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FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (PAMACC News) - Sierra Leone has more than 5.4 million hectares of arable land, including bolilands, mangroves, inland valley swamps, and riverine grasslands suitable for growing rice. and other crops. However, the total area cultivated for maize is 7,538 ha, while cassava is cultivated at 155,727 ha. This puts the total area under cultivation at about 10% of the fertile and diverse lands. Limitations to domestic production continue to exist principally as a result of insufficient access to quality seeds (owing to the absence of a formal seed system) around which other practices are applied Although poor access to improved seeds is a prime factor hindering productivity, there are other limiting constraints, which include limited success to fertilizer, pesticides, and mechanization services); low use of improved production technologies, weak institutional and human capacities, and low access to affordable finance. As a result of these constraints, Sierra Leonean farmers cannot compete in the global market, as they struggle with low crop yield and productivity. Over the last decade, several initiatives have supported the Sierra Leonean seed sector. The interventions include the rice seed system and cassava Semi Autotrophic Hydroponics infrastructural support by the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) and the Building an Economically Sustainable Cassava Seed System, Phase 2 (BASICS-II) Project. Sierra Leone has also received support from the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the World Bank, USAID and other Technical and Financial Partners regarding grants to support the agriculture sector. Previous interventions in Sierra Leone Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) intervened in Sierra Leone through its Rice and Cassava Compacts. In 2021/2022, support was provided through the supply of 1.5 tons of breeder and 30 tons of foundation rice seed for further multiplication by the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) and the private sector, respectively. This support engaged SLARI, the private sector, and the Sierra Leone Seed Certification Agency (SLeSCA) to advance hands-on seed multiplication, quality control practices, and capacity development. The Sierra Leone Agri-Business Rice Value Chain Support (SLARiS) Project, in partnership with the IsDB- Regional Rice Value Chain Development Project (RRVCDP), distributed the 101.52 tons of certified seed received under the TAAT Rice Compact facilitation to 1,692 farmers. The paddy yields of these farmers increased by 25−30% compared to farmers who used the local or old varieties, with 2,225,000 Leones as net revenue per hectare. An e-register has been established with 13,851 households and their locations and communities captured. Through the Special Emergency Assistant Facility (SEAF), TAAT facilitated the delivery of 57 MT of rice seed and 10 mt of maize seed in the 2021/2022 cropping season. TAAT, through AfDB’s Africa Emergency Food Production Facility (AEFPF), has registered 6,000 beneficiaries, with an anticipated 8,950 beneficiaries in view. The support and supervision missions with AfDB in Sierra Leone have strengthened partnerships with agricultural development stakeholders and seed industry actors. In addition, the seed system has been regularly reviewed, and recommendations have been provided to improve it. TAAT has rehabilitated and…
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (PAMACC News) - Despite the historical inadequacy of commercial banks in supporting agriculture across Africa, stakeholders are optimistic. This was a major talking point at the 2023 Sustainable Food Systems Forum (AGRF 2023) in Dar es Salaam. Speaking at the event, Binta Touré Ndoye, a seasoned banker and AGRA’s Board Member, expressed concerns about the financial sector's hesitation to support agriculture. "Banks have not been able to effectively support agriculture on the continent, particularly due to many risks involved," she stated. Yet, all is not bleak. Carolyne Gathinji, Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company Ltd, highlighted the success of blended finance and other pioneering models. Among them is the warehouse receipting system and the budding partnerships between telecommunication companies and banks benefiting smallholder farmers. “The share of blended finance going into agriculture has more than doubled over the past five years,” remarked Gathinji. However, she added a caveat: “the big concern is the scale at which it is happening,” noting that many of these initiatives are localized, serving small communities across different African countries. Blended finance is gaining traction as it fuses public and private sector funds to back ventures with societal or environmental agendas. Such projects often struggle to find private financiers exclusively. AGRA’s application of the blended finance model has notably aided small agri-businesses in weathering challenges, including climate change and calamities like COVID19. In another progressive move, AGRA is acquainting numerous African farmers with the warehouse receipting system. This mechanism enhances the transparency and efficiency of agricultural commodity storage and trade. On the ground, examples of effective agricultural financing abound. In Kenya, the Cash Transfer model, driven by UN Women, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Village Enterprise, and the County Government of West Pokot, stands out. Their initiative, named the Women Economic Empowerment through Climate Smart Agriculture (WEE-CSA), targets impoverished women, educating them on climate-resilient farming. Furthermore, these women are granted seed capital for agri-business ventures, and many have achieved financial stability and food security within just a year. They are also educated about savings, where and after accumulating tangible amount; members are allowed to borrow twice their savings to scale up their agribusiness ventures. This has given women a new source of livelihoods because some have delved into poultry keeping while others are now keeping goats and sheep. Gathinji believes that the key lies in scaling up such agricultural finance models across Africa, given their proven success. The momentum at AGRF 2023 suggests that a paradigm shift in African agricultural finance may well be on the horizon, but in small quantities. Generally, agriculture can be a high-risk sector due to factors such as weather, pest infestations, and market volatility, and that is why many commercial banks may be hesitant to provide loans to farmers or agricultural businesses because of the uncertainty involved. Addressing this challenge often requires a combination of financial innovations, policy reforms, and capacity-building efforts to make agricultural finance more accessible and sustainable for farmers and agribusinesses.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (PAMACC News) - Africa's smallholder farmers have been urged to adopt technology, innovative agricultural practices, and use of kitchen gardens to ensure the affordability, availability, and accessibility of healthy diets. Dr. Obai Khalifa, Director of Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), emphasized the pressing need for farmers to incorporate, for instance, bean varieties enriched with crucial micronutrients, orange fleshed sweet potatoes rich in beta carotene, a plant-based compound that is converted to vitamin A. “Some of the overlooked foods such as finger millet, pearl millet, sorghum, and indigenous leafy vegetables can be innovatively used to supply affordable nutritious diets, especially for rural communities,” remarked Khalifa during a side event at the Africa Food Systems Forum (AGRF) held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Prof. Joachim von Braun, a Professor at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Germany, highlighted the importance of recognizing what constitutes a healthy diet. He defined it as a diet that not only sustains physical health but also wards off diseases. Echoing this sentiment, Dr. Grace Magembe, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health in Tanzania, noted that many African communities are reliant on staples due to their availability. She mentioned, “Very few individuals in rural settings can afford proteins like fish, and they mainly consume what their farms produce.” She further observed the unhealthy diet trends in urban locales such as Dar es Salaam, commenting, “If you take a stroll, you will encounter French fries everywhere, usually accompanied by deep-fried chicken and a large soda.” Magembe championed the adoption of kitchen gardens, particularly by women, as a sustainable means to offer diverse and nutritionally rich foods for their households. Meanwhile, in Kenya, the cultivation of biofortified beans, packed with iron and zinc, is gaining traction, especially in semi-arid regions. This initiative, spearheaded by AGRA in partnership with the Cereal Growers Association (CGA) and various County Governments, aims to combat nutritional deficiencies. The target is to supply these fortified foods to students in Kenya, and also Tanzania and Malawi, through school meal programs. Recent studies have highlighted the nutritional challenges in Kenya, revealing a significant number of children and adults suffering from deficiencies in iron, zinc, and vitamin A. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reports that over 25% of children, particularly those under five, experience stunted growth due to micronutrient deficiencies. UNICEF underscores the grave long-term repercussions this has, including compromised cognitive and physical development in children. Highlighting the significance of these micronutrients, zinc is vital for a well-functioning immune system, metabolism, wound recovery, and the senses of taste and smell. Iron is crucial for the generation of new red blood cells that distribute oxygen throughout the body. Farmers in Eastern Kenya are now producing iron and zinc-rich bean varieties like Nyota, Faida, and Angaza. These were innovatively crafted by researchers from the University of Nairobi in collaboration with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO). In another inspiring development, Makueni County farmers are reintroducing…
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (PAMACC News) - A newly published report focusing on agriculture in Africa warns that without locally led climate action, communities' distress will not only be confined to hunger and malnutrition, but it will extend to economic, social, and environmental domains, with the potential to undermine the progress made over the years. The annual Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR 2023), titled “Empowering Africa’s Food Systems” underscores the need to address the challenges affecting African food systems considering the imminent threat posed by climate change and the potential consequences of inaction. "These findings are not just a reflection of the current challenges but also a roadmap for future actions, guiding the continent towards food systems where every African will have access to sustainable, healthy diets," said Dr. John M. Ulimwengu, the report's lead author. So far, food systems in Africa face a range of challenges, which vary from one region to another and can be influenced by factors such as climate, infrastructure, limited access to technology, poor soil health, governance, limited access to markets, and inflation among others. Part of the report shows that in many parts of Africa, farmers do not have access to agricultural inputs and services, which include quality seeds, fertilizers, agricultural machinery, irrigation systems, advisory services, credit, and insurance leading to failed impact on food systems. "Without these, farming can become less efficient and productive leading to potential failures in food systems," said Dr. John Ulimwengu, the report’s lead author. The report further points out that promotion of sustainable farming practices through organic farming, permaculture, and other climate-smart practices that improve soil health and biodiversity is also critical for sustainable food systems in Africa. So far, AGRA has been promoting Regenerative Agriculture (RA) farming techniques in Kenya, particularly in semi-arid parts of the country. In Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, AGRA is promoting the use of lime to treat soils that have become acidic and are affected by aluminum toxicity. "This report strives to show that Innovative Finance is not just a buzzword – it is an essential tool for Africa's journey towards sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food systems. As the continent faces the dual challenges of rapid population growth and climate change, finding new financing mechanisms will be paramount in shaping a prosperous and food-secure future for all its citizens," said AGRA President, Dr. Agnes Kalibata. Intra Africa Trade The report also highlights the potential of digital technology innovative financing, and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to significantly transform food systems in Africa. Operational since January 2021, AfCFTA is one of the largest free trade areas in the world by the number of participating countries. The Agreement aims to create a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of persons and investments. According to the researchers, increased market access, particularly by reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers, the AfCFTA can easily open up new market opportunities for farmers and food businesses, enabling them to reach consumers across the continent.…
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