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IFPRI Kampala Newsletter for November 10th

2014 November 10
by bvancampenhout

copyright PASIC

copyright PASIC

Hello, and welcome to the IFPRI Uganda Strategy Support Program’s weekly news digest.

This weekly 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.

In news this week, we report on Boosting Africa’s seed sector: the need for an integrated approach. In addition, there is more news such as Uganda, Tanzania benefit from $13.8M banana project and among others, Bundibugyo revives food security task force. Under agricultural and food policy related research, we provide links to papers on:

Thank you and Enjoy


Boosting Africa’s seed sector: the need for an integrated approach


A flourishing African seed sector, centred around small farmers, could bring huge benefits to agricultural development and farmers’ livelihoods. But seed systems in Africa are fragmented and informal systems – which make up the vast majority of the sector and are overwhelmingly used by small farmers – often go unrecognised by policy makers. A new comprehensive programme on Integrated Seed Sector Development for Africa (ISSD Africa), to support a vibrant, dynamic and diverse seed sector in the continent, was launched in September in Nairobi.

No-till agriculture may not bring hoped-for boost in global crop yields, study finds


 A new and extensive meta-analysis conducted by an international team led by the University of California, Davis, USA, revealed that no-till farming, a key conservation agriculture strategy that avoids conventional plowing, may not bring about the hoped-for boost in global crop yields. No-till is promoted worldwide, in an effort to sustainably meet global food demands. But after examining results from 610 peer-reviewed studies and assessing more than 5,000 side-by-side observations, the research team found that no-till often leads to yield declines, compared to conventional tillage systems. It still shows promise for yield gains in dryland areas, however.

Kenyan corn-disease outbreak may cut output by 30% this year


 An outbreak of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease in Kenya may reduce corn production by almost a third this year as yields fall and growers abandon the grain for other crops, the Cereal Growers Association said. As many as 70 percent of farmers of the staple food in the main growing regions may have been affected by the virus, Anthony Kioko, chief executive officer of the industry body, said in an Oct. 21 interview from the capital, Nairobi. All of the corn varieties grown in Kenya are susceptible to the disease, he said. “We expect a 30 percent reduction in production,” Kioko said. “Control methods like burning, cutting achieve little. The only solution is to develop resistant varieties,” he said.

Back agriculture to get the most out of aid to Africa


 According to the World Bank, investment in agriculture is about twice as effective for poverty reduction as investment in any other sector. This is why, if Western donors want to make the most impact on the ground, they must put their money into agricultural innovations. An online tool developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute, and launched earlier this year, allows policymakers to identify which technologies or practices (out of 10 that were modelled) will do most to improve yields in their region, taking predicted climate change conditions into account. The results for sub-Saharan Africa were striking. For instance, the joint adoption of no-till agriculture and drought-tolerant crops could as much as triple yields by 2050.

East Africa’s dilemma in feeding billions as climate change crisis looms


Agriculture is increasingly finding itself at the mercy of climate change. Too much rain, too little rain or rain at the wrong season, prolonged dry seasons, disease and pests infestation are leaving distraught farmers with no options in their hands. This is the situation that faced farmers in many regions in Kenya at the beginning of the year. In Kenya and the entire African continent, Maize is the staple food for over 300 million people in the continent according to food analysts. But agricultural experts say that in coming few years, drought and rising temperatures could render 40 percent of the continent’s maize growing areas unsuitable for varieties of maize available today.

Three practical steps to go from hunger to abundance in Africa

The Guardian

African agriculture poses one of the greatest paradoxes of our time. Despite a decline in overall hunger on the continent, the International Food Policy Research Institute last week published new research showing that sub-Saharan Africa still ranks as the region with the highest prevalence of hunger. According to the report, Burundi has one of the highest proportions of undernourished people in the world – over 60% of its population. Angola, Chad, and Sierra Leone have the highest under-five mortality rates, reaching up to 18%. In 2012, sub-Saharan Africa spent almost $40bn (£25bn) on food imports. On current trends the continent will only produce 13% of its food needs by 2050. Yet the same continent holds almost half of the world’s uncultivated arable land. And each year at least 10 million young people in Africa enter the workforce, whose skills and labour could be the key to making sure Africa’s food needs are met self-sufficiently. We need to bring this paradox to an end.

Uganda, Tanzania benefit from $13.8M banana project

Africa Science News

Bananas are both a food staple and an economic backbone in East and Central Africa, where over half of all cultivated land is planted with bananas. Uganda and Tanzania produce over 50% of all bananas grown in Africa. The region’s yearly banana crop is valued at $4.3 billion. Millions of smallholder banana farmers in these two countries are set to benefit from a new $13.8 million project to develop and distribute higher-yielding, disease-resistant hybrid banana varieties. The effort is being funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

Thirty per cent of world's food wasted, new online platform seeks savings

Thomson Reuters Foundation

An estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food, or roughly 30 percent of global production - enough to feed 2 billion people - is lost or wasted every year, leading U.N. agencies to create a new interactive platform to try to reduce the losses, which could easily feed the world's 800 million hungry. The Global Community of Practice of Food Loss Reduction web portal, launched last week, allows users to get information about ways of reducing waste.

Africa’s sugar ambitions turn sour

The Wall Street Journal

For much of the past decade, African and foreign sugar companies have pumped billions of dollars into projects in an attempt to tap the sweet tooth of the continent’s new middle class. Today, mills in many countries are grappling with unsustainable stockpiles. The glut has forced companies to reduce output, put on hold new sugar projects and shutter mills. At the same time, Africa’s budding sugar exporters have been hammered. Uganda, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi are all expected to have a sugar production surplus this year.

Bundibugyo revives food security task force

Daily Monitor

In a move to curtail food insecurity and reduce the level of personal incomes that go to daily food buying and other issues related to lack of food, authorities in Bundibugyo District have resolved to revive the defunct food security task force. This came after a multi-stakeholder meeting which disseminated findings of a study by Swiss Contact on the food security situation in Bundibugyo. The report revealed that much of the land is devoted to cocoa farming yet the rest is either vacant or used for food crops, which compete with coffee and palm oil.

Harvesting rainwater gives Otuke farmers better yields

Daily Monitor

Farmers in Otuke District are predominantly growers of cereals such as millet, sorghum and simsim, and other legumes like groundnuts and pigeon peas. Most of these crops are grown using traditional methods where the farmers depend on rainfall. For the past year, many farmers have embraced growing food crops with a shorter maturity period and are changing their household food security and livelihood. Although Otuke is characteristically semi-arid, the introduction of water-smart agriculture has enabled farmers to plant crops like vegetables, which were previously perceived not able to grow there.


New evidence on fertilizer, agricultural yields and structural change

John McArthur and Gordon C. McCord - Brookings, 2014

What role does agriculture play in structural change? In other words, how does agriculture affect the long-term societal process whereby labor moves from low productivity rural food production to higher productivity urban sectors like manufacturing and services? Moreover, how can we unpack the black box of agriculture to understand the components that lead to its progress in the first place? A new working paper, “Fertilizing Growth: Agricultural Inputs and their Effects in Economic Development,” provides an empirical strategy that provides evidence of strong causal effects on yield and economic growth resulting from adoption of a green revolution-type package of inputs in economies with low agricultural productivity and a large share of the labor force still in agriculture.

Measuring risk attitudes among Mozambican farmers

Alan de Brauw, Patrick Eozenou – Journal of Development Economics, 2014

Although farmers in developing countries are generally thought to be risk averse, little is known about the actual form of their risk preferences. In this paper, we use a relatively large lab-in-the-field experiment to explore risk preferences related to sweet potato production among a sample of farmers in northern Mozambique. A unique feature of this experiment is that it includes a large subsample of husband and wife pairs. After exploring correlations between husband and wife preferences, we explicitly test whether preferences follow the constant relative risk aversion (CRRA) utility function, and whether farmers follow expected utility theory or rank dependent utility theory in generating their preferences. We reject the null hypothesis that farmers' preferences follow the CRRA utility function, in favor of the more flexible power risk aversion preferences. If we make the common CRRA assumption in our sample, we poorly predict risk preferences among those who are less risk averse.

Formal institutions and social capital in value chains: The case of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange

Gerdien Meijerink, Erwin Bulte, Dawit Alemu – Food Policy, 2014

We explore whether the creation of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) and its formal monitoring and enforcement institutions has affected social capital and trust in the Ethiopian segment of the sesame value chain. Consistent with a simple theoretical marketing model, our panel data suggest this is indeed the case. Trade in sesame is increasingly governed by formal rather than informal institutions, and in response traders have broadened their trading network, rely more frequently on traders with whom they do not have social relations, and have reduced the provision of credit that cements personalized relationships. They also have lower levels of trust in the intentions and capabilities of their trading partners, and attach less weight to trust.

Spatial equilibrium and price transmission between Southern African maize markets connected by informal trade 

William J. Burke, Robert J. Myers – Food Policy, 2014

Policies regulating the international grain trade in Southern Africa (SA) are motivated by uncertainty regarding private sector performance and, in turn, private sector performance is generally constrained by the policy environment. We study spatial price transmission between SA maize markets where trade is dominated by informal product flows. This provides an opportunity to study private sector market performance in a largely unregulated market environment. Contrary to some existing evidence on the performance of SA grain markets connected by formal trade, we find that informally trading markets work quite well. Long-run price equilibrium is consistent with competitive trade, price transmission is rapid, and potential trade constraints have no disruptive impact on long-run relationships. Nevertheless, we do find evidence of occasionally high transfer costs that may impede informal trade flows. The conclusion is that a policy focus on encouraging informal trade and lowering informal trade costs would lead to improved market performance.

Monitoring global and national food price crises

José Cuesta, Aira Htenas, Sailesh Tiwari – Food Policy, 2014

This paper develops, calibrates, and runs a new food price crisis monitoring framework. The proposed framework has an integrated approach to capture global and national vulnerabilities and offers an alternative to existing food insecurity information systems, which suffer from a lack of consensus on the definition of “food crisis.” The framework successfully identifies the recent episodes of food price crises in 2008, 2011, and 2012. This paper also recommends ways in which the framework could be refined to increase country coverage and provide better information on country-level food inflation.

Are there systematic gender differences in the adoption of sustainable agricultural intensification practices? Evidence from Kenya

S. Wagura Ndiritu, Menale Kassie, Bekele Shiferaw – Food Policy, 2014

This paper uses sex-disaggregated survey data at the plot level to test whether there are systematic gender differences in the adoption of multiple sustainable intensification practices (SIPs) in Kenya. We analyze plot level adoption decisions of SIPs by male, female or joint plot managers within the household, controlling for household characteristics, asset wealth and land quality factors that condition investments in intensification options. Using a multivariate probit model, we find gender differences in the adoption pattern for some SIPs. Compared to male plot mangers, female managers are less likely to adopt minimum tillage and animal manure in crop production, indicating the existence of certain socioeconomic inequalities and barriers for female farmers. However, we find no gender differences in the adoption of soil and water conservation measures, improved seed varieties, chemical fertilizers, maize-legume intercropping, and maize-legume rotations.

Food as a human right during disasters in Uganda

Peter Milton Rukundo, Per Ole Iversen, Arne Oshaug, Lovise Ribe Omuajuanfo, Byaruhanga Rukooko, Joyce Kikafunda, Bård Anders Andreassen – Food Policy, 2014

Natural and human induced disasters are a threat to food security, economic progress and livelihoods in Uganda. However, we have limited knowledge regarding the putative role of the human rights dimension to the impact and management of such tragedies. In this article we assessed the present policies, legislation and institutional capabilities to ascertain whether they could assure the right to adequate food during disaster situations in Uganda. Using purposive sampling, 52 duty bearers working in institutions deemed relevant to food security, nutrition and disaster management were interviewed using a semi-structured guide. Relevant provisions from policy, legislation, institutional budgets and records of Parliament provided the context for analysis.

Effect of Certified Organic Production Systems on Poverty among Smallholder Farmers: Empirical Evidence from Kenya

Oscar I. Ayuya, Eric O. Gido, Hillary K. Bett, Job K. Lagat, Alexander K. Kahi,Siegfried Bauer – World Development, 2014

This study evaluates the effect of certified organic production on poverty in smallholder production systems. Data was collected from cross sectional survey of local market-oriented peri-urban vegetable and rural honey producers in Kenya. Poverty was measured using the multidimensional poverty methodology and endogenous switching probit model used to assess the effect of certified organic production on multidimensional poverty. Findings were that certified producers were less likely to be multidimensional poor compared to their counterfactual case of not participating in organic certification schemes. Additionally, noncertified producers would be less likely to be poor if they were to participate in organic certification production.

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