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Participants at the 19th Session of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union, MPs have learned how food security can be improved rather than jeopardized through the sustainable introduction of bio-energy.
Meghan Sapp, Secretary General of Partners for Euro-African Green Energy (PANGEA) said the oil price spike in 2007/08 were a result of many factors, such as bad cereal crops in Australia, Canada and elsewhere due to drought, underinvestment in agriculture for decades, increased demand for protein in Asia, and Latin America as well as increased demand for cereals in Africa.
“When oil prices went up, so did the prices of fertilizer, tractor diesel and transportation.
Yet when oil prices came down, the high prices for food commodities—which at the time were blamed on biofuels—also came down. The foodstuff whose price had increased the most was rice, which is not used anywhere as a feedstock for biofuel,” said Sapp.
According to the FAO, over the last 20 years, food production has risen steadily at over 2% a year, while the rate of population growth has dropped to 1.14% a year.
Access to food depends on levels of poverty, purchasing power of households, prices, and existence of transport and market infrastructure of food distribution systems.
Trade barriers and subsidies also reduce access to food markets for developing countries. IMF/World Bank Structural Adjustment Programmes (80s-90s), forced developing countries to drop tariffs, eliminate food marketing boards, and be victims of dumped food exports from the US, Europe (and Brazil), destroying local markets.
WTO Agreement on Agriculture keeps away tariffs, duties, domestic and export subsidies, and other protection mechanisms yet the CAP and Farm Bill still exist.
“Several countries are developing policies to ensure that biofuel production is produced sustainably with a positive impact on their social and natural environments. Mozambique is leading Africa in this regard. Other supranational policies like the Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels and the Renewable Energy Directive have all placed high priority on ensuring food security in areas where biofuels are produced,” said Sapp.
“There are many opportunities to increase food and fuel production simultaneously, thereby increasing energy and food security while counteracting decades-long underinvestment in agriculture. Through crop-rotation and various forms of intercropping, crops can be grown for both food and fuel offering farmers diversified markets and opportunities to gain from production of co-products,” she said.
Better agriculture production methods alone can make a big difference, allowing the extra production to remain available for energy production, rather than taking food supplies out of mouth in order to put into tanks. There needs to be more technology transfer in Africa on how to use wastes—human, animal and agriculture—in order to create energy sources while cleaning up the environment at the same time.
“In order to succeed with biofuels and use them as a tool for development, there needs to be a strengthening of regional markets for both food and fuel with increased access and Infrastructure. More investment in agricultural research and extension services to increase productivity/efficiency is needed to counteract the last few decades of neglect,” said Sapp.
Low-cost technologies using local resources for local needs need to be developed instead of just imported technologies for developed countries. In addition, governments need to take responsibility while also taking action to promote biofuels including blending mandates, feed-in tariffs for renewable sources and mini-grids for rural areas.
Seed scientists are hailing their next release of new finger millet varieties, due early next year, as a project that will impact some 10 million people in Kenya by improving the yields and incomes of the country's millet farmers.
The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) is conducting National Performance Trials (NPT) for the three, new, superior finger millet varieties, which researchers say will guarantee higher yields, tolerance to drought, striga weed and blast disease.
The new varieties U-15, Gulu and Okahale-1 will initially be made available to seven largely finger millet growing regions in Western Kenya, which are currently growing indigenous varieties and improved variety-P-224, which was released in the 1990s. The regions have a combined population of 2.8 million people living on millet farming.
According to Dr Chrispus Oduori, Kari's principal research officer, the pioneer finger millet breeding project will affect 10 million people in the country in the long run.
Each of the seven regions yearly commits at least 1000 hectares to finger millet cultivation, though the Teso region commits more. Across the whole country, there are 65,000 hectares under finger millet cultivation.
But there are still shortages of the crop. Processing giants like Unga Kenya Limited are processing at 50 per cent below capacity due to the lack of raw material, and are also importing millet from Tanzania to compensate for the shortfall.
The indigenous varieties that most farmers are using yield between 500kg and 700kg per hectare, although with fertiliser optimum yields can reach 1600kg. The yield of the P224 hybrid variety released in the 1990s is higher, at up to 2500 kg per hectare, but only around 10,000 farmers are using it, as many peasant farmers do not know of it.
However, the new varieties will yield 1100kg to 2900kg per hectare and are also "drought escaping and mature early," said Dr Oduori. From planting, these three varieties take 110 to 115 days to mature, while the conventional varieties take over 130 days. They also have better malting qualities and due to their higher nutritional value are ideal for making baby foods.
The seven regions lined up for the seed launch are Gucha, Busia, Kisii, Teso, Nyamira, Marakwet and Bungoma, which have at least 700ml of rainfall, which the crop needs to grow. However, the crop has "wide adaptability," said Dr Oduori, and it can grow in hot Coastal regions as well as the highlands of Kisii.
Finger millet delivers one annual harvest, with the planting season starting from the onset of the long rains in late February and harvesting in June to July.
The project's managers also hope the finger millet project will offer a better alternative to maize. Finger millet has better postharvest storage traits than maize. Unlike maize, once stored it doesn't need chemicals to ward off grain borers like weevils.
Dried finger millet can also be stored for over 10 years, without spoiling or requiring preservative chemicals.
The stakeholders involved in the project are Masinde Muliro University, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Kenya Agricultural Commodities Exchange, which is training farmers in marketing techniques, and the Gene Bank of Kenya, which is storing the germplasm to use in improving the traits of the finger millet.
The finger millet project is funded by Alliance for a Green Revolution (Agra) while the McKnight Foundation has funded the technology dissemination.
The last Kari-released improved variety, P-224 is available at Kenya Seed Company Outlets.
Key drivers for the introduction of technology in agriculture are the lack of labour, higher employment costs, reduced fertility of soils, the need to raise yields, regulatory requirements relating to traceability of agricultural products, as well as green considerations.
For “greener” agriculture, farmers are looking to reduce the usage of pest- and disease-control chemicals. An obvious use for technology in agriculture is record-keeping.
ICT can be used in almost every step of procurement, production, distribution and the marketing of agricultural produce. Technology is also employed in the actual process of farming, with computerised irrigation systems, sensors for temperature and moisture, and robotic harvesting systems.
The integration of ICTs in agriculture allows farmers to receive detailed and largely real-time feedback. Satellite imagery and global positioning systems (GPS) are used to provide thorough information about farmland. Other technologies include aerial thermal and near-infrared imaging.
So-called “precision farming” makes use of technologies like GPS and geographic information systems (GIS) in order to collate and process large amounts of data that can be analysed to “inform farm management decisions”.
In a 2008 study, Rachel Tembo explains that precision agriculture is an “information-and-technology-based agricultural management system that identifies, analyses and manages site-specific spatial and temporal soil variability within a field for optimum yield, profitability, sustainability and protection of the environment”.
Technologies used in precision farming allow farmers to “vary inputs, such as fertilisers, pesticides and seeding rates throughout fields based on management zones”. The adoption of technology reduces redundancy and labour costs and allows for expanded hours of production.
Randall Covey, in Remote Sensing in Precision Agriculture, argues that the benefits of precision agriculture include the “reduction in the cost of producing the crop, a reduction in the risk of environmental pollution from agrochemicals when applied at higher levels than required by the crop, provision of better information on inputs and land management, improved environmental stewardship and significant improvement in agricultural yields”.
Precision farming is gaining adoption on the continent, not only in the more sophisticated South African agricultural sector.
A project in Sudan, Agadi, introduced precision farming to its commercial mechanised farming sector. The results saw “planting times reduced by 60 percent, area under plant cover was improved by 3.5 percent and the costs of spraying herbicides were cut substantially”.
Tracking and tracing systems are another area where technology is used in farming. There is backward traceability, where the origin of a product can be found at any point in the supply chain, and forward traceability where the “locality” of products can be traced.
For example, European Union regulations mean that all agricultural products entering the union should be tracked back to the actual farm of origin.
In the local wine industry, all wine exported to the EU complies with an EU regulation instituted in 2002, which says that all “role players in the industry have traceability systems in place for each product to facilitate its traceability”. Further to this, at every point in the supply chain, participants are required to be able to identify the business or person dealt with one step forward and one step backward.
Information Makes All the Difference
Agriculture is a priority sector for the African Union and most African countries and provides a large portion of employment on the continent. The African agriculture sector involves a significant number of small-scale farmers. As mobile phone penetration increases, ICT is taking a hold and appealing to this market.
Edith Adera, senior program specialist for The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), says that the broad focus for ICT in agriculture is Market Information Systems (MIS) and Knowledge Management (KM) systems so that farmers can link to markets, as well as grow and manage their crops more effectively.
Examples of existing MIS providers include Drumnet in Kenya, Foodnet in Uganda, and Tradenet in Ghana. Most MIS providers are private sector organisations, but Drumnet, an NGO, remains sustainable by charging fees for services to users.
Mark Davies, MD of Esoko (formerly Tradenet), says MIS has been around for two decades. However, the information was maintained by government and academic institutions, not necessarily reaching farmers. This is how Esoko started five years ago when someone brought the idea of providing market prices to farmers.
Esoko has evolved into a “network sourcing” platform that creates a communication and exchange platform for existing agricultural and trader networks. This platform is “E-bay, Salesforce, LinkedIn, and Facebook rolled into one,” according to Davies.
He explains that part of Esoko’s business model is the collection of local data through the networks. As networks join, they populate and maintain information about members and transactions, which, with permission, can be shared within the network, across networks, and across countries and markets. Part of Esoko’s success is that it is based on a pull versus push model, which means that the networks generate the demand for Esoko’s offerings.
Esoko also has a strong deployment and support model, which Davies says is essential to its success. Esoko is currently in eight countries, including Ghana, Sudan, Cameroon, and Madagascar. Esoko’s franchise model will enable rapid expansion.
Both Adera and Davies agree MIS platforms help farmers reduce transaction costs, negotiate better prices, etc. Another important ICT platform in East Africa is the mobile payment platform, M-PESA, which is popular with farmers, according to Adera.
A future benefit of these platforms is direct access between African farmers and global buyers. Buyers tend to seek out opportunities where there is transparency, data, and reliability, according to Davies. A new feature in Esoko called “scouting” allows members of networks to be polled with questions like “what are your forecasted crop yields?”, potentially providing real-time data to buyers.
Like in other sectors, ICT platforms are helping to democratise the markets, increasing economic opportunities, and connecting the disenfranchised in agriculture.
This means larger market access for businesses.
13 July 2011
According to a survey by market research company Euromonitor, South Africa’s Amarula cream liqueur, a Distell product, is the fastest-growing product in its category for the year 2010, beating all other competitors.
Popular among local residents, ex-pats and foreigners alike, Amarula is the world’s second-best selling cream liqueur, topped only by the famous Irish beverage, Baileys.
In South Africa its sales are unbeaten, and in a recent survey of brands conducted by the local branch of market research company TGI, it was found to be the second most iconic brand of all competitors in the spirit category.
Known internationally as the “Spirit of Africa”, the premium cream liqueur was recently ranked sixth in a Top 10 Hot Liqueur survey conducted by renowned global publication Drinks International. It also brought home the international gold medal at the recent 2011 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles in which brands from all over the world compete.
Distell's global spokesperson Siobhan Thompson said Amarula has thus far sustained its growth, while many drinks in the same category seemed to be static.
In addition to good domestic growth, said Thompson, between May 2010 and April 2011 the brand increased its standing in other parts of Africa and the world, including Nigeria, Mozambique, Tanzania, Europe and Latin America.
“Historically, Brazilians have always been strong supporters of Amarula,” she said. “Even so, sales are climbing by double digits off an already very strong base”
Thompson named Argentina and Mexico as two other South American countries that had taken a particular liking to Amarula.
Football and Amarula
Amarula was a hit amongst 2010 Fifa World Cup tourists, thanks to a strong marketing campaign during the first African World Cup. The brand was an official licensed product at the tournament, and sported a new limited edition design created to mark the event. A gold World Cup trophy replaced the familiar elephant used in the logo on the bottle.
The liqueur was an essential ingredient in a special World Cup shooter, nicknamed AmaShibobo. An eShibobo is an impressive footfall move performed by kicking the ball between the legs of the opponent.
The tasty drink comprised equal parts of Amarula, Nachtmusik chocolate liqueur and Oude Meester peppermint liqueur, carefully poured so that the layers didn’t mix. Football fans were also able to buy all three ingredients in a commemorative pack that included six football-shaped shot glasses.
The World Cup campaign helped to place Amarula as one of the world’s top brands, said Caroline Snyman from Distell.
"We can definitely see a robust increase in sales where there is a strong support for football,” said Snyman. “Latin America is an obvious example, but even in many parts of Europe, there has been good growth, notably in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Austria, the Czech Republic and Sweden.”
She added that Amarula was also gaining ground in Singapore, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Ghana and Kenya.
“We are delighted with the excellent growth in North America too,” said Snyman.
A rich South African treasure, Amarula is made from the fruit of the exotic African marula tree. Marula fruits are harvested in the wild and are a favourite snack for elephants, which is why the marula is also known as the elephant tree amongst locals.
The fruit is crushed and distilled into a brandy, which is left to mature for two years in oak. The brandy is then blended with fresh cream to produce Amarula.
The use of marula brandy is what gives the liqueur its unique and fresh flavour. It has a distinctly creamy taste with nuances of chocolate, mocha, vanilla, caramel and butterscotch.
12 July 2011
Packaging firm Tetra Pak Group predicts that dairy production will increase by 30% globally in the next ten years, with Asia and Africa being the largest drivers of the growth
Speaking at a teleconference for the launch of the Tetra Pak biannual dairy index, CEO Dennis Jonsson said "We are entering a decade-long dairy boom that will offer our industry unprecedented opportunities." Jonsonn predicted that Kenya and Nigeria will be the greatest beneficiaries of the dairy boom in Africa. In Kenya this growth will largely be spurred on by an increasing population, rising middle class and higher levels of urbanization.
However, despite these positive global projections, in Kenya dairy consumption has so far remained stagnant. Accessing high-quality milk and developing a market for processed dairy have remained major obstacles for the country.
Whilst packed milk globally is set to overtake 'loose' milk by 2014, in Kenya currently only 20% of the four billion litres produced per year is processed and packaged.
The establishment of dairy hubs, where farmers can pool together their milk to place in cooling facilities will likely alleviate poor accessibility to high-quality and safe dairy products and increase production of dairy.