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Saturday, June 28, 2014

SA falls behind on food indicators

Despite the fact that it is a leading force in Africa in terms of food security, for the second year running,
South Africa's scores have fallen with food affordability indicators declining consecutively for the past 24 months NaijaAgronet gathered.

South Africa’s The DuPont-Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Food Security Index, which was first published in 2012, showed that this year South Africa scored 57.9 out of 100 index points on affordability, a decrease of 2.9 index points from last year.

South Africa still ranked the highest in the sub-Saharan region in terms of food affordability but the scores of countries such as Botswana, Uganda and Cote d’Ivoire, which followed South Africa, have been on an upward trend.

South Africa’s affordability scores respectively declined from 61 and 60.8 points in 2012 and last year.
Botswana’s score, on the other hand, increased from 54 points to 55. Even the most food-insecure nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo, improved its food affordability indicator from 12.9 points in 2012 and 2013 to 16 this year.

 “It’s a reflection of [South Africa’s] GDP [gross domestic product] per capita. If the economy is not growing, inflation is high, which is the case in South Africa, it’s expensive and affordability is one category that will be affected,” said Pat Thaker, EIU’s director of Middle East and Africa, during the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association academic symposium in Cape Town yesterday.

South Africa’s GDP per capita, the indicator of countries’ standards of living, had fallen by 1.6 points when EIU compared this year’s index to last year’s.
The country’s food consumption as a share of household expenditure had worsened by 12.8 index points.

According to the last National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) food price monitor last month, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa had the highest food inflation in the year between April 2013 and April 2014. South Africa’s food inflation was 7.8 percent, significantly above the consumer price index of 6.1 percent over that period.

Chukwudi Obi

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No fewer than seven Chinese experts and 24 technicians will partner with the Ugandan government to transfer simple and inexpensive technologies used back in China to help boost food production in Africa and ensure food security for the continent NaijaAgronet authoritatively reports.

Although Uganda is food secure, her neighbours, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya all look at Uganda as their food basket. These countries import various produce from Uganda ranging from cereals, vegetables to livestock products.

Chinese experts and technicians are teaming up with senior agricultural experts in Uganda to ensure that Uganda’s food security remains strong and also have enough to supply to the region.

Seven Chinese experts and 24 technicians in the fields of agribusiness, irrigation, horticulture, fishing, cereals among others, are offering help in agricultural research institutions, the ministry of agriculture, local governments and private farms.

“We are supposed to help resolve the food security problem in Africa,” Wu Zhiping, the head of the Chinese team, said.

In his words, Commissioner for Crop Resource at Uganda’s ministry of agriculture, Opolot Okasai  said, “We have a lot of technologies that are appropriate to our people, not from the North, but within the South developing countries. These technologies are relevant to the development of our countries. China which has developed in the last 30 years has got the most appropriate technologies, interventions to cause the transformation especially in Africa,”

Okasai said Chinese experts are working with local experts to set up demonstration centers where local farmers can come and learn.

According to Okasai, Chinese hybrid rice can yield up to 10 metric tonnes per hectare compared to the conventional rice which yields 4.5 metric tonnes per hectare. He said the hybrid Chinese fox tail millet can yield eight metric tonnes per hectare compared to the conventional millet which gives a yield of up to 1.5 metric tonnes per hectare.

Wu said the Chinese rice grown in Uganda has been tested by the ministry of agriculture experts and results show that it is of high quality and the yield is also good.

Studies have shown that hybrid Chinese vegetables can also do well in Uganda with the possibility of producing 12 tonnes per hectare, Wu said.

Apart from using high yielding seeds and fertilizers, the Chinese experts have also introduced a low-cost irrigation system. A demonstration site has been set up in Kawanda near the capital Kampala.

“We need to take this demonstration and let many people see and envisage how they can implement it in their own setups,” Okasai said.

The Chinese experts have also introduced green house farming which can be used in urban areas where agricultural land is limited. They argue that this type of farming can be a source of employment to the many youths in urban areas.

City authorities in the capital Kampala have started to adapt to green house farming as a way of employing the youths.

The expertise brought in by the Chinese is going to have ripple effects as the Ugandan government is now focusing on encouraging commercial agriculture.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on June 5 said commercialization of agriculture was top on his priority list to spur social and economic transformation.

Uganda depends on agriculture as a source of economic livelihood. Over 70 percent of Ugandans depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Sixty-eight percent of the farmers are engaged in subsistence farming which does not generate enough income for households.

Museveni said over the next 12 months the government will prioritize commercial agriculture focusing on crops that will have domestic, regional and international demand to help pull millions of Ugandans out of poverty.

Studies have been carried out on the growth of Chinese hybrid rice in Uganda, with positive results recorded

Chukwudi Obi with additional reports from Xinhua news agency 

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Kenya signs deal with IFDC to enhance food security

As part of its commitment to boost food security in the Africa and to be a top player in Agriculture in the African continent, the Kenyan government has signed an agreement with the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) to accelerate agriculture and increase food security in the country, NaijaAgronet gathered.

The accreditation agreement formalizing their shared commitment to sustainable agricultural development in the country was signed recently in Nairobi by IFDC CEO, Amit Roy and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amina Mohamed.

According to IFDC’s CEO, “Agriculture is the engine that drives Kenya’s economy. Our valued partnership with the Kenyan government will keep that locomotive roaring. The priorities of the Kenyan government are the priorities of IFDC. Our joint projects have helped strengthen private sector-led fertilizer markets. Together, we continue to ensure that fertilizer, training and agricultural technologies reach the farmers that need them the most. We are also mapping the information needs of 23 farmer groups – over 9,000 farmers – across the country. This is the first step toward a comprehensive database that will help connect farmers with agribusiness opportunities.”

Speaking during the ceremony, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amina Mohamed said 60 per cent of Kenyans rely on agriculture for their livelihoods adding that the partnership with IFDC will continue to accelerate agricultural development and create lasting benefits for smallholder farmers across the country and throughout the region.

In addition to working with the agriculture ministry and its agencies, IFDC is also partnering with farmer groups, agri-preneurs, non-governmental organizations, universities, seed and fertilizer companies, food processors, banks and micro-finance providers.

Chukwudi Obi

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Monday, June 23, 2014

U.S. agriculture saw double-digit growth in 2013

The output of the agriculture sector in the United States of America (USA) grew by 16.4 percent after inflation last year, the fastest rise for the sector since 1998 and the nation’s gross domestic product grew just 1.8 percent, with the output of the second-fastest growing sector, the information industry, increasing by 3.2 percent, NaijaAgronet news gathered.

Last week, US government released its estimates of state economic growth in 2013. North Dakota according to reports, led with a growth rate of 9.7 percent. Alaska was the only state whose economy declined, shrinking 2.1 percent, largely because of declining oil production.

In the report, the economy of the District of Columbia also declined, but that was because of cuts in government spending while North Dakota benefited from its rising production of shale oil, but was also helped because its agriculture sector amounts to 12.9 percent of its economy, more than that of any other state except South Dakota.

Naijaagronet news checks indicates that agriculture accounted for just 1.6 percent of the country’s output in 2013. But it was learnt that that was the largest share in recent years, up from a recent low of 0.9 percent in 2006. The agriculture sector includes forestry, fishing and hunting as well as farming, but farming is much larger than the other categories.

Naijaagronet news authoritatively gathered that last year, the government changed the way it calculates GDP figures, including counting research and development spending as investments rather than as consumption. It revised figures only back to 1997, so earlier years’ output and growth figures for agriculture are not comparable.

According to an economist with the Agriculture Department, Mitch Morehart, the strong growth in agriculture reflected a recovery in production for some crops after a drought in 2012, as well as strong production and rising prices for livestock. This year, he said, it appears that agriculture is not doing nearly as well.

Overall, the report stated that the economies of the 10 states that are most dependent on agriculture grew at an average annual rate of 3.4 percent in 2013, while the 10 states that are least dependent on the farm economy grew at an average rate of 1.3 percent.

According to the report, “California is by far the largest agricultural producer, accounting for $46.7 billion, or 17 percent of the total national agricultural output of $269.1 billion. But the state is so large that agriculture makes up only 2.1 percent of its output, less than 16 other states. Iowa, ranked second in dollar value at $16.1 billion, depends on agriculture for almost 10 percent of its total economic output”.

The 2013 surge in agriculture ended a string of three years in which that sector did not do as well as the U.S. economy. But since 1998, agriculture outperformed the rest of the economy in nine of the 15 years.

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Gates Foundation give Purdue $10M grant to aid African farmers

Naijaagronet news :
Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill & Melinda Gates foundation has approved a $10 million (N1.7 billion) grant to Purdue University to develop a program that will put the crop-saving Purdue Improved Crop Storage bags into the hands of more farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa countries to improve their food security and income Naijaagronet news gathered.

The grant for the five-year project moves the Purdue Improved Crop Storage bags from research and applications for only one crop to commercialization involving multiple crops.

According to Purdue President, Mitch Daniels, “This project further extends a Purdue program that has long addressed a growing need for more abundant and safer food in Sub-Sahara Africa as part of our work in helping to reduce poverty and food insecurity globally. The next step is a crucial and practical one — developing a system so that more farmers in Africa can use these essential crop storage bags for many crops.”

The hermetic triple bagging, a chemical-free storage method developed by professor Larry Murdock in Purdue’s Department of Entomology, enables farmers to store a variety of major crops for more than one year after harvest. The technology helps improve food availability and increase income of small-holder farmers.

In using PICS bags, farmers no longer need chemicals to control grain storage pests. Grain storage loss to insects is estimated at 20 percent for major crops such as corn and common beans.

Chukwudi Obi 

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NBL signs Cassava Partnership Agreement

NaijaAgronet news :

Nigeria Breweries has signed a 3- year agreement to strengthen the participation of smallholder farmers in the local economy in sub-saharan Africa Naijaagronet news gathered.

The PPP agreement which will be implemented by a consortium comprising IFDC,ICRA and Boplnc is part of a  Dutch funded initiative  known as 2SCALE aimed at improving rural livelihoods and food security in Africa.

Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen who attended the signing of the MoU in Nigeria recently, as part of her trade mission with leading Dutch businesses, said: "HEINEKEN's decision to take part in a programme like 2SCALE proves there are real opportunities in Africa for the Dutch private sector and enjoined more Dutch companies to invest in Nigeria and Africa.  

Managing Director, Nigerian Breweries, Nico Vervelde noted that the MoU was part of Nigerian Breweries' ambition to support local economic development and promote inclusive growth by sourcing agricultural raw materials, like cassava, locally from Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs.
“Through our partnership with Psaltry, we are taking a big step towards further realising this ambition”, he said.

On 2SCALES’s participation in the PPP, business developer in 2SCALE, Niek van Dijk, stated that the program was aimed at empowering many people adding that “we see small-scale farmers as potential entrepreneurs that can add value to both local markets as well as Dutch companies. It is not philanthropy for companies to do business with small-scale farmers, it's an opportunity to grow for all parties and we are very pleased that Nigerian Breweries is supporting this initiative".

Under the terms of the MoU, the partners will work together to support small-scale farmers in the production of more and better cassava through technical assistance, training and easier access to finance. The PPP will enable more smallholder farmers to participate in the market for processed cassava products and will allow, Nigerian Breweries to increase the amount of locally grown cassava products used in their local beers.

The PPP also supports HEINEKEN's commitment to deliver 60 % of its African raw materials requirements via local sourcing by 2020.

Chukwudi Obi 

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Starvation is a war crime says UN

The United Nations (UN) has declared that starvation is a war crime, just as the UN-Arab League Special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi stepped down, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, stepped down after being frustrated by the purported Syrian forces from carrying out his mandate of assisting victims and ensuring that aids get to the affected.

NaijaAgroNet recalls that Brahimi, Syria mediator took this stand after briefing the 15-member Security Council for the final time and had formally stepped down on My 31

However, in reaction to Brahimi vacation of special envoy post, the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said blamed an international deadlock over how to end the country's three-year civil war for hampering a bid to broker peace.

In addition, he noted that international and regional powers have backed opposing sides in the civil war that has so far killed at least 150,000 people, with Russia and Iran supporting President Bashar al-Assad and Western powers and Gulf Arab states largely backing the rebels.

NaijaAgroNet recollects that Brahimi had long threatened to quit, just as his predecessor - former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan - did in 2012.

Annan resigned after six months as the U.N. and Arab League joint special representative on Syria, slamming the U.N. Security Council for failing to unite behind efforts to end the fighting.

Ban ki-moon noted in announcing Brahimi's departure, that "There must be accountability for the terrible crimes that have been - and are being - committed. Such crimes include the deliberate starvation of communities by preventing humanitarian access."

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Pix: Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Alison-Madueke is alternative OPEC President

The Minister for Petroleum, Princess Diezani Kogbeni Alison-Madueke is the alternative president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), NaijaAgroNet can confirm.

This, NaijaAgroNet also reports offers Nigeria the privilege to deputise the incumbent president from Libya at the OPEC meetings, in spite of the schemes by Iran to turn the table.

Sources close to OPEC and exposed by The Wall Street Journal were reported as quoting an OPEC insider saying this “could end a long-running leadership standoff at the cartel, but which could also be controversial at home.”

The report also exposed that Nigeria’s delegation at OPEC has stepped up lobby for Alison-Madueke to get the OPEC topnotch job, stressing that Petroleum ministers from other OPEC countries are “reportedly divided over new Nigerian leadership pitch” and that Alison-Madueke faces resistance from the Arab member nations.

Further NaijaAgroNet inquiries showed that OPEC has been bedeviled with internal wrangling and divisions as it looks to nominate a new leadership. Abdulla Salem el-Badri, the group’s long-standing secretary general, had been due to step down two years ago but the group could not decide on a replacement. Iran has for years coveted placing one of its own senior oil officials at the head of the group’s secretariat in Vienna – a move that Saudi Arabia has vigorously opposed.”

NaijaAgroNet gathered that last December, Alison-Madueke was named OPEC’s alternate president at the caucus’ 164th session in Vienna, Austria, which means that Mrs. Allison-Madueke could deputise for the Dr. Abdel Bari Ali Al-Arousi, who is the Minister of Oil and Gas of Libya elected president of the conference for another year from January 1, 2014.
Nigeria became full member of OPEC since 1971.

NaijaAgroNet recalls that Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, the Minister of Petroleum Resources represents Nigeria as the alternate President of the OPEC Conference.

Born on December 6, 1960 in the city of Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Alison-Madueke holds BArch, Howard University, Washington, DC (USA), MBA, Judge Institute of Management, University of Cambridge, UK, 2003, and has worked for Charles Szoradi Architects, Washington, DC.

She was a project engineer, American Interior Builders, Inc., Washington, DC and Coordinated designs for Furman Construction Management, Inc., Rockville, Maryland; Project Manager, Howard University, Washington, DC where she also worked as member, Planning and Development Team, Howard University, Washington, DC before returning to Nigeria to join Shell Petroleum Company Lagos as the Head of Project Unit, Estate Development Division.

Mrs. Alison-Madueke continued to progress within Shell Corporation as she was elevated to Head of Corporate Issues Identification & Management Department, External Affairs Directorate, Shell Petroleum Company, Lagos; Senior JV Relations Adviser for Strategy and Planning, Shell Petroleum Company; Lead Ventures Relation Adviser, Shell Petroleum Company, Lagos, Nigeria; External Affairs Director, Board of Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria.

In July 2007, she was appointed Minister of Transportation; Minister of Mines and Steel Development, December 2008 and till date serving as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, since April 2010.

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Pix: Princess Alison-Madueke

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

70% of world population without social protections - UN

Aftermath of the global economic crisis, it has been discovered that over 70 per cent of the world population is without proper social protections, says United Nations labour agency, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), reports NaijaAgroNet.
ILO in an executive summary of the report made available to NaijaAgroNet.urged governments to scale up investment in child and family benefits, pensions and other public expenditures.
Sandra Polaski, the Deputy Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) made this disclosure, saying that the global community agreed in 1948 that social security and health care for children, working age people who face unemployment or injury and older persons are a universal human right.
“And yet in 2014 the promise of universal social protection remains unfilled for the large majority of the world’s population,” she lamented.
Equally, NaijaAgroNet gathered that as many as 122 governments were contracting public expenditures in 2014, of which 82 are developing countries, according to the findings of the World Social Protection Report 2014/15: Building economic recovery, inclusive development and social justice.
“The case for social protection is even more compelling in these times of economic uncertainty, low growth and increased inequality,” Ms. Polaski noted, adding that it is also an issue that the international community should embrace prominently in the development agenda following the Millennium Development Goals deadline in 2015.
At the beginning of the 2008-2009 economic crisis, at least 48 high- and middle-income countries put in place stimulus packages totalling $2.4 trillion that devoted roughly a quarter to social protection measures.
This support “acted as an automatic stabilizer that helped the economies to regain balance and protected the unemployed and vulnerable from economic disaster in the countries where it was extended,” according to the report.

But from 2010 onwards, many governments reversed course and embarked prematurely on fiscal consolidation, despite the urgent need to continue supporting vulnerable populations and stabilizing consumption.
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LDC Group says urgent action needed on climate change

The Chairman of the Least Developed Countries Group at the UN climate change negotiations, Mr. Prakash Mathema has said that the latest science tells us that we could limit global temperature increases to a level that will save the poorest countries in the world, reports NaijaAgroNet.

He told NaijaAgroNet that all that is required is the will to do it, adding that “if we don’t act urgently the world’s poorest will suffer.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that the two new reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in the last three months, present alarming realities for the world’s poorest.

“Extreme temperatures, rainfall and drought, increase in aridity, more intense tropical cyclones, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification are among other adverse effects of climate change,” he said. Pointing out that these effects will lead to declining crop yields, undernourishment, injury and ill-health, and a number of other socioeconomic and development challenges.

“It is still technically and economically feasible to limit temperature increases to below 1.5°C, but only if we all work together to resolve the climate change problem. If some countries advance their own interests and ignore the need for international cooperation, then we are doomed,” he said.

The LDC Group, further said, has arrived in Bonn, Germany to continue discussions at the UN on reaching a universal, legally-binding agreement on climate change and called for urgent action to ensure that we reach a new legal agreement in Paris by December 2015.

“Governments must make substantial progress in their talks in the period leading up to this date. We hope that we will have a negotiating text to discuss in the major climate change meeting later this year in Lima, Peru. This means that this June session of climate change talks is critical. We cannot be delayed by procedural discussions. We must put our heads together and start writing a new agreement,” he said.

Mathema insisted that as a sign of commitment to addressing climate change, the LDC Group is already choosing low-carbon and climate-resilient development pathways; to show that everyone has a role to play.

“We stand ready to engage proactively and progressively in the negotiations for a new agreement. We have demonstrated our leadership as the ‘moral voice’ in difficult negotiations. We sincerely hope that all nations will join us in this quest. Reaching a strong conclusion in Paris is crucial for us; it is about the very survival of our communities and future generations. If there is no progress, we stand to lose the most,” Mathema said.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

AstraZeneca unveils health research grant in Nigeria

The AstraZeneca Nigeria Research Grant has been unveiled in Nigeria for health affiliated research, reports NaijaAgroNet.

The grant, NaijaAgroNet gathered  is an initiative to facilitate research in both communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in this West African country and follows closely on the recent successful launch of a comparable venture in Kenya earlier this year.

NaijaAgroNet also gathered that over the next three years, AstraZeneca plans to invest a total of US$300 000 (US$100 000/year) in a variety of research projects in Nigeria, with the aim of building medical capacity in the country, providing support to both experienced medical academics as well as medical academics embarking on a career in research.

Karl Friberg, AstraZeneca’s Country President for South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, informed NaijaAgroNet the intention was to fund 5-7 projects per year. 

“Prevalence/epidemiological, pharmaco-economic and health outcomes data are vital if we’re to understand the disease burden in Africa. The Grant will make possible the studies needed to provide such data,” Friberg said.

The focus in Africa on infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria is now broadening to include NCDs like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases (e.g. hypertension) and asthma. “We know these conditions are increasing rapidly in Africa, but we’re unable to quantify the extent of the problem,” he continues.

 “We need local data to know what we’re dealing with – so that we can partner with governments to address matters earlier in the disease process and avoid the higher downstream costs that come with treating advanced disease states.”

The Nigerian government is especially concerned about the increasing NCD burden. “The Minister of Health is interested in establishing a national stroke and cardiovascular disease prevention programme, but is dependent on hospitals coming up with good-quality representative data on the prevalence of major cardiovascular risk factors,” says Friberg. Over and above the Grant, AstraZeneca is therefore also funding a project run out of the capital, Abuja, to assess the prevalence of these risk factors.

The study involves 5000 subjects and is being undertaken in partnership with the National Hospital Abuja. It represents an investment of an additional US$100 000 and is currently under way. “We’re proud to feel that even before the official launch of the ‘Grant’, we’re already helping to meet Nigeria’s health needs,” observes Friberg. “By supporting the programme, AstraZeneca is positioning itself as the partner of choice in raising awareness, early detection and appropriate management of major cardiovascular risk factors. This will be to the benefit of all stakeholders – the hospital, the patients/community and AstraZeneca.”

The key aim of the ‘AstraZeneca Nigeria Research Grant’ is to build capacity and capability to conduct research in Nigeria. “We hope to build the next generation of academics in Nigeria by assisting them to undertake clinical trials, have their research published and present their findings internationally. For science to deliver value, data need to be shared and challenged as the findings become known, understood and used constructively.”

AstraZeneca believes that pharmaceutical companies need to move beyond their traditional roles and form partnerships to create a meaningful difference in the health of a nation. Friberg feels that the ‘AstraZeneca Nigeria Research Grant’ is a reflection of the company’s commitment to the country and to Africa as a whole. 

“When all is said and done, it’s about making a difference to the patients themselves. I have great hopes and expectations that this initiative will produce many high-quality research projects that will provide crucial insights into Nigeria’s disease profile, especially with regard to NCDs. And once we have this information, AstraZeneca will continue to work together with the Nigerian government to address these matters.”

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Pix: R-L: Tarek Rabah, Area Vice President , Middle East& Africa,AstraZeneca Nigeria, Professor Folashade Ogunsola, Provost College of Medicine, University College Lagos, Karl Friberg, Country President, South Africa & Sub-Sahara Africa, AstraZeneca Nigeria and Jude Abonu, Country Manager, AstraZeneca Nigeria at the grand launch of AstraZeneca Scientific Research Trust Grant in Nigeria held in Lagos yesterday- 19th February, 2014