Life on Two Wheels: On the Road to success

A woman in rural  neighborhood  of Bugesera, with a posture that reflects an image of self-confidence and blissfulness, riding a bike to attend a local farming cooperative meeting. (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

A woman in rural neighborhood of Bugesera, with a posture that reflects an image of self-confidence and blissfulness, riding a bike to attend a local farming cooperative meeting. (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Not only for herself, but also using the bike to help her colleagues to attend the meeting (Eric Didier Karinganire)

Not only for herself, but also using the bike to help her colleagues to attend the meeting (Eric Didier Karinganire)

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OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) seeks entries

Deadline: Tuesday 6 May  2014. The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is working with a multitude of partners in five different regions to address the increasing challenges of global warming and declining food security, by analysing and supporting changes in agricultural practices, policies and institutions. We integrate a gender perspective into our project and program strategies.

We continuously try to illustrate the work we do with partners in our regions on CCAFS blog and web site. But now we want to hear from you! We are calling for blog posts about your experiences with regards to climate change, farming and food security!

We will pick five stories from the pool of submissions, one from each of our regions – East Africa, West Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Latin America – featuring stories about people and organisations creating a positive change linked to food and farming in their communities.

The stories should be 600-800 words. We would like to see you integrate a climate change, youth and/or gender component into your story, and base the blog on your own experiences. You may be a farmer yourself, or working in a youth project related to farming, or focusing on gender-issues within food and farming.

The competition is open to everyone,andwe strongly encourage Young Agriculture and Climate Change Professionals to participate!

How are you making a difference for farmers around the world? Tell us your story!Photo: UNAMID/Youth Farming project  

 

Few suggestions to get you started:
– It can be a story based on your own farming experience or working with farmers or other food system actors. You could give us an insight to your work and the challenges you face while providing examples of how food system actors are adapting to climate change;
– It can be a case study that has been successful in helping women or youth farmers adapt to or mitigate climate change;
– Reflect on your own work, related to climate change and agriculture, and how you see the agriculture- and food systems best adapting to climate change;
Winning blogs will be selected by CCAFS Communications Team. Selection criteria will include:

 

– Innovation (both how you tell the story and through which mediums);
– How compelling your story is;
– How concrete your message and examples are;
– Ability to include a gender and youth component.

How do I apply?
Blogs should be sent to Cecilia Schubert (c.schubert[at]cgiar.org) by Tuesday 6 May  2014. Blogs will be posted throughout May/June 2014.

Some requirements:

  • Write in a conversational style and use simple language.
  • Feel free to include photos with your blog, or a video/presentation/poster etc. It can also be a photo-essay with text instead of a full blog story.
  • Since we are seeking stories linked to our regions, you have to reference the regions (or countries within the region) in the story. We prefer stories with concrete country examples.
  • Make sure you have references for facts, quotes and other information you use that are not your own opinions.
  • Credit all pictures – either taken by you or from someone else, and make sure photos are Creative Commons.
  • Blogs should be written in English. Stories related to Latin America and West Africa can be translated into Spanish and French, respectively. That means that you can submit a translated version (to Spanish and French), in addition to the English version, if you are selected.
  • Note: Stories may come to be edited to fit the CCAFS blog format.

What do you gain from it?

The winners will get their blogs posted on CCAFS blog, and stories will be promoted within CCAFS wide networks. Stories will be featured in the respective region, including social media promotion, featured in newsletters and more. The winners will have the chance to highlight their own blog, web site and profile. We will also link to the winners’ Twitter handle.

Now, start writing!

The article was primarily posted on CCAFS website

Strengthening post-harvest interventions and resilience to climate change in Rwanda

Ideally, improving food security should just be not only a question of increasing production, but also a matter of ensuring that the food that is produced is used to the best effect. And when we talk about modernizing agriculture, post harvest handling should be a very important component of the whole value chain; especially when it comes to African countries where many people are exposed to shortage of food.

Grain silos in Rwanda's special economic zone (Photo: The New Times)

Grain silos in Rwanda’s special economic zone (Photo: The New Times)

Despite the ideal, the World Bank report released early March, revealed that in Africa vast amounts of food are wasted during production and processing. This means that countries on the continent still have a long way to go if they have to rely on the sector to position their economies.

Therefore, significant work is to be done by both Governments and stakeholders. This is what happened recently in Rwanda when the Government of Rwanda and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched a new project that is meant to advance the country’s efforts to reduce post-harvest losses.

The Climate Resilient and Post-harvest Agribusiness Support Project (PASP) will target over 32,400 rural households (155,518 people) in 10 districts located in Rwanda’s the north-west, southern and eastern regions will benefit from PASP. The project will provide opportunities for smallholder farmers to acquire the skills, knowledge and access to specialized service providers to create and operate viable businesses capable of delivering larger volumes of improved produce to the market and managing the climate risks in post-production processes.

I can say that such a project is a timely undertaking for various reasons.

First of all, we need to understand Rwanda’s recent move. Under the Government of Rwanda’s Crop Intensification Programme (CIP), the total production of maize, wheat and cassava tripled from 2007 to 2011, the production of beans doubled, and the production of rice and Irish potato rose by 30 per cent. Concurrent with the increase in crop production, Rwanda has also seen a shift towards more commercial agriculture. However, post-harvest losses are recognized as one of the greatest sources of inefficiency in agricultural production in Rwanda; and therefore, one of the best opportunities for effectively improving crop productivity and resilience given the country’s reliance on rainfed agriculture and its vulnerability to climate change. Continue reading

20 years on… a tale of a woman who is regaining hope for life through agribusiness

Twenty years ago this date (April 7), Rwanda plunged into genocide, 100 days in which more than 1,000,000 Tutsis were massacred and everything was destroyed. In the past 20 years Rwanda has pulled its economy up from the ruins to become one of Africa’s most dynamic and fastest growing economies. And women have been playing great role in the recovery. During the genocide against Tutsis, Donatille Nibagwire’s family was massacred. But this woman has found the strength to rebuild her life as an agribusiness entrepreneur…

Banana (Photo: Internet)

Banana (Photo: Internet)

Losing one’s entire family at a go can be devastating. One’s world turns upside down. But for Donatille Nibagwire, the killing of her entire family during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was a spur — a detonator that sent her flying into life.

Left to the elements, life forced Mrs Nibagwire to plough on, to be innovative, to chart her own path.

She is one of the several genocide survivors who shrugged off that horrible episode in Rwanda’s history — an unspeakable madness that left about one million people dead — and went on to raise a happy family and run a successful business.

Following in the footsteps of her late father — her biggest inspiration to date — Mrs Nigabwire founded Floris-Rwanda, a successful agribusiness concern that exports flowers and Rwandan décor items to Europe. She founded the company 13 years ago.

Lessons from her father

“My father was a popular farmer. I always watched the way he worked keenly … he successfully ran one of the country’s model farms — growing coffee and avocados among other crops. So many local farmers used to visit our farm to learn from him,” she recalls.

When she started Floris-Rwanda, the lessons she learned while watching her father work came in handy and paid off.

Three months after the launch of her business, her clientele base grew so big that she couldn’t meet the demand for fruits and other plant products.

Life is defined by opportunities, so they say. Mrs Ngabwire’s defining moment came when she met and partnered with a business person from Belgium who was interested in exporting organic bananas to the European market.

For Floris-Rwanda, this was an opportunity that could not be blown. Mrs Nibagwire quickly mobilised farmers in Kirehe District to grow bananas — organically — on a large scale.

Today, working with about 538 households, Mrs Nibagwire has not only contributed to the reduction of poverty in rural Rwanda, but her company has grown to become the top exporter of organic bananas in the country.

She says: “It is cheaper to grow crops organically and yet the returns on the export market are quite high. We don’t use manufactured fertilisers when growing our crops. What is more, this farming system protects our environment and health.”

Mrs Nibagwire’s manages 22 farmers who provide leadership to the different zones of farming households in the Gatore Sector of Kirehe District to ensure that they meet Floris-Rwanda’s standards of crop production. They have to maintain their plantations organically and use better farming techniques for maximum output.

In addition to fresh bananas, Nibagwire’s company exports banana wine, baby food, and champagne. The firm is also planning to export dry bananas and grow organic vegetables using greenhouses.

“Bananas grown in Rwanda are currently the best from East Africa on the European market. Following a survey based on samples taken in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania and tested in European agri-labs, our bananas have been chosen as the best for the past three years,” Mrs Nibagwire reveals.

“Our biggest challenge has been the high cost of air transportation. We currently export about one to two tonnes of organic bananas to Belgium,” she says.

In addition, Continue reading

Why empowering women is prerequisite to eradicating malnutrition?

Last Wednesday, the second global consultation on biofortification conference winded up in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali. Nutrition issue was was at the center of the three-day discussion — and as many would expect it be, the situation is not pretty at all.

healthy food (Photo: Internet)

healthy food (Photo: Internet)

Some of the facts presented revealed that malnutrition is still a cause of deaths of about 45% of children under 5 years old.

The same facts went on telling that lack of essential minerals and vitamins cause major challenges on the African continent. It is estimated that 12 Africans die every minute as a result of hunger and malnutrition. And that Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world while 65% of arable land in the world is on the African continent. 80% of stunting children in the world live just in 14 countries, including 8 African countries.

And many argued that this entire shameful situation is happening due to poor performance of agriculture on the continent; given that it is the main source of livelihoods for many.

In my experience, women are the ones to deal with nutrition issues in many African countries. This means that the fact that malnutrition cases are still high, it’s an evidence that women (the ones dealing with kitchen issues) do not yet have all it takes to prepare complete diet.

It is also important to note that some people are facing malnutrition issues not because they lack food stuff, but simply because sometimes they do not have enough knowledge on nutritious food stuffs.

Once mums do not have knowledge on nutritious foods, obviously their kids become the first victims simply because they never get appropriate nutrition due to ignorance of their mums.

In my opinion, once women get educated good enough about nutrition issues and get empowered in agriculture, high chances are that they will increase their incomes from agricultural activities and will in turn spend wisely their incomes on nutrition; thus this will affect positively their kids and their families in general.

What many countries have been talking about gender equality, to me it would be wise to call it (and concentrate on) “empowering” women instead and I believe that these issues of malnutrition and hidden hunger would be eradicated completely.

Second Global Biofortification conference: Key highlights from Day Two

After a robust opening session of the second global conference on biofortification taking place in Kigali, the second day of the conference has been marked by different activities including consultative sessions where experts, policymakers and farmers got chance to share their views.

Dr Akinwumi Adesina delivering his keynote address (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Dr Akinwumi Adesina delivering his keynote address (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

The key speaker who concluded activities of the day was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.

It was not the first time to follow this highly-skilled eloquent speaker – in fact, he has been key speaker in many major international conferences taking place here in Kigali for some time.

Dr Adesina highlighted the existing disconnect between rising global wealth and persistent poverty – an underlying cause of poor nutrition.

“People eat food, not GDP,” he emphasized last night in a rousing keynote address at the end of Day Two of the Global Consultation on Getting Nutritious Foods to People.

Globally recognized for his efforts in improving African agriculture through innovative technology, Dr. Adesina shared his views with participants on how malnutrition and poverty can be ended in Africa.

In his keynote address, the Nigerian minister thanked the government of Rwanda for having hosted the very important conference that took place in the country for the first time on the African continent.

“Your support for this important conference is a testimony of your exemplary leadership that President Paul Kagame continues to demonstrate in matters affecting health and welfare of good people of Rwanda, and also in Africa,” he pointed out, thanking Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr Agnes Kalibata, for co-organizing and hosting the conference

During the nearly a half hour keynote address, it was highlighted that while Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has done great job in reducing global poverty, nearly 50% of the world population still live below poverty line. And Malnutrition is a cause of deaths of about 45% of children under 5 years old.

Malnutrition, especially lack of essential minerals and vitamins, noted Dr Adesina, causes major challenges on the African continent. It is estimated that 12 Africans die every minute as a result of hunger and malnutrition. Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world while65% of arable land in the world is in Africa. 80% of stunted children in the world live just in 14 countries, including 8 African countries.

“This is not a pretty picture, at all!” he pointed out. “For Africa to succeed in lifting millions of people out of poverty it should create a model of sharing wealth and prosperity, it must focus on transforming its rural economies. And the way to do this is to transform agriculture. In other words, we should make our rural economies, the new wealth economies.”

According to the Nigerian minister, a major reason for higher rural poverty and malnutrition in Africa is the poor performance of agriculture in Africa while it is the main source of livelihoods for the majority of the poor.

“To turn things around, we must stop considering agriculture as a development program, but as a business,” he said.

Dr Adena went on giving his suggestions on what can be done to turn the current situation. His suggestions include building major political will behind nutrient crops, using political leaders as nutrient champions. He also noted that Africa should focus on improving technology system delivery to farmers, especially extension services to improve the knowledge of farmers on nutrient crops.

Watch the short video below for highlights of Dr Adesina’s full speech:

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: The 40 Chances Fellows program

Are you still aged between 18 and 39 years? Do you have innovative social enterprise plans that use strategies built on the principles of 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World ? Then, you can get a total of $150,000 to materialize your plans. Please take advantage of this opportunity!

40 chances fellowThe 40 Chances Fellows program will fund four 40 Chances Fellows with the most innovative social enterprise plans that use strategies built on the principles of 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World.  These social enterprises must seek to address issues of hunger, conflict, or poverty and may be established in any one of the following four countries where the Africa Governance Initiative has a strong presence: Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Malawi.

Each strategy must involve local leadership and management into the operations of the social enterprise by integrating local place-based ownership and relying on locally driven design, development, and deployment in its programs or services.  In addition, these enterprises should fill gaps in existing value chains, or otherwise combine a variety of complementary and existing efforts into a comprehensive and integrated approach to solve the intended challenge.

The application timeline for the fellowship runs from October 17, 2013, to May 31, 2014.  Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 39 on the date the application closes (May 31, 2014).  Winners will be selected by a blue ribbon panel of judges and formally announced at the 2014 World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa.  Each of four fellows will receive $80,000 in start-up funds and $70,000 for living and transportation expenses (a total of $150,000) for one year.

During their first year of activity, fellows will be required to submit quarterly update reports to the World Food Prize.

More information on the 40 Chances Fellows website:
http://www.40chances.com/fellows/

Article originally published on the ardyis website

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Apply Now: Young Social Reporters wanted for the Fin4Ag Conference!

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), in collaboration with the African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA), is organising its 2014 International Conference on Revolutionising finance for agri-value chains, “Fin4Ag” from 14-18 July 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya.

A social media reporter (Photo: CTA)

A social media reporter (Photo: CTA)

The purpose of the conference is to help decision-makers to break through the walls that so often prevent innovation, in this case for smallholder-inclusive agricultural finance. The conference has an international focus. Delegates will represent different economic segments of society including the private and public sectors (including Central Banks) and civil society, resource users’ organisations, development practitioners and academics. It will include many experienced professionals from developed and developing countries,  having solid experience in smallholder-inclusive value chain finance

Social reporting for the Fin4Ag conference

To raise awareness on the event, engage on-site participants and reach out to a wider audience remotely, CTA wants to repeat last year’s experience (ICT4Ag13) and have a Social Reporting Team for the Fin4Ag conference.

The Fin4Ag social reporting team is composed of 2 sub-teams; on-site social reporters and online social reporters.

On-site social reporters

15 social reporters will be Continue reading

A new study to scrutinize malnutrition issue underway

Malnutrition cases in Rwanda would be reduced significantly soon as the ongoing survey defines real causes and comes up with suitable approaches to handle the issue, stakeholders have committed.

CIAT's Director General, Ruben Echeverría (L) and Tony Nsanganira, PS at MINAGRI signing the MoU (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

CIAT’s Director General, Ruben Echeverría (L) and Tony Nsanganira, PS at MINAGRI signing the MoU (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

The commitment was made today on April 1, 2014 during the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between two leading government ministries namely the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) and Ministry of Health, and support partners including CIAT, WHO, UNICEF, WFP and FAO.

The MoU was inked at the sideline of the ongoing second global conference on bio-fortification that is taking place from 31st March to 02nd April, 2014 at Kigali Serena Hotel.

Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and CIAT are the entities working technically on the survey while other partners will also play a significant role all along the survey.

The study, with about 500,000 USD budget, is targeting children under 22 months and women of reproductive age.

Though nutrition data indicate that the country is committed to improve nutrition, the stakeholders noted, but rate of malnutrition cases among children is still high; hence new interventions are needed.

According to Minister Dr Agnes Kalibata, Rwanda managed to reduce malnutrition cases among children under two-year old to 44% from 74% in a very short time. She however noted that the country, in collaboration with partners, will keep reducing the rate and be able to get a significant impact soon.

“We take nutrition in this country very seriously,” the minister told the stakeholders during a brief meeting.

The survey, scheduled from January to November this year, will interview 2,736 households from 9 districts namely Rubavu, Ngororero, Gakenke, Musanze, Kirehe, Nyagatare, Nyaruguru, Nyamagabe and Gasabo.

During the survey, nutrition, market and gender will be examined and see how they are related with malnutrition at households, a CIAT official has noted.

The study, set to include assessment of biochemical indicators of nutrition status, will help to understand broadly the issue, identify best approaches in addressing the issue while focusing on home-grown solutions.

CIAT’s Director General,Ruben Echeverría, expressed his organization’s commitment and noted that they will go on with such activities even after this ongoing survey.

“This is just the beginning,” he pointed out.

This survey examining malnutrition status in Rwanda takes place in a time that the country has launched a 1000-day anti malnutrition campaign which kicked off in September last year.

 

For Rwandans, Iron Beans are the new meat but cheaper and healthier

As you might have read in the previous post, Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, is since yesterday hosting the second global international conference on biofortification. During the opening ceremony, all key speakers turned around words “nutritious foods” with more emphasis on “Iron Beans.” Then, you can wonder about that emphasis on this particular crop. I also had the same curiosity and went around during the conference to know more about why…

Why Iron Beans?

Climbing beans in mid-altitude Rwanda (Internet photo)

Climbing beans in mid-altitude Rwanda (Internet photo)

Iron deficiency is a global public health problem that impacts more than 1 billion people around the world. It is widely prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. During childhood and adolescence, it lowers immunity and impairs learning capacity. It reduces the ability of adults for physical labor. Severe anemia increases the risk of women dying in childbirth. In Rwanda, anemia, which is used as an indicator of iron deficiency, afflicts almost one in five non-pregnant women and almost one in three children under-five.

Although iron can be found in several other foods such as red meat, fish, and green leafy vegetables, these are rarely eaten in the quantity needed. The development and dissemination of iron beans complements these efforts and builds on beans as mainstay of the Rwandan diet. On average, Rwandans consume 60kg of beans per capita annually.

Iron Beans in Rwanda

Since 2010, ten varieties of beans rich in iron have been released in Rwanda. The varieties were evaluated for several years, and tested in on-station and on-farm trials prior to their release to farmers by the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) in partnership with HarvestPlus. To date, more than 700,000 farming households are growing and eating iron beans.

Rwandan farmers speak on iron beans

Beans are widely grown and consumed in Rwanda.  The iron bean varieties released by HarvestPlus and partners can provide up to 45 percent of daily iron needs –  14 percent more than the commonly grown bean varieties. Fully biofortified beans are ultimately expected to provide up to 60 percent of daily iron needs.  All released iron bean varieties are conventionally bred. Louis Butare, from the Rwanda Agriculture Board, explains the process in this short video

Given the importance of beans in Rwanda, these new varieties could provide more iron in the diets of millions of Rwandans and contribute to reducing iron deficiency. The new bean varieties contain enough iron to provide up to 30 percent of the daily iron requirements of children and women.

Not only are these crops excellent sources of iron, they are also competitive with bean varieties that farmers are growing. They are also high yielding and resistant to major diseases and pests. Iron beans are also highly marketable due to their large seed size and preferred colors, including red and white, which are highly sought after in local and urban markets.

What Next for Iron Beans in Rwanda

Iron beans are on track to reach virtually all bean-growing farm households in Rwanda by 2016. In addition, efforts are ongoing to make iron beans accessible to non-producing households throughout the country. HarvestPlus works in partnership with the Rwanda Agricultural Board, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) emerging private sector seed companies, agro-dealers, cooperatives, and traders in order to develop sustainable markets for iron bean seed and grain. HarvestPlus and its partners also undertake promotional activities such as field days, awareness campaigns and other events to encourage adoption and consumption of iron beans.

The Government of Rwanda has recognized the nutritional and public health potential of iron beans and biofortified crops in general. Biofortification is included in the Ministry of Agriculture’s Nutrition Action Plan.