Girls are key to food security in poor countries, says report

Adolescent girls and women are fundamental to unlocking the full potential of agricultural development and feeding the world, according to Chicago think-tank. For instance, in a dusty field in Kitui, eastern Kenya, farmers are being taught how to construct small, semi-circular barriers of earth that control the flow of water, slowing its run-off. Moreover, most of these smallholder farmers are women, which is common in Kenya and South Sudan. The report goes into some of the important cultural barriers girls and women face – marital and inheritance laws that often exclude them from inheriting or securing access to land and other assets critical to increasing productivity, despite their role in the agricultural sector. Read more here.
Guardian

Investment in pastoralists could help combat east Africa food crisis

Underinvestment in livestock-based systems in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya have contributed to the extreme food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. Governments need to build a coalition of support for pastoralists to tap their potential for economic development in east Africa,  Jeff Hill, director for policy at USAid, said. The crisis in the Horn has focused the minds of policy makers on the need to improve food security in the region, with a particular focus on small farmers and how to build up their resilience to forestall extreme hunger in the future. Despite the G20 agriculture summit in Paris in June, emergency meetings in Rome, Istanbul and Addis Ababa, governments have been criticised for failing to deliver on previous pledges that might have forestalled the current crisis. Read more here.
Mark Tran, Guardian 

What can the Horn of Africa do in the face of severe droughts?

The Horn of Africa is facing a humanitarian catastrophe from the worst drought in 60 years. An estimated 11 million people need emergency assistance to stay alive. The recurrent nature of the crisis especially in the face of climate change calls attention to building resilience to cope. Investment in drought-resilient agriculture and agribusiness can target drought-resistant crops, catalyse the use of rain water harvesting and water conserving technologies, and improve irrigation systems. Read more here.
Huffington

South Sudan’s vast agricultural sector potential untapped

The agricultural sector in the independent South Sudan has more potential than the much fancied oil, gas and minerals. However, agriculture has not received the deserved attention from both locals and foreign investors compared to the other three. Compared to Kenya where only a third of the land is arable, Southern Sudan has 80 % arable land. The South Sudan Minister for Agriculture, Dr Itto, believes that priorities will change to give more focus to agriculture. In the last six years of interim period, lack of feeding roads to rural areas, storage system and other infrastructure, in addition to climate change, are the key factors that have worked against agriculture. Read more here.
Business Daily

Activists oppose import of genetically modified foods

Kenya’s environmental and food security activists called on the government to recognize and support organic agriculture practiced by most small scale farmers to avoid imports of genetically modified (GM) foods. Kenya allowed importation of genetically modified food in 2009 and also controlled growing of genetically modified crops. The activists said the introduction of patented seeds and related chemicals into the farming systems threatens Kenya’s agricultural practices, livelihood, the environment, and undermines national seed sovereignty. According to the activists, hunger is not caused by under-production of food, but because people have no money to buy food and therefore the genetically modified maize may be as expensive and will not solve hunger problem. Read more here.

Horn of Africa Drought, Food Crisis: Agricultural Trade Policies Questioned

Almost twelve million people are in need of food aid because of drought and conflict in the Horn of Africa region, according to many reports. As the crisis grows, some experts are questioning the role of agricultural trade and investment policies in the region. A joint statement from intergovernmental agencies and a humanitarian aid group has said that the “slow-onset” humanitarian crisis leaves millions of women, men, and children vulnerable to “devastating hunger and malnutrition.” According to economists, there has been a neglect of agriculture and, importantly, of sustainable agricultural practices. Luck of investment in smallholder agriculture, livestock disease and unsustainable grazing, and food price inflation have played roles in contributing to the current crisis. Read more here.
International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

Banks coaxed to lend more to agriculture

Kenya’s Ministry of Finance has launched a programme in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) aimed at spurring lending to the agricultural sector. IFAD has extended a grant-loan of $29.31 million to Kenya to provide better access to financial services, increase incomes, and improve production and outputs in the rural smallholder farm and off-farm sectors. Commercial banks limit lending to the agricultural sector due to perceived high risks associated with it, which hampers smallholder farms’ efforts to increase productivity. Read more here.
Michael Karanja