze sustainable intensification in Africa.

Using participatory rural appraisal to investigate food production, nutrition and safety in the Tanzanian dairy value chain
B Häsler, G Msalya, K Roesel, K Fornace, M Eltholth… – Global Food Security, 2019

Identifying and implementing interventions that create co-benefits in terms of food and nutrition security as well as food safety requires an interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach. This study was part of a larger project that applied an integrated framework for combined nutritional, food safety and value chain analysis to assess the dairy value chain in two regions of Tanzania, namely Morogoro and Tanga. Here, we report on the use of participatory rural appraisals (PRAs) with producers and consumers to investigate seasonality, constraints and opportunities in cow milk production and consumption in ten villages in Tanzania and describe attitudes and practices surrounding milk quality and safety. The PRAs allowed identifying strong seasonal milk production and consumption practices reflecting rainfall patterns and a dependence on the natural environment. A wide range of production constraints were described by producers including insufficient technical know-how, poor quality breeds, cattle diseases, lack of capital, feed, water and reliable markets. While milk availability had a strong influence on milk consumption, findings showed that there are a range of other factors such as the consistency of milk, purchasing power and the availability of other foods which also influence consumer choice. A dependence on sensory milk quality attributes in the absence of other systems of certification was described. Both producers and consumers showed little concern regarding potentially contaminated milk despite an awareness of the existence of milkborne disease risks. The results indicate great potential for upscaling dairy production and at the same time highlight that any such interventions should carefully consider mitigation measures for food safety risks.

Diversifying conservation agriculture and conventional tillage cropping systems to improve the wellbeing of smallholder farmers in Malawi
Dan TerAvest, Philip R. Wandschneider, Christian Thierfelder, John P. Reganold – Agricultural Systems, 2019

Food production and the wellbeing of smallholder farmers are constrained by their limited financial resources, poor market access, and inadequate institutional support in southern and eastern Africa. Conservation agriculture (CA)–minimal soil disturbance, year-round ground cover, and diverse crop rotations–is being promoted to sustainably boost crop production, increase household income, and diversify diets for better nutrition. In this study, three cropping systems–continuous no-till maize, CA rotation, and conventional tillage rotation–were established on smallholder farms in the Nkhotakota and Dowa districts, two distinct agroecological zones in Malawi. Diverse three-year crop rotations in CA and conventional tillage systems included the alternative food crops sweet potato and cassava and the grain legumes common bean, soybean, cowpea, and pigeonpea. The effects of cropping system on labor use and financial returns, which served as a rough indicator of feasibility and farmer wellbeing, were analyzed for three years from 2011 to 2014. Over the three years of the study, continuous no-till maize produced the greatest gross and net revenues, despite also having greater production costs than CA and conventional systems. Although substantially less profitable than continuous no-till maize, the diversified CA and conventional tillage rotations were profitable for smallholder farmers, partially due to lower production costs. Sensitivity analysis was used to test the robustness of each cropping system under varying labor, input, and output price scenarios. Altering farmgate prices had the greatest impact on profitability, regardless of the crop grown. The input and output prices for maize were stable over the course of the study so that continuous no-till maize was the most robust cropping system. In contrast, high input cost and output price variability for alternative crops increased risk compared to maize, which may reduce their appeal to smallholder farmers. Reducing the risk of conservation agriculture rotations could provide smallholder farmers with more diversified diets and greater ecosystem services, such as greater rainwater infiltration and storage to withstand dry spells. Based on the results of this study, policies that reduce input price variability and increase farmgate prices of alternative food crops would have the greatest impact on the adoption of diverse crop rotations in Malawi.

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