AAAE News Brief

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October 13, 2021 | No. 33
Africa's contributions to global food are rich — and little understood

The highly anticipated UN World Food Summit ended with an announcement of new coalitions to increase healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The headlines for Africa coming out of the summit are all too familiar — the continent faces mass starvation and is in dire need of food assistance to save millions of lives. Indeed, when it comes to food, the common association with Africa is frequently exactly this, famine and foreign aid. While this is true in many cases, this narrative further perpetuates what Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie famously coined as “the danger of a single story.” It overshadows the less often-told story of Africa’s important contributions to global food systems. The story of Africa’s strengths should be told to counter a deep-seated bias — implicit or otherwise — towards foreign solutions to the continent’s challenges. Read more

source: The Hill
Is South Africa's trade policy failing the agricultural sector?

South Africa's agricultural exports have grown significantly over the past two decades. Yet agricultural private-sector role players typically argue that the government has not done enough to open up new markets for ever-increasing produce. This failure has limited the country's scope to grow exports beyond existing traditional markets in the European Union (EU) and the African continent. In markets outside these regions, private-sector players argue that the growth in South Africa's agricultural exports has primarily been driven by productivity gains whose competitive advantage overcomes the costs of high tariff and non-tariff barriers. However, a review of South Africa's trade agreements paints a different view, suggesting that private-sector role players might be downplaying the achievements of the past two decades. Read more

source: Econ 3x3
One Change Could Help Ethiopian Coffee Farmers Triple Their Yields

Fedila Hussein and Mustafa Tesfaye’s farm was once typical of many in southern Ethiopia: the aging trees spread across their half-hectare plot produced little coffee, and the couple struggled to earn a living. So in 2013, Fedila and Mustafa enrolled in the Coffee Initiative program in order to learn how to improve their yields. One of the practices they learned about was stumping, in which farmers rejuvenate their old coffee trees by cutting them down to the stump so that they can grow back stronger and more productive. It’s a vital practice for improving the yields on Ethiopian coffee farms, many of which — like Fedila and Mustafa’s — are characterized by old, single-stem trees with declining yields. Read more 

source: Agrilinks
Genomics and bioinformatics to breed for high-yielding, biofortified sweet potato

Genomic tools and strategies developed for polyploid genomes such as those of sweet potato, potato, banana and yam, are helping to tackle complex bottlenecks in sweet potato breeding. This includes storage root bulking (for higher yields) and breaking the negative correlation between starch and beta-carotene (provitamin A) content for orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP). Low starch content in OFSP varieties is a major bottleneck to adoption in sub-Saharan Africa, where consumers like starchy sweet potatoes. So, thanks to these new developments, breeders will be one step closer to breed high-yielding, biofortified OFSPs that are high in starch, suitable for wide adoption. Lessons learned from this work may be applicable to breeding for other polyploid crops. Read more

source: RTB-CGIAR
Coronavirus shows Africa needs more agricultural commodity exchanges

One promising proposition is to build a “trust economy” for Africa’s food systems built on efficient commodities exchanges that can de-risk the sector, unlock finance for major stakeholders in the food value chain and offer greater resilience for key players. Commodities exchanges in Africa should start with a first step of establishing ancillary infrastructure. Providing storage and logistics networks can enable smallholder farmers to gain access to credit, farm inputs, and a fair and efficient market system. As Nigeria’s first private-sector commodities exchange, AFEX has deployed a viable commodities exchange model for Africa by building and utilizing Nigeria’s largest supply chain infrastructure to provide efficient trade services alongside innovative products that unlock financing for over 260,000 farmers and other players in eight commodity value chains. Currently, Africa is growing faster than any continent in setting up commodities exchanges to facilitate diversification of asset classes, price discovery, and market transparency. Africa has about 14 commodities exchanges of which 13 trade agricultural contracts. Read more

Technology is Changing Agriculture in Kenya

A new app allows farmers who cannot afford their own machinery to connect to tractor owners and hire their services. Jehil Oliver is a former US investment banker, founder and chief executive of the company behind "Hello Tractor". After installation on a smartphone, the app connects farmers to their nearest available tractor with the right equipment for the job required. The app has improved business for both tractor owners and farmers as easy access to machinery can vastly increase production. Currently, the platform has access to around 3,000 tractor owners. The company also recruits agents in the community tasked with signing up farmers and providing assistance. Read more

source: Africa News
Call for Applications: The Stephan Klasen Fellowship

In 2019, the Faculty of Business and Economics, together with the Presidential Board of the University of Göttingen and the Faculty's Development Economics professorships, established the "Stephan Klasen Fellowship" on the occasion of the Farewell Lecture by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Stephan Klasen, Ph.D. With this award, the Faculty honours the development economist's great commitment to young researchers and to development economics in Göttingen as a whole. Starting in 2021, two postdoctoral fellows will be invited to Göttingen for a one-year scientific exchange each year (no teaching required). The fellowship will be advertised annually. Read more

Nigeria’s COVID-19 economic plan has delivered disappointing results: here’s why

Over a year ago, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari launched an economic plan designed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Nigeria has recorded 207,618 cases of infection and 2,745 deaths as of October 11, 2021. The economic effects were devastating. Economic growth turned negative in 2020, unemployment and poverty rates increased, and companies went out of business. Dubbed “Bouncing Back: Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan”, Buhari’s COVID-19 plan focused on food security, job creation (especially for young people and women), renewable energy, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, manufacturing, infrastructure and social investment. Read more

source: The Conversation
Trial by pasta: new uses for traditional Ethiopian wheat varieties

The smell of cooking pasta wafts across Rome’s Aventine Hill - a normal experience for late afternoon; but, this day, with a unique twist. Outside the Alliance Headquarters building, chefs serve up an innovative kind of pasta - made out of durum wheat from Ethiopia. This marked the culmination of a long-awaited trip: the delegation of Ethiopian government, private sector, and farmer representatives and researchers have been part of an ongoing project* to build the value chain for Ethiopian Traditional durum wheat varieties. This wheat has been grown in the country for over 3,000 years; however, it is at risk of disappearing and being replaced by soft wheat varieties, which more easily make it to the market. Read more

source: CIAT
Civil society groups can help fix South Africa’s food system if they’re given a seat at the table

There is a long list of existing global crises made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, including poverty and inequality. Another is food insecurity. In South Africa, researchers found that more than a year into the pandemic, food insecurity was still well above pre-pandemic levels. Simply put, this means more people than before do not have reliable access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food. The figure was already high before COVID-19: almost 20% of South African households had inadequate or severely inadequate access to food. In some of Cape Town’s poorer neighbourhoods, the figure was as high as 54%. Read more

African Association of Agricultural Economists
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Loresho Ridge Road, Nairobi, Kenya


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