Madam Helena Semedo, Regional Representative for Africa reminded countries in the West Africa Sub-region that building a food and nutrition security in Africa is the responsibility of all. This she said required an essential commitment for all to work together in cohesive and strategic way, not only internally but also and foremost with stakeholders and member states.
Madam Semedo said this at the just ended SFW 6th MDT and Management Team meeting in Accra.
“It is noteworthy to highlight that countries in West Africa sub-region are mostly dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, as agriculture employs 70% of the total workforce and contributes more than 60% of the GDP of some countries, she said.
Mr. Clement Humado, Minister Of Agriculture in the Ghana government said the collaboration and partnership with FAO especially in the development of the Country Programme Framework (CPF) has strengthened the nations agriculture sector in a proactive manner.
Deputy Regional Representative for Africa, Mr. Lamourdia Thiombiano said FAO as a centre of excellence, was working in close collaboration with partners and UN agencies to support its member countries in the sub-region to boost the agriculture sector as an engine of growth to overcome hunger and reduce poverty in the context of climate change.
19 March 2013, Accra - Former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and John Kufuor of Ghana have called for strong political will to bring an end to hunger in Africa, while participating in a high-level forum organized by the FAO's Regional Office for Africa based in Accra.
"It is entirely possible to guarantee that every human being is able to eat three meals a day," said Lula da Silva.
At the meeting, Lula, Kufuor and Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, stressed the importance of political leadership in fighting hunger and food insecurity.
"Poverty and hunger are part of history but are not our destiny, therefore Africans -- like Brazilians - are not fated to starve. Political will, visionary leadership and the force of women and men together can change a history of hunger and poverty just by the force of their determination," said Maria Helena Semedo as she opened the debate on 16 March, adding that the success stories recorded in Ghana and Brazil could be replicated in other countries.
The Brazilian experience
Kufuor and Lula da Silva outlined the strategies used in reducing hunger and combating food insecurity during their administrations. Kufuor was president of Ghana from 2001-2009, while Lula da Silva was president of Brazil from 2003-2010. Both achieved significant progress against hunger.
Lula da Silva said that his government's policies helped lift about 30 million Brazilians from extreme poverty and moved 40 million from the lower class into the middle class. He pointed to Brazil's Zero Hunger programme and social protection as key to the country's success, including the Bolsa Familia (Family Grant) for Brazil's poorest people, the Food Purchase Program and the School Feeding Program. Rates of child malnutrition have plummeted under the School Feeding Program, which provides 47 million free school meals daily to children in all grades of Brazil's public schools. At least 30 percent of the food is supplied by local farms.
Ghana: MDG1 Champion
Kufuor echoed statements that strong political leadership is needed to reduce hunger and address food insecurity. Social policies such as the Ghana's School Feeding Programme, support for smallholders and for agricultural commercialization, adoption of best farming practices and fertilizer subsidies helped Ghana make impressive progress in the battle against hunger. Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to achieve UN Millennium Development Goal 1 on halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and to have reached and even surpassed the 1996 World Food Summit goal of reducing by half the number of undernourished people by 2015.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, also participated in the High Level Dialogue that was attended by government officials, the international community, representatives of farmers' groups, civil society organizations and NGOs, cooperatives, private sector, and academia.
- FAO is working in partnership to harness climate change adaptation tools to equip farmers in West Africa in areas of agriculture and water resource management
FAO organized a two-day workshop on 4th and 5th of February in Accra, Ghana, on mitigating the impact of climate change on agriculture in West Africa.
Organized in collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the event gathered directors of agriculture, agricultural experts and soil scientists from across the West African region.
Under the theme ‘Agricultural systems at risk; priority action in West Africa’, the workshop focused on identifying climate change associated risks in agricultural systems. It also examined areas of vulnerability and opportunities for promoting adaptation within investment programmes in West Africa.
Ms Maria Semedo, FAO Regional Representative for Africa stressed the need for political will and ownership of countries to fight against the impact of climate change in the agricultural sector. She explained that regional co-operation and collaboration are crucial for all interventions in the region.
Ms Semedo also reiterated the need for urgent implementation of measures that favour actions and policies that would simultaneously mitigate the effects of climate change, support development objectives as well as ensure food security in the region.
- Some women groups in conservation agriculture model farms in Burkina Faso
Despite its high productivity potential, the current agricultural land use pattern in the moist savanna zone of Sub-Saharan Africa and its development prospects for livelihoods and sustainability are beset with serious constraints. These arise mainly from poor soil health and therefore low soil productivity, due to a combination on the one hand of soil, of soil inversion tillage practices, which degrades soil porosity, organic matter and soil biota and sub-optimal crop diversification and crop residue management, and poor integration of livestock in the production system.
Experience has shown that amongst good farming and crop management practices that can make a significant contribution to meeting these implied needs are practices such as Conservation Agriculture (CA) and integrated pest management (IPM) disseminated through Farmer Field Schools (FFS) approaches.
FAO has shown conclusively in many countries with similar ecology that the adoption of this practice, especially by smallholder farmers can promote significant increases in productivity of crops such as maize, soybean, vegetables and others.
The project field activities were set up and implemented in five pilot locations in south western Burkina Faso (Karaba in Tuy Province, Klesso, Bama/Banaroudougou in Houet Province, Kounséni/Banzon and Dandé in Kenedougou Province). Field activities included the on-farm testing of technologies for crop diversification and intensification, including fodder and feed development for livestock intensification, the application of technologies for CA involving or no till and crop rotation and cover management for sustainability and intensification. New crops in the rotation included Brachiaria, mucuna, soybean, dual purpose cowpeas, pigeon pea and cassava.
Benefits and outcomes
According to Sawadogo Salem Lassana, a proud Burkina farmer who participated in the Mucuna seed processing technology, “ the project produced highly significant positive innovations and changes not only to the individual lives of rural farming families but also provided new directions in the patterns of rural community life development”.
The project introduced farming technologies adopted by farmers that have enabled them to enhance the productivity potential of the land, achieve more sustainable increases in agricultural production, natural resources conservation and environmentally sound farming practices, improved food security, higher farm incomes which have contributed significantly to the attainment of better and sustainable rural livelihoods and to fight the dehumanizing effects of rural poverty.
Now there is no doubt that the introduction of CA technologies and practices offer enormous potential to simultaneously rebuild and enhance soil fertility, land productivity and agricultural output and farm income. More recently there is growing evidence of successful soil health and fertility management for agricultural intensification on both large and small-scale farms using CA practices in Africa from countries as diverse as Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda etc covering a range of agro-ecological and socioeconomic conditions. The fact that CA is now practiced on almost 100million hectares worldwide implies that the principles on which it is based are recognized by farmers as one major potential alternative for enhancing soil fertility and for sustainable agricultural intensification in Africa and internationally.
After leaving the calm of their villages, Yandé Ndaw, President of Soucouta Local Women's Union and her colleagues travelled over 250km from Soucouta to Dakar in celebration of the World Day of Fishing.
Exhausted but happy, the women came with several hundred pounds of processed fish products - dried fish, shells, dried shrimp and oysters.
On the sidelines of the celebration of World Day of Fishing, a small exhibition of fishery products was held by the National Federation of Economic Interest Groups in Fisheries (FENARGIE FISH).
Yandé, Marème, Fatou and three other colleagues from Soucouta, took the opportunity to sell all of their products they brought. According to Yandé, “ this year we have sold everything thanks to the best practices we have learnt from the FAO - Programme for Food Security Assessment (PISA) project, we can go back home happy…”.
Soucouta site was chosen as pilot site for supporting the fishing industry and the development of processed products as part of the PISA project. The project seeks to help poor households to achieve food security through promotion of products on the market.
The community with population estimated at over 320 including 150women and 170 men is a predominant fishing community.
“Fish processing in general is performed by women in Senegal with simple techniques that do not allow us to operate properly because the industry does not have the training and support needed. We don’t have warehouse and other modern facilities and face difficulties transporting our products to the market.
Consumers prefer products that meet specific quality standards for health, taste and nutritional value," "The quality fish products have longer shelf life. This practice has significantly increased our revenues which allows us to support some of the family expenses like education, health and also to finance expenditures on cultural and religious ceremonies such as Korité, tabaski etc”, Madam Yiandé said.
Over 20 women unions have been trained in new processing technologies, which has been identified as an effective way to increase the value of fishery products, compliance with hygienic regulations, choice of raw materials, the process of fermentation, salting and drying”. The women have also been given equipment to enable them to improve their business, these include; motorized canoes to harvest shellfish and handling processing equipment. In total, 239 women have benefited from our support to access individual loan.
“Increasing the number of women in the catching and post - capture, improving product quality, improving safety at sea, quality and quantity of food and increasing revenue growth will lead to food security in this community and we are happy to be working with these women” Mr. Faye Ibrahima, PISA project coordinator noted.
- An Extension Service officer assisting farmers identify and treat mealybug in a Papaya farm in Ghana
In 2009 papaya plants in Ghana were attacked by an unknown mealybug which severely devastated the papaya plants both on the cultivated fields and those in the wild. Many farms in Eastern, Central, Greater Accra and Volta regions were devastated by the new invasive mealybug.
Papaya cultivation is one of the main sources of income in most rural communities where women play a key role in agriculture production. With the invasion by the mealybug, it was estimated that 85% of the farms in Eastern, Central, Great Accra and Volta regions were destroyed by this persistent species (Paracoccus Marginatus) causing average yield loss of 65%. It was then concluded that if not managed quickly and effectively the mealybug could pose a multi-million dollar threat especially to exportable papaya fruits and other agricultural products since it was polyphagus in nature.
Ghana’s geographical location also offers a favorable climate for the production of the commodity, while Ghana’s proximity to Europe is also a logical advantage over major producing countries such as Brazil and Ecuador, who control 65% and 10% of the European market respectively. Papaya from Ghana is also often considered sweeter and most preferred to those produced from Brazil.
To address this problem therefore, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture through its Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) requested Technical Assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO through its Technical Cooperation Programme to provide farmers and the PPRSD with resources and expertise to effectively manage the outbreak of the papaya mealybug pest through training and capacity building using sustainable equipments and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Benin for assistance in identifying the unknown mealybug that was severely threatening the papaya industry in all papaya growing areas in Ghana especially in Eastern, Central, Great Accra and Volta regions.
In view of this, FAO in collaborations with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture held a training of trainers workshop for some PPRSD staff on selected topics of Papaya mealybug Management. The trained PPRSD staff then conducted a session for thirty (30) Agriculture Extension Agents AEAs selected from the Volta, Eastern, Central and Greater Accra regions to be equipped with the necessary information to enable them advise farmers appropriately.
In a classical biological control effort, the parasitoids (Acerophagus papayae and Anagyrus loecki) used in controlling the mealybug, were imported into the country from Puerto Rico and reared at the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate insectary of MoFA at Pokuase.
In July 2011 some 100 Acerophagus papayae were also released at Dansak farms one of the leading producer of the commodity before the infestation. They have since steadily multiplied and are spreading to other areas, even though many papaya farmers were not aware of their release and had continued to spray with harmful pesticides killing the bioagents and frustrate all the efforts made in importing in the bioagents.
The Managing Director of Dansak farms Mr. John Nkansah at one of the farmer fora sheared his success story. He explained to the farmers the challenges he faced when the parasitoids were released on his farm. He noted, with maximum patience he stopped spraying for some time and he is in business again as he has started exporting his fruits there by contributing to achieving FAO’s mandate. So far a hundred and fifty (150) farmers have gone through
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