U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, on Agricultural Development in Zimbabwe

This is the first in a series of blogs where we'll be asking policy makers, politicians, non-profit and organizational leaders, journalists, celebrities, chefs, musicians, and farmers to share their thoughts-and hopes-for agricultural development in Africa. Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting with the new U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray. Ambassador Ray was gracious enough to take the time to answer my questions about agricultural development in a country facing political turmoil, high unemployment, and high food prices.

What do you think is needed in Zimbabwe to both improve food security and farmers incomes?

Over the past decade, Zimbabwean small holder farmers have endured a litany of economic, political, and social shocks as well as several droughts and floods resulting in the loss of their livelihoods and food security. Poverty for small holder farmers has greatly increased throughout the country.

In order to restore farmers' livelihoods they need to be supported in a process of sustainable private sector-driven agricultural recovery to achieve tangible household-level impact in food security and generate more household income, as well to promote more rural employment.

The U.S. government through USAID is doing this by supporting programs that provide effective rural extension, trainings and demonstration farms in order to improve farm management by small holder producers. The programs also include support for inputs and market linkages between the farmers and agro-processers, exporters and buyers. These programs are broad-based and cover all communal small holder farmers throughout the country.

The result of this work is increased production, and productivity, lowered crop production costs and losses, improved product quality, and production mix and increasing on-farm value-adding. Together these programs are increasing food security and farmer's incomes as well as generating more farmer income and rural employment of agro-business.

At present, the U.S. is the largest provider of direct food aid in Zimbabwe. We are working with our partners to move from food aid to food security assistance which will use more market oriented approaches and combine livelihoods programs as noted above, which will reduce the need for food distribution.

Do you think Zimbabwe needs more private sector investment? If so, what are ways the U.S. government and other donors can help encourage both domestic and foreign investment?

Zimbabwe certainly needs more foreign direct investment. There is little chance that the country can internally generate the investments required to promote the economic growth it needs without it. But it is the government of Zimbabwe that is responsible for creating the business enabling environment to attract investment including both foreign and national.

At present, much more needs to be done in policy and the legal and regulatory framework and in the rhetoric and actions by the government in order to create the environment conducive to attract investment. Without the clear will of the government to be FDI-friendly there is not much that the donors can do.

 

 

Creating a Well-Rounded Food Revolution

Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

Check out the most recent issue of the journal Science, which takes a look at ways to improve food security as the world’s population is expected to top 9 billion by 2050. To best nourish both people and the planet, the journal suggests a rounded approach to a worldwide agricultural revolution by encouraging diets and policies that emphasize local and sustainable food production, along with the implementation of agricultural techniques that utilize biotechnology and ecologically friendly farming solutions.

Breeding Respect for Indigenous Seeds

Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

Jessica Milgroom isn’t your typical graduate student. Rather than spending her days in the library of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, her research is done in the field—literally. Since 2006, Jessica has been working with farming communities living inside Limpopo National Park, in southern Mozambique.

When the park was established in 2001, it was essentially “parked on top of 27,000 people,” says Jessica. Some 7,000 of the residents needed to be resettled to other areas, including within the park, which affected their access to food and farmland. Jessica’s job is to see what can be done to improve resettlement food security.

But rather than simply recommending intensified agriculture in the park to make better use of less land, Jessica worked with the local community to collect and identify local seed varieties. One of the major problems in Mozambique, as well as other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, is the lack of seed. As a result, farmers are forced to buy low-quality seed because nothing else is available.

In addition to identifying and collecting seeds, Jessica is working with a farmer’s association on seed trials, testing varieties to see what people like best. In addition, farmers are learning how to purify and store seeds (see Innovation of the Week: Investing in Better Food Storage in Africa).

Weevils, the farmers tell Jessica, are worse than ever, destroying both the seed and crops they store in traditional open-air, granaries. But the farmers are now building newer granaries that are more tightly sealed and help prevent not only weevils but also mold and aflatoxins from damaging crops.

Today, farmers and breeders alike have a greater respect for Mozambique’s indigenous seed varieties. According to Jessica, one of the biggest accomplishments of the project has been getting breeders and farmers to talk to each other. “It’s been interesting for both groups,” says Jessica, “and it needs to be a regular discussion” between them.

Cooperating for a Profit: Winrock International and Kasinthula Cane Growers Limited

Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

The story of Kasinthula Cane Growers Limited (KCGL), Malawi’s second biggest sugar farmer cooperative with 282 farmers, is just one of many examples of innovative business models made available to farmers, entrepreneurs, and NGOs by Winrock International. Emphasizing the use of environmentally sustainable production methods, Winrock collects examples of innovative Community Food Enterprises from around the world. 

The partnership between KCGL and the Shire Valley Cane Growers Trust is just one example of Winrock’s featured innovations. The two organizations, with support from the government, partnered in 1997 to become a sugarcane farmer cooperative. Despite perpetual drought, and flooding when there is rain, sugar is Malawi’s third largest export. The Trust owns ninety-five percent of the corporation and Illove, one of the largest sugar cane producers in the world, owns the remaining five percent. The Trust leases 755 hectares of sugarcane land that KCGL maintains, guaranteeing farmers—about one-third of whom are women—nearly 3 hectares of land for 25 years. The farmers produce non-organic, fair-trade certified sugar, and the profits are divided equally among the members of the cooperative. All of the sugar produced by the farmers is sold internationally by Illove, connecting the farmers and the cooperative to the global market.

KCGL, in cooperation with Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, have also developed a plan to direct fair trade premiums towards community investments, company infrastructure and building materials for the farmers. They have built a well for the community, brought electricity to small villages, and are opening their medical clinic to the community for HIV/AIDS education and treatment.  

As part of a collective, the farmers are given a voice in an industry where they otherwise might not be competitive. In addition to increased incomes through fair-trade certification and access to the world market, the farmers who are members of KCGL receive the support and stability they need to lift their families out of poverty.

Innovation of the Week: Winrock International and Sylva Professional Catering Services Limited

Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

Sylvia Banda started Sylva Professional Catering Services Limited in 1986, even though just 30 years ago women weren’t allowed to own businesses—or even eligible for loans—in Zambia. She began her business by serving people food she cooked and brought from home on what she calls, a “standing buffet,” because she didn’t have enough money for tables and chairs.

Not having furniture didn’t stop Sylvia’s business from taking off; she made almost a hundred dollars after a few days. And with her husband listed as the proprietor of her business because land rights are limited if not inaccessible to women in Zambia, Sylvia was able to grow her small “standing buffet” into three subsidiary businesses.

Sylva Professional Catering Services Limited is dedicated to creating, selling and serving nutritious foods, made from indigenous and traditional products that are purchased from local farmers and merchants. Sylvia provides work for 73 people and has developed partnerships with local development organizations, using her financial and popular success to become a proponent of farmer and employee training. She calls it “economic emancipation.”

Sylvia’s success has benefited not just her own family, but the wider community as well. And Winrock International, an organization that collects examples of projects focused on sustainable food, improving livelihoods and preserving local food traditions, hopes to extend her positive impact even further still by making her case study available as a resource and model for potential entrepreneurs—and for policy makers and NGOs who support potential entrepreneurs—around the world.

For more information about Sylvia’s work and other projects that are focusing on sustainable food, improving livelihoods and preserving local food traditions, see Winrock International’s site on Community Food Enterprises.

Diaries

Advertise Blogads