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Friday, November 29, 2013

Rukuni predicts faster food security for Africa by 2025, charges media

A professor of Agricultural Economics, Mandivamba Rukuni has predicted that Africa’s agriculture is poised to grow faster and by 2025 Africa will be food secured, NaijaAgroNet reports.

This is coming as he charged African media practitioners to see something good on the continent and report same always.

Prof. Rukuni who advises African Union (AU) on Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) among others made these assertions at a two-day training workshop of CAADP Journalists Network in Pretoria, South Africa.

According to him, there are avalanche of development messages African journalists should showcase to the world, including that Africa’s agriculture is now grows faster and by 2025 Africa will reach food secure, stressing that Africa’s economies are rising sustainably, though many Africans are still poor and hungry.

He also told NaijaAgroNet that African agriculture is growing slowly now after decades of stagnation and food security is improving, stressing that sustained improvements in governance and political stability will usher in these predictions.

Prof. Rukuni equally predicted that the industrialised world will have no capacity to feed 8 billion people by 2040 and Africa will have to be the food-basket of the world by next 27 years, insisting these are some of the stories; Africans are waiting to hear so as to build their confidence and belief.

“Africans need to re-write their own narratives, create their own future and fulfill own destiny. African journalists, therefore, have the unique role in shaping that narrative, so as to aid the main responsibility in re-branding Africa,” he said.

The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Prof. Rukuni said, is a major part of the narrative on ‘African solution to an African problem’ although Africa has a lot of homework to do.

Pointing out that between year 2000 and 2012 were proverbial unprecedented decade for the continent for Africa which now has impressive economic growth across the 54 countries accompanied with improved governance, human development indicators.

Despite the aforementioned good signs, Prof. Rukuni decried that Africa still faces major challenges of poverty, food insecurity, concerns that Africa is unlikely to meet most of the MDGs, especially MDG 1 on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2015

Remmy Nweke in South Africa 
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Pix: Prof. Mandi Rukuni (2) Brenda Zulu with Mwanja Nyajo of NEPAD, Marie-Noelle Guichi and Agathe Aline

Sunday, November 24, 2013

UN launches Int’l Family Farming 2014

The United Nations has launched the 2014 International Year of Family Farming to raise awareness on eradication of hunger and preserve natural resources, NaijaAgroNet reports.

NaijaAgroNet note that in both developed and developing countries, over 500 million family farms, defined as farms that rely primarily on family members for labour and management, produce the food that feeds billions of people. In many developing countries family farms represent up to 80 percent of all farm holdings.

The launch of the International Year in New York was attended by UN officials, ambassadors to the UN, government ministers and civil society leaders who will serve as special ambassadors for the year (names listed below).

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva pointed out to
 NaijaAgroNet the huge productive potential of family farmers.

"By choosing to celebrate this year, we recognize that family farmers are leading figures in responding to the double urgency the world faces today: improving food security and preserving the natural resources, in line with the Millennium Development Goals, with the debate on the post-2015 development agenda and the Zero Hunger Challenge," Graziano da Silva said.

Speaking on behalf of FAO, which is the lead UN agency for the year, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme, he added:  "Nothing comes closer to the sustainable food production paradigm than family farming. Family farmers usually run non-specialized, diversified agricultural activities that give them a central role in securing environmental sustainability and preserving biodiversity."

He portrayed most family farmers, as well as fisher folk, pastoralists, indigenous people and traditional communities, as among the world's most vulnerable populations, a situation that the year will try to address.

"We need to reposition family farming at the centre of national and regional development programmes," he said. "Governments play a key role in leading the support so that family farming can reach its potential.

"This includes offering technical assistance and policies that support the productivity increase of family farms; placing appropriate technologies within their reach; improving their access to land and water, credit and markets; and creating an enabling environment for further investments," he added.

He said that everyone had a role to play in fulfilling the potential of family farming, including family farmers associations and networks, international and regional agencies, the private sector, civil society and academia.

Special ambassadors for the year include Ibrahim Coulibaly, from Mali, President of the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations of Mali; Mirna Cunningham, from Nicaragua, former Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and Gerd Sonnleitner, from Germany, President of the European Farmers Association. 

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Cotula explains how law can make foreign investment work

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has published a handbook that shows how government officials and civil society organisations in low and middle-income countries can use legal tools to ensure foreign investments contribute to sustainable development.

NaijaAgroNet reports that the book focuses on investments in agriculture and the extractive industries – mining, oil and gas, authored by Dr Lorenzo Cotula.

These sectors, the author said attract much of the foreign investment in many low and middle-income countries. Increased investment could transform local economies by contributing public revenues and new livelihood opportunities. But the deals can also pile pressure on natural resources and spark conflict with local communities who depend on them.

"Public mobilisation against 'land grabbing' highlights that investment quality, not just quantity, matters a great deal, even in countries where investment is much needed," Dr Cotula said, stressing that legal tools can influence investment quality – from the tax regime to social and environmental safeguards, though to the inclusiveness of investment models and processes.

"There is much that governments and civil society can do to use those tools to promote investments that respond to local aspirations, and to get a better deal from incoming investments," he said.

The handbook, NaijaAgroNet gathered, explained what the laws that regulate foreign investment are, how they work, and how to use them most effectively.

It covers the variety of legal arenas that can influence the outcomes of investments — from investment treaties, extractive industry legislation, land tenure, human rights norms, environmental legislation and tax law —including arrangements to fight tax avoidance.

The book covers four main ways in which government and civil society can use legal tools to promote sustainable development, by:
  • Aligning public policies and decisions on investment with a strategic vision of sustainable development based on local and national aspirations.
  • Ensuring a fair economic deal.
  • Taking social and environmental considerations seriously.
  • Balancing investment protection with competing policy goals.
The handbook aims to support government officials in low and middle-income countries in their management of foreign investment for sustainable development, and support civil society efforts to influence decisions and hold government and investors to account.

Governments play a central role in developing and enforcing legal rules. But Cotula argues that engagement with investment law is not a task for regulators and legal experts alone.

"Harnessing the law to make investment work for sustainable development requires vibrant civil society organisations and social movements to advocate, scrutinise, challenge and influence," writes Cotula. "Perhaps most importantly, it requires citizens themselves to be able to appropriate and wield legal tools in their efforts to shape their own future."

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Pix: cover of the book

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Royco unveils TV commercial, promises meatier than ever flavour, aroma

In the bid to boost its consumer connection to the brand of Royco, the seasoning company, Unilever Nigeria Plc has unveiled a new and exciting television commercial tagged ‘Great Taste of Home.’

Speaking in Abuja to NaijaAgroNet, Managing Director, Unilever Nigeria Plc, Mr. Thabo Mabe, noted that the new campaign commercial captures the essence of the new Royco by bringing its ‘Great Taste of Home’ theme fully to life and delivering on a promise of taste that is ‘Now Meatier than Ever’ for all Nigerian dishes.

“At Unilever, we are proud to say that one of the pillars of our vision is to continue to improve the lives of our consumers,” he said, pointing out that the confidence with which they introduced the new Royco Chicken in addition to the existing variants of Beef and Goat flavours, for its teeming consumers delighted with the exciting array of flavours from Royco that now come in new and attractive packs.

Consumers, he said, could now choose their preferred flavour from the three Royco variants of Beef, Chicken and Goat which are now more meatier with the best aroma ever.

Brand Building Director, Unilever Nigeria Plc David Okeme, explained that with Royco, everyone could prepare and enjoy great tasting food with irresistible aroma every day.

Okeme stated that one of the unique selling propositions of the Royco seasoning range, besides its affordability, is its re-formulation which guarantees a meatier than ever flavour, thus helping the Nigerian woman prepare a variety of mouth-watering dishes for her family every day. Hence, the campaign theme, ‘Great Taste of Home.’

Explaining further, Category Manager, Savoury, Bolanle Kehinde-Lawal said, “The new Royco gives a more meaty taste and adds the best aroma to everyday Nigerian meals, while also being very affordable to the average Nigerian.

“Royco Chicken, the latest introduction to the existing Royco family is specially formulated to deliver ‘Irresistible Chicken Taste’ and great aroma to dishes. One cannot go wrong with cooking with the new Royco. Just go out and get your pack and your family will love you even more for it,” Kehinde - Lawal concluded.

Royco now comes in three cube formats of beef, chicken and goat, while the powdered format is specially formulated for stew and soup to give consumers more exciting flavours.

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Fish Center, WFO sign MoU on food security

The World Fish Center (WFC) and World Farmer’s Organisation (WFO) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote food security and rural development, reports NaijaAgroNet

The WFO, NaijaAgroNet gathers is an assemblage of national farmers’ organisations and agricultural cooperatives in 44 countries in order to represent and safeguard global food security, the environment as well as the socio-economic wealth of rural communities. On the other hand, the WFC, an international scientific research center part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) involved in promoting sustainable fishing and safeguarding water resources.

NaijaAgroNet reports that WFO Executive Director, Marco Marzano de Marinis, described the MoU between WFO and WFC as efforts at supporting agricultural organisations, with the firm belief that farmers and fishermen are a fundamental resource for global food security, rural development, and, in general, for global development.

“Farmers are the main investors in their sector, thus they have to be involved in any strategy aimed at raising their incomes and promoting this sector. Thus, farmers need better policies and a normative framework which includes economic incentives,” Marco Marzano said.

NaijaAgroNet notes that farmers and fishermen are fundamental resources for global food security and rural development. A 10-year agreement has been signed to strengthen their partnership as well as cooperate to develop projects and programs aimed at supporting farmers through learning and development initiatives. The activities will consist of mutual planning and support in research, promotion through conferences, seminars, workshops, but especially the development of common policies and advocacy strategies.

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FAO drums urgent support for farmers hit by Typhoon Haiyan

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called for assistance for the region’s most severely affected by the typhoon account for one-third of the total rice production in the country of Philippines.

NaijaAgroNet reports that FAO lamented the fact that hundreds of thousands of farmers in the Philippines whose crops were destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan need urgent assistance to sow new seeds before the end of the current planting season.

FAO also warned that the typhoon caused damage in the central part of the country to the 2013 main season rice crop, harvesting of which was well advanced.

“It also badly disrupted planting of the current 2013-2014 secondary season, which ends in late December,” FAO declared in a press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet by Fiona Winward, stressing concern that many storage facilities may have been destroyed, along with their contents.

For instance, FAO informed NaijaAgroNet that damage to the main season paddy crop both by Typhoon Haiyan and by Typhoon Nari, which hit northern parts of the country in October, as well as disruption to the planting of the second season is expected to result in lower rice production than anticipated for 2013.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that FAO has downgraded its forecast for the 2013 rice production in the country to 18 million tonnes from the expectation of a bumper crop of 18.9 million tonnes at the beginning of the season, FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

The rice production shortfall of 900,000 tonnes will be felt disproportionally in the five most affected regions.  

While rice production at the national level is likely to remain close to last year’s level, the damage at the regional level is more severe. FAO warned that farmers in areas hit by the typhoon could face severe food security and livelihood problems if they do not succeed in planting the next crop in the weeks ahead.  

The five regions most severely affected by the typhoon in terms of cereal crop losses accounted for one-third of the total rice production in 2012.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

UN enters Expo 2015 deal to end hunger

The United Nations (UN) today, Thursday signed an agreement as the major exhibitors at Expo 2015 in Milan, which will run for six months from 1 May until the end of October, reports NaijaAgroNet.

The exhibition focusing on the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” will avail UN to bring decades of experience and expertise on food security, nutrition, hunger and poverty reduction to the table.

The three Rome-based food agencies, namely the Food and Agriculture Organisaiton (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Programme (WFP) will coordinate the participation of the UN system under the leadership of the Director-General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva.

NaijaAgroNet confirms that already, some 22 UN agencies have submitted proposals for content and events at Expo 2015.

The Expo 2015 deal sealed at the Sheikh Zayed Centre, FAO headquarters in Rome, affirms the agreement on the UN’s participation at the 2015 World Expo signed by the UN Commissioner-General for Expo 2015 and FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry, Eduardo Rojas-Briales, and Giuseppe Sala, Chief Executive Officer of Expo 2015.

Emma Bonino, Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of FAO, Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD and Claudia von Roehl, Director of the Government Partnership Division of the WFP participated in the signing ceremony.

In a related development, NaijaAgroNet gathered that before the signing ceremony, a side event “Women and Nutrition: ideas for a sustainable future,” was organized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expo 2015 with the participation of Emma Bonino and David Nabarro, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition.

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Pix: Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Inadequate funding, bane of food security in Southern Africa

Inadequate funding has been identified as the bane of the low level of assistance project in the battle for food security in the Southern Africa, reports NaijaAgroNet reports.

According to FEWS NET which estimates that most parts of the region will remain food secure throughout the outlook period, as at October 2013.

NaijaAgroNet reports that pockets of acute food insecurity existed in areas with reduced 2012/13 harvests due to shocks such as mid-season dry spells, pest infestations, and flooding.

Food access by households, NaijaAgroNet gathered that in these areas is already problematic, and the lean season is indicated to have begun earlier than the normal October/November start.

Throughout the outlook period; Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected in localized parts of Zimbabwe and Malawi in the presence of humanitarian assistance.

This was attributed to insufficient resource levels, with funds currently estimated at approximately 60 per cent of needs in both countries. The report pointed out that in parts of Malawi, outcomes worsened to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between January and March as resources dwindle and assistance is interrupted.

Intra-regional trade, the report emphasised is stabilizing staple grain supplies, in addition to formal and informal cross border trade especially exports from surplus producing parts of Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa; were expected to continue to play a key role in supplying deficit area markets across the region.

However, staple food prices were reportedly rising seasonably, prices remain high and are increasing faster in areas where market supplies are atypically low. Although estimated regional production is similar to last year and above the fiveyear average, tradable supplies were tighter due to localized production deficits in 2013, lower carry-over stocks, and strong export demand.

This is expected to continue to exert atypical upward pressure on maize prices.

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FAO, WHO host preparatory technical meeting on nutrition

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO), Wednesday commence a three-day preparatory technical meeting on nutrition in Rome on major nutrition challenges (ICN2).

The meeting is also expected to enhance international cooperation, even as they would collaborate with the Italian Foreign Ministry on Thursday to host the ‘Gender, nutrition and agriculture’ side-event.

NaijaAgroNet reports that the United Nations (UN) System Standing Committee on Nutrition seminar with Bioversity International and Govt of Malawi on nutrition and sustainability was held on Tuesday.

Also NaijaAgroNet reports that everyone has the right to good nutrition and yet the figures showed that all too many people are denied this right.

“Some 842 million people are chronically hungry, but many more die or suffer the ill effects of inadequate nutrition,” experts from FAO disclosed, while about 2 billion people are affected by micronutrient deficiencies.

In addition, NaijaAgroNet gathered that an estimated 7 million children die before their fifth birthday every year, 162 million children under five are stunted while at the same time, 500 million people are obese.

NaijaAgroNet recalls that over 50 countries and many international experts will gather at FAO headquarters in Rome to focus on ways to speed up improvements in nutrition - especially in developing countries, through policy changes, international coordination and the exchange of knowledge.

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Pix: Graziano da Silva  DG, FAO

Awka residents decry kerosene scarcity

Inhabitants of Awka, the capital of Anambra State have described the high prices of kerosene in the State, following the scarcity of the product, reports NaijaAgroNet.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey showed that the product was being sold at between N110 and N140 per liter as against the official pump price of N50 sold at the NNPC Mega Station in Awka.

Some attendants at independent filling stations visited said the high cost of kerosene was due to non-availability of the product to dealers.

Ifeanyi Nwamuo, an attendant with Total Filling Station at Ukwuoji, Awka, said that the product had not been supplied to the station in many months.

He said that the process of getting the product was hard and that failed attempts to secure supply had compelled their station to stop the procurement of kerosene.

Tina Nwaegbo, a private dealer also attributed the high cost of the commodity in Awka to the means of procurement and the large-scale bribery before getting the product.

Ms. Nwaegbo said that dealers needed to recover their expenses after procurement and that it was the end users who would bear the cost. She said that the Federal Government should make the business policy easy so as to eliminate third parties involved in kerosene procurement.

The NNPC Mega Station Manager in Awka, Ngozi Onyiliofor, said the station had been selling the product to the public at the approved pump price of 50k per liter.

Her colleague, Florence Nwaokoye, said that the supply of the product to station had been steady, compared to previous months when kerosene was out of supply in Awka and environs.

She urged the government to ensure availability of the product this season, to facilitate the celebration of Christmas. 
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Pix: courtesy Premium Times

Monday, November 11, 2013

Climate change: LDCs group make financial demands from rich nations

The group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) at the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), may be spoiling for war as they are demanding climate finance figures from rich nations before December 2013.

Chairman of the LDCs group, Prakash Mathema of Nepal, made this disclosure to NaijaAgroNet at the end of international negotiations under the UNFCCC, insisting that greater financial transparency was needed to implement action to tackle climate change.

This, LDCs group said the industrialised nations should provide detailed information about the finance they are willing to provide to help the vulnerable adapt to climate change.

The LDC Group requests each industrialised country to provide information on the levels of finance they have provided in 2013 and how much they will provide in future years. The group requests this information to include precise allocations for adaptation specifically, along with a breakdown of how much finance is for the LDCs.

The LDCs requested that the richer nations provide this information at COP19, the 19th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC, which takes place in Warsaw at the end of the year.

As said by LDC Chairman, they expressed deepest appreciation to the Annex 1 Parties who have made substantial contributions towards supporting adaptation in the LDCs.

“But there is too much uncertainty about where the future funds will come from. Delayed climate action and lack of ambition to close the mitigation gap will cost more tomorrow than today. We need to move to a sustainable climate smart pathway where life is possible for all and for generations to come,” he said.

Further, the LDCs, with their weak adaptive capacity and their extreme vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change, have already witnessed many catastrophic climate disasters and these events are going to be more frequent, intense and unpredictable.

“We are all aware of the fact that the level of concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 400 parts per million, the highest level for some three million years. This is alarming. We lament the failure of parties to launch the negotiations under the UNFCCC’s subsidiary body for implementation at the UN negotiations which ended Monday,  November 11, 2013 in Bonn," he said.

This, LDCs said is of grave concern to the group as issues of implementation are key for the LDCs.

“We expect this not to happen again at COP19 in Warsaw later this year. Communities around the world have high expectations regarding this process and hope that we, as climate ambassadors, will take some bold decisions very soon to protect humanity from the adverse impacts of climate change. To implement such decisions, financial support is key. We need to act now and we need to act together,” the group said.

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Artificial leaf ignites discuss on food security with molecular plants

The presence of artificial leaves, otherwise known as ‘resurrection plants’ ignited discuss among 800 participants on food security with molecular plants at the 2013 Falling Walls Conference in Berlin.

NaijaAgroNet reports that international top scientists present at the 2013 Falling Walls Conference wondered, why they were given a piece of dry plant by Jill Farrant of Cape Town University. 

The resurrection plants are not known only as the lazy gardener’s best friend, but a real hope for the fight against hunger in the world says some experts, just as these plants could tolerate almost complete water loss from vegetative tissues.

The South African researcher, Jill Farrant expressed determination to find the secrets behind these self-protecting properties in order to improve the resistance of crop in Africa and to solve one of the world’s biggest problems – hunger.

NaijaAgroNet notes that this was of great importance for the African continent, where the impacts of climate change have devastating effects on agriculture and food security. 

However, Benjamin Barber from City University of New York managed to get the audience to think of city instead of nation states, stressing that a new global model of governance, in which cities are the key players.

NaijaAgroNet reports that Barber pointed out that nation states will not govern globally cities can.

“They already are. Half of the human race lives in cities and the influence of places like Mumbai, Nairobi, Sao Paulo or Manila has long transcended regional and national borders,” Barber said.

Emphasising that man cannot solve social problems like diseases, economic crisis or climate change on a national level, because his studies have shown that cities have the capacity to deal with internal and external issues and could easily replace the system of nation states in the future.

For Daniel Nocera, he predicted global demand in energy scaling up to 16 Terawatts in the next 37 years.

“I calculated that we will need 16 Terawatt more energy to meet the demand by 2050,” he said, recollecting that with the poor in mind, develop an artificial leave which, when placed in a glass of tap water and exposed to sunlight, is able to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

“Both gases can then be collected, stored as fuel in private households and later be fed to fuel cells to generate electricity,” he suggested.

NaijaAgroNet reports that additional speakers included the Nobel Laureates Jules Hoffmann and Dan Shechtman, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Robert Kirshner from Harvard University, Onora O’Neill from Cambridge University, Sophia Vinagradov from the University of California and many more. More than 8000 viewers watched this year’s conference via livestream.

The Falling Walls Conference was first held in 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and has since developed into a highly acclaimed annual platform for top international research. The conference is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Helmholtz Association, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Technology and Research, and a number of other leading research institutions, foundations and companies.

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