Connected agriculture: a new wave of opportunity for farmers

It has long been known that mobile phones can transform lives in Africa. But as a surge in demand for food in emerging economies puts intense pressure on vulnerable smallholder farmers, it is clear that wireless communications must be used more effectively to tackle a potential crisis of productivity and sustainability in remote rural regions. The question is why such a ubiquitous and simple tool has not been applied more creatively. As land becomes scarce, intensive farming practices need to be combined with approaches that protect natural resources from unsustainable exploitation. In many emerging countries, well over half of people have mobile phone access and many already benefit from wireless money transfer and other services. But as the world calls on smallholder farmers to improve the efficiency of food production while safeguarding the environment, it is time to exploit this affordable and easily deployed technology to its full potential. Read more here.


Targeting gaps in the food supply Chain

Agricultural production is only the first step in moving the world’s food from farm to fork, according to Nourishing the Planet, a project of the Worldwatch Institute. The other links in the food chain: harvesting, packaging, storing, transporting, marketing, and selling ensure that food actually reaches consumers. Inefficiencies in these activities, rather than just low yields or poor farming techniques, are often to blame for food shortages and low prices for growers. For instance, In Uganda, the organization Technoserve works with farmers to improve market conditions for sales of bananas. Technoserve helps individuals form business groups that receive technical advice and enter into sales collectively. Such coordinating businesses can decrease transaction costs, and helps farmers to market their crops. Read more here.
Hotel News Resource

Africa Governments Frustrated by Weak Farmer Credit Schemes

Though some African governments have invested significantly in agricultural credit schemes, weak oversight roles and interest rate distortions undermine their performance. This is because commercial banks are reluctant to effect borrower friendly terms demanded by governments due to internal management hurdles and limited sensitisation within the farming community. The high interest rates were mostly blamed on steep administrative costs incurred by participating banks that rendered the loans very risky in the market contrary to government expectations. Read more here.
Bernard Busuulwa

Booming Cotton No Boon to African Farmers

Any loss of cotton profits cuts deep in the rural and often impoverished villages of west and central Africa, where the livelihood of about 10 million people depends on the fiber. About 3 million of them are in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country where one out of six citizens relies on cotton, according to the World Bank. The government and regional cotton monopolies, which Burkinabe farmers must sell to, announced they would charge growers 38 percent more for fertilizer — and pay them as little as 39 percent of the world price at the time for their crop. Thousands of the nation’s farmers took to the streets in May, threatening to do the unthinkable — boycott planting the top cash crop in one of the world’s poorest countries. Read more here.
Cam Simpson & Alan Katz

Small-scale agriculture should be seen as a business

Speaking in Cape Town, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), said impoverished rural people want opportunities to enter into economic activity. “What is gratifying for me is that a few years ago you would not hear people talking smallholder agriculture as a business. At the World Economic Forum on Africa, I heard over and over again where top government officials and the private sector have come to recognize that global food security cannot be achieved without the engagement of smallholder agriculture. I think that is the message: governments should invest in agriculture as a business and create the environment for smallholders to enter into economic activities that are profitable.” Read more here.
Staff Writer

BOPP empowers small-holder oil palm farmers

The Benso Oil Palm Plantation (BOPP) purchased thousands of metric tonnes of fresh palm fruits from about 438 smallholder farmers in Ghana in 2010. BOPP’s Smallholder Association has been empowered with meetings in sustainable financial management system. The association wants government to assist the smallholder farmers to increase production at reduced cost. Recently, many experts have urged the government to make the subsidy a policy towards reducing poverty among smallholder farmers. Farmers are advised to manage their farms along business lines by keeping records to prevent financial losses and by ensuring transparency and accountability. Read more here.
Adum Banso

Farmers decry low budget

Small-scale farmers have blamed their inability to prosper in agriculture on inadequate funding and poor co-ordination among actors. According to farmers, poor co-ordination has led to low capacity to effectively participate in the chain. Despite individual efforts to convince government about the importance of investment in agriculture to growth and poverty reduction, Uganda’s agricultural sector budget has not exceeded 4% since 2000. Read more here.