Monthly Archives: July 2017

Youth involvement in agribusiness: Examples from Africa

According to the 2017 World Food Prize laureate, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the ”future of African youth lies in agriculture.” This future can be realized through making agriculture both profitable and “cool” for young people. Adesina also argues for the need to move the perception of agriculture from a way of life for millions of rural people to a business.

These thoughts are echoed in the ongoing online discussion, Engaging African Youth in Agribusiness in a Changing Climate, a platform which creates a space to discuss critical issues facing African youths. Most of the discussants agree with the sentiment that agriculture is one of the critical pathways out of poverty and unemployment for young people. Accelerating the involvement of African youth in agriculture and agri-business will also help meet development goals, like those put forth by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including ending extreme poverty, zero hunger and gender equality. However, the rate of progress in many areas, especially developing countries where the CGIAR research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and its partners work, is far slower than needed to engage youths in agribusiness under a changing climate.

If the speed of progress is to be increased, the current gaps in youth engagement must be addressed. First, governments must be held responsible for investing in youth through a commitment to providing financial support, including increased spending on youth initiatives along agricultural value chains. In Ethiopia, Save the Children, in partnership with Mastercard Foundation, has established a five-month learning cycle with the aim of improving young people’s socio economic status through the establishment of agri-focused individual enterprises, including input production, production, processing and retailing. A number of Ethiopian youth (both girls and boys) have started businesses selling spices, poultry, camels and bread in the Save the Children program, Youth in Action.

Second, youth must be empowered through opportunities to engage in agribusiness enterprises and linkages to private sector and development agencies. For example, in Kenya, USAID-supported East Africa Trade and Investment HubSyngenta, the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) and the Toyota Kenya Academy launched the Young Innovators in Agribusiness Competition to provide young people with the chance to market their products to potential investors. Interested investors then scale-up these products to a wider audience across the globe. Through this program, Catherine Mbondo, a 35-year-old women, established Proactive Merit, a business that trades in raw honey and clay facial scrub masks which incorporate neem (Azadirachta indica), a fast growing medicinal and vegetable tree native to India, but now widely grown in Kenya. Mbondo adds value to agricultural products, marketing them as a natural cosmetics product. She intends to sell her products across East Africa.

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Originally published on the CCAFS CGIAR Website

Scientists Use Google Earth and Crowdsourcing to Map Uncharted Forests

No single person could ever hope to count the world’s trees. But a crowd of them just counted the world’s drylands forests—and, in the process, charted forests never before mapped, cumulatively adding up to an area equivalent in size to the Amazon rainforest.

Current technology enables computers to automatically detect forest area through satellite data in order to adequately map most of the world’s forests. But drylands, where trees are fewer and farther apart, stymied these modern methods. To measure the extent of forests in drylands, which make up more than 40% of land surface on Earth, researchers from UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Resources Institute and several universities and organizations had to come up with unconventional techniques. Foremost among these was turning to residents, who contributed their expertise through local map-a-thons.

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A picture paints a thousand words for Smart Tree-Invest project

The Climate-smart, Tree-based Co-investment in Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia (Smart Tree-Invest) project focused on improving the livelihoods and resilience of smallholder farmers through the promotion of climate-smart, tree-based agriculture in three countries by reducing their vulnerability to climate change.

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) project, supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), recently completed its three-year journey.

Among the most innovative aspects of the project was Photovoice, a participatory research method that saw cameras provided to farmers in the project’s field sites.

“The main objective was to help in identifying and understanding the vulnerability and adaptive capacities of smallholder farmers to climate change and variability in Ho Ho-subwatershed as a project site, through photos that reflect local perceptions and knowledge on vulnerability,” said Tran Ha My, communications staff member for Smart Tree-Invest in Vietnam.

“Photovoice is also a different approach to share farmers’ insights and experiences, which helped the project and local stakeholders to develop more appropriate solutions for enhancing livelihood and environmental resilience in the subwatershed,” she added.

The benefits of the approach were twofold. The farmers had a creative way to express their perspectives, could better understand their vulnerabilities and capacities and more actively participated in discussing issues related to their land. Meanwhile, the researchers also collected baseline photographs of the landscape in the process.

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A good shot for scaling up climate-smart agriculture: Photovoice in My Loi

To raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and the importance of adopting climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices, a Photovoice project was conducted in My Loi village in Ha Tinh province, Vietnam. From May to July, 24 farmers attended workshops on basic camera techniques and visual storytelling to share real-life experiences concerning food security, climate change adaptation, and GHG emission reduction.

Using photography, the farmers documented and shared their experiences with fellow farmers and policymakers. On 6 July 2017, a CSA event was organized by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), in collaboration with the Ha Tinh Farmer’s Union, Ky Son Youth Union, and Ky Son People’s Committee. One major component of the event was the Photovoice exhibition where farmers showcased and narrated their experiences using photography.

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Moving past tree planting, expanding our definition of forests and restoration

What is a forest? And how do you restore one?

These seemingly simple questions were interrogated – with a focus on solutions – during a panel discussion at the 2017 Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Meeting, recently concluded in Merida, Mexico.

A group of experts on Latin American forests examined both the conservation and restoration of secondary forests from a variety of angles, including the ecological, political and social dimensions of such spaces.

Beginning with the premise that “secondary forest regrowth following agricultural land use represents a major component of human modified landscapes across the tropics”, the panel emphasized the essential role of secondary forests for humans living in proximity, as well as for restoration initiatives and international goals, such as the United Nations Aichi Biodiversity Targets.


“Natural regeneration in secondary forests has been overlooked, and can be a restoration tool for large-scale initiatives,” panelist and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Principal Scientist Manuel Guariguata said.

The 12 July 2017 discussion titled, “The role of tropical secondary forests in conservation and restoration”, was a welcome exploration of these neglected landscapes, formerly native forest cleared for agriculture, ranching or other purposes and later deserted.

Research carried out across the tropics over the last few decades unanimously agrees that these lands, which then start to host trees and shrubs and slowly attract birds and other wildlife on their path to maturity, are valuable in countering primary forest loss and as providers of ecosystem services. With proper management, they provide both timber and non-timber products to people nearby – thereby proffering both social and ecological rewards.

In a presentation titled, “Key governance issues and the fate of secondary forests as a tool for large-scale forest restoration”, Guariguata said, “the permanence of secondary forests in tropical landscapes largely depends on good governance, particularly through continued dialogue between government agencies, particularly environment and agriculture ministries.”

Improved governance for improved forests “would include the recognition that secondary forests are part of highly dynamic land-use systems that can and do change and unlikely to be managed either by a single government sector or scientific discipline,” he added.

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Smallholder Farmers in Kenya in the Race Against Climate Change

By adopting agroforestry and improved agricultural practices, a community in western Kenya has increased their income and improved their living standards. They are now training other farmers to do the same.

Smallholder farms make up most of the remote village of Siwot in Kericho County. Part of the wider western Kenyan region, most farmers grow maize, beans and vegetables for subsistence, and coffee and sugarcane as cash crops. And like many communities  in western Kenya, and in the Nyando river basin in particular, they are aware of the potential that impact climate change will have on their lives and those of their children.

For years, the farmers’ efforts in small-scale agriculture produced little meaningful return. But this did not stop the community from having a collective vision for their prosperity: They wanted to improve their living standards, educate their children, engage in farming as a business and add value to cash crops to increase their income.  What they lacked was the knowledge to make this happen. So, in 2008 some 46 men and women from the village got together to form the Toben Gaa Self Help Group with the express aim to achieve prosperity for themselves and their community.

Since 2009, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) has been implementing a project designed to enable communities in the Nyando watershed to mitigate the impact of climate change-related challenges, by improving their adaptive capacities. These projects are instrumental in maintaining and even improving their livelihoods and general well-being.

According to scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre, on-farm forestry, or the intentional use of trees in the cropping system, has proven to be effective in the mitigation of and adaptation to climate risks. Taking into consideration the sometimes complicated processes of rural transformation, a new approach to agroforestry promotion, Asset-Based Community-driven Development, was adopted in in 2011.

Asset-Based Community-driven Development, or ABCD, teaches participants to understand and appreciate the value their belongings, and to use their various natural, physical, human, social, cultural and financial assets to improve their livelihoods.  The ABCD approach was implemented in collaboration with the Coady International Institute, a pioneer in teaching community development. The project was supported by the Comart Foundation.

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