Archive for November, 2014

November 29, 2014

Malawi: Women Champion Climate Smart Agriculture

George Mhango
November 29, 2014

Alice Kachere—a mother of three—from the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi’s administrative capital has lived part of her life complaining about high poverty levels .

Kachere could not live a decent life, something that tormented her in terms of how to raise children and other family members. Food was also a challenge in her family.

She lives in Nyanja, Lilongwe close to Mchinji, a district that borders Malawi and Zambia on the Western part of the country.

“I lacked food, clothes, school fees for my children and as if that was not enough, I lived in a house made of mud. It was terrible during the rainy season as grass-thatched houses often times leak,” said Kachere.

Unlike her colleagues, who belonged to farming associations, she never took farming as a tool that could transform her livelihood. Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in the economies of most nations.

“Poor rainfall in my area has contributed to my failure to regard farming as business to tackle poverty,” she said, adding that there land is not fertile to warrant good agricultural production.

Little did Kachere know that having a small portion of unfertile land was no excuse for one not to engage in farming. There’s a new method of farming promoted by the TerrAfrica Sustainable Land and Water Management partnership. It is called Conservation Agriculture and has proven to be a best practice farming for the future.

Women in Malawi return from collecting sand and water. Women involvement in water management in agriculture is valuable because of their experiences and responsibilities in crop production and collection of water for domestic uses.

Women in Malawi return from collecting sand and water. Women involvement in water management in agriculture is valuable because of their experiences and responsibilities in crop production and collection of water for domestic uses.

Conservation Agriculture popularly known by its acronym CA is “a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment” (FAO 2007).

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has determined that CA has three key principles that producers (farmers) can proceed through in the process of CA. These three principles outline what conservationists and producers believe can be done to conserve what we use for a longer period of time.

The first key principle in CA is practicing minimum mechanical soil disturbance/ no-till farming which is essential to maintaining minerals within the soil, stopping erosion, and preventing water loss from occurring within the soil. No-till farming has caught on as a process that can save soils organic levels for a longer period and still allow the soil to be productive for longer periods.

The second key principle in CA is much like the first in dealing with protecting the soil. The principle of managing the top soil to create a permanent organic soil cover can allow for growth of organisms within the soil structure. This growth will break down the mulch that is left on the soil surface. The breaking down of this mulch will produce a high organic matter level which will act as a fertilizer for the soil surface.

The third principle is the practice of crop rotation with more than two species. Crop rotation can be used best as a disease control against other preferred crops.

It remains the view of various agriculture organisations that if more produce is harvested, farmers would export surplus products since most African economies are agro-based.

Just one meeting on sustainable land and water management, including conservation agriculture organised by the National Smallholder Farmers Association (Nasfam)—which she unwillingly attended – Kachere’s life was changed for the better.

First, Kachere had to accept that she can use her one hectare piece of land to cultivate crops twice a year. Secondly, that although the land was not productive, she has to do conservation agriculture so as to make it fertile.

And with one hectare of land, today, Kachere is now chair of Nyanja Association since 2009 and a role model to most of the women farmers in Malawi. She has reaped the rewards through CA.

Due to her farming prowess, she attends various trainings in making farming as business, climate smart agriculture, financing and market exploration for the betterment of members of her association.

Moreover, Kachere has built herself a better house and is taking care of her elderly mother and can now afford her children’s school fees.

“With the nature of my land, I had to realize that I have to promote conservation agriculture, we are doing soil cover and planting trees which adds more nutrients to the soil such as Nsangu,” said Kachere.

She grows maize, beans, and pigeon peas. “Considering the gravity of climate change, which has affected most farmers, I am also more into climate smart agriculture,” she said, adding that she sells her surplus maize and beans to buy fertilizer & lime and keep her family going.

Kachere is one of the many farmers today in Malawi, who are championing conservation agriculture.

A woman in Kanzilu village in Mutomo, Eastern Kenya cuts cassava stem

A woman in Kanzilu village in Mutomo, Eastern Kenya cuts cassava stem

Ines Malemia, a mother of three and member of the Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) is also into conservation farming.

“I have 30 hectares of land in Mdeka, Blantyre where I grow pigeon peas. The land is friendly to such a crop unlike maize and beans. I intend to start growing cotton next season in Mangochi so that my business grows,” said Malemia.

For her, this is a holistic approach to agricultural production, based on enhancing natural soil biological regeneration processes involving improved soil organic matter management for the efficient use of precipitation, soil moisture and plant nutrients.

With Malawi government, allocating more financial resources towards the Agriculture Ministry during the current budget, both Malemia and Kachere hope some funds will be used to champion conservation and smart agriculture and climate smart agriculture.

At a recent CAADP Africa Forum held in Johannesburg in South Africa, various speakers backed CA as key to African Agriculture.

Research done by NEPAD shows that climate change effects are becoming more frequent and more severe, threatening the reliability and productivity of agriculture, exacerbating already extreme levels of poverty, and reinforcing persistent inequity and chronic under-nutrition.

Researchers however, said the challenge can be avoided through widespread adoption of more resilient, productive, sustainable, equitable and increasingly efficient farming practices.

This is why at the CAADP Africa Forum; NEPAD programmes director Estherine Fotabong reiterated the need for farmers to input on issues of climate smart agriculture and other pertinent issues on the Malabo Declaration.

According to Fotabong, the declaration, which is an implementation strategy and roadmap, will be submitted to African Heads of State and Governments during the upcoming African Union Summit in January 2015.

“We want reaffirmation from leaders on ending hunger and poverty by 2025 and also to enhance resilience and livelihood and productive systems to climate vulnerability and other shocks hence the plea to add value to the declaration before taking to the African leaders,” she said.

In the field of CA there are many benefits that both the producer and conservationist can obtain. CA can change the way humans produce food and energy. CA is shown to have even higher yields and higher outputs than conventional agriculture once CA has been establish over long periods. And our women champions in Malawi can attest that locally CA has ripped them rewards.

November 26, 2014

Uganda: Residents to Get Loans for Constructing Latrines

Cliff Abenaitwe
November 24, 2014

Health officials in Uganda’s southwestern district of Mbarara have announced plans to partner with local commercial banks to extend financial services to families in the district for constructing improved pit latrines.

Masereka Umaru, the district health inspector tells our correspondent there that this partnership with commercial banks like Post Bank and Opportunity Bank is aimed at increasing safe toilet coverage in the district which currently stands at only 53 percent of the homesteads there. This means that the remaining 47 percent practice open defecation.

A pit latrine in Bushenyi district, Uganda

A pit latrine in Bushenyi district, Uganda

Masereka explains that some poor families in the rural parts of the district find it hard to construct pit latrines because the procedure needs a lot of funds to hire people to construct pits and buy various materials including pipes.

He is optimistic that this arrangement that will see people get loans to re-pay in three years will enable homes to have safe latrines that could help in the fight against poor sanitation related diseases.

This comes a week after the commemoration of the World Toilet Day, a day set aside to highlight the dilemma of 2.5 billion people without access to a clean, private toilet globally.

November 19, 2014

Malawi: UNICEF Calls for More Toilets

George Mhango
November 19, 2014

UNICEF officials in Malawi and UN headquarters have warned that slow progress on sanitation and the entrenched practice of open defecation among millions around the world continue to put children and their communities at risk as the world celebrates World Toilet Day.

Meanwhile, UNICEF in collaboration with other stakeholders such as DFID and Concern Universal are working with communities, sensitizing them about the importance of hygiene and dangers of open defecation.

As a result, 440 villages in the central region districts of Dowa and Kasungu have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). At the national level, the percentage of villages that have been declared as open defecation free has increased from 3 percent in 2011 to 19 percent in 2014.

Poor Sanitation and hygiene remains one of dangerous threats to good health in most Africa’s towns

Poor Sanitation and hygiene remains one of dangerous threats to good health in most Africa’s towns

To mark this year’s World Toilet Day, UNICEF is supporting the celebration of the 440 ODF villages in Kasungu and Dowa districts. The event which is a collaboration between Concern Universal, UNICEF, DFID and Dowa’s District Coordination Team (DCT) will showcase the ability of local communities to achieve universal access to safe and private toilets.

Eighty-two per cent of the 1 billion people practicing open defecation live in just 10 countries: India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Niger, Nepal, China, and Mozambique. The numbers of people practicing open defecation are still rising in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, though they have declined in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. In Nigeria, numbers of open defecators increased from 23 million in 1990 to 39 million in 2012.

Globally, some 1.9 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990. However, progress has not kept up with population growth and the Millennium Development Goal target on sanitation is unlikely to be reached by 2015 at current rates of progress.

The inter-governmental Open Working Group on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals have recommended that the new goals include a target of achieving adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and ending open defecation by 2030.

Reports say some 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have adequate toilets and among them 1 billion defecate in the open – in fields, bushes, or bodies of water – putting them, and especially children, in danger of deadly faecal-oral diseases like diarrhoea.

A makeshift bathroom. Few people in developing countries are familiar with the dangerous health risks their families face due to their poor sanitary facilities.

A makeshift bathroom. Few people in developing countries are familiar with the dangerous health risks their families face due to their poor sanitary facilities.

Statistics show that in 2013 more than 340,000 children under five died from diarrhoeal diseases due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene – an average of almost 1,000 deaths per day.

“Lack of sanitation is a reliable marker of how the poorest in a country are faring,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes. “But although it is the poor who overwhelmingly do not have toilets, everyone suffers from the contaminating effects of open defecation, so everyone should have a sense of urgency about addressing this problem.”

“The challenge of open defecation is one of both equity and dignity, and very often of safety as well, particularly for women and girls,” Wijesekera noted. “They have to wait until dark to relieve themselves, putting them in danger of attack, and worse, as we have seen recently.”

In May, the hanging of two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh who had gone out after dark to defecate caused international shock and dismay, and highlighted the security issues involved in open defecation.

UNICEF’s Community Approaches to Total Sanitation addresses the problem at the local level by involving communities in devising solutions, and has led to some 26 million people across more than 50 countries abandoning the practice of open defecation since 2008.

November 18, 2014

South Africa: SCA and WSSCC Partner to Break Silence around Menstruation

WaterSan Perspective and WSSCC
November 18, 2014

SCA, a leading global hygiene and forest products company, and the Geneva-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), a United Nations body devoted solely to the sanitation and hygiene needs of vulnerable and marginalized people, have entered into an innovative new partnership to break the silence around menstruation for women and girls around the world.

SCA and WSSCC will jointly work to educate on menstrual issues and the importance of good hygiene.

The parties announced the partnership in Cape Town, South Africa, in connection with Team SCA’s first stop-over in the Volvo Ocean Race round the world competition.

SCA and WSSCC menstrual hygiene training with young girls from the townships of Khayelitsha and Gugaletu. On any given day, more than 800 million women between the ages of 15-49 are menstruating. Adequate and appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities can provide a comfortable space for them to manage their menstruation with privacy and dignity

SCA and WSSCC menstrual hygiene training with young girls from the townships of Khayelitsha and Gugaletu. On any given day, more than 800 million women between the ages of 15-49 are menstruating. Adequate and appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities can provide a comfortable space for them to manage their menstruation with privacy and dignity

During the Cape Town stop-over, Team SCA attended a menstrual hygiene workshop with girls and women from the townships of Khayelitsha and Gugaletu, where experts from WSSCC, the Volunteer Centre (a Cape Town NGO), and SCA led a training session and discussion of the challenges the women face in managing their periods.

The partnership will include actions during, and between, the race stopovers until June 2015. These include Brazil (Itajai), China (Sanya), New Zealand (Auckland), Portugal (Lisbon), South Africa (Cape Town), Sweden (Gothenburg), The Netherlands (The Hague), United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi) and the USA (Newport).

“Safe and hygienic menstruation is a basic human right and fundamental to women’s equality,” said Chris Williams, executive director of WSSCC. “Securing this right requires action at every level of society, from the girls and women of Khayelitsha and Gugaletu to multinational companies like SCA. I am proud that SCA has stepped up to the challenge, and I look forward to working closely with them to continue breaking the silence around menstruation.”

“A majority of adolescent girls and women in the world do not have access to adequate information about menstruation nor access to sanitation or hygiene products,” said Jan Johansson, President and CEO of SCA. “With the WSSCC partnership SCA aims to break the menstrual taboos that jeopardize the health of millions of women every day, raise the awareness of menstrual hygiene and empower women and communities to take action, as menstruation should not hold women back to participate fully in society socially, educationally and professionally.”

SCA and WSSCC menstrual hygiene training with young girls from the townships of Khayelitsha and Gugaletu. One school study in Ethiopia reported over 50% of girls missing between one and four days of school per month due to menstruation

SCA and WSSCC menstrual hygiene training with young girls from the townships of Khayelitsha and Gugaletu. One school study in Ethiopia reported over 50% of girls missing between one and four days of school per month due to menstruation

In many developing countries, millions of women and girls are left to manage their periods with solutions at hand, such as cloth, paper or clay and no access to private toilets, water or soap. Sanitary products like pads are unaffordable or simply unavailable, and urinary or reproductive tract infections are common. As a result, girls miss valuable days in school, and women are unable to work, stifling productivity and advancement.

November 13, 2014

South Africa: African Farmers Told To Take Advantage of Opportunities That Come With Climate Change

George Mhango
November 13, 2014

As most African economies continue to depend on agriculture, the need to adopt climate smart agriculture remained a major debate at the 10th CAADP Africa Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The debate emanated from clear examples that countries such as Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique and Swaziland are dependent on agriculture and if nothing is done by governments, farmers and policy makers their economies will disintegrate.

Tea plantation in Chepsir village southwestern Mau block in Kenya

Tea plantation in Chepsir village southwestern Mau block in Kenya

The forum held under the theme Family Farming—has been organised by NEPAD through Comprehensive Africa Agriculture development Programme (CAADP) and Southern Africa Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU).

Among various key issues at the meeting was the need for farmers to champion Climate Smart-Agriculture (CSA) to maximise agricultural production to feed their families.

According to Ousmane Djibo from GIZ, young farmers should be involved right from their primary school ages where adults can learn from since the climate smart agriculture is about future generations.

He said introduction of such lessons could ensure that children become proud and confident about being agricultural experts, inspiring them to enter into agriculture.

Djibo added that CSA policies and strategies need to be tailored to regional realities considering that the impact of climate change differs from region to region.

“Some regions in Africa will actually benefit by having a longer growing season or more rain. We farmers need to be involved also in the development of policies,” said Djibo.

President of SACAU Theo De Jager said it was sad that farmers who constitute 80 percent of the continents population earn their living with their fingers in the soil due to lack of alternatives that would boost agricultural production to feed the continent.

“Agriculture is the main driver of the economy of this continent. This is why we are meeting as SACAU and other partners such as CAADP and regional farmer organisations to discuss how to improve agricultural production,” he said.

He said farmers in this generation, than before, face climate change effects which call for concerted efforts in a bid to deal with the vice to maximise production.

De Jager singled out the fact that young farmers need to be well sensitised to understand the changing times so they think of how to handle farming to protect the future generation.

“We can list a number of scientific evidence that shows that climate is rapidly changing but for a farmer you don’t need to present that because farmers know that and they feel it. You see, there is no other fraternity that is more vulnerable to climate change than farmers. We have to know, therefore, that we are key players of what needs to happen to deal with the vice,” he said.

De Jager asked young farmers not to be threatened by climate change, but rather see it as a wonderful opportunity by changing policies to do with markets and trade likely to be a threat in three years.

Africa represents only a small fraction, 3.6%, out of the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year

Africa represents only a small fraction, 3.6%, out of the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year

Research by NEPAD through CAADP shows that climate change effects are becoming more frequent and more severe, threatening the reliability and productivity of agriculture, exacerbating already extreme levels of poverty, and reinforcing persistent inequity and chronic under-nutrition.

It has however, said the challenge can be avoided through widespread adoption of more resilient, productive, sustainable, equitable and increasingly efficient farming practices in line with CAADP’s initiative on Climate-Smart-Agriculture.

This is why at the forum; NEPAD programmes director Mrs Estherine Fotabong reiterated the need for farmers to input issues of climate smart agriculture and other pertinent issues on the Malabo Declaration up for scrutiny this Wednesday.

According to Fotabong, the declaration, which is an implementation strategy and roadmap, will be submitted to African Heads of State and Governments during the 2015 African Union Summit in January.

“We want reaffirmation from leaders on ending hunger and poverty by 2025 and also to enhance resilience and livelihood and productive systems to climate vulnerability and other shocks hence the plea to add value to the declaration before taking to the African leaders,” she said.

Justus Mochache Monda from Kenya Farmers Federation in his presentation titled mobilising farmers for market access said developing countries will continue to rely heavily on the agricultural sector hence the need to promote climate smart agriculture and family farming.

“Farmers, especially smallholder farmers remain the drivers of many economies in Africa even though their potential is often not brought forward. The sector is the key to food security, poverty reduction, and employment creation as well as meet climate change challenges,” he said.

As the forum ends delegates have maintained that farmer organisation is an essential ingredient of success in climate smart agriculture. This according to many participants at the forum signifies a point that crop production which depends on water through minimum tillage systems, evergreen agriculture and agroforestry systems, are key elements of the portfolio of CSA solutions.

November 11, 2014

South Africa: African Farmers Meet Over Climate-Smart Agriculture

GEORGE MHANGO
November 11, 2014

A joint three-day Africa Forum organised by NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) is underway in Johannesburg South Africa. The forum aims to champion Family Farming and climate smart agriculture through exchange of ideas by those in the agriculture sector on the continent.

From discussions, so far, what is clear from the forum is that NEPAD, regional and national farmer’s organisations, as well as young farmers, want knowledge sharing and learning among farmers, experts and decision makers so that there is food abundance on the continent.

Some farmers in Africa have ventured into irrigation to help them mitigate and adopt to effects climate change .

Some farmers in Africa have ventured into irrigation to help them mitigate and adopt to effects climate change .

Delegates were of the view that this year’s Africa Forum was the best vehicle that would help to foster best farming practices across the Africa for a country-driven development of agriculture.

In her opening remarks NEPAD programme director, Mrs Estherine Fotabong said farmers need to learn and share knowledge and experience about family farming plus what promising practices could be adopted in view of what climate smart agriculture calls.

She said this is why the forum is also part of commemorations of the 2014 African Union (AU) Year of Agriculture and Food, Nutrition and Security with a clear link to UN year of Family Farming. Fotabong explained that the forum is also meant to celebrate the existence of CAADP and the 10th anniversary of the Africa Forum which was established in 2004 in Kenya.

“We are not only looking at the role that farmers play in ensuring that there is food security and nutrition security, but also the role that you as farmers play in creating employment and management of natural resources,” said Fotabong.

She said this is why the forum is also part of commemorations of the 2014 African Union (AU) Year of Agriculture and Food, Nutrition and Security with a clear link to the UN Year of Family Farming.

Fotabong explained that the forum is also meant to celebrate the existence of CAADP and the 10th anniversary of the Africa Forum which was launched in 2004 in Kenya.

“As we have been reflecting on CAADP implementation, it has been very obvious that the role of African smallholder farmers, which we want to equate to African farming, is very critical in terms of Africa’s agricultural development,” said Fotabong.

On the other hand, President of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) Theo de Jager maintained that hunger and inequality could be dealt with if the continent has enough food so they are able to sell surplus food for their daily upkeep.

He said farmers could boost production if they collectively explore modern ways of farming and ensure use of market opportunities considering that the continent is blessed with water and plentiful land.

“Famers on the African continent are facing a challenge of climate change and we can list a number of scientific evidence as to how farmers face it. Therefore, we are key role players of what it needs to deal with climate change. In this case, it is good that we have more farmers who are young at this forum so that we don’t complain anymore,” he said.

Der Jager bemoaned that farmers are unable to exploit agricultural markets that are there within the region at the expense of the knowledge that is there due to lack of political will.

“We need politicians from different countries to understand each other so that there is no challenge on issues of export business. There is also need to mechanise the agricultural sector as was the case in the communication technology,” he said.

Farmers worldwide are already feeling the effects of rising temperatures and more frequent droughts as a result of climate change

Farmers worldwide are already feeling the effects of rising temperatures and more frequent droughts as a result of climate change

The Forum is also expected to give farmers and farmer organisations time to reflect and input into the Malabo Declaration proposed in Equatorial Guinea by farmers and organisations as an implementation strategy and roadmap before it is submitted to Heads of State and Government at the 2015 AU Summit.

Fotabong further explained that farmers are also key players of ensuring that the Malabo Decralation comes to fruition so that it is implemented by African leaders.

“And so as we reflect and we think as to how to implement Malabo, it is our view as NEPAD that farmers are central and critical players in the translation of the Malabo outcomes into concrete actions and results on the ground ,” said FOtabong.

During the opening session, Mr Phillip Kiriro, the President of Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, representing PAFO, said farmers want governments to introduce farming friendly policies aimed at making farming as business and advocate for climate smart agriculture.

He said it was also important that people discuss issues of agriculture in line with commercialization so that the sector is transformed.

Kiriro also called for the establishment of a commercial law in a bid to protect farmers cooperatives so that they acquire more opportunities in the supply chain within the continent to solve their challenges.

He said it was also important that people discuss issues of agriculture in line with commercialisation so that the sector is transformed besides having a commercial law to protect cooperatives so that they acquire more opportunities in the supply chain to solve their challenges.

“Infact, productivity levels are still worrying, to an extent where it is getting closer to a situation where our government think they would rather import producers, commercial people to do this because our productivity levels have gone down, but we know if you take for example in the Comesa region and other regions, the reason why we are failing is because of lack support to the sector. We need to organise ourselves,” said Kiriro.

He added that the issue of land is key to achieving climate smart agriculture, saying the kind of work we can achieve this is the availability of land which needs finances.

The Africa Forum through CAADP was established 10 years ago in Kenya for farmers and representatives, policy makers, manufacturers, traders, retailers, finances and development workers who work in or for African agriculture to share ideas.

The Africa Forum is part of the CAADP framework, and is coordinated by the five regional farmer organisations (RFOs) and Pan African Farmers Organisations together with the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA).

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