Sunday, 17 November 2013

Empowering youth in agriculture

The following post was written by Marina Cherbonnier, Web and Communications Officer of the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD)  The post first appeared on YPARD blog earlier this week and was originally titled as “Big Thanks to Youth Supporters.”

Agriculture is an ageing and undervalued profession for which there is a declining interest among young people. Youth, as key stakeholders in the future of agricultural research for development, must not only be involved but also empowered.

“The road is long towards full inclusion of young professionals into strategic international actions for agricultural development.But the adventure enables you to meet and work with outstanding people who understand the critical role youth play for sustainable development. It is time to celebrate youth supporters and look at the achievement made together so far.”
GCARD2, 2012, represented a milestone for making youth voices stronger at key agricultural research for development (ARD) events. Through our collaboration with GFAR and the CGIAR, more than 25 young professionals from YPARD were involved in discussions through social reporting of the global conference. Our team truly made agriculture cool again!
Enrica Porcari of the CGIAR was key to making this happen. In 2010 at GCARD1, while YPARD was involved in a side event with 40 young researchers, Enrica was already trying to get the youth involved into bringing ARD messages beyond the doors of the conference room.  She also worked to make it a capacity development exercise. GCARD2 Youth Social Reporting Programme is the “ripe fruit” of her efforts.
The GCARD2 as a process catalyzing action goes beyond a one-time event. One month after the conference, a series of initiatives generated by young professionals was born as a result of their experience at the GCARD2.
The freshly wrapped-up AASW6 – 6th African Agriculture Science Week, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research for Africa (FARA), also gave a chance to more than 40 young people to yet again experience the power of social media for ARD for youth to get a voice. The participation of these young people was made possible by the collaboration of FARA, CTA, CGIAR, GFAR and YPARD.
It is our pride to see one of the GCARD2 young social reporters at the heart of the initiative to replicate the magic formula for the AASW6: Idowu Ejere, the Communications and Public Awareness Officer at FARA. She was supported by Sam Mikenga, Media Coordinator at CTA, Marina Cherbonnier, from YPARD and Peter Casier from CGIAR, the knowledge broker and utmost inspiring social media coordinator who undertook the coordination of the social reporting experience  at GCARD2 and AASW6. The encouragement and support from Prof. Monty Jones, immediate past Executive Director of FARA and Dr. Michael Hailu, Director of CTA made the social media initiative possible.
This is one very concrete success story of “GCARD as a process and not a mere conference” – as asserted by GFAR; we can tangibly see the progress made for youth empowerment through the collaborative work of ARD organisations!
Yes, young professionals are full of capacity. Give them a chance to take responsibility and you will see the positive impact!
We couldn’t have such a range of action without the support of experienced people and key organisations willing to give the little push to get young professionals on board. We want to thank them for listening to and opening the doors for us.
While there is continuous effort to provide opportunities for youth to be recognized and involved as an equal stakeholder in the implementation of ARD actions, it is our duty to take responsibility to make sure it happens.
“AASW6 over; what’s next?” Stay posted!
The following post was written by Marina Cherbonnier, Web and Communications Officer of the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD)  The post first appeared on YPARD blog earlier this week and was originally titled as “Big Thanks to Youth Supporters.”
Visit the Events page for more information on the CGIAR Consortium’s involvement  in supporting youth in agriculture through social media and other efforts.
Photo credit: cc: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

FARA Supports a Consultative Dialogue on the Path to Prosperity in Sierra Leone

The economy of the Republic of Sierra Leone has for a long time been tied to investments in the mining sector with emphasis on diamonds, bauxite and iron ore. With more than 60% of the population deriving a living from an agricultural sector that is blessed with abundant arable land, water and a favorable climate, agriculture offers the best prospects for achieving economic development. The Government has therefore embarked on an Agenda for Prosperity that is strongly aligned to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP); which is the vision of African Heads of State and Government for transforming the agricultural sector. The agenda calls for diversification of the economic base and repositioning of agriculture as the pivot along with fisheries, tourism and industry to drive the economic development of the country. 

Transformation of the agricultural sector calls for the strengthening of science, environment, technology and innovations as the key drivers of the agricultural growth required for wealth creation and poverty reduction. The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is supporting the Government’s efforts to bring science, technology and innovation to bear on agricultural development of the country. 
In collaboration with the Office of the President of Sierra Leone, the World Bank, FAO and CORAF/WECARD, FARA is supporting a three-day consultative dialogue organized at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown, Sierra Leone from 11 – 14 November, 2013. The dialogue is intended to set the vision for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in promoting agriculture, fisheries and industrial development in Sierra Leone. Welcoming participants to the dialogue, the Special Adviser to the President of Sierra Leone and Ambassador at Large, Prof. Monty Jones underscored the need to place science, technology and innovation at the forefront of agriculture, fisheries and industrial development of Sierra Leone. Opening the three-day dialogue, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma called on all participants to come up with concrete suggestions on the type of science and technology that is required to transform agriculture, fisheries and agro-industrial development of the country. 
Delivering a statement on behalf of FARA, the Executive Director Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo noted that the dialogue on visioning for environment, science, technology and innovation is congruent with FARA’s new strategic orientation. As a continent-wide forum, FARA’s role is to support its constituents in strategic analysis and foresight so that they can determine the type of agriculture that they want; build their capacity to develop agriculture; and help establish the appropriate policy environment for a highly productive and competitive agricultural sector. All of these, he said, are part of the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) that FARA and its partners including the SROs, IFAD, CGIAR, World Bank are currently developing as one of the five work streams of the Dublin process.

To promote experience sharing and learning from the Sierra Leone case, FARA is supporting the participation of CAADP country focal persons from other West African countries. Apart from supporting the dialogue, FARA has also assisted the institutional reforms of the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) and is currently implementing the region-wide initiatives on the Dissemination of New Agricultural Technologies (DONATA) and the Regional Agricultural Information and Learning Systems (RAILS) in Sierra Leone. Through FARA’s interventions, Sierra Leone has adopted the Innovation Platform (IP) and Innovative Fund for Agricultural Transformation (IFAT) concepts. It is worth noting that through these concepts, we now see a Sierra Leone brand of rice not only on the shelves of many supermarkets in the country, but also being exported to neighboring countries. 

FARA’s resolve is to continue to advocate for policies that lead to increased investments in agriculture and agricultural research for development in particular, as this is a necessary condition for increasing agricultural productivity and competitiveness in Africa.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Though the African continent is undergoing significantly positive reforms and macroeconomic metamorphosis, its share of total regional trade comprises a mere 12 per cent in 2010. In fact, the continent lags behind other regions in terms of export diversification, and is actually gravitating towards further concentration in its export commodities. The general trend over the last decade is one of gradual move towards less diversification for Africa.
Against this background, in January 2012, the African Union Summit of African Heads of State and Government endorsed the theme of ‘Boosting Intra-African Trade’, paving the way towards fast-tracking a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA)[1] with a tentative timeframe of 2017. The Summit which also recognized the low level of trade between African countries, called upon Member States, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the African Union Commission (AUC) to promote industrial development policy and value addition in order to diversify African economies and thereby move away from heavy reliance on traditional primary exports.
There are copious evidences on the direct relationship between export diversification[2] and growth dynamics (UNECA and AUC, 2007, 2011; Karingi and Spence, 2011). Kilnger and Lederman (2006) and Cadot, Carrere and Strauss-Khan (2008) discuss that the process of diversification (as opposed to export growth) in low income countries is driven by inside the frontier innovation (emulations) and extensive expansion, suggesting that African countries should undertake new export activities if it is to succeed in diversifying its exports, but that they should be in industries in which there is already existing expertise.
In fact, some countries have struggled to diversify and orientate into new sectors due to rising commodity prices which subsequently results in an ever increasing concentration of exports, enclave economies and Dutch disease syndrome[3]. Further, countries such as Mozambique, Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which experienced conflicts and negative diversification prospects in the past, are currently exhibiting positive diversification outcomes in more stable years.
The traditional strategy of export promotion which focuses on the international marketing of final goods appears increasingly inappropriate for African economies, but the adoption of different routes to diversification which could include resource-based manufacturing and processing of primary products. Africa needs to promote diversification by strengthening regional markets, competitiveness and economic integration. In other words, African countries need to diversify their total exports bases in order to foster better market access conditions, together with increased productivity in traditional and non-traditional crops. The creation and facilitation of such trade, and its diversification, foster economic transformation, and also reduces the risk from concentrating in very small numbers of agricultural export commodities.
Gbadebo Odularu
Policy and Markets Analyst, FARA

[1] The need to enhance intra-African trade among African countries led to the formation of the EAC-COMESA-SADC   (East African Community; Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa  and the Southern Africa Development Community)  tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) as well as the proposed 2017 Continental FTA (CFTA) between Cairo and Cape Town. The tripartite agreement is expected to enable participating economies take full advantage of the economies of scale and other benefits (such as income and employment generation) of greater market integration.
[2] Export diversification is the expansion of exports due to new products—extensive margin—or export more of current products—intensive margin. Amurgo-Pacheco and Pierola (2008) provide a useful narrower definition by introducing a geographic dimension which precise that intensive margin is the expansion of exports based on existing products to existing export markets.
[3]  Dutch Disease theory states that a ‘resource export boom has an inherent tendency to distort the structure of production in favour of the non-traded goods sector vis-à-vis the sectors producing the non-booming tradeables. The Syndrome originates from the experience of the Netherlands after its 1960’s natural gas and oil discovery, which resulted in an export boom and balance of payments surplus for the Dutch economy