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Marshal Papworth has teamed up with Moulton College in Northampton to further develop its work in building sustainable farming skills in communities in sub-Saharan Africa. The Charity, which works with lead farmers and agricultural extension officers from Africa to advance their knowledge and practical skills, will partner with Moulton College, one of the UK’s leading agricultural colleges, to deliver a tailored 10 week, full time course.

The annual course will welcome students from across the developing world – including Ghana, Malawi and Uganda – to the UK to work towards a BTEC Certificate in Agriculture. The course will cover crop and livestock management, business management, animal and plant husbandry, farm mechanisation and technology, and basic IT skills, alongside a schedule of enrichment and cultural visits which support the Marshal Papworth programme.

Tom Arthey, Marshal Papworth Chairman, commented: “Since conception, Marshal Papworth has provided scholarships to students from developing countries which enable them to come to the UK and study at some of the top agricultural and horticultural institutions here. This new partnership reinforces the Charity’s commitment to providing students with the best opportunities to build their skills for the benefit of their communities.”

Moulton College has also created a fellowship programme which will link each visiting students with a full-time student at the college to ensure they settle into the college easily and take full advantage of the opportunities available to them.

Steve Davies, Principal of Moulton College said: “I am delighted that we have forged this collaboration with Marshal Papworth who are doing exceptional charity work in sub-Saharan Africa.  We very much look forward to welcoming the students to Moulton.”

Walki has developed a new fibre-based soil mulching solution that is completely biodegradable. This organic mulch type, which is used for weed control and to optimise soil conditions and crop yield, is the first of its kind on the market.
Tests have shown that Walki’s Agripap is not only easy to lay on the fields and delivers excellent weed control, but also offers benefits in terms of yield and durability. © Walki

Tests have shown that Walki’s Agripap is not only easy to lay on the fields and delivers excellent weed control, but also offers benefits in terms of yield and durability. © Walki

Walki, a leading global producer of technical laminates and protective packaging materials, has developed the first-ever organic mulching solution that is based on natural biodegradable fibres instead of plastic. Mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of an area of soil. It is designed to conserve moisture, improve the fertility and health of the soil and control weed growth. Soil mulching also reduces the need for pesticides, fertilisers and irrigation.

Traditionally, soil mulching materials have been made from plastic, and, most typically, from polyethylene film. While effective, plastic mulch is not biodegradable and eventually becomes waste material that has to be removed from the field and dumped or recycled at a high cost.

It is estimated that more than a million tonnes of plastic films are used for mulching every year around the world. In addition to having to be collected from the fields, the mulch often leaves behind plastic residues, which pollute the soil and reduce its future growth potential. Yields from polluted soil are typically up to 20 per cent lower than those from non-polluted soil.

“Walki’s Agripap solution is the only organic mulch type on the market that is made from paper instead of plastic. It is entirely biodegradable, does not contribute to plastic pollution and, instead, simply dissolves into the soil. It also reduces the need for the chemicals used to control weed growth,” says Walki’s Vice President Technical Products, Sales & Marketing, Arno Wolff.

Walki®Agripap is made from kraft paper that is coated with a biodegradable coating layer, which slows down the degradation of the paper. Without the coating, the paper would degrade in the soil within a few weeks.

Walki’s new organic mulching solution has been the subject of extensive field-testing in Finland. The tests, which were carried out in 2016 by independent research institute Luke Piikkiö, compared the performance of different biodegradable mulches for growing iceberg lettuce and seedling onions. The tests demonstrated that Walki’s Agripap was easy to lay on the fields and delivered excellent weed control. The results in terms of yield and durability were also good.

“Having seen the kind of environmental impact that plastic film can have on the soil, Walki has understood that there is a need for a more sustainable mulching solution. Walki®Agripap is the perfect alternative for the farmers who care about our environment,” says Peter Martin, Technical Service & Development Director, Industrial Packaging.

Following the successful testing and approval of Agripap in Finland and Sweden, the next step will be to complete testing in Europe’s main mulching markets: Spain, France and Italy. Farmers and equipment manufacturers wishing to participate in testing Walki’s new organic mulching solution are encouraged to get in touch with Arno Wolff.

For more information, please contact:

Arno Wolff
Vice President Technical Products, Sales & Marketing
Tel. +49 170 31 9140
e-mail: arno.wolff@walki.com

Walki in brief

Walki Group is a leading producer of technical laminates and protective packaging materials, specializing in the production of fibre based, intelligent, multilaminate products for markets ranging from energy saving construction facings and construction membranes to barrier packaging applications. The Group has plants in Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK, Russia and China with a workforce of about 900 people. Annual net sales for the Group are over 300 million Euros.

 

Africa Agribusiness Magazine Media by Alex Hitzemann

Maria is a PhD student at the University of Pavia (Italy) and an early stage researcher in the Marie  Curie initial training network NASSTEC (Native Seed Science, Technology and Conservation http://www.nasstec.eu/). Maria is based at Scotia Seeds (Scotland) and her project is aimed at improving seed quality in large- scale production of native seed.

During the 31st ISTA Congress in Tallinn, Estonia (June 14- 21), she gave a poster presentation titled: “Development of tests for seed quality in native seeds used in habitat restoration” . The objectives of the study were to assess seed quality on the EU native seed market, to develop protocols to determine conditions for dormancy breaking and germination and t o identify new approaches to seed quality evaluation in native species. Maria Marin, Scotia Seeds mariamarin@scotiaseeds.co.uk

ARTICLE 2, SPOTLIGHT ON:

MARIA MARIN
Early stage researcher,
PhD student
31 years old, Croatia

 

Hi Maria, How and when did you first learn about ISTA? 

As soon as I started my post at Scotia Seeds I was introduced to ISTA by my colleagues. ISTA’s International Rules for Seed Testing and working sheets were fundamental to my work.

How is ISTA concretely helping you in your daily job? 

I use ISTA’s protocols for seed testing, where available for certain plant families, as a reference for the development of testing protocols for native species.

How do you keep in touch with ISTA work? With ISTA community? 

At Scotia Seeds we are subscribed to the ISTA news bulletin Seed Testing International. Recently I have joined the ISTA Flower Seed Testing Committee and I am therefore involved in the committee’s activities and future plans.

Why did you decide to attend the ISTA Congress in Tallinn last June? 

I feel that my work is closely related with ISTA’s activities, particularly now that the Association is widening its scope to include native species so I thought that participating to the event was the best way to introduce my work and make valuable contacts. Also, I was very interested in the topics presented at the ISTA Seed Symposium.

What are your main takeaways from this event? 

I received great feedback on my work and was pleased to know that native seed science and restoration related topics are starting to be represented within ISTA. It was also very useful to expand my horizons beyond native species and familiarize with the seed industry and seed testing laboratories.

This event gave me also the opportunity to deal with some practical aspects of seed science and to understand the importance of applied research, while also creating a network of valuable contacts.

 

Were you able to make some useful connections for your work during the Congress? 

Yes! I had the pleasure to meet different people and establish fruitful relationships for the future.

Would you recommend students and young researchers to attend similar events? 

Sure, I think that it is very important for young researchers to get involved with ISTA and participate to these events in order to understand the needs of the field they are working in and share their findings with stakeholders.

How does it feel to be part of an ISTA Technical Committee? 

I have recently joined the ISTA Flower Seed Testing Committee and I am very enthusiastic about it. I feel privileged to have joined this working group and hope to make valuable contributions to it.

If ISTA should change/improve one thing, what would it be? 

If not yet in place I would suggest to establish a fund to allow students to participate to ISTA events.

What is your vision for future in seed testing? 

Currently there is a lack of knowledge on native seed testing and there is no established route for access to this knowledge for producers. Therefore, future work should focus on developing standardised seed testing methods for native species and delivering them to seed producers.

How about your own future? 

I am focused on delivering the requirements for my PhD and NASSTEC project, while also beginning to imagine the future beyond it.

Maria, one last word? 

It was great taking part to the ISTA Seed Symposium, thank you! I am looking forward to the next

Vongai Musembwa’s eyes light up as she scoops up healthy white grains from a metal bin she uses to store newly harvested maize. Happily, they’re free of a naturally occurring poison — aflatoxin — that can contaminate crops in the field, before or after harvest and during storage.

The metal silo protects the grains from aflatoxin — produced by certain fungi that grow on food crops like maize, millet, sorghum, groundnuts, cassava and rice.

 Farmer, Vongai Musembwa from Makoni District in Zimbabwe stores her maize grain in a metal silo, an effective method in preventing aflatoxin contamination, Photo credit, Busani Bafana


Farmer, Vongai Musembwa from Makoni District in Zimbabwe stores her maize grain in a metal silo, an effective method in preventing aflatoxin contamination, Photo credit, Busani Bafana

Ms. Musembwa is one of more than 260 smallholder farmers in Makoni District, east of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, who have switched to non-chemical hermetic storage to prevent food from contamination. Musembwa received her metal silo from a local organization, under a multi-partner project seeking to prevent aflatoxins contamination of maize grain.

The Makoni District farmers are participants in a two-year project worth $1.6 million supported by the Cultivate Africa’s Future programme, an initiative funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research. Under the project, Zimbabwean farmers are given access to metal silos and thick plastic “superbags” to determine if improved storage can reduce aflatoxin contamination in local maize grain.

Crops contaminated by aflatoxins develop moulds and acquire a dark colour. Livestock and humans can fall sick or die after eating contaminated food grains. It has also been linked to childhood stunting, liver cancer and immune suppression in adults.

 Scientists warn that extreme weather is increasing the level of health-damaging toxic chemicals in crops, including staple foods which are key to food, nutrition and trade security in Africa. To protect themselves against extreme weather, plants generate aflatoxins, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

“Aflatoxins are pervasive in African food systems negatively impacting health of women and children, income from agriculture value chains, and food safety and security of nations,” says Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, a senior plant pathologist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), where he guides research and development activities on crop diseases and poisonous chemicals produced by certain fungi known as mycotoxins.

Bandyopadhyay, said people fall sick, farmers lose income, grains are destroyed, food prices soar, profitability of animal industries declines, reputation of African exports are tainted and nations become less food secure due to aflatoxin contamination.

“Aflatoxin contamination presents a barrier to trade and economic growth and is a serious obstacle to programmes designed to improve nutrition and agricultural production while linking smallholder farmers to markets,” Bandyopadhyay said. “The extent of contamination varies by seasons, crops and regions and can be anywhere from none to 100% and often hovers around 25%.”

Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, the AUC’s commissioner for rural economy and agriculture said curbing the menace of aflatoxin contamination was critical to improving child and maternal nutrition and health as well as achieving Africa’s goal to transform its agriculture.

Farmers are particularly vulnerable to fungal poisons, according to a 2015 baseline study to reduce maize-based aflatoxin contamination and exposure in humans in Zimbabwe by researchers from the University of Zimbabwe and the international humanitarian organization, Action Contre la Faim.

Dr. Loveness Nyanga, the project principal investigator and researcher at the University of Zimbabwe, notes that the high-level of aflatoxin contamination is a public health concern because Zimbabweans eat maize and legumes on a daily basis.

The existence of aflatoxins has other consequences to Africa’s economy. The continent is losing more than $450 million annually when its commodities are rejected on global markets because of high contamination levels, says the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), an initiative of the African Union Commission (AUC) whose aim is to protect crops, livestock and people from the effects of aflatoxins.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) confirmed that aflatoxins affect 25% of the world’s food crops and hurt trade. About US$1.2 billion is lost in global commerce annually as a result of aflatoxins, according to IITA. While the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) notes that the World Food Programme has sharply reduced the quantities of maize it has been able to buy locally in Africa since 2007 because of aflatoxin contamination.

Africa also faces a health burden associated with humans’ exposure to contamination.

Harming our health

An estimated 26,000 people die annually in sub-Saharan Africa from liver cancer resulting from chronic aflatoxin exposure, according to a 2013 research by IFPRI.

Globally, 5% to 30% of all liver cancer cases are linked to aflatoxin exposure, with the highest incidences occurring in Africa, according to the Platform for African-European Partnership on Agricultural Research for Development (PAEPARD), an eight-year project sponsored by the European Commission.

In Mozambique, a high prevalence of liver cancer in southern part of the country has been associated with consumption of aflatoxin contaminated food, especially from groundnuts.

Sustainable solutions

Cultivate Africa’s Future is one of several ongoing efforts to contain aflatoxin contamination. If experiments with the plastic “super bags” are effective against contamination, they will be a highly sought after item by Zimbabwean farmers who lose up to 30% of harvested maize every year to pests and poor post-harvest handling.

More than $50 million worth of maize, the staple food, is lost annually during storage alone, says Ringson Chitsiko, the permanent secretary in Zimbabwe’s ministry of agriculture.

To fight aflatoxins contamination and maintain food quality and safety, scientists recommend an integrated approach, including, among other techniques, timely planting and harvesting, proper plant density and managing insects. This is in addition to crop rotation, shelling, enhancement of proper plant health and nutrition, rapid drying of grains in the sun for days, or with driers to reduce the moisture content and proper storage.

Bandyopadhyay leads Africa-wide efforts on the development and scaling-up of the aflatoxin biocontrol technology known as Aflasafe, a novel biological product developed by the IITA to fight pre-and post-harvest aflatoxin contamination.

Already the IITA has a programme to develop Aflasafe in Malawi where between 40% and 100% of the country’s groundnut-based commodities contain unsafe toxin levels. Aflasafe has also been tested in Burkina Faso, Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal since 2009. About 30,000 farmers in Nigeria, Senegal, The Gambia and Kenya are using Aflasafe and getting 200 to 500% return on investment, Bandyopadhyay said.

Tanzania in June 2016 announced that it was undertaking field trials in the use of Alfasafe targeting four regions. A 2012 study in Tanzania established high incidents of aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnuts in the country.

The Africa Aflatoxin Information Management System platform spearheaded by PACA is creating a “one stop shop” database for aflatoxin-related information in the health, trade and agriculture sectors as a way to raise awareness and prevent contamination.

The Aflasafe product has been registered in Senegal and Gambia where aflatoxin contamination is a major deterrent for groundnut exports. Bandyopadhyay said aflatoxin exposure in humans is rampant in West Africa with the toxin found in the body fluids of 100% Senegalese and The Gambian people in a few instances.

In 2005 the World Bank estimated that investments in aflatoxin control can add $281 million to the Senegalese economy from increased export volume and price differential of aflatoxin-safe crops.

A key impediment is the level of aflatoxin awareness among farmers and consumers. Because of poor policing of food safety standards in many African countries, researchers say that many people eat contaminated foods, especially the staples such as maize, legumes and groundnuts, without checking for signs of aflatoxins.

Researchers at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi- Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in  June 2016 announced the decoding of the DNA of the ground nut or peanut (Arachis hypogaea), an oil and protein rich crop of global importance with the annual production of 42.3 million metric tonnes.

Rajeev Varshney, the Research Programme Director- Genetic Gains at ICRISAT said in an online interview that groundnuts, though an important crop in terms of nutrition and income in Asia and Africa, face low productivity as compared to Americas. The current pace of developing improved peanut varieties and their productivity may not be able to meet the demand of ever increasing global population, especially in Asia and Africa where in some countries productivity is less than one tonne per hectare. According to the FAO, the world average productivity of groundnuts is 1, 6 tonnes per hectare.

Varshney said the gene resources generated through this breakthrough provide an opportunity for scientists to prepare an efficient road map for developing improved groundnut varieties with increased productivity and quality.

“Peanuts produced from African countries and India have high level of aflatoxin contamination,” said Varshney. “This makes peanut produce unsuitable for export to Europe and Americas. Therefore it is really important to work in the direction of producing varieties with minimal aflatoxin contamination.”

Manish Pandey, a groundnut genomics Scientist at ICRISAT said the availability of the DNA sequence will accelerate basic research to answer important biological questions about groundnuts and help crop improvement programmes around the world.

Africa Rising, Sakata and Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform partner to promote sustainable development and food security.

This year Africa Rising Foundation held a three day celebration leading up to  Mandela Day on July 18, 2016, with a range of community projects in Qunu, the home of Nelson Mandela.

Founded by Nelson Mandela’s grandsons Ndaba and Kweku Mandela, Africa Rising focuses on inspiring a new generation of youth who believe in and work towards an empowered Africa. This year marks their second Nelson Mandela Day Initiative, joining the global call to action for doing good on Nelson Mandela Day and beyond.

The weekend’s activities kicked off with the launch of Mandela’s Community Gardens on Thursday, 14 July. In partnership with the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform and seed company, Sakata, Africa Rising launched a drive to distribute one million seeds to one million household farmers over the next year.

The initiative promotes sustainable development and food security by giving farmers vegetable seeds to grow their own food in line with the Eastern Cape’s plans to address food security and production concerns in the region.

In addition to seed distribution, 67 plots of land have been made available on Madiba’s farm in Qunu, for companies to sponsor a child in the Qunu/ Umtata area. Children can plant vegetables and access their plot anytime until harvest time. They can also keep the produce for their families to consume or sell and share to other households and people from surrounding communities.

“It is important for us that the 67 children chosen are from this very community so it’s easy for them to commute and take part in the development of their plots from seed to harvest”, said Ndaba Mandela.

The plots are sponsored at R10,000 each with half of the funds dedicated to the child’s education and the other half utilized on the farm to ensure all the necessary resources are available to farm the plots. All the plots are entered into a competition and at harvest time the plot with biggest yield and best quality vegetables will win a prize. Through this project the youth can play a part in curbing food inflation, contribute to a reliable source of food security for themselves and their immediate community, as well as save money which can be spent on other needs.

According to a recently launched 2016 Stats SA Community Survey, at least 464,838 households in the Eastern Cape ran out of money for food in the last year and 17.6% of these households missed a meal. Add to this continuing drought, a growing population and youth with little interest in agriculture or desires to move away to bigger cities, it’s easy to see why partnerships such as these are of utmost importance. According to Agriculture MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane, “We want to ensure that cropping is increased and we are already seeing more land under production. Collaborative partnerships such as these, between local communities, provincial government and private sector play an important role in developing a sustainable approach to the issues of food security.”

In addition to addressing these challenges, Ndaba has high hopes for this project and it’s immediate benefits in the community, particularly for the youth.   “A lot of the time kids don’t have anything to do, in Johannesburg there are a lot more facilities and activities for children to immerse themselves in after school, whether it be sport, whether it be  music. In the Eastern Cape there aren’t as many options so we’re encouraging the children to spend time in their gardens, cultivating their produce, learning about agriculture and keeping them away from activities of a more harmful nature”, says Ndaba.

MEC Qoboshiyane comments on the sustainability of the project: “The reason we decided to come here and work with young people from their schools is to plant a seed of courage. We want to ensure that young people are creating a new culture of love to plant and love to produce. Everything starts small and then grows incrementally and that is what we want to see from Mandela’s Community Gardens. Young people must be cultivated to be a seed, yielding a crop.”

This initiative focuses on getting the youth involved in agricultural activities to empower themselves and make a difference in the community while making a positive impact on food security in the area. “It’s really inline with the spirit of Nelson Mandela to make sure that young people get involved in doing agricultural work. Once this project is successful we shall try and add other elements like worm farming and cattle farming to the gardens to create an ecosystem that produces enough for the community to start selling to distributors,” comments Ndaba on the project’s future plans.

“Community Gardens play a key role in organising a community to be able to produce everything that they consume, therefore being truly sustainable, saving money and living a more healthy lifestyle. We encourage other provinces and countries to establish similar community initiatives to combat food inflation on a larger scale,” Ndaba adds.

To find out more information about this project or how to get involved with sponsoring a plot on the Mandela homestead to one of 67 children in the community please email info@arfoundation.co

 

About Africa Rising

Africa Rising is a conduit for the New African Generation. Africa Rising is committed to publicising the positive image of Africa in order to instill a sense of pride and purpose in young Africans. Africa Rising is the voice of the African youth worldwide who believe in themselves and their continent and act on this to build a prosperous Africa.

www.arfoundation.co 

 

About Sakata

Sakata Seed Southern Africa’s Seeds (Pty) Ltd grew out of C May & Co which was founded in 1931. Over the years the company developed a diverse portfolio including seed production, packet seed, vegetable, forage, turf and flower seed, vegetable breeding programs and specialised products for the home garden industry.

Trial grounds were acquired in 1947 outside Johannesburg, with plant breeding having been started in 1965. 1973 saw the introduction of the revolutionary and very successful hermetically sealed garden seed packets. A decade later, and an important milestone, Sakata Seed Southern Africa’s’s highly sophisticated seed laboratory was officially recognised as a government approved seed testing station.

In the middle of the 80’s the company transformed its distribution into a franchising operation.Today the company is operating with 7 national franchisees and various international francisees throughout Southern Africa with a franchisor complement of 80. In December 1999, the Sakata Seed Corporation of Yokohama, Japan, acquired Sakata Seed Southern Africa’s Seeds (Pty) Ltd. Sakata is one of the largest seed companies in the world with extensive global research programs in vegetable and flower seed.

http://sakata.co.za/

About Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform

The mission of the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform is to promote, support and coordinate rural development and agrarian reform to reduce poverty and underdevelopment through integrated and participatory interventions.

The three strategic goals of the Department are: a thriving farming sector and access to affordable food; improved rural economic livelihoods and creation of employment opportunities; and an environment conducive to the enhancement of service delivery.

These strategic goals have been identified to reflect critical service delivery priorities. They are intended to ensure that the mission of the Department is achieved; provide a line of sight in the process to achieve the overall mandate of the Department, which is to enhance rural development, land and agrarian reform, and food security; and inspire a cadre of officials and stakeholders to strive to achieve these for the benefit of the rural poor and vulnerable.

Media Contact:

Victoria Soroczynski

victoria@avenoir.co.za

“Everyone who was part of this year’s African Utility Week felt the same passion for the energy and water sectors on the continent and had the feeling that we are on the brink of enormous progress”, says Evan Schiff, event director of the African Utility Week conference and exhibition that took place in Cape Town and gathered a record 6445 attendees from 17-19 May.

“Technology, water and renewable energy were strong themes this year,” Schiff adds “and there’s no doubt that renewable energy as well as smart technology are changing the way power and water utilities operate and deal with their customers.”

There are big plans in the offing for next year: “as the industry evolves, so will the event” says the African Utility Week event director, “our exhibition will be even bigger next year as we grow into the new expo space at the CTICC to reflect the new markets and developments in the sector, including a focus on non-utility scale projects, large power users, rooftop solar installations, energy storage, lighting products, independent power producers (IPPs) and EPCs (engineering, procurement and construction.”

The event featured 250 exhibitors from 40 countries, 299 speakers who addressed the packed strategic conference over three days in six different topic streams while inspiring industry pioneers engaged the audiences in the daily high-profile keynote sessions. The event addressed the latest challenges, developments and opportunities in the power and water sectors: ranging from generation, transmission & distribution, metering, clean energy, finance and investment, water supply and energy efficiency.

“The energy revolution is powering up”

A notable presence at the CTICC in Cape Town this year was Sierra Leone’s Dr Kandeh Yumkella, UN Under-Secretary-General and Former Special Representative of the Secretary-General and CEO, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), who not only made a lasting impression during the opening day’s keynote session but also won the Lifetime Achievement category at the African Utility Week Industry Awards. On receiving his award Dr Yumkella said: “I know the energy revolution is powering up and ready to take off. We saw again this week that we have the technology and the innovation. Sometimes we are too suspicious of each other, we should embrace energy trade with each other”.

Other award winners included Johannesburg’s City Power (Utility of the Year), Uganda’s National Water and Sewerage Company (Water Utility of the Year), and Akon Lighting (Clean Energy Project of the Year) reflecting the enormous pan-African progress in the energy and water sectors.

The sold-out exhibition featured 250 exhibitors from 40 countries and included country pavilions from Germany, India, The Netherlands, France, South Africa and China. There were dozens of packed, free-to-attend CPD-accredited technical workshops on the expo floor, product demonstrations and technical site visits. Attendees at African Utility Week came from more than 81 countries, including 27 African nations, and 79 power and water utilities were represented.

Annual industry platform

An important part of this year’s growth at the event were the many side events from the industry that have turned African Utility Week into an annual industry platform in the Mother City. These included the Oil & Gas Council’s Cape Town Assembly, KPMG’s IPP Conference, Nuclear Power Africa, the Standard Transfer Specification Association’s AGM, PIESA and International Cleantech Network gatherings. South Africa’s Department of Energy also launched its new energy efficiency label that will become mandatory for household appliances with Energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson revealing the new label at African Utility Week.

African Utility Week is organised by Spintelligent, leading Cape Town-based trade exhibition and conference organiser, and the African office of Clarion Events Ltd, based in the UK. The event forms part of a global energy event series, including European Utility Week, Australian Utility Week, Asian Utility Week and Latin American Utility Week. Other African flagship events in Spintelligent’s power portfolio are East African Power Industry Convention (EAPIC), West African Power Industry Convention (WAPIC), iPAD Rwanda Power & Mining Investment Forum and iPAD Cameroon Energy & Infrastructure Forum.

Article by Jennifer Hyman, Director of Communications, Land O’Lakes International Development

Having insufficient money to feed and clothe her children tormented Teresa Alberto João Danasio for years. “It used to tear me up inside when my children would come back from playing, staring at me, and for me as their mother to have no food for them,” Teresa, 28, recalled. “We have a saying in Mozambique that happiness comes from the stomach. So, if the kids are hungry, it means that they are sad. As a mother, this really affected me.”

At the time, the entire family relied exclusively on the US $50 monthly income Teresa’s husband Jemute Manuel Chaona, 32, earned as a social service assistant. There were nine mouths to feed in all, including their three children and several relatives. Teresa recalled, “We experienced a lot of challenges because of insufficient income, but we had no options. It was all we could rely on. There were days when we had no food, and no ways to fill other needs.”

But despite their difficulties, and the stress he felt being the family’s sole provider, Jemute wasn’t immediately sold on the idea of acquiring a dairy cow when Teresa told him about the USDA-funded Food for Progress Program implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development. The program is linking 4,050 smallholder farmers to a commercial dairy value chain in Maputo, Sofala, and Manica provinces, and training 16,000 Animal traction farmers in new and improved agricultural techniques and management practices.

More broadly, the program is working to build an effective dairy value chain, reduce imports, rebuild the dairy herd and promote private sector investment – in the aftermath of the 16-year civil war that decimated the country’s dairy herd and infrastructure.

Overcoming Fear and Moving Forward

“I told her, how are you going to manage such a demanding animal? And how are you going to provide it with feed?” Jemute recalled asking. He had also heard about the program, and knew that free-grazing was discouraged; considering feed is the most onerous cost of caring for dairy cattle, this was a legitimate concern.

Beyond the fear of whether they could manage taking care of a dairy cow, their biggest concern was what it would mean for Teresa’s education. Teresa was busily trying to complete 10th grade and was loathe to drop out, especially considering her children, ages 8, 10 and 12 weren’t far behind her in their studies.

But Teresa insisted and convinced Jemute to give it a try with her and see what might happen. And so it was that the two began tag-teaming as partners in everything to make this new opportunity work.

“When I made the decision, it was really a challenge for me, but I continued studying. My husband would wake up early morning and go to his work, while I went off to school. Then, around 9am, we’d both escape from work and school to attend our dairy trainings, and then we’d head back to work and school when we could.”

They both laughed as she relayed the story of how they managed to make things work during the 2-week training. “We were acting like fugitives, constantly sneaking out to make ends meet,” Teresa said. Jemute joked, “If I was really a fugitive, I wouldn’t have come back!”

Since successfully completing Land O’Lakes’ training and passing the course was a prerequisite to actually receiving a pure-breed in-calf Jersey heifer, Teresa was skeptical her efforts would come to fruition. “Initially, I doubted myself. I wondered, would I really be eligible to receive a dairy cow? And is this program all talk?” But within a few weeks of passing her course, she received her cow and life began to change.

Teresa Alberto João Danasio affectionately holds her new “cash cow,” Teresinha.

Teresa Alberto João Danasio affectionately holds her new “cash cow,” Teresinha.

The Arrival of Jemute’s ‘Second Wife’ Teresinha

When the cow arrived in July 2014, Teresa says her family exploded with emotion, and the cow quickly became a critical part of their lives. “The cow and program came at the right time. We smelled the cash as soon as we saw her!” Fittingly, their cow was given the name of Teresinha – small Teresa – and her children regularly call out if they observe that Teresina needs more food or water.  Jemute added, “I now consider Teresinha my second wife!”

After calving, Teresinha started providing the family with between 12 and 13 liters a day. After keeping about 2 liters for enriching the nourishment of the family, they sell the remainder for between US $0.40 -0.46 per liter either to Copoleite, a cooperative based in Beira, Sofala provincial capital that operates a processing plant, or to a local microprocessor. Ultimately, Teresinha’s milk provides them with about US $100 a month – almost double her husband Jemute’s salary, which triples the overall household income.

Teresa shows off the new home she’s busily constructing with her new income from dairy.

Teresa shows off the new home she’s busily constructing with her new income from dairy.

“I’m happy that Teresa is bringing in this income, and I’m not threatened that she’s now earning more than me. It means our financial burden is alleviated, and I’m not threatened by the fact that the family isn’t entirely relying on my income anymore,” Jemute explained. “In fact, it means I actually have a little more time to breathe, and to be a real father to my children.”

When Teresinha calved, her first born was a bull. She will soon pass this on to another program client. . Shortly after the bull was born, the family accessed artificial insemination services through the program to get Teresinha pregnant again, and this time she produced a female calf, who is now 5 months old. Afterwards, they used a bull stud service to impregnate her again, and she’s currently in-calf.

Looking Forward to the Future

While they cannot say the income from Teresinha’s milk covers all their needs, the couple notes that it minimizes their burden significantly. “Although we still find we need more money than we have, rarely do our kids go to bed hungry anymore.”

What’s more, Teresa is not only dreaming of building a large house to fit her entire family, but she’s nearly realized her vision. Construction is ongoing, and is nearly complete, and they are easily able to pay for their children’s school uniforms, and school lunches, so that they can concentrate better while studying. They are also setting a portion of their earnings aside to pay for the feed that Teresinha needs to remain healthy and productive.

She imagines things will only get better. “Where I once doubted myself, I can now envision a future where my female calf grows up and starts milking. That means in a year or two, I will have two cows, and then three. This will really put me in a great situation.”

For Teresa, the impact of the USDA-funded Mozambique Food for Progress program has truly been profound. “I was a person who had no hope, and I wasn’t even aware that this could be my life. But now, I really feel like a new Teresa, as a proud mother able to meet my household needs.

Interview with James Mwangi – Group Managing Director and Group CEO of the Equity Group Holdings Limited, the banking conglomerate with the largest customer base in Africa and the largest African majority owned company in the region. James Mwangi won the 2012 Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year, the first business leader from Sub Saharan Africa to win this prestigious award.

by Dave Ramaswamy

Dave: How is Equity Bank helping farmers with credit?

James: Supporting farmers goes beyond credit. The biggest need for farmers is building capacity so they are able to, and can, learn to use credit appropriately. The second significant opportunity to support farmers is to build linkages. It is not just about production, it is linking farmers with the market, linking them with post-harvest produce managers. For Equity Bank our goal is to ensure farmers are fully funded. Over the last 6 years we have been able to support through credit, 460,000 peasant farmers to progress from subsistence farming and graduate to being agribusinesses. We give them financial training so that they see agriculture as a business – for sustainability and scalability. We have introduced warehousing in Kenya so farmers are not forced to sell all their production at the time of harvest. They can go to a produce manager, get a Warehouse Receipt. Farmers can discount that, and can get a credit against that Warehouse Receipt.

In a partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Kenyan government, we are helping farmers adopt modern agriculture practices, including appropriate use of fertilizers and certified seeds. In some cases, we have helped farmers increase their yields up to 12 times.

Dave: What are the key areas for improving agricultural efficiency?

James: If Agriculture in Africa needs to move to the next level, there must be significant enhancement in 1) productivity 2) quality and 3) value addition. This is our greatest opportunity. We can do this with technology, either through software or hardware. And we must ensure that increases in the above 3 elements – productivity, quality and value addition can be obtained through optimal use of additional inputs.

Dave: What are your key messages to investors? In Kenya? East Africa?

James: Kenya and East Africa is an agricultural region. So, the raw material is plentiful. If they want to have impact, agriculture is the sector to invest in because you can positively affect the lives of 85% of the population. The agriculture sector in East Africa is still at the primary production level. And it is crying out for enhancement to the value addition level. Agro processing is a huge, huge opportunity. And the market is ready and waiting in East Africa.

Dave: Africa is food insecure because it is energy insecure. In many areas, 10% to 30% of crop output is wasted because the output cannot be stored under controlled temperature/humidity conditions, or processed quickly enough. How can the U.S. backed Power Africa energy investments help transform the agriculture sector?

James: The modern world is driven by and rotates on the strength of energy. For African agriculture to transform we need significant energy. We need to mechanize agriculture. Mechanization provides an opportunity for energy utilization. Agro processing will be a huge consumer of energy. For instance, transporting produce efficiently, requires electrified railways. The core of development, the enabler and facilitator of any agricultural transformation is availability of energy. When farmers milk their cows in the evening, and if they cannot finish and have to deliver it the next day, the milk needs to be stored and chilled overnight in coolers. Coolers will only work if a farmer has access to energy. So, you can see the correlation. For example, if you want to properly implement a “zero grazing” dairy system, you need to automate the feeding process and the milking process within the dairy farm. Both of which require access to a reliable source of energy. So, essentially food security and energy security go together.

Dave: Kenya and East Africa needs billions of dollars to upgrade and build new infrastructure for agriculture transformation. Infrastructure investments are long-term plays with delayed payback periods, e.g. 30 to 40 years for roads, railways etc. So, you need to mop up pension fund capital, family office capital with long investment horizons. How do you see Equity Bank partnering with foreign entities to tap into these capital pools?

James: In East Africa, we need to push more to deepen and widen our capital markets. You’re spot on – what we need for infrastructure is long-term funding and long-term capital. The capital markets are best-positioned for this. Banks can serve a facilitation role to ensure that capital flows for the long-term, particularly to the consumers of that capital. To identify and vet the recipients of that capital – that is where Equity Bank can play a significant role. We are playing a role of being a bridge between long-term funders, whether it is the development finance institutions or pension funds, and the borrower. So, far we have received a $1 billion dollars for onward lending for a term of 7 to 15 years. So, that is the bridge role we are playing.

Dave: James, thanks a lot for your time. Wish you continued success!

James: You’re most welcome.

mdg2

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

Written by Nancy Saili

The agricultural sector is believed to be the backbone of the Zambian economy thereby alleviating problems associated with poverty and food security. The development of the sector is viewed as one sustainable way of economic growth and ‘Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger’ which is goal number one of the Millennium Development Goals (UN, 2000). The sector contributes to the growth of the economy, to exports, employment of the labour force, income generation, GDP and foreign exchange.

Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture

Recent decades have seen a change in local climate patterns and their interactions with crop yields. It is believed and projected that demand for food will continue to increase in many of the low income countries. This is due to global effect of climate change which is mostly affecting small scale farmers in the developing world. Countries in the developing world like Zambia rely heavily on weather sensitive agriculture such as rain-fed agriculture and as such are adversely affected by effects of climate change. In rain-fed agriculture crop production is highly dependent upon adequate supply of water and optimum temperatures such that an imbalance in any of the two could render a season’s crop to loss. In many countries, increasing climate variability over the years has had a direct influence on the quantity and quality of agricultural production which has led to losses due to weather having an effect on the annual agricultural production and in turn causing uncertainty in projections of food production. Long term climate variations are likely to increase stress on food production and vulnerability of the agricultural sector to climate shifts which may lead to poor performance of the agricultural sector thereby leading to poverty in regions where agricultural production is the main source of livelihood. In a country like Zambia where much of its people are well involved and various livelihoods depend highly on agriculture, farmers maybe badly affected when annual crops fail meaning locally produced food will not be available and since these farmers depend almost entirely on agriculture for employment and income, they not find the money needed to purchase food even if it is available in the market.

Production of major crops, 2001 Source: Zambia Agriculture Dataset: Department for international Development (DFID) 2002.

Production of major crops, 2001
Source: Zambia Agriculture Dataset: Department for international Development (DFID) 2002.

Agriculture: Source of Emissions

The agricultural sector is among the main sources of emissions in Zambia. At the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru the Lima Call for Action called for all Parties to develop and communicate INDCs as their ‘contributions’ towards achieving the ultimate objective of Article 2 of the UNFCCC: “to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. In an effort to reduce emissions from the sector, the Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives has embarked on programs to promote and persuade thousands to adopt Climate Smart Agriculture such as Conservation Farming and Agro-forestry.

In the past, in many parts of the country such as the Central, Copperbelt, Northern, Luapula and North-Western Provinces farmers (especially subsistence) had been practicing the ‘Slash and Burn’ type of agriculture or as is popularly known to the locals “Chitemene System.”  This system involves the cutting down of trees, stacking them in one place and then burning them in order to create a thick layer of ash. After this is done, crops such as maize, finger millet, sorghum or cassava are then planted.  However the agricultural productivity of the Chitemene field is limited to only a few years. When yields begin to decline, a new area is cleared for Chitemene, and the initial site is then left bare. This type of agriculture contributes to climate change, air pollution and loss of wildlife/biodiversity. It is destructive to the environment and recently programs are being developed to discourage this type of agriculture.

Benefits of Climate Smart Agriculture 

A typical lunch in most Zambian homes is made up of Nshima (carbohydrates), fish/beef/chicken (proteins) and vegetables (vitamins) which together make a balanced diet. All these foods are products of agriculture. And this is an indication that the country’s domestic economy is based on agriculture. Seeing how much agriculture is practiced in Zambia and of what value it is to the country and its people, it would be hoped that only the best agricultural practices be used. This involves the promotion of Climate Smart Agriculture such as Conservation Farming.

Some farmers are already practicing conservation agriculture but the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU), an independent organization in Zambia is hoping to persuade thousands more to adopt these practices. In the local town of Solwezi in North-Western Zambia a conservation farming program has been put into place for the local people. Solwezi now popularly known for its mines: First Quantum’s Kansanshi mine located about 10km north and Barrick Gold (previously Lumwana mine located about 65 km west of the town centre. However Solwezi is more than just a mining town. Solwezi is endowed with favourable soils for agriculture and its people are in full support of the practice.

In an effort to keep the locals off the streets and also to encourage better agricultural practices and environmental conservation, the conservation farming program (inspired by the pioneering work of Zimbabwean farmer Brian Oldreive) was launched under First Quantum’s Kansanshi mine foundation in partnership with Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture. In a land where farmers have previously often exhausted the soil and moved on, the farming program teaches simple practices and can be viewed as a model for sustainable agriculture in Zambia and all of Africa.

Agriculture-ZambiaThe Food and Agricultural Organization defined conservation agriculture as “a concept for resource saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment” (FAO 2007). Conservation farming employs minimal tillage. Unlike traditional methods of burning plant residues, in conservation farming residue from crops are left on the land to minimize erosion and provide organic material. This reduces the need for expensive chemical fertilizers and furrows are created just deep enough to avoid turning up the earth in turn keeping nutrients in the soil and retaining moisture. When the rains come, the water seeps gently into the soil. After which farmers then plant their seeds and wait for the crops to germinate. The success of conservation farming is mainly because it can be practiced by anyone. However, you cannot just hand people seeds and fertilizer and expect them to figure it out. The training program by First Quantum trains participants on how to work their plots of land and make efficient use of the inputs provided to them. This program has proven successful from feedback from participants, it has not only boosted crop yields but also the participants sense of pride through job creation opportunities. According to a sustainability report produced by First Quantum “participants have learned to apply the simple techniques of conservation farming as they feed their families, earn extra income and gain new found pride.” Through the program participants have moved from subsistence to self-sufficiency.

Agriculture is one of the most destructive forces against biodiversity. However, conservation agriculture is a “win-win” for both farmers and environmentalists. Some of the benefits of this practice include; less erosion, better water conservation, improvement in air quality due to lower emissions being produced, soil structure improvement, nutrient retention, soil organic matter enhancement, reduced labor input, precise and efficient use of on and off farm resources (such as seed, fertilizer and manures), and higher yields.

Agro-forestry is a component of conservation farming that involves the planting of trees directly amongst crops so that both will benefit from the naturally-enhancing qualities of the two species. Zambia is a world leader in agro-forestry and could serve as an example for other countries to follow. The benefits of this practice include nitrogen fixation, restoration of agricultural yields, increase in food security, enhanced income generation and reduced pressure to clear nearby forests. This practice is the thread that unites the agriculture and forestry sector in Zambia.

Conservation farming is a key step a in fighting climate change as resources are conserved for future generations. It is a good way of reducing fossil fuels as minimum tillage results in fewer greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere, and less use of chemical fertilizers lessens pollution levels in the air, soil and water. It may be effective as many people will be involved in the practice if government sets up more programs to train farmers and encourage them to practice good agricultural practices.

flag

The colours used in the flag of Zambia are rich in symbolism. Green stands for the nation’s lush flora, red for the nation’s struggle for freedom, black for the Zambian people, and orange for the land’s natural resources and mineral wealth. Additionally, the eagle flying above the coloured stripes is intended to represent the people’s ability to rise above the nation’s problems

The FAO estimates that as growing population continues to push demand for agricultural products upwards, the world may require about 50% more food by 2030, compared to 1998 (FAO, 2005). This will require consistent productivity by small scale farmers who contribute a substantial amount of food crop in Africa. Conservation farming will put us on the right path to achieve that and it would be wise for our government to push for more programs that encourage for climate smart agricultural practices and are at the same time sustaining for the economy. Conservation agriculture is one of the factors that unite social, economic and environmental sustainability. We have the solutions to the problems that we are currently facing and therefore now is the time to take action and help create a better future for all.

BN-HF633_olam03_J_20150304031535By Dave Ramaswamy, Africa Agribusiness Magazine

 

Sunny Verghese is Co-Founder, Group Managing Director & CEO of Olam International, one of the world’s biggest agricultural commodity trading companies. Verghese established Olam in 1989 and leads the company’s strategy, planning, business development and management.

 

Dave: What is your view on pricing natural capital? People have talked about the carbon tax. What option do you prefer, and what’s more economically and environmentally sound?

Sunny: It’s a catch-22 situation. No country wants to bell the cat, to perform the difficult task. They say that if they are the only country that applies the carbon tax, then their producers and exporters will get a disadvantage compared to another country. So while intellectually a lot of countries accept that in order to change behavior in terms of carbon emissions, we need to price carbon, nobody wants to bell the cat. So unless this will be something that all [UN] member countries will implement concurrently, I don’t think this will happen. Nothing’s going to change.

Dave: Okay. So based on your work in Africa and being vertically integrated in commodities from sourcing to branded products, why did you decide to fully integrate from being just a trader of commodities? Going up and down the value chain?

Sunny: The way we look at where to participate in the value chain is we do profitability analysis as to where the profit resides. Is it upstream of the grower/planter? Is it mid-stream at the processor? Then we ask ourselves how we can attract a slice of the profit.

If it is distributed upstream, do we have an ability? Can we really enter upstream and successfully capture the production economics in terms of farming and plantation management skills? If we believe that it’s doable, then we want to invest there. It is very nuanced, so there is no strategic orthodoxy as to where we will similarly invest.

We only invest when we know that we have a competitive cost to production, both capital cost of production and cash cost of production. That will allow us a cost position below the marginal cost producer’s cost of production.

Dave: Can you give an example with a particular commodity, like coffee?

Sunny: If you take coffee, you know Brazil produces coffee at about roughly $1.25 per pound for Arabica coffees.

So we know the commodity prices are cyclical. If you go upstream and become a producer/grower in a deep down cycle you start bleeding. You will not bleed, however, if your cost structure is below the marginal cost producer’s.

Therefore [we look at] the capital cost of producing in a particular country and the cash cost for producing. If your cost structure is below the marginal cost producer’s then even in a deep down cycle in coffee prices you are profitable. You can ride it out. In a normal cycle, and especially in an up cycle, you’ll be significantly more profitable.

These are long-term investments. To plant coffee, the first full maturity is in seven years. So you have to wait for seven years. You can’t make a speculative guess that coffee prices are going to be high seven years in the future. But, if you know that you’ve got a cost structure that is competitive and below the marginal cost producer you’ll be riding through every cycle.

Dave: That is impeccable logic.

Sunny: So, we invested in Laos, we invested in Tanzania and Zambia, Ethiopia, Brazil. Win 4 of those countries we have a high margin of safety between our total cost of production and the marginal cost producer’s cost of production. So in Laos we produce coffee at roughly 80 cents, in Zambia at about 85 cents, in Tanzania at about 90 cents, in Ethiopia at about a dollar, but all this is significantly lower than Brazil’s cost of coffee.

When coffee prices start going down, as they are now, it will still hold, we believe, above the marginal producer’s cost of production. And if it dips that way it can’t hurt anything. So that is the strategy.

In every commodity we look at that. We saw cashews were grown in 19 countries around the world, with millions of small owner/farmers and fragmented production. The farmer makes 6% to 7% of the profit.

When we looked at almonds, 75% of the profit was made by the grower. And almonds can really only can be grown in four countries because the crop is quite sensitive to the agro-climactic conditions.

Dave: For almonds, it is places like California in the U.S., Australia, Chile and South Africa.

Sunny: If you understand where the profit pools are, and you believe you have an ability to organize and capture the production of economics, then you invest on that basis. That’s what we do in 21 crops that we farm and produce ourselves across 26 countries.

Dave: Let us look at comparative advantage. You know China and India can be looking at consolidating farm holdings, and being self-sufficient in food. But sub-Saharan Africa has a comparative production advantage for key food commodities. So, how do you think Africa plays a role in supplying the food needs of India and China?

Sunny: Well, 55% to 60% of the world’s arable land is in Africa, but considerable investment needs to go in to build that infrastructure to make that arable land fully productive. You need to make long-term bets in farming, because it’s not something you can pull out and abandon a year after you invest it. You need the certainty of being able to make agriculture investments—whether it is governance or good infrastructure. For Africa to realize the potential is a long way off. And there have to be significant private/public partnerships to really exploit the potential.

Dave: Which countries in Africa—please name your top three preferences—are better producers compared to others in the next five years?

Sunny: Typically we look at a few factors. One is we want countries with low population density where land is not a big issue. So Gabon is a good example. It has 1.6 million people, a lot of land and not too much cultivation. So, one factor is population density, availability of land.

Second is labor, cost of labor and the trajectory of wage/price inflation. If you’re feeling wages are going to go up very fast in this country because of the developing economy, then you might be priced out. So, you need to understand not only what current wage costs are, but you also need to have a point of view on wage/price inflation.

Also, what is the capital cost of production? What does land cost? How are land prices increasing? Are the focus of government policies pro-business and pro-investment?  Can you look at the communities and be equal partners to manage your supply chains? Because you will need them to support it. If they are against you, you have no hope of establishing assistance long term.

Dave: I know you mentioned Gabon, but what are two other countries?

Sunny: We have farm plantations in Nigeria. We’ve got a couple of [oil palm] plantations in Ghana and Liberia. We’ve got rice farming in Nigeria. We have forestry interest in Congo and in Gabon.

Dave: I know you would like most farms to consolidate into clusters or cooperatives. You have this outgrower model where you give input and you have buyback arrangements for the output.

Sunny: Yes.

Dave: In the last seven years there has been a huge issue made of these large land deals in Africa. And many of them have failed. Going forward, how do you think this land acquisition process will evolve?

Sunny: Many people made the mistake of believing that the [central] government confers the land to you. The government can transfer legal title to you, but in our view customary rights are more important. If a person’s forefather has cultivated that piece of land, then—according to human rights convention—that has precedence over any legal right. A lot of people come from overseas to invest there, they don’t understand this. They feel the government has given them the title and therefore the title is clear.

Dave: Sure, that has been the case in most instances.

Sunny: You have to go through a pretty intense farm consent process with the local population. You need to understand what the customary rights are and you want to respect those rights. So people make lots of mistakes in not going through a proper evaluation process. If you don’t recognize customary rights, things can blow up.

Dave: Based on your experience in African countries, what would be your message to regulators or policy makers?

Sunny: Clearly they have to make agriculture the priority sector and they have to ensure an environment that allows planning for long-term investments. It should not be ad hoc, but the law, a law of parliament so that investors have predictability when they are investing. It should not be the case that in four or five years, the government changes and a new administration might reverse all these policies. Foreign investors need the security of policy lasting for the lifetime of the project. That has to be through an act of parliament. It should not be politically partisan; it should be consensual and broad-based.

Second, is for them to facilitate upscaling in terms of agricultural training. Very few people in Africa want to do any agriculture. The average age of the African farmer is 64 years old.

Very few want to do farming by choice. It’s a tough job. So you have to make it more exciting and you have to have programs to encourage younger farmers wanting to come into the business. Unlike the U.S. or other places, in Africa land is not very expensive, so you won’t need an inter-generational transfer of wealth to enter the business. For a new entrant, land is relatively cheap. So even a young guy who has an entrepreneurial streak can contemplate getting into it.

Dave: I know you have to run now. Thanks for your time, Sunny.

Sunny: You are welcome.