Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fish and Aquaculture for improved Food Security and Livelihoods

Post by Liya Dejene (IRLI)

Many fishing communities live in the world’s poorest countries; they are often marginalized and landless. As fishing is often the livelihood of last resort and fish often the only source of animal protein for the poor, the state of the world’s fisheries can be critical in the fight against poverty in many parts the developing world including Sahel and East African countries.

AgriKnowledge ShareFair in Addis Ababa convened a panel session to discuss the roles of fisheries and aquaculture in food security and nutrition.

Facilitated by Eshete Dejan and Ana Menezes, participants discussed three cases: Uganda – Mukene fishery development and human consumption for farmer field approach; Ethiopia – GIS based suitability ponds for Tilapia production; and Kenya – Strengthening Fish Production through Adoption of Improved Aquaculture Technology in Western Kenya.

Damp smoked fish wrapped in newspaper in Côte d'Ivoire
In Uganda, fish are among the most significant natural endowments of Uganda, not only because of their magnitude and diversity, but also because they represent a major source of protein in the diet of most Ugandans. They also provide employment and income. The project sought to demonstrate increases in fishery productivity, value addition and market access. Key success factors in this good practice were: focus group training ensured participation and interest; changes (variety) in product development stimulated marketing; training trainers at fisheries training centre pointed to sustainability; training boat builders within fishing communities reduced the costs to fishers who want to buy into new technologies. Also important were the presence of institutions to train others, the existence of internal market for new products and the adoption of the new techniques.

In Ethiopia, Nile tilapia contributed more than 60% of the annual total fish landing and it is the most preferred fish species. Currently, investors and government institutions want to identify potential aquaculture zones. Responding to this, a GIS analysis was made to identify suitable areas for the production of Nile Tilapia in earth ponds. Two scenarios were considered. The first scenario was the production of the species at small scale/household level; the second scenario incorporated some economic factors for commercialization purposes.

Four major common factors were considered to assess suitability: the availability of water throughout the production period, the water temperature regime, engineering suitability for pond construction and the type of land cover in the area. Based on these criteria, GIS site analysis showed that the production of Nile Tilapia in earth ponds for small scale/family sectors ranks from highly suitable, moderately suitable with some additional inputs, marginally suitable, and unsuitable. Most parts of Western and Northwest Ethiopia were determined to be highly suitable and moderately suitable for both scenatrios. Most of Northern, Eastern, Northeastern, Southern and Southeastern parts of Ethiopia were found to be marginally suitable.

Ana Menezes facilitates Fish and aquacultureIn Kenya, the FAO project on “Strengthening Fish Production through Adoption of Improved Aquaculture Technology” aims to increase aquaculture production in Kenya, thereby contributing to poverty reduction and food security. It seeks to improve the value and efficiency of aquaculture production through the implementation of macro [national] level strategic guidelines to develop a more cohesive and synergistic national program. It also works at the micro [farm] level, piloting new market-driven business approaches from the strategic guidelines.

Outputs include: 1) the National Aquaculture Strategy; 2) three functioning clusters operating in a sustainable and profitable way and demonstrating the technical underpinnings of the strategy with at least 100 participating farmers and other stakeholders (e.g., extensionists) and an average yield per site of 2,000 kg/ha/year or more; 3) at least 100 operators familiar with good business practices to evaluate investments and manage farms; 4) input supply and market channels (at least three) developed and operational for pilot sites; and 5) the sub-sector having improved and strengthened coordination with technical and organizational capacity of stakeholder groups, including government support services.

Overall, there was general agreement that the sub-sector should evolve into one with a business orientation but there seems to be some inertia when it comes to “getting down to business”.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A place for the SUN? Scaling Up Nutrition in the Horn of Africa

Post by Liya Dejene (ILRI)

During Day 2 of the AgriKnowledge ShareFair in Addis Ababa, Bibi Giyose (Senior Food Security and Nutrition Advisor at the Africa Union) facilitated a panel session on the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement.

BIbi Giyose - Facilitates Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) through a multisectoral approach session

SUN is a country-led movement that brings organizations together across sectors to support national plans to scale up nutrition by helping to ensure that financial and technical resources are accessible, coordinated, predictable and ready to go to scale. The SUN movement promotes the implementation of evidenced-based nutrition interventions, as well as integration of nutrition goals into sectors including health, social protection, development and agriculture.

At the center of the movement is national level leadership that coordinates both national and international efforts, with the SUN movement aligning financial and technical support with country plans. Leadership at the national level ensures that priorities and programs are designed and implemented to meet the needs of regions and populations within the country and to enable the scale up of sustainable efforts.

The ‘Thousand Days’ partnership supports the SUN movement by focusing attention on the 1,000 day window of opportunity for impact: Engaging government, civil society, and the private sector in efforts to improve early nutrition; and promoting partnerships across these sectors to achieve a scale change in improving early nutrition.

Juliawati Untoro (UNICEF), Martin Ahimbisibwe (WFP) and Juliette Aphane (FAO) explored ways to integrate nutrition in related sectors, using indicators of under-nutrition as one of the key measures of overall progress.

In her summary, Bibi highlighted 4 main points:

First, the session focused on how to actively promote and scale up nutrition in different countries. In East Africa there are six countries that are committed to scaling up nutrition; they include Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Second, the group looked at how to best improve a multi-sectoral approach for better nutrition and better food security.

Second, looking at how best nutrition can be managed within countries, nutrition coordination has to be at the highest level, nutrition has to be coordinated from ministries, or the offices of the prime minister, or the office of the president because only they have the authority, the mandate and the clout to hold all the other sectors accountable.

Third, we need to build capacity so the various sectors are able to deliver according to their mandates, from the highest levels all the way down to where the action is.

Fourth, it is clear that there need to be sustainability mechanisms built into these programs. Through the SUN movement, the emphasis is on a country-led and country-owned approach. “This means that resources have to be mobilized from within the government so that programs can be started and programs can be sustained, while at the same time agreeing that it is important to work across sectors, to work with the development partners to deliver on the best food and nutrition security.”

Digital pen: a hot tool to identify, track and respond to emergencies

Post by Tsehay Gashaw (FAOSFE)

Mobile technology plays an important role helping people make decisions, policy makers assess options, researchers collect data more effectively.

Digital pens were a topic of keen attention in this week’s plenary discussions on mobile devices. Joseph Matere from FAO Kenya explained that the digital pen is a rapid way to collect, collate and share information and data. He explained how it is being used as part of animal disease surveillance systems to identify and track disease outbreaks in Kenya.

Previously,  it took four to six weeks for a disease to be identified and mitigation measures provided. Often, animals had died and the disease was spread to a very large area. The digital pen helps us deliver rapid identification and diagnoses of diseases – and rapid responses!

The digital pen is a ‘simple’ pen with a built in camera and processor that works with special ‘dot matrix’ paper.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Approaches which “Save and Grow” in the Horn of Africa

Save and grow
Many if not all countries of the Horn of Africa region have expressed an interest in the sustainable increase in productivity of crop production in their countries. Here, the challenge is to produce more in ways which do not compromise the future. Yields can be boosted in the short term, but practices may lead to land degradation, contamination of water resources, future pest or disease outbreaks, loss of biodiversity.

Sustainable Intensification is one of the key topics covered at the AgriKnowledge ShareFair on October 24th. 

FAO promotes practices for intensifying crop production which are not only environmentally sustainable – increasing production while conserving vital “ecosystem services” , and mitigating climate change - but which are also socially and economically sustainable. 

What does this mean, to be “socially” sustainable? A practice (such as reduced tillage) may be better for the environment, but it may also increase the amount of labour required, for instance to manage weeds. In traditional societies, land preparation may be regarded as “men’s work”, while increasing the effort for weeding may place a disproportionate and unsustainable burden on women. Similarly, for practices which are good for the environment to be adopted at scale they must also deliver economic benefits in the short term. Trade offs work both ways . Greater inefficiencies could be gained by concentrating on a small number of crops but smallholders with limited access to land have evolved highly diverse patterns of cultivation. Save and grow 2
How to address these complex challenges to the adoption of improved practices in crop production is among the topics covered in the FAO publication Save and Grow a policy makers guide to the intensification of smallholder crop production available at:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Technological Innovation: a New Path to Empower Farmers

Drought monitoring and early warning
The landscape for information communications and technology is shifting progressively within the African continent. Currently, half of the continent's population of over 1 billion, owns a mobile phone; making the continent the fastest-growing mobile market globally. This development has been driven significantly by the private sector, focusing on urban areas. Increasing access to ICT in rural areas can bridge the information gap connecting rural populations, particularly farmers, to critical information to improve skills and knowledge enhancing individual livelihoods.

In the Horn of Africa, interactive sessions using broadcast and mobile technology have been developed to create innovative platforms for rural farmers to gain relevant and timely information on market prices, expected seasonal patterns, and agriculture and environmental practices. Developing mobile technologies to monitor food security and prepare for shocks to food security is another dynamic area being developed within the region. However, actors have been faced with challenges in developing suitable mobile technologies for data collection and widening access of these technologies to the poorest of the poor.

Within the AgriKnowledge ShareFair, a forum will be created to discuss experiences of using mobile technology for Natural disaster early warning systems and monitoring and developing cash voucher systems. Opening the floor to presenters including ACTED, Oxfam and CALAP, discussions could result in new solutions to overcome the burden, challenges and to sustainably scale-up the use of mobile technologies in the region.

Do you think technology and innovation can make a difference in food and nutrition in the horn of Africa?

Sharing Agricultural Practices to Enhance Food and Nutrition Security in the Horn of Africa

All roads lead to Ethiopia, as Eastern Africa converges at the International Livestock Research Centre (ILRI) campus in Addis Ababa from 23-25 October to share knowledge, practices, technology and innovations that have consistently shown results superior to those achieved through other means, in enhancing food and nutrition security in the Horn of Africa.

This will be done through an AgriKnowledge ShareFair organized by FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) are also collaborating in this forum that brings the multiple expertise and networks of international organizations from the region namely: Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. Senior officials from Comité permanent Inter-Etats de Lutte contra la Sécheresse dans le Sahel (CiLIS) and the affected countries in the Sahel will also be participating at the fair.

Dr. Castro Camarada, FAO Coordinator for Eastern Africa explains why sharing information on good agricultural practices is vital to enhancing food and nutrition security in the region.