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newsletter week of 21 July 2014

2014 July 22
by bvancampenhout

Sweet PotatoIn news this week, we report on Women MPs want tax on inputs revoked. In addition, there is more news such as Food waste reduction could help feed world's starving and Fake seeds are keeping Uganda's farmers poor among others.

Under agricultural and food policy related research, we provide links to papers on:

Thank you and enjoy.



The challenge of Africa’s nitrogen drought: some indicators from the Malawian experience



This paper describes how years of continuous cultivation with little or no use of external inputs to restore soil nutrients has resulted in a situation in which crop production in a number of African countries is now limited by nutrient deficiencies – nitrogen, in particular, which is crucial to healthy plant growth. This widespread problem has been described as a “nitrogen drought”. Attempts to remedy this situation using only organic inputs have largely failed to keep up with the rate of nutrient loss.


Can Africa create a new green generation of food producers?


By 2040 Africa will be home to one in five of the planet’s young people. What kind of work can they expect to find? In Africa, three in five people in urban areas will be younger than 18. Should this huge and combustible population continue to lack employment, then civil unrest and crime are likely to rise. Meanwhile, alarm bells are already sounding about how the planet will feed 9.6 billion people by 2050 - especially as climate change impacts crop yields, changes weather patterns and makes water scarcer in many areas. Across all crops in sub-Saharan Africa, yields are expected to decline by 15 to 20 percent by 2050, according to forecasts from the World Bank.National investments can be made that will help Africa respond to the coming food insecurity and destabilisation made worse by climate change. First and foremost, the expected declines in crop yields must be reconciled with the predicted increase in population. This means crop yields must be at least stabilized, and ideally increased.


Tomato paste and noodles: Olam bullish about food processing in Africa



Africa, a continent with a wealth of natural resources and 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, has historically exported much of its raw materials, with very little value added to them on the continent. While recent years have seen the growth of local food manufacturing, Africa still relies on large volumes of imported processed food to meet rising consumer demand. Olam is a global agribusiness and food conglomerate listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. Established in 1989, the company has had an interest in Africa from day one, and began by exporting raw cashew nuts from Nigeria to India. Today Olam has operations throughout the world, including 25 African countries. The company no longer only exports raw commodities from Africa, but has ventured into the processing and packaging of branded food products on the continent, such as the Tasty Tom tomato paste and the Cherie brand of instant noodles in West Africa.


FAO projects to boost regional food security

East African


The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)-managed Africa Solidarity Trust Fund last week gave a green light to four new, continent-spanning projects at a ceremony during the African Union Summit. The projects, worth $16 million, will span 24 different countries in West, Central, East, and Southern Africa, focusing on youth employment and malnutrition, trans-boundary animal diseases and food safety and urban food security. They include a project promoting greater diversity in agricultural production and activities to improve nutrition and to offer better job prospects to young people in Eastern Africa. Recipient countries: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.


Malnutrition a threat with use of climate-resilient crops, scientists say

Thomson Reuters Foundation


As farmers move toward growing crops designed to meet growing world demand for food and stand up to tougher climate conditions, they may inadvertently be worsening Malnutrition, scientists say. Such "hidden hunger" stems from a lack of vitamins and minerals in some crops that replace staple favourites, and a narrowing of the range of foods eaten.


Which 7 countries are most committed to ending hunger?

The Guardian


Some of the world's poorest countries are taking significant strides in addressing under nutrition and hunger, according to new evidence from the recently-published hunger and nutrition commitment index (HANCI) 2013. The HANCI compares 45 developing countries for their performance on 22 indicators of political commitment to reduce hunger and under nutrition. All the countries compared in the index have high rates of hunger and under nutrition. The comparative approach of the index means that country scores are calculated in relation to the political commitment of the other countries in the index. Uganda is ranked 17th out of the 45 countries thus assessed.


Food waste reduction could help feed world's starving



"If food was as expensive as a Ferrari, we would polish it and look after it." Instead, we waste staggering amounts. So says Professor Per Pinstrup-Andersen, head of an independent panel of experts advising the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization on how to tackle the problem. Some 40% of all the food produced in the United States is never eaten. In Europe, we throw away 100 million tonnes of food every year. And yet there are one billion starving people in the world. The FAO's best guess is that one third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted before it is eaten.


Fake seeds are keeping Uganda's farmers poor

The Guardian


Despite its importance for food security and 10 years of donor funding, why is the seed industry in Uganda still struggling? Seeds are the most renewable agricultural resource. Quality seed is one of the determinants of farming success but high-yield seeds are expensive, and so place poor farmers at a disadvantage. As a result 90% of Uganda's crops are still produced using home-saved seed. Only 10–15% of farmers in Uganda use improved seed and many of the seed companies find it difficult to turn a profit. Why, after so much effort and support, is the seed industry still struggling? The reasons these problems persist are threefold. In research I carried out for the World Bank, they were listed.


Women MPs want tax on inputs revoked

Daily Monitor


Female legislators under their umbrella association Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association (Uwopa) have vowed to take all measures to see that the proposed taxes by government on agricultural inputs do not come into force.

In the 2014/15 budget speech, the Minister of Finance, Maria Kiwanuka removed all tax exemptions for agriculture chain inputs and imposed an 18 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT). Amongi said things like hoes, pesticides, seeds, wheel barrows, milk cans, packaging material will not only increase prices of agricultural produce but will also hurt the development of commercial agriculture.


Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate

Chicago Council on Global Affairs


The Chicago Council on Global Affairs report urges the US government to take action to curb the risks climate change poses to global food security. It explains how higher temperatures, changes in rainfall and natural disasters caused by climate change could undermine food production and put food supplies at risk. In total, climate change could reduce food production growth by 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century. The report calls on the US government to integrate climate change adaptation into its global food security strategy through different recommendations.


Spotlight on P4P in Uganda



In Uganda, the World Food Program's Purchase for Progress intervention has supported infrastructure improvements to facilitate smallholders’ aggregation of commodities and collective sales. Meanwhile, many challenges remain, especially related to crop quality and standards. In Uganda, P4P focuses on strengthening the capacity of farmers’ organizations to aggregate and sell commodities to quality buyers, such as WFP, local millers, traders for export and others. Through partnerships with the government, indigenous and international NGOs, and other partners, P4P has provided smallholder farmers with the necessary training and equipment to increase their production, improve crop quality and strengthen the marketing capacity of farmers’ organizations. P4P is promoting Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) to facilitate credit access among P4P-supported farmers’ organizations.

P4P also seeks to connect farmers’ organizations with institutional and private sector buyers that can provide an assured source of demand beyond WFP. This approach has built on WFP Uganda’s Agriculture and Market Support (AMS) project to enhance prospects for sustainability.




Land pressures, the evolution of farming systems, and development strategies in Africa: A synthesis

T.S. Jayne, J. Chamberlin, D. Headey – Food Policy, 2014

Evidence assembled in this special issue of Food Policy shows that rising rural population densities in parts of Africa are profoundly affecting farming systems and the region’s economies in ways that are underappreciated in current discourse on African development issues. This study synthesizes how people, markets and governments are responding to rising land pressures in Africa, drawing on key findings from the various contributions in this special issue. The papers herein revisit the issue of Boserupian agricultural intensification as an important response to land constraints, but they also go further than Boserup and her followers to explore broader responses to land constraints, including non-farm diversification, migration, and reduced fertility rates.


The Ambiguity of Joint Asset Ownership: Cautionary Tales From Uganda and South Africa

Krista Jacobs, Aslihan Kes - Feminist Economics, 2014


This study uses individual-level survey data from women and men in Uganda and South Africa to examine coupled women's joint ownership of land and housing. It compares women's control over and benefits from jointly held land and housing with those of coupled women not owning land or housing at all and coupled women owning them solely. The lack of a clear and consistent advantage of joint ownership potentially arises from frequent disagreement within couples about whether the land or house is jointly owned. The study serves as a reminder of the complexities of joint ownership in practice, particularly within families, that need to be considered in order for coupled women to benefit from joint asset ownership. Efforts promoting joint ownership, for example, joint titling and marital property laws supporting joint ownership, should not only consider these complexities but also establish and communicate clear and enforceable rules for joint ownership.


The organization of urban agriculture: Farmer associations and urbanization in Tanzania

Stephan Schmidt, Wakuru Magigi, Boniphace Godfrey –Cities, 2014

This paper argues that the degree to which urban farming associations organize is related to the rate of urbanization, specifically demographic changes, the institutional landscape in which they operate, the environmental context, as well as underlying economic structure or local economic base. These structural conditions in turn impact the characteristics of urban agricultural associations; specifically their membership, how they relate to other institutions, the issues they face, and the economic and social roles they play. We utilize semi-structured interviews of farmer associations and interviews with government officials in Moshi and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, two cities that differ in terms of their urbanization patterns and economic, environmental and institutional context, to better understand the nature of the relationship between urban agricultural organizations and the context in which they operate.


Drivers and risk factors for circulating African swine fever virus in Uganda, 2012-2013

T. Kabuuka, P.D. Kasaija, H. Mulindwa, A. Shittu, A.D.S. Bastos, F.O. Fasina - Research in Veterinary Science, 2014


We explored observed risk factors and drivers of infection possibly associated with African swine fever (ASF) epidemiology in Uganda. Representative sub-populations of pig farms and statistics were used in a case-control model. Indiscriminate disposal of pig visceral and waste materials after slaughter, including on open refuse dumps, farm-gate buyers collecting pigs and pig products from within a farm, and retention of survivor pigs were plausible risk factors. Wire mesh-protected windows in pig houses were found to be protective against ASF infection. Sighting engorged ticks on pigs, the presence of a lock for each pig pen and/or a gate at the farm entrance were significantly associated with infection/non-infection; possible explanations were offered. Strict adherence to planned within-farm and community-based biosecurity, and avoidance of identified risk factors is recommended to reduce infection. Training for small-scale and emerging farmers should involve multidimensional and multidisciplinary approaches to reduce human-related risky behaviours driving infection.


How Institutions Mediate the Impact of Cash Cropping on Food Crop Intensification: An Application to Cotton in Sub-Saharan Africa

Veronique Theriault, David L. Tschirley – World Development, 2014


It is widely agreed that smallholder-led agricultural growth would contribute most to improved food security and reduced poverty. Yet, how to achieve broader and more sustainable access by smallholder farmers to productivity-enhancing inputs for food crop production remains a largely unsolved riddle. In light of the great institutional diversity across cotton sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa, this study investigates whether cotton can be used to spur the intensification of smallholder food production. First, a conceptual framework linking cotton institutional structures to food crop intensification is developed. Then, predictions from the conceptual framework are compared with empirical evidence from different countries.


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