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Alex Hitzemann Media & Advertising

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Background

According to the International Fertilizer Development Center, agriculture accounts for forty-five percent of Ethiopia’s GDP and eighty-five percent of employment.

Furthermore, Ethiopia has roughly fourteen million hectares of arable land and is the headwater for the Blue Nile. With all of these resources one would imagine that Ethiopia would be easily food secure.  Unfortunately, underdevelopment and an uneven concentration of easily accessible potable water has left Ethiopia in a jam.  Having been unable to feed itself, Ethiopia has had to rely on food aid in recent years.  However, the Government of Ethiopia began to take it upon itself to solve its own food security needs and seems to be on the right track with some great allies.

In order to support the Government of Ethiopia’s strategy for developing agriculture, which is outlined in its Agriculture Growth Plan, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and DuPont recently announced collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia to support farmer productivity by delivering hybrid maize seed, improving seed distribution, and building post-harvest storage.  The Advanced Maize Seed Adoption Program (AMSAP) is expected to impact over 32,000 Ethiopian farmers, helping them to increase productivity by fifty percent and reduce post-harvest losses by twenty percent.

Organizations such as USAID and DuPont are stepping up to the plate and working together to support farmers in Ethiopia. According to a USAID press release, the collaborative agreement with the Government of Ethiopia will “boost maize harvests through increased use of DuPont Pioneer maize seed, improved seed distribution, and post-harvest storage”.

As outlined in its letter of intent to support the G-8 New Alliance initiative and Grow Africa,

dupont large2

DuPont plans to invest over three million dollars during the next five years in Ethiopia.  This partnership was built off of an existing commitment between DuPont and Ethiopia in 2012.

DuPont is using one of its subsidiaries, DuPont Pioneer, the leading US producer of hybrid seeds to implement the program along with USAID and the government of Ethiopia.

Pioneer:

Lystra Antoine, Director of Agriculture at DuPont Pioneer talked with AAM staff and discussed DuPont’s involvement in Ethiopia’s agribusiness sector.  “Within three years DuPont plans to reach 32,000 farmers through the AMSAP program, ” said Antoine. “The program will support the entire maize value chain, providing inputs, agronomic expertise, create a dealer network, build storage and marketing channels, and support the existing government infrastructure for the maize industry in 16 woredas.”  Using the model farmer approach, the collaborators expect that the program will be scalable and replicable across Ethiopia.

DuPont Pioneer has been selling seed in Ethiopia for over 20 years, and its hybrids perform well as many local farmers will testify.  Most of this new effort is focused on empowering local farmers to meet their country’s food needs. Pioneer’s efforts are multifaceted and work in conjunction with USAID and Ethiopia’s government.

The Plan

“The fact that the Government of Ethiopia has its own Agriculture Growth Plan allowed us to design the AMSAP in support of their strategic priorities for the maize sector,” said Antoine.

This collaboration advances agricultural development and food security goals set by the Government of Ethiopia and supported by USAID through the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, which is part of the U.S. contribution to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

The AMSAP program will train in local languages and will demonstrate to farmers what they need to do to improve yields.  There are community cooperatives and farmer training centers currently and Pioneer is working with them as well. By working on improving market linkages, farmers will be able to more easily get their crops to market.

Storage is very important to improve because as much as fifty percent of harvest can be lost.  Currently farmers have very little capacity to store the seed for any length of time.  Insects and diseases can attack the seeds themselves.  The program expects to decrease post harvest losses by twenty percent.

The program plans to build individual and cooperative storage facilities where farmers can amass their produce. Using storage could also drastically increase the livelihoods of small holder farmers if they were to strategically sell their produce when prices are higher.

Addressing concerns:

Some farmers are initially concerned about hybrid seeds. “Once farmers experience the increased yields from improved seeds, they usually choose to continue planting hybrids.”

Pioneer will provide sample seed to farmers and set up demonstration plots where hybrid and open pollinated varieties are planted side by side.

The AMSAP program’s training of extension services and seed distributors does not limit the seeds available to Ethiopian farmers.  Antoine states that, “Under this program dealers can sell Pioneer as well as any other seeds. This way farmers maintain their ability to choose the seed that they wish to plant”.

Long Term Goals:

Dupont

Pioneer hopes to be able to expand its current initiatives in conjunction with USAID and Ethiopia’s Government.

“We want to be modest in what we place as targets, but we certainly know that there are huge benefits to be had from just having the right storage facilities and allowing the farmers to understand their strengths in negotiating when to sell.” Antoine explained. Pioneer also plans to train farmers to become dealers for cooperatives to sell produce at the correct times.  “Farmer Dealers” by the end of three years should become a much wider distribution network.

The Benefits of Hybrid Seeds:

Erratic draughts and floods are a problem that advanced certain seeds can help with shorter maturity times so more can be harvested faster.  It can even be possible to have multiple harvests in a season with the correct conditions.  They are also more resilient and can withstand more detrimental weather.  Furthermore, the yields from these advanced hybrid  seeds typically increase fivefold.

New Technology:

Pioneer is not currently using mobile phone technology for training in Ethiopia but fully support the use of technology for training, communication agronomic advice, and market information.  Lystra states that this technology “could be a vehicle for technical assistance well worth pursuing” and Pioneer is definitely looking into using mobile phone technology to bring technical assistance to farmers.

They rocked the house and rock the house they did! One by one, people began rising from their seats in the World Bank atrium, holding up their hands, clapping to the beat and then singing (or dancing) along with the performers —at the tops of their lungs.  Adults, youth (teenagers), children, the millennials, the middle-aged and elderly had the floor vibrating in rhythmic excitation.

On Friday, March 1, 2013, the World Bank, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Environment, the Global Environment Facility (“the GEF”), and in collaboration with more than 150 knowledge partners, honored and awarded youth from 14 countries at their recently launched Connect4Climate (C4C) event in Washington, D.C.

Organized and produced by Lucia Grenna, the C4C program director and veteran World Bank employee who nurtured the project from its nascent stages, and hosted by John Raatz, the Master of Ceremonies along with MTV’s Izzy Lawrence, C4C got the word out through music and creative dance skits that created excitement, energy and participation. The strategy? Using music and artists of every medium to celebrate youth engagement in combating the effects of climate change, as “intellectual arguments” seemingly fall on deaf ears or, are simply not enough to effectively communicate the truth of what the world is really facing.  As a result of climate change, it’s become a whole different game and it is imperative for us all to connect, move in unison and make waves like a school of fish.

Makhtar Diop, from Senegal and Vice President for the World Bank’s Africa region, spoke briefly of what for several years, is being experienced in his home region, the Sahel. “For us,” he said, “a change of 2 degree doesn’t mean something we want to address in conferences. It means less water for us, it means drought in our area. When my friends from Mali are facing hardship…when in the western part of Kenya, in Nyanza, you see flooding and mud slides, it is because of climate change…it is something we are living everyday.”

Diop also acknowledged the current growth happening on the continent of Africa and how Africans are “doing things so right.” In terms of climate change, we don’t want to set ourselves back 10 years. “We can’t afford it,” he said. Africa can’t afford it and the world can’t afford it. He expressed delight and honors to see a coalition growing across the world and believes that without the support of not just the youth and civil society, but of all artists in the world, change is possible. Diop offered the example of the many artists in Africa who have successfully shown the ability to change things like HIV/Aids. “Their role has been tremendous.” They all stand as voices of hope.

Right Here Right NowWorld Bank Group President, Jim Young Kim, heartily applauded the winners, encouraging youth around the globe to take a more active role in combating the climate change. “We’ve got to connect in a very different way now,” said Kim. “Connect4Climate is important because we have to take this struggle to a different level. We have been talking about the numbers…we have said all of the numbers again, and again, and again. But what we have failed to do yet is actually connect.”  Kim brought it home, stating that the issue of climate change has now become a “very personal” one. As the father of two sons, ages twelve and three, he noted that if nothing is done to combat climate change, by the time his three year old reaches his own age, extreme weather events, struggles over food and access to water could be so rampant and commonplace (globally), he can just imagine his son living in that time and saying every day: “My father was the president of The World Bank. What did he do when he knew? When he knew that this was going to happen?”

The Italian Minister for the Environment, Corrado Clini, to great applause, briefly addressed the audience, encouraging all to support the project and help create a global community toward helping the planet recover from the changes occurring around us. “It’s fundamentally about family values and the world we’re leaving to our children, but this is the world we are living in right now.”

Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Network Vice President, offered a chilling thought. Namely, that helping to exacerbate the effects of climate change won’t be possible without “all of us.” We have to ask ourselves “what am I prepared to do?”

Among the winners for the competition, Africa scored big in nearly all categories and across several countries, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Morocco, Somalia and South Sudan.

In the Agriculture category for 13-17 year olds, Josephine Nakanwagi won 3rd place for “Soil Erosion #1”.  Under Jobs and the Green Economy, Jason Hanslo, South Africa (13-17 year olds), won 2nd place for “Adding Sunshine to the Sand” and Ngalim Njaiwo, Cameroon, took 2nd place for “Talent + Environment = Employment” in the 18-35 age grouping. Joana Simões Piedade, Mozambique, won 1st place in the 18-35 year old category for “A Day at the Office”. She also won 3rd place, Namibia, in the Water category (18-35 age group) for “Drinking Problem”.

Under the “Cities” category, Christena Dowsett, South Sudan, took 3rd place in the 18-35 age group for “Cities 01”. Coming in 2nd place in the Energy category for ages 18-35 was Evanne Nowack, Uganda, for “Daring to Invest”. Patience Moyo, Malawi, won 1st place among the 13-17 year olds for “What Policy Makers Should Know About Energy” and Nancy Saili, Zambia, won second place in the 18-35 year olds category for “Death of our Zambian Forests” under the Forests category. The Gender category produced three winners in the 18-35 category, 1st place went to Adil Moumane, Morocco, for “Suffering of Women”, Anab Garad, Somalia, was the 2nd place winner for “A Long Walk”, and Maash Sheik Hussein, Kenya, won 3rd place for “Wajir County”. Ray Blount, also from Kenya, took 1st place in the Health category (ages 18-35) for “Dumping Site”. This same category saw Christena Dowsett, South Sudan win again. This time in 2nd place for “Health 01” and Violet Moyo, Malawi, won 3rd place for “Infested Environment.” In the Music Videos category, Idamiebi llamina-Eremie, Nigeria, won 3rd place for “We Be”.

“Not Afraid”, a music video by Kenya based artists TS1, won 1st place in the global Voices4Climate competition and was performed live in the World Bank’s atrium to a crowd of no less than 400 attendees. TS1’s feat of an Eminem song used music more than creatively to address not only climate change but also the plight of the human race, if we don’t pay attention. We may all live in different corners, as the song says, “but in denial we fall.” This song…these kids…ROCKED the World Bank atrium and stairs! It’s a very cleverly worded and powerful song that resonates with you and one that you likely won’t be able to stop listening (bobbing to) and singing, again and again. Special guest and award-winning Malian musician, Rokia Traore, also blazed the stage with her soothing sounds. The evening’s end found attendees dancing on the atrium floor, the stairs, everywhere really, singing the words, “I’m not afraid, to take a stand.”

TS1’s song, along with the other artists, can be found on the CD “Rhythms Del Mundo-Africa” which also includes tracks by Beyoncé, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Mumford & Sons, and many more. All attendees were given a complimentary copy. To view the video click on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QI8KiVrIOvs or visit YouTube.com and type: Rhythms Del Mundo Africa feat Eminem & TS1 Not Afraid in the search window.

C4C’s goal is to create a participatory, open knowledge platform that encourages the global community to join the climate change ‘conversation.’ They hope to encourage action, drive advocacy, operational support, research, and capacity building on the local level. C4C is judiciously engaging the world through social media and the web, amplifying the voices of artists and local stakeholders with stories to tell about climate change and inviting youth and all us to do so as well.

While Connect4Climate has already produced a number of events and competitions, the ball is still rolling. Their next globe trotting competition –iChange- challenges students between the ages of 18-35 to create a “sharp” 30-second video message about climate change, telling a story that will heighten awareness and which will incite action and inspire change. If as the TS1 tells us “we’re not afraid to take a stand,” in combating the effects of climate change, the possibilities are limitless and certainly better than the alternative.

Learn more about Connect4Climate and the iChange competition, as well as other events and initiatives underway on their blog at http://connect4climate.org/blog and/or connect with C4C on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The entire event can be viewed online at https://www.connect4climate.org/.

Farmers drying maize outside a cooperative in Rwanda.

Sell More For More™: A Clear Path For Helping Farmers Access Better Markets and Earn More Income

By January most farmers across Rwanda have just passed through the country’s lean season and are welcoming the harvest. But getting through the months of scarcity can mean disassembling important household investments—choosing between school fees or fertilizer, food today or food tomorrow.

Helping farmers achieve volume production and reach new markets would allow them to protect gains—even through the lean season. Achieving those ends, succeeding in the ever-challenging “how-to” of reaching smallholder farmers with services, technology and training, is complex and difficult; but one such initiative has had measurably positive results in Rwanda—Sell More For More™ (SMFM).

Sell More For More™ is a system of innovations designed to engage impoverished farmers, develop their farming skills and help them access profitable markets. Sell More For More™ was crafted by ACDI/VOCA, a U.S. development organization that specializes in broad-based economic growth. The name itself articulates how the program works: helping farmers sell more (in quality and quantity of product) for more (increased revenue), ultimately empowering them to produce top quality product without sustained assistance.

Results have been striking. In Rwanda, Sell More For More™ trained nearly 60,000 farmers in post-harvest handling and storage, and 93 percent of them went on to earn more income. The program recently won a Best Practice and Innovation award from InterAction, a large alliance of U.S.-based NGOs, and in a speech, Bill Gates singled out Odetta, a SMFM-trained farmer, saying: “In one year, her income quadrupled. Suddenly, for the first time in her life, Odetta had more money than she needed.”

William Sparks, ACDI/VOCA’s vice president for program services details the Sell More For More™ program at InterAction’s Best Practices and Innovations award ceremony.

Strengthening the Value Chain

The program began as a collaboration between the World Food Program (WFP) and USAID in Rwanda in 2010 to address constraints in post-harvest handling of beans and maize. WFP is a large-scale buyer and one with an important mission. Its local purchase program, Purchase for Progress (P4P), provides a lucrative opportunity for smallholders. It also acts as a bellwether: once cooperatives meet strict WFP standards, the broader market realizes that the same co-ops, and perhaps others like them, can reliably provide buyers with high-quality product at scale. Moreover, helping local farmers sell to the WFP provides more efficient food aid procurement, with quicker turnaround and less loss.

ACDI/VOCA is known for its work in value chain development: strengthening the proficiencies of, and the ties among, actors that influence the movement of a product through various stages of production and distribution until it arrives in the hands of the final customer. SMFM trainings aim to improve these proficiencies, as well as reduce constraints in these connections for lasting improvements in farmers’ incomes.

For a smallholder cultivating a few hectares in Rwanda, selling maize to a demanding big-scale buyer, say, the World Food Program or the Rwanda Grain and Cereals Corporation, is a quantum leap in business activity, and the prospect can be daunting. Instead of focusing on individual farmers, SMFM organizes and works with producer groups to efficiently inculcate the necessary skills, disseminate information and build confidence. These groups can also exercise market clout, increasing farmers’ access to bulk input providers, cultivation services, crop aggregation and storage capabilities. However, their member farmers typically lack the skills to take full advantage of these efficiencies. Shedding light on these farming and business processes and upgrading the requisite skills is where SMFM has been successful.

ACDI/VOCA Vice President for Program Services William Sparks accepts the InterAction award.

Training to Improve Post-Harvest Handling and Storage; Building Capacity in Business and Marketing

Post-harvest losses in Rwanda are substantial. Improper threshing techniques, poor transportation and storage facilities and a lack of oversight frequently result in losses exceeding 20 percent of the maize harvest. In addition to physical loss of product, prices paid to the farmers may be reduced due to discoloration, insect infestation, damaged kernels and aflatoxin build-up. Sell More For MoreTM trains farmers on ten specific post-harvest skills in areas from shelling to cleaning to storage, significantly reducing losses.

At the same time, SMFM works to build the capacity of cooperatives and farmer associations in business and marketing. For example Sell More For More™ helped the COAMV cooperative, which aggregates maize and processes it into flour in northwest Rwanda, secure a grant to improve its storage facilities. With better storage and a new training component designed to decrease post-harvest losses, the cooperative improved its position enough to access credit, enabling farmers to pay for children’s school fees and medical insurance. Through SMFM business plan development, COAMV is learning how to increase working capital, which should propel growth. The co-op was recently awarded a certificate from the Rwanda Bureau of Standards confirming its compliance with new health and hygiene standards, which again will help increase its market share.

The combined trainings have helped farmers reach new markets. Eighty percent of the farmer organizations trained in SMFM met the Grade 1 standards required to sell to the World Food Program, a large jump from the 47 percent pass rate of those not participating in the program.

“The impact of the Sell More for More™ trainings has been invaluable,” said Emmanuela Mashayo, World Food Program’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) coordinator in Rwanda. “We have seen marked improvement in the quality of the maize being produced, as well as in the leadership capacity of the cooperatives’ management. We are now able to purchase with confidence from those cooperatives who have undergone this training.”

Over the years, many other initiatives have trained farmers, of course. Some have fallen short because the approach was not conducive to adult learning or the message did not reach the impoverished farmers who need it most. SMFM made significant inroads in these areas using three signature components:

The presidents of two Rwandan cooperatives outside a newly-built storage facility to benefit both co-ops.

“M3” –Money, Membership, Management: Assessing Cooperatives

Farmer organizations begin with a participatory assessment known as M3.It addresses 26 topics relating to money management, membership development and overall management and governance. A simple, narrative survey helps organization leaders identify current priorities, and a participatory process teaches them how to self-assess their organization in the future. The results of this survey help members prepare for the training they will receive through the SMFM leadership kits.

Leadership Kits: Effective Trainings for Cooperative Leaders  

To improve management skills, Sell More For More™ relies on leadership kits. Each leadership kit has four modules and each module is a three-day workshop delivered to approximately 15 current and emerging cooperative leaders. Workshops are conducted with two cooperatives at a time to facilitate sharing of experiences and encourage future collaboration. For example, after completing training together, two neighboring co-ops decided to build a joint storage facility in the Kirehe region of Rwanda that neither could afford independently.

Further, the trainings are participatory instead of passive, calling for farmers to help each other learn. Evariste Kaberuka, president of the Ibyizabiri Mbere Cooperative in Rwanda, commented that the lessons “fully engaged the entire cooperative,” creating an “immense amount of excitement.” To keep the trainings energetic, SMFM employs a 5/25 rule: for every 5 minutes of lecture time, 25 minutes is spent on a group activity designed to foster participant sharing of information.

Displaying the STICKS tool

Lastly: Helping Lead Farmers Teach Others Effectively

SMFM uses a “cascade” train-the-trainer approach to create a multiplier effect. This helps SMFM reach the entire membership of a farmer organization. In Rwanda ACDI/VOCA worked with 95 cooperatives to train 1,770 lead farmers in best post-harvest handling practices. These lead farmers each trained approximately 25 more farmers. This led to 44,590 cooperative members trained in improved maize handling.

The SMFM program provided lead farmers with a specialized tool called STICKS (Scalable Tracker for Imparting Certified Knowledge and Skills) to ensure that lead farmers taught new techniques consistently, that they were incentivized to follow through on conducting the trainings and do them well, and that they could track the newly-trained farmers. ACDI/VOCA designed the STICKS instrument to be a durable, double-sided poster that is a mainstay of the lead farmer training toolkit. It shows graphically the major post-harvest handling skills to be mastered. It also contains the lead farmer’s credentials and has signature lines on which each trainee puts his or her name. The poster can be rolled up and easily carried anywhere, for lessons in fields or classrooms. It is often proudly displayed in the lead farmer homes or farmer group headquarters.

Other Factors Contributing to Success

In addition to the comprehensive SMFM project design, additional factors contributed to success in Rwanda. Of instrumental importance, the government encourages cooperatives, supporting them at the highest levels.

Rwanda also emphasizes gender equity. It has the highest percentage of women participating in a parliament in the world. Supporting women is a policy practiced across social, economic and political spheres. Since women perform a majority of the production and post-harvest work in developing countries, being able to increase technical skills of women quickly and easily is crucial.

Two cooperative presidents inside their new, jointly-owned storage facility.

Finally, there was effective donor collaboration. Support from USAID and its partner organization, WFP, allowed the project to become successful.

SMFM marches on. It is currently being replicated in Ethiopia, Tanzania and by another organization in Rwanda.

William Sparks, vice president of program services at ACDI/VOCA, said, “Sell More For More works through farmer organizations to transform the lives of smallholder farmers. With collaboration and enhanced skills, farmers in the most remote locations can now access profitable markets and provide for their families. That’s what this is all about.”

About Blumberg Capital Partners

Bagged Grain

Blumberg Capital Partners, headquartered in Miami, Florida, is an independent, privately held investment firm.  Although neither overly aggressive nor exotic in their approach, Blumberg Capital Partners has produced among the strongest returns in the country. The firm co-invests in all funds, and by operating fully institutional investment funds they have the agility needed to be successful in today’s market.

Blumberg deploys its innovative offerings and expertise all over the globe to address critical resource and infrastructure challenges. These challenges include infrastructure, such as food storage and security, the sourcing of rare earths and strategic resources, manufacturing, and the productive management of real estate assets. While the projects are varied, the Blumberg process is the same in every case – a very disciplined system of risk-managed investment and experienced management that has produced industry-leading results for more than thirty years. (Source: Blumberg Capital Investments)

Blumberg’s investment discipline emphasizes stability and preservation of capital. To limit downside risk in cyclical markets, the use of leverage is very moderate compared to industry averages. As Mr. Philip Blumberg, Chairman and CEO, explains, “We at Blumberg Capital consider investing other people’s money to be more precious than investing our own. We do not risk or endanger investments, rather we pay a lot of attention to market cycles, individual focus on managing investments, and apply conservative risk and financial management strategies to our projects and investments.”

Blumberg Grain

Blumberg’s agricultural roots reach back to the 1800’s in the United States; and today, they are proud to help entire nations manage their food supply with greater safety and security.

Recently Africa Agribusiness Magazine had the pleasure of speaking with Philip Blumberg, Chairman and CEO of Blumberg Capital, to discuss how their agriculture initiative, Blumberg Grain, can provide innovative solutions to Africa.

P10003512Blumberg provides countries and companies with state of the art and comprehensive storage units for post harvest food safety and security. Mass produced in the United States, the lightweight, scalable warehouses use one-third the steel of conventional warehouses, making them the most cost effective storage facilities in today’s market. However, the simple design does not hinder the structures’ expected lifespans, which is estimated at 25-50 years.

Furthermore, each self-contained facility can be customized for farmers’ needs. “Despite their simple design, these warehouses are quite sophisticated. It’s what we can do inside that makes all the difference,” said Philip Blumberg.

By design, Blumberg warehouses can be divided for multiple products, and each area can have its own sophisticated temperature, insulation and humidity controls. To operate the facilities, countries may choose from generator, solar or wind power. What’s more, Blumberg structures are designed to work in rural areas, close to the farmers and their crops, so that harvested crops are stored as quickly as possible.   The units also serve as large distribution and collection facilities.

After the modules are shipped to the host country, assembly begins. One key advantage is that these warehouse buildings can be installed and working in as little as 3 days. Blumberg works directly to train the local workforce to assemble and run the facilities. “We are committed to hiring the majority of employees from the local job market,” says Mr. Blumberg.

Management services

Blumberg Grain provides the most comprehensive, state of the art management for post harvest food safety and security. Effectively managing the stored grain is essential to ensure that the grain remains at its highest quality throughout its time in storage.

“We have a highly regarded and innovative grain storage system being applied globally,” said Philip Blumberg.

Blumberg provides the following strategic stockpiling and trading services, particularly for countries and companies that import grain and agricultural products, where an assured supply and pricing is important. 

Systems and Procedures

Blumberg Grain utilizes a system of procedures to assure the proper maintenance of each unit providing the ability to store grain with confidence in order to achieve the highest possible market premiums. Additional procedures may be implemented that are specific to each individual facility, inventory type and location.

Management

Blumberg Grain management relies on a proactive approach to grain and perishable storage management, to immediately recognize potential problems, determine their causes and effectively resolve the issue. Additionally, Blumberg Grain employs skilled service technicians specifically trained to monitor, control and maintain Blumberg Grain storage units.

Staff Training

An educated and skilled work force is critical to the development of a more productive workplace and is essential to foster economic employment growth and development. Blumberg is committed to employing at least 80% local work force and to provide them with the training and skills for advancement in the organization.

(Source: Blumberg Capital Partners)

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“Innovative food storage solutions have the capacity to transform Africa. In nations where agriculture is the largest incremental economic contributor, if you eliminate 50% of product loss without plowing one new acre, farmers double productivity. This then becomes the largest direct contributor to a nation’s increase in GDP.”[/quote]

Transformative Economy through Agriculture

wheat-pileThe Blumberg Grain food storage systems have the capacity to provide significant impact—perhaps the single most significant impact that can be made on post harvest yields—by securing food for a country’s people and guaranteeing the quality and quantity of exports.

When farmers and countries gain the ability to adequately stockpile agricultural products the economic picture changes. No longer forced to immediately sell a product, they can now analyze the market and choose when to sell and how to price the product. With this sophisticated type of market, the control goes to farmer and/or country, as there are options for the future. And in terms of food security, products no longer perish and are available when needed by the community, country or region.

The positive aspects of an options market such as this include (1) the ability to protect against declining crop prices while retaining the opportunity to gain if prices rise, (2) increasing marketing flexibility while lowering risk in case you price your crop before harvest but yields are severely reduced by adverse weather or disease, (3) opportunity to fix in a price before harvest to avoid unforeseen risk and (4) the fact that options markets can be a less complicated tool to hedge risk than direct sales in the futures market.

As Blumberg cites as an example, “If a farmer evaluates the harvest market and determines that the market is being flooded and depressing prices, he can harvest his crop but then store it in a Blumberg warehouse for 4-6 months, at which point he can receive a premium of up to 50%. This improves the economics and supply of the value chain.”

Next Steps

Blumberg Grain will be opening five manufacturing plants and export Hubs across emerging markets.  For Sub-Saharan Africa, the Hub finalists are Nigeria and Ghana.

These Hubs will produce prefabricated Blumberg Grain Storage Warehouses, ranging in size from 6,000 square feet for small farmer applications to large cluster configurations of more than 200,000 square feet.

It is estimated that each the manufacturing plant and export Hub will provide 1,000 new jobs through manufacturing steel warehouses and systems.

Furthermore, the hubs will significantly increase exports, provide an agricultural institute to farmers on new farming techniques and methods, and promote agribusiness diversification into upstream and downstream investments.

Blumberg Grain’s development of turnkey storage facilities with management support are designed with the goal to bring post harvest crop losses to under 5% (down from the current estimate of 50%).

Blumberg Grain’s storage facilities are diverse and provide flexible use for grains and dry goods or refrigerated and gas displacement systems for perishables, including produce and meat.

These warehouse units are designed specifically for developing world markets and are powered using an independent energy supply that insures primary or backup operational power. Examples of additional Blumberg Grain technology include self contained inventory management systems and commodities exchange linkages.

Overall, through increased trade activity and development, the five new manufacturing plants and export hubs have the capacity to manufacture 6,000 warehouse buildings annually or US $750M to $1B in output.

Blumberg Grain has over 600 warehouse buildings currently on order from trading firms, agri-businesses, and governments.

Blumberg Grain is truly doing its part in increasing food supply and food inventory levels via sustainable business initiatives.

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Blumberg Grain warehouses and network management enable secure crop-to-market systems providing enhanced and increased supply of food for a country’s people, as well as significantly enhanced and increased quality and quantity of exports.[/quote]

 

For media and advertising inquired contact Alexander Hitzemann at alex@africaag.org

Africa’s farmers and agribusinesses could tap into a trillion-dollar market by 2030 if they can secure access to significantly more capital and infrastructure, including irrigation, to grow their food and compete in the global market. The new World Bank report, “Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness, calls for governments to work side-by-side with agribusinesses to link farmers with consumers in an increasingly urbanized Africa.

The report calls for a radical rethink on how to help Africa seize it agribusiness opportunity. Currently, agriculture and agribusiness together account for nearly half of Africa’s economic activity.

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Rich leading dance with kids.Spark Ventures’ Partnerships Trips to Zambia are part of our unique strategy of long-term international development. For the past five years Spark has been working alongside partner organization Hope Community School, which provides nutrition, education and healthcare for children living in extreme poverty in Zambia. Spark has strengthened Hope by investing human and financial resources to grow their capacity by 300% and increase their impact exponentially. In order to sustain this impact, Spark invested in a commercial business that Hope owns and manages, generating profit that supports programs for their children. In short, Spark believes that linking community programs with economic development is the best way to ensure lasting impact for children and communities in developing countries.

Poultry Farm 1

Each year, Spark hosts two volunteer travel trips to Zambia for Spark supporters and interested individuals to experience our work first hand. This year, Spark collaborated with another Chicago-based start-up, Groupon, who waived their fees and provided national exposure for these trips. January and February trips hosted a total of 30 individuals from around the country for a 10 day/9 night volunteer vacation of a lifetime. Participants spent a good portion of their week at Hope Community School, home to over 300 orphans and vulnerable children. Each day the travelers would spend time getting to know and reading with one of the students at the school. Other activities included home visits with traditional Zambian meals, time at the market, lessons on Zambian history and the HIV/AIDs situation and introductions to the economic development.

welcome program

The end of the week includes a visit to Lusaka, the thriving capital of Zambia and location of a commercial poultry farm that Spark helped to launch with an investment of over $100,000. Profits from this farm are allocated to the continuing operations of Hope Community School, providing a pathway to financial sustainability. The trip ends with a day in Livingstone to see Victoria Falls, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, and a boat and land safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana where the group sees elephant, buffalo, giraffe, crocodiles and much more of Africa’s amazing wildlife.
While Spark is not primarily a volunteer travel organization, the commitment to these types of trips is in its DNA, as the three founders started Spark after a similar adventure in 2006 to Zambia. As a nonprofit organization, Spark is predominantly funded through individual contributions and currently has a budget just under $1M. Hosting 10 of these trips to Zambia in the last 6 years has yielded new contributors, advocates and volunteer leadership for Spark’s board of directors and advisory council. Recent relationship building with government officials at the Zambian Embassy in Washington, D.C. along with outreach to the corporate entities and multinationals in Zambia are also key to Spark’s resource development strategy.
Spark’s vision is to create sustainability for four international partners in ten years. A new partnership in Nicaragua was announced in November of 2012, but the current funding priority remains the scaling of the poultry farm in Zambia to sustain Spark’s first partner. For more information on Spark’s Partnership Model, Trips or events, visit www.sparkventures.org, or contact CEO, Rich Johnson, rjohnson@sparkventures.org or 773-293-6710.
Infographic.May 2012

Farmers Have their Say on Agriculture Investments

“We need to unite in order to face the challenges in African agriculture.” Djibo Bagna, the President of the Pan African Farmers Organization (PAFO) opened up the 2012 Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) Africa Forum with this rallying cry. “We will fight for the inclusion of African farmers,” said Bagna. “All stakeholders need to be included.” His remarks were fitting for the theme of this year’s CAADP Africa Forum, which was: “Farmer Organizations as the Vital Link to Equitable and Sustainable Agriculture Growth in Africa.” The Forum took place November 12-16 in Tunis, Tunisia.

CAADP is the agriculture program of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a program of the African Union (AU). It was established by the AU assembly in 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique. The aim of CAADP is to improve food security, nutrition, and incomes in Africa’s agriculture based economies by increasing public investment in agriculture to at least 10 percent of national annual budgets to achieve a 6 percent annual growth.  African governments sign a CAADP compact in which they commit to the 10 percent goal and then develop, through a consultative process, a CAADP investment plan to reach their goals. To date 42 African countries are involved in CAADP, of which, 30 have signed compacts, 26 have developed investment plans, 24 countries have held business meetings and one regional compact has been signed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Photo Credit: Katie Campbell/ActionAid

CAADP continued the tradition of its predecessor, the Africa Forum on Rural Development, and hosts a CAADP Africa Forum annually at either the continental or regional level. CAADP has, however, attempted to progress the agenda of the Africa Forum to one that is more inclusive and focused on the challenges of the people at the center of African agriculture: smallholder farmers, especially women. At the first Africa Forum, held in 1997, there were no farmers or farmers’ organizations represented only donors and governments. Over the years CAADP has increasingly attempted to integrate the voices of Non-State Actors including farmers and farmers’ organizations.

This year’s CAADP Africa Forum was the first to be entirely hosted by farmers’ organizations. The regional farmers’ organizations from eastern, western, central, southern and northern Africa all participated in planning and coordinating the forum.[1]  It was attended by more than 300 participants from 46 African countries, the majority of whom were farmers.

One of the participants, Amina Saida Angaya, a 26 year old woman smallholder farmer from Kenya attended the forum with ActionAid. She explained why it’s critical to involve farmers in agriculture policymaking in Africa: “Farmers need to fight for their rights as members of the agriculture community in their countries,” Angaya said. “We need to know which governments are giving less than 10 percent of their budget to agriculture. What makes them contribute less than 10 percent?”

As a woman smallholder farmer Angaya is quite familiar with her country’s agriculture budget as she is part of a women’s cooperative that is receiving training from ActionAid and our partners on tracking Kenya’s agriculture budget.  Women farmers empowered with the skills and knowledge to engage their governments have started reaching out to their officials, demanding, as Angaya said, “their rights as members of the agriculture community.” When I visited Angaya’s cooperative in western Kenya last summer I heard many stories from women smallholder farmers about the importance for them of understanding their government’s agriculture budget.

Leah, a woman smallholder farmer in Angaya’s group told me that usually smallholder farmers do not know how to ask the government for what they deserve, but that with this training they now will be able to advocate to their officials. “We hear of seeds that the government gives out but we haven’t been able to get them. We are now preparing ourselves to be able to engage finally.”

These women are just two of thousands of smallholder farmers that ActionAid and our partners are empowering to hold their governments accountable for increased and improved public investment in agriculture. They are joined by women from Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda as part of a campaign to encourage African governments to invest in women smallholder farmers.

In his opening remarks Bagna emphasized the importance of this kind of capacity building. “We need to strengthen farmer organizations to increase their participation in agriculture policymaking,” he said. ActionAid firmly believes that African agriculture can only benefit from more inclusion from farmers and farmer organizations. As the Senior Agriculture Policy and Investment Officer at NEPAD, Dr. Tobias Takavarasha, said: farmers are the true implementers of CAADP. Governments can invest 10 percent of their budgets or more but farmers are the ones who will take that investment and turn it into a harvest. It is also critical to remember that smallholder farmers invest more in their own farms than governments, donors, or the private sector. Therefore, it is critical that all other investments are aligned with farmers’ own investments. As Angaya said, “[farmers] can plant the seed that can make their country develop.”

In all of our work, ActionAid subscribes to the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Although it is not always the quickest and easiest route, investors in African agriculture, whether African governments, donors or the private sector, should include, consult and understand the needs and challenges of the African farmer, especially women smallholder farmers, if they want their investment to truly succeed. In ActionAid’s experience smallholder farmers want to be included and have the energy and the ideas to make their farms flourish. They just need the resources, the time and the opportunity to be included and recognized as what they are: the backbone of Africa.


[1] These organizations included: Maghreb Farmers’ Union (UMAGRI), Eastern African Farmers Federation (EAFF), Regional Platform of Farmers Organizations in Central Africa (PROPAC), Network of Farmers’ and Agriculture Producers Organization of West Africa (ROPPA), Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU).

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