Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Selection of project concept notes of the Peanut Innovation Lab

Jeff Ehlers (center), a geneticist and senior program officer
for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses project
proposals with fellow members of the EAP, including Michigan
State University professor Cynthia Donovan (right) and
Peanut Innovation Lab Director Dave Hoisington
7-8 May 2019. Rock Eagle 4-H Center , US. The Peanut Innovation Lab management team discussed with External Advisory Panel members in a retreat  the priorities for the first projects funded by the program. 

See pictures from the meeting.

Some 50 concept note proposals were submitted last month in two areas of inquiry: value-chain improvements and varietal improvements. Over two days’ time, EAP members discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals, both individually and as part of an overall program. 

The panel is made up of leaders in disciplines such as plant breeding, genetics and pathology; experts in food safety and nutrition; private sector industry partners; and economics and markets. Members of the panel include:
  • Martha Byanyima, the lead expert for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Matters for the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA)
  • Darlene Cowart, the corporate director for Food Safety with Birdsong Peanuts
  • Cynthia Donovan, an associate professor of Agricultural Development at Michigan State University
  • Jeffrey Ehlers, a geneticist and senior program officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Andrew Emmott, a value-chain specialist and consultant who works with nuts in southern Africa
  • Jeff Johnson, a retired executive with Birdsong Peanuts
  • Isaac Joseph Minde, a Michigan State University professor based in Tanzania with the Agricultural Sector Policy and Institutional Reform Strengthening (ASPIRES) Project
  • Shyam Nigam, an expert in plant breeding, seed systems, crop management, farmer-participatory research and development
  • Helga Recke, a gender-in-agriculture researcher and visiting fellow with CALS-AWARE at Cornell University
  • Farid Waliyar, an expert in international agricultural R and D and mycotoxins
With the feedback collected during the EAP retreat, the management entity is sending out requests for full project proposals to the selected concept note authors. Projects will be defined and selected this summer.

Later this year, the Peanut Innovation Lab plans to issue calls for proposals in two more areas of inquiry: nutrition, and gender and youth.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Increased consumption of nutritious fonio and Bambara groundnut

In March 2018, stakeholders identified along the fonio and Bambara groundnut value chains were invited to crop-specific meetings to share back results of the value chain studies and discuss ways forward to overcome challenges for production, marketing and consumption of these crops.
Weak value chain development is partly a result of the narrow focus of agricultural research and development, which has neglected many local crops important in traditional food systems. Overcoming weaknesses in marketing these crops requires attention to enhance their processing, trading, marketing and retailing, which can in turn help leverage their benefits for strengthening food security, alleviating poverty, and increasing the resilience and sustainability of farming systems in face of climate change.
Dr Yara Koreissi, Food and Nutrition Technologist at IER
(wearing a yellow headdress) describes dishes developed
with Bambara groundnut, Koutiala, Mali.
Credit: Bioversity International/G.Lochetti

Bioversity International and the Institute of Rural Economy (IER) have been working to promote value chain development of fonio and Bambara groundnut in Mali through 'Linking agrobiodiversity value chains, climate adaptation and nutrition: Empowering the poor to manage risk', a project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the European Commission  and theand the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). that is currently in its fourth and final year of implementation. Detailed value chain assessments were carried out in 2017 by Charlie Mbosso, Market and Gender Specialist, Bioversity International.

Fonio (above) and Bambara groundnut harvested in Mali.
Credit: Bioversity International/G.Meldrum
More than a hundred stakeholders – such as farmers, traders, restaurateurs, journalists and representatives from NGOs, government bodies, farmer’s groups and cooperatives – took part in these meetings. They engaged in stimulating, and at times passionate, discussions on how to increase consumers’ demand and improve cultivation of fonio and Bambara groundnut in Mali. The groups were challenged to develop innovative solutions to the identified bottlenecks.

Each crop presents peculiar challenges and opportunities: a message that clearly emerged during the meetings. In the case of fonio, harvesting and especially processing are time-consuming and problematic. Cleaning and sand removal are complicated by the small dimensions of fonio grains, which need to undergo long processing. The cleaned and polished fonio – while more attractive to consumers – is however poorer in micronutrients and dietary fibre due to the removal of the outer part of the cereal. Small producers also face difficulties in linking to a disorganized market. The price farmers receive is too low to motivate them to produce and sell fonio, while the final price is too high for most consumers to access processed fonio.

Use of ICT for Agriculture and Environment

8-10 May 2018. Lusaka, Zambia. Use of ICT for Agriculture and Environment. The 10th ICT4D
Conference brought together public, private and civil society organizations from across the humanitarian and international development community. Participants shared how they’ve used innovations in technology to increase the impact of their work. Highly interactive and hands-on, the conference attracted a diverse audience of technical advisors, executives, and others who offered a range of practical insights on applying technology to development, humanitarian, and conservation challenges.

Extracts of the programme:
Digital Ag - Beyond the Myth and Hype
There is a tendency for enthusiasts to quote and build on the success of smaller, limited case studies while the causal factors behind why those that have failed at scaling up tend to be overlooked. In this opening panel session for the Agriculture and Environment track explore the untapped opportunities that come from identifying some key enablers to increase the propensity for success for your ICT4 Ag projects and applications. The panel comprisesed of an eclectic mix of researchers, ICT4Ag entrepreneurs, industry, donors and practitioners.


Financial Analyses in Nigeria and Malawi 
Gross margin calculation, a participatory household financial analysis, enables farmers to leverage peer-to-peer evaluative thinking to understand the costs and benefits of key on-farm decisions.

This approach enables rapid assessment and comparison of results to identify key leverage points in maximizing profit in specific agro-ecological zones. Farmers can then use data on investment risk, climate-smart technology, and marketing to make key decisions on input use, to maximize profit through facilitated data access

Reaching for the stars with your feet planted on the ground
AfriScout is PROJECT CONCERN INTERNATIONAL's (PCI) social enterprise that fuses satellite and mobile technology with indigenous knowledge to display customized grazing maps that help pastoralists make more accurate and cost-effective migration decisions. After several years of development, testing, and learning, PCI has gained a deep understanding of how pastoralists are embracing this technology and integrating it with their traditional practices.

Panel Session on Drones for Agriculture
CEOs of start-ups offering drone based services in Benin and Zambia, and representatives of international development organisations supporting the deployment of these innovative advisory services in Africa.


Drones for Precision Agriculture
The main goal in this ICT4D Training workshop was to;
  • Improve crop farming by educating farmers on efficient farm data management by providing simple, efficient, reliable and affordable crop imaging services to farmers for implementing variable rate technology (VRT) 
  • NDVI Crop Mapping to implement VRT- Farm inspection, monitoring 
  • Training on Digital farm data management techniques Also to make understand that no one cares about Professional and Precision Technology Services if it does not hold a Clear Direct Value while being Easy to use.
Impact evaluation of delivering market information to farmers by SMS in Ghana and Uganda
This paper of IFPRI describes the results of a randomized-control trial of the impact of market information delivered to farmers by SMS in Ghana and Uganda. In each country, the study carried out a baseline survey of about 1200 farmers, provided market information to a random sample of farmers for more than one year, and then conducted an endline survey of the same farmers. Hypothesis: only more commercially-oriented farmers benefit from the service?

The "Seed Tracker" App for mainstreaming national seed production and seed certification
This IITA Presentation covered development and application of the “Seed Tracker (ST)” App to facilities e-seed certification and national seed inventory management; and how ST mainstream national seed production and seed certification based on the ST piloting in Nigeria.

Digital extension through mobile (IVR) systems: What have we learned and why should you care?Mobile learning is emerging as a promising channel in the ICT4Ag space. Through mLearning reaching smallholder farmers is now possible at scales and costs unimaginable only a few years ago. However, mobile is often assumed to be an inferior learning channel. So, is there really a trade-off between scale and quality when it comes to mLearning? ILRI presented findings from a randomized control trial in Uganda comparing traditional learning (face to face) with an mLearning adaptation of the same content. The service targeted smallholder pig farmers with a mobile (IVR)-enabled personalized decision support system, which aims to help farmers in the identification and management of animal health services.

Hello Tractor Adapts Internet of Things Technology to Bring Tractors to Smallholder Farmers
Hello Tractor connects tractor owners to farmers through an innovative IoT solution. HT bridges the gap between traditional farming and more advanced approaches by simplifying complex data into actionable insights for tractor owners to enable rentals. HT’s solution supports tractor owners in identifying, organizing, and booking small farmers in need of services. Through its partnership with Aeris, HT is able to incorporate advanced digital Internet of Things technologies.By creating access to timely tractor services, the HT solution can help move smallholder farm families out of poverty.


Social Media Use by Agricultural Extension Officers in a Resourced Constrained Environment. Agritex workers, smallholder farmers, agriculture research institutions, and other key stakeholders in Zimbabwe are encouraged to harness social media like facebook, whatsapp, imo among others. This paper is an exploration of how Agritex workers are using social media in their work in a resource constrained. This paper explored the Social Media use experience in agriculture information dissemination and sharing experiences as voiced by the Agritex workers.

Digitization and traceability of organic cotton value chain
Organic cotton is promoted in India and other developing countries as a way to reduce the input costs of smallholder farmers and protect the environment. SourceTrace has developed traceability solutions to enhance the trust and confidence in the organic cotton value chain. Working with Chetna Coalition (Chetco) and its associated brands in USA and UK, SourceTrace implemented certification and traceability solutions all the way to spinner level.

Going far together: Experiences of the Mlimi Hotline Farmer Call Centre, Malawi The Mlimi Hotline, a toll-free farmer call centre, was established in November 2015, by Farm Radio Trust in collaboration with Techno Brain Limited and the Department of Agricultural Extension Services with funding from the Government of Flanders, to provide farmers with personalized, real-time answers to questions on agriculture related subjects. The call center has so far registered a total of about 100, 000 calls and is increasingly receiving recognition among farmers, public and private sector. This paper showcased lessons for providing personalized extension services through ICTs in Malawi through inclusive partnerships with private, public and non-state actors.

Photo of Carol Kyazze KakoozaMUIIS: Moving from Project to Social Enterprise 
Presenter: Carol Kyazze Kakooza (see picture), Project Manager, MUIIS, CTA
MUIIS, an innovative initiative under the G4AW facility being led by the CTA has been built, tested and being rolled out fully. It consists of a huge database of over 150,000 farmer profiles down to the GPS location of their fields; an authentic satellite data-enabled information service of weather alerts, agronomic tips and index base insurance; access to smallholder farmers for financial services, input marketing and aggregation of outputs; data analytics for alternative credit scoring by financial institutions; experience in farmer profiling; a mobile application; and access to all kinds of surveys services. MUIIS has reached over millions of farmers in Uganda within 2 years through training, awareness creation, and marketing campaigns on the value of satellite data enabled information service. It is now time to move this to full service with farmers, farmer organisations, NGOs, development projects, financial institutions, input and output companies etc. paying for the services.

Know your Plot - Innovating SMART Farming systems
This is work being developed by Milan Innovincy, CRS and small holder farmer organizations, that enables farmers to leverage geo-data systems to support improved plot management and better market access. This approach enables small holder farmers to benefit from services including electronic registry, plot upgrading plans, plot credit risk scores to engage financial institutions and market linkage reporting.

Unlocking Digital Value in South Africa's Agriculture Sector
Presented by Jolene Dawson (see picture),Global Agriculture Lead
AccentureA unique value-at-stake framework developed by Accenture and the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that the adoption of digital technologies will create $54billion in value for the South African agriculture sector and for society between now and 2026. We will be unpacking 4 leading technologies: Precision Agriculture, Digital Marketplaces, Connected Supply Chains and Autonomous Operations, and start to look at what it will take to deliver this value, who the winners (and losers) and what it could mean for farmers and agriculture communities.

Blockchain for Agriculture and Food

'Blockchain for Agriculture and Food' 
Findings from the pilot study

Lan Ge, Christopher Brewster, Jacco Spek, Anton Smeenk, and Jan Top
Wageningen University and Research and TNO. 2017, 40 pages

Blockchain is rapidly becoming a household word and promises to solve many problems related to the lack of trust. Despite its popularity and the great interest it has received from public and private parties, the technology is still far from being well understood and is surrounded by a great deal of exaggeration and hype. 

The project ‘blockchain for agrifood’, financed by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, was the first research project that sets out to explore the technology and its potential implications for agrifood by developing a proof of concept application. Findings of the research contribute to a better understanding of the technology and its implications for various stakeholders in agrifood chains. While clarifying misplaced expectations and misunderstandings, the research also identifies opportunities and research needed for capturing these opportunities. The research was commissioned and financed by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

28 June 2018. Utrecht. How will Blockchain technology transform our food systems? This is the central question during a Pizza Meet-up. Dr. Lan Ge of Wageningen University & Research will introduce the transformational potential of Blockchain technology for agricultural value chains based on a recent pilot study 'Blockchain for Agriculture and Food' by Wageningen University & Research and TNO. The floor will be open to informally discuss the pros and cons of this new technology and the opportunities to apply the technology in our daily work.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Guide on the status and opportunities for investment in climate-smart agriculture

16 May 2018. Nairobi. Detailed guides on the status of and opportunities for investment in climate-smart agriculture in fourteen African countries have been officially launched by scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) at the African Climate-Smart Agriculture Summit.

Based on a scientific framework, the profiles provide a snapshot of the key issues, climate impacts, CSA practices, relevant policies, and financing opportunities for scaling up the promotion and sustained adoption of CSA interventions. Policy and investment recommendations are then detailed by researchers, based on an analysis of current drivers and constraints to adoption the identified practices.
“For many large donors, private sector companies and African governments, investing in African agriculture is still extremely risky. Our data and evidence-based reports aim to reduce that risk, by providing a detailed analysis of the most effective approaches to the sustained adoption of climate-smart agriculture from a local to a national level.” Evan Girvetz, senior scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) who leads the CSA profiles project. “
“Large-scale investments in climate-smart agriculture need to be based on solid evidence that they will provide productivity and climate benefits. Until this work by CIAT, that detailed data did not exist. We are now far better equipped to make financing decisions to climate-proof African agriculture in these countries.” Ademola Braimoh, Coordinator for Climate Smart Agriculture at the World Bank
“There is an insatiable appetite from African governments for up-to-date information on how to implement climate-smart agriculture. In Senegal, the CSA profile is being used to inform national climate change plans and programs. Also, the creation of profiles for three states in Nigeria has been requested by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, demonstrating the high demand for this data West Africa-wide.” Dr. Robert Zougmoré, Africa Lead for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
Stories of successful climate-smart interventions detailed by the CSA profiles in the fourteen countries include:
  • Ethiopia: A system to intensify teff production, which involved seed spacing and the application on organic and inorganic fertilizers, saw yields rise to up to 5 tonnes per hectare, compared to the national average of 1.5 tonnes per hectare. This system has since been scaled out to a million hectares across the country.
  • Zambia: Maize yields in Kafue Town, 35 km from Lusaka doubled thanks to integrated crop-livestock systems that include: adding groundnuts or sugar beans to crop rotations to fix nutrients to the soil; training farmers on supplementary feeding of livestock and treating fields with manure generated on-farm well before the rainy season.
  • Rwanda: Improvement of soil fertility thanks to a land conservation project saw soybeans and maize yields increase by three times, four times for beans, and 10 times for Irish potatoes. Jobs in land husbandry to make the land more resilient to climate shocks (such as hillside terracing) were generated for 22,000 farmers and hillside ponds were established to supply irrigation using renewable hydropower.
  • Tanzania: Introduction of bio-gas digesters has helped farmers reduce firewood and charcoal use, while simultaneously providing a fertilizer and insect repellent for their farms. This has boosted agricultural output, helping farmers achieve up to six times the income as a result.

Managing aflatoxin in smallholder groundnut production in Southern Africa

Managing aflatoxin in smallholder groundnut production in Southern Africa: Paired comparison of the windrow and Mandela cock techniques
Limbikani Matumba, Lazarus Singano, Bruno Tran, Mweshi Mukanga, Beatrice Makwenda, Wycliffe Kumwenda, Sharif Mgwira, Sam Phiri, Frazer Mataya, Talentus Mthunzi, Sharon Alfred, Tshilidzi Madzivhandila, Jonas Mugabe, Ben Bennett, Tim Chancellor
Elsevier Crop Protection Volume 112, October 2018, Pages 18–23

(above link allows downloads for 50 days' free access to the article. Anyone clicking on this link before July 05, 2018 will be taken directly to the final version of your article on ScienceDirect).

Timely drying of groundnuts is important after harvest. In most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, moisture content reduction is practically achieved by solar drying. In particular, the groundnuts are traditionally cured in the field using the inverted windrow drying technique. Recently, the Mandela cock technique, a ventilated stack of groundnut plants with a chimney at the center, has been introduced in the southern Africa region with the aim of reducing moisture content and the risk of aflatoxin contamination. 

An on-farm study was conducted in Malawi to compare the effectiveness of the Mandela cock and Windrow drying techniques with respect to aflatoxin control. 
  • For two consecutive years, farmers (2016, n = 29; 2017; n = 26) were recruited to test each of the two drying techniques. 
  • A mixed-design ANOVA showed that the Mandela cock groundnut drying technique led to significantly (p < 0.001) higher aflatoxin levels in groundnut seed compared to the traditional inverted windrow drying (5.7 μg/kg, geometric mean vs 2.5 μg/kg in 2016 and 37.6 μg/kg vs 8.4 μg/kg in 2017). 
The present findings clearly demonstrate the need for regulation and technology validation if farmers and consumers are to benefit.

See also: 
The African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS) backstopped and facilitated by the Centre for Agricultural Extension and Rural Development (AGRIDEA) on behalf of the project Postharvest Management in Sub-Saharan Africa (PHM-SSA) will hold two webinars:
  1. the first Webinar on Tuesday 5th June 2018 
  2. and the second Webinar on Tuesday 4th September 2018, 
  3. all from 14:00-16:00 East African Time (12:00-14:00 West African Time and 13:00 to 15:00 South African/Central European time).
  4. The webinars will feature specialized panelists on the topic including:
  5. Raphael Dischl from Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation
    Limbikani Mutumba /Joao Mutondo from Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Financing Rural Infrastructure to End Hunger

Request for Comments on Draft Paper on Financing Rural Infrastructure to End Hunger
The International Institute for Sustainable Development is calling for written comments on the paper, Financing Rural Infrastructure to End Hunger which you can access online here

IISD welcomes any comments in your preferred format by Friday, May 25.

Financing Rural Infrastructure to End Hunger (draft, 49 pages
Two central research questions guide the thinking behind this report:
  1. What rural infrastructure investments can have the most direct positive impact towards ending global hunger? 
  2. How can these infrastructure assets be sustainably financed?
In addressing both of these questions, an extensive literature review was undertaken, including a review of all of the major recent reports by international organizations - such as the OECD, FAO, IFAD and others - on food security and infrastructure, as well as from donor reports from government development assistance programs . This ‘meta-analysis’ of existing research was complemented by phone call interviews with experts from agricultural development, agribusiness, infrastructure finance and sector-specific authorities.
 Donors as well as governments should only commit funds to financially sustainable infrastructure. Projects not meeting this requirement will drain disproportionally the public resources available, not delivering value for money for stakeholders, and potentially having a shorter operating life (page 49)
In the literature reviewed for this report, the following variables are the most frequently used (in order) to measure the impact of infrastructure interventions:
  • Market access
  • Agricultural trade
  • Agricultural performance/ productivity
  • Poverty incidence/ Household income
  • Foreign Direct Investments (FDI)
  • Food security
  • Per capita consumption 
Investment Priority #1: Storage and Cold Storage Infrastructure 
Modern storage facilities such as cold storage, grain silos and warehouses, have a critical role to play in ensuring food security and ending hunger. Effective storage infrastructure will prevent moisture condensation from ruining a crop postharvest, while also keeping out pests such as rodents, insects and birds. It can enable a family or community to better preserve crops on-site for their own consumption, increasing food availability and access, or means that a farmer can raise his or her income by a) having more unspoiled surplus to sell and b) waiting until off-season to sell, when prices might be higher.

Investment Priority # 2: Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) Infrastructure
Energy is a game-changer in agriculture – needed for diverse activities such as: operating irrigation pumps, powering and lighting facilities such as slaughterhouses, refrigeration, cold storage of produce and vaccines, postharvest processing, sterilizing fruit and vegetables, and for charging portable telephones and other electronics. The price of energy also has a very real impact on food security; an increase in global energy prices, for example, was one of the main drivers behind the sharp rise in food prices in 2008, which reduced households’ access to affordable food and worsened food insecurity in the years that followed. Decentralized renewable energy (DRE) is particularly appropriate for targeting food security improvements.

Investment Priority # 3: Feeder Roads
Without access routes to obtain inputs and reach markets, other food security investments – whether it be technical assistance, improved storage, access to capital or other investments – cannot perform. This point is well established, and remains an important consideration in the context of food security and nutrition. As summarized by the World Bank, “Without effective rural transport systems, all rural development and poverty initiatives, agriculture and growth are substantially constrained.” 

Investment Priority #4: Irrigation infrastructure
As for other rural infrastructure asset classes, it is also true of irrigation that it is difficult – if not impossible – to directly trace the causality of improved irrigation to food security outcomes. Most studies do not specify whether the improvement in diet arises from more home-grown food availability or from an increase of marketable surplus leading to more food being purchased by the household.