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March 14, 2024 BLOG0

 

In March 2024, Juma Otieno, a maize farmer in Siaya, Kenya, knew something had to change. The strain of managing unpredictable weather, fluctuating market prices, and mounting debt was overwhelming. He was missing out on precious time with his family and felt constantly exhausted. Inspired by fellow farmers’ experiences, Juma took a crucial first step: reevaluating his farming practices and seeking support.

“In farming communities, why is there pressure to hide our struggles? Why do requests for help or a break seem like a sign of weakness?” he questions.

Across the continent, Mariama Diallo, a Senegalese rice farmer, once felt trapped in a similar cycle of relentless stress. She decided to take control instead of allowing worry to dominate her life. Through counseling and community support, Mariama found ways to manage her anxieties. The time invested in her well-being, though initially challenging, ultimately strengthened her resolve as a farmer.

Mariama now understands the value of sharing her journey. She speaks with other farmers, offering an empathetic ear, and works alongside local leaders to ensure they understand the pressures of agriculture and are equipped to provide help.

“My mental health is just as important as my crops. I urge others to remember that resources and support do exist,” she says.

Read: Field of Mind – Exploring the Mental Health Crisis in Agriculture

Facing Chronic Stress in African Agriculture

Dr. Amina Yusuf, who works with farmer collectives across West Africa, highlights that constant stress is pervasive in agriculture. The cascading effects of climate uncertainty, market volatility, and in some areas, conflict, create a deep sense of unease.

“Our minds become consumed with potential crises,” she explains, “This makes it extraordinarily difficult for farmers to find moments of joy and connection with their work and their loved ones.”

Dr. Yusuf encourages a proactive approach. “Look at your operation with a critical yet compassionate eye. What changes, big or small, can support the long-term sustainability of your farm and your own health?”

“Remember,” she emphasizes, “Prioritizing self-care isn’t an act of weakness; it’s ensuring you have the strength to support your farm and family well into the future. Decide how you can incorporate well-being into your day and don’t hesitate to reach out to trusted individuals, family, or support groups for extra help.”

Eagmark has developed an Agricultural Health and Medicine Course which aims to educate and safeguard the well-being of farmers, their families, and communities. The course teaches how the agricultural environment influences health and works to address the specific health challenges within these populations. You can enroll today HERE.


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February 26, 2024 AGRI ECONOMICSRESEARCH0

 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recently released its Yearbook on the state of world food and agriculture. The Statistical Yearbook 2023 reports that global agriculture was marked by both triumphs and challenges in 2021. The comprehensive report explores various facets of the global food system, encompassing production, trade, prices, food security, nutrition, and sustainability.

One of the notable highlights of 2021 was the record-breaking global food production, with total cereal production reaching a record 2.9 billion tonnes showing the resilience and adaptability of agricultural systems worldwide. However, amidst this abundance, the report sheds light on the looming challenges confronting the global food system, including the ominous specters of climate change, burgeoning population growth, and geopolitical conflicts.

A salient revelation from the FAO report is the unambiguous concentration of primary crop production, with the top three producers wielding significant influence over global supplies. For example, the top three producers of wheat account for 56% of global production. This concentration of production raises concerns about food security, as a disruption in production in one country could have a significant impact on global food supplies, which could precipitate supply shortages and price spikes.

The report also finds that the two largest net exporters of food are the Americas and Brazil. The Americas exported a net of $401 billion worth of food in 2021, while Brazil exported a net of $113 billion. China, on the other hand, is the world’s largest net importer of food, importing a net of $252 billion in 2021.

Key statistics from the report highlight the evolving contours of agricultural landscapes worldwide. Notably, agricultural value added surged by 84% between 2000 and 2021, reaching a commendable USD 3.7 trillion. However, amidst this growth trajectory, the report elucidates a notable shift in labor dynamics, with agricultural employment declining from 40% of the global workforce in 2000 to 27% in 2021, highlighting the gradual transformation of economies towards diverse sectors.

The FAO report also shines a spotlight on environmental sustainability within agricultural systems. Alarmingly, pesticide use surged by 62% between 2000 and 2021, with the Americas accounting for a substantial share of this increase. Additionally, agricultural reliance on inorganic fertilizers remains pronounced, with nitrogen constituting 56% of the 195 million tonnes of nutrients utilized in 2021. These trends stress the need to adopt sustainable agricultural practices to mitigate environmental degradation and safeguard ecosystem health.

Also, the report highlights the inextricable linkages between food security and nutrition. Sadly, an estimated 777 million individuals grappled with undernourishment in 2021, while 2.3 billion people lacked access to adequate nutrition. These sobering statistics emphasize the urgency of concerted efforts to boost food security and address malnutrition through multifaceted interventions encompassing sustainable agriculture, market accessibility, and food waste reduction initiatives.

The report concludes by calling for a more sustainable and equitable food system. The report recommends a number of measures to achieve this, including investing in research and development, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, and reducing


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The UK economy officially entered a recession in the second half of 2023, as defined by two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. The final quarter of 2023 saw a contraction of 0.3%, exceeding most predictions. Several factors contributed to the recession, including (1) high inflation caused by rising energy and food prices, which have placed immense pressure on households and businesses; (2) interest rate hikes as a consequence of the actions of the Bank of England to combat inflation, but this also dampened economic activity; and (3) a global economic slowdown, further impacting the UK’s export-oriented sectors.

The recession is already having a noticeable impact on the UK, with job losses as businesses are cutting costs and hiring freezes becoming more common. There is also reduced consumer spending due to rising costs and economic uncertainty, as well as lower living standards since many people are struggling to afford basic necessities due to inflation.

With the winds of change blowing across the global economy, many in the agricultural sector, particularly in Africa, are understandably concerned. While the UK’s economic woes might seem distant, the interconnectedness of our world means the ripples will be felt far and wide. This is because the UK is a major buyer of Africa’s horticultural products, tea, coffee, among others. Reduced demand for exports, potential trade disruptions, and tighter investment belts—these are just some of the challenges African agriculture might face.

Will farmers’ hard work, sweat, and hope be swept away in this economic storm?

Imagine the sting of sunburnt shoulders after a long day on the farm. The calloused hands, the grit on a farmer’s boots, the quiet satisfaction of watching life burst from the earth! That’s the heartbeat of African agriculture, a rhythm that’s about so much more than just crops. It’s about families, communities, and the very foundation of life on this continent.

The UK might be tightening its belt, but the world is a vast and hungry place. For Africa, it’s time to explore new trade routes and chart new courses. Here’s the thing: Africa has weathered storms before, and it’ll weather this one too. For Africa, this is not a time for despair, but for strategic thinking and proactive measures that turn challenges into opportunities. The continent majorly relies on farmers, after all, and adaptability is in their blood—farming is their business!

ALSO READ: 8 Macro Trends that will influence Africa’s Agriculture in 2024

Future outlook

It’s important to note that the exact impact of the UK recession on global markets and African agriculture is difficult to predict, as it depends on several factors like the severity and duration of the recession, government interventions, and global economic trends. It is important to note that the severity and duration of the UK recession are still unclear. Some economists believe it will be short-lived, while others predict a more prolonged downturn. The UK government is already implementing various measures to mitigate the impact, but the ultimate outcome will depend on a complex interplay of domestic and global factors.

Turning challenges into opportunities

The impact of the UK’s recession might be unevenly distributed across different regions and sectors in Africa, and some African countries might even benefit from opportunities arising from the changing global economic landscape. The UK recession might cast a shadow, but for African agriculture, it can also be an opportunity to reimagine, reshape, and emerge stronger. By working together, embracing innovation, and fostering resilience, African countries can navigate these uncertain waters and achieve economic gains. This can only happen by being nimble and embracing new technologies, digging into data-driven solutions, and finding smarter ways to farm. Who knows, maybe Africa will even discover a hidden gem that will become the next revolutionary agricultural technique!

In order to thrive, Africa must chin up and face the future with the same determination that pushes its farmers out into the fields each morning, the same hope that sees a tiny seed transform into a life-giving fruit.


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February 19, 2024 AGRI ECONOMICS0

 

As we approach the end of the first quarter of 2024, global economic trends are already taking form, influenced by various factors such as elections in at least 64 countries worldwide. Naturally, these events impact global trade, including the agricultural sector.

In the face of this, the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group released is biannual report titled “Africa’s Macroeconomic Performance and Outlook”, providing an updated analysis of the continent’s recent macroeconomic performance and short- to medium-term prospects. This report serves as a crucial resource for policymakers, investors, researchers, and development partners seeking to understand Africa’s economic trajectory amidst global dynamics.

In the sphere of macroeconomic policy, aligning strategies with agricultural transformation is increasingly essential. This involves a comprehensive approach integrating agricultural perspectives into macroeconomic frameworks (including price, fiscal, monetary, exchange rate, and trade policies) to drive effective strategies for agricultural development.

Looking ahead to 2024, Africa’s agriculture sector is poised for significant growth, buoyed by several macro trends:

  1. Projected GDP Growth – Amidst the changing landscape, AfDB reports that projections for Africa’s GDP growth for 2023 and 2024 have been revised downwards to 3.4% and 3.8% respectively, reflecting evolving economic conditions. However, these figures underscore the region’s resilience and potential for growth, particularly within the services sector, which is anticipated to be a key driver of economic expansion.
  2. Market Opportunities – Market opportunities beckon, driven by demographic shifts, income growth, and changing food demand patterns. These shifts open avenues and pathways for investments in African agriculture and agri-food value chains, promising not only economic growth but also broader socio-economic development.
  3. Rising Population – The burgeoning population, projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, heralds increased demand for food, offering farmers opportunities to expand production and market reach.
  4. Urbanization fuels shifts in dietary preferences, creating new markets for processed foods and agricultural products. As more Africans move to cities, their diets are changing, with a growing demand for processed foods, fruits, vegetables, and animal products. This will create new opportunities for farmers who can adapt their production to meet these changing preferences.
  5. Climate change is already having a negative impact on African agriculture, with more frequent droughts, floods, and extreme weather events. Despite the looming specter of climate change, African agriculture stands to benefit from climate-smart practices and innovations.
  6. Technological advancements, including precision agriculture and satellite imagery, hold promise for enhancing productivity and resilience in the face of environmental challenges. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way farming is done in Africa.
  7. The influx of investments, both domestic and international, underscores confidence in Africa’s agricultural potential. The growing investment in African agriculture from both domestic and international sources will help to finance new technologies, infrastructure, and agribusinesses, which will further boost the sector’s growth.
  8. Services Sector and Risks – Africa is expected to be the second-fastest-growing major region in 2024 majorly driven by the services sector. Yet, amidst these opportunities lie inherent risks, including security threats, political instability, and debt burdens, stressing the need for vigilant monitoring and adaptive policy responses.

2024 will certainly be characterized by uncertainties, but it will also witness advancements in new technologies, which will increasingly influence agriculture and environmental sustainability. The theme of sustainability will remain crucial, alongside factors like identity, territory, innovation, and development. For Africa, navigating the intricate agricultural terrain will require embracing these trends and promoting innovation as a top priority. By utilizing technological progress, adopting sustainable methods, and making strategic investments, Africa’s agriculture sector can not only overcome forthcoming challenges but also emerge more robust, resilient, and better prepared to cater to the needs of a growing population.


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February 17, 2024 INDUSTRY NEWSRESEARCH0

 

As the global population continues to expand, so does the demand for food. Agriculture, the backbone of sustenance, faces a daunting challenge: how to feed an ever-growing population with limited resources and a shrinking agricultural workforce. The recent findings from the 2022 Census of Agriculture conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shed light on a concerning trend that has significant implications not only for the United States but also for agricultural systems worldwide.

According to the census, the number of farms in the United States has declined steadily over the past two decades. In 2022, there were 1,900,487 farms, a decrease from 2,042,220 farms in 2017. This decline, totaling 141,733 farms, reflects a broader trend of consolidation and restructuring within the agricultural sector. Family-owned farms, which comprise 95 percent of the total, have been particularly affected, signaling a shift in the demographic composition of agricultural producers.

Even more alarming, the amount of land dedicated to farming has also decreased. Despite the vast expanse of agricultural land in the United States, farmers are now working on 20,116,728 fewer acres compared to 2017. This reduction, equivalent to the size of South Carolina, shows the intensifying pressure on available arable land. The average size of farms has increased slightly, indicating a consolidation of land holdings among fewer producers.

The implications of these trends extend beyond the borders of the United States. With a growing global population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, the world faces an unprecedented demand for food. Agriculture must not only meet this demand but also adapt to evolving environmental challenges, such as climate change and land degradation. The decline in the agricultural workforce exacerbates these challenges, as fewer farmers are tasked with producing more food to feed a burgeoning population.

ALSO READ: IMF Warns of Worsening Income Inequality Due to AI – How will it Impact the Ag Sector?

The study by USDA has also shown that the digital divide persists within the agricultural sector, with only 79 percent of U.S. farms having internet access. While advancements in technology have the potential to increase efficiency and productivity, access to these innovations remains unequal, further widening the gap between large-scale commercial farms and smaller, resource-constrained operations.

In the face of these developments, policymakers, agricultural stakeholders, and international organizations must prioritize strategies to bolster the agricultural workforce and promote sustainable farming practices. This includes investing in education and training programs to attract and retain a new generation of farmers, enhancing access to land and resources for smallholders, and leveraging innovations and technology to improve productivity and resilience.


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January 26, 2024 INDUSTRY NEWSRESEARCH0

 

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, caffeine serves as the universal catalyst that jump-starts our mornings, with coffee being the preferred vessel for this beloved stimulant. Cultivated across more than 70 nations, coffee holds a prominent place in our lives, supporting the livelihoods of approximately 125 million people globally. However, the warming climate threatens this vital commodity, prompting the need for innovative solutions to safeguard our morning cup of coffee.

As reported by “THE Economist,” the escalating temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns in key coffee-producing regions of South America, central Africa, and South-East Asia pose a significant threat to the industry. According to a recent study by Cássia Gabriele Dias from the Federal University of Itajubá in Brazil, between 35% and 75% of Brazil’s coffee-growing land may become unusable by the end of the century.

Acknowledging the severity of this issue, the global coffee community is now faced with the challenge of implementing Climate-Smart Policies and Investments to ensure the industry’s sustainability. Drawing from our extensive review of previous global changes in the coffee industry, we delve into creative approaches that can transform the coffee landscape.

Climate-Smart Solutions for Coffee Farms

One intriguing option is to shift coffee cultivation uphill, capitalizing on the natural temperature decrease with altitude. Tanzania, for instance, boasts areas 150 to 200 meters above current coffee-growing zones, presenting an opportunity for continued coffee farming. However, this approach introduces challenges such as steeper slopes, shallower soils, and potential conflicts with climate pledges.

An alternative strategy involves revisiting traditional “agroforestry” techniques, as highlighted by Nicholas Girkin, an environmental scientist at the University of Nottingham. Historically, coffee plants thrived in the shade beneath taller trees, offering protection against scorching temperatures. Recent studies indicate that these agroforestry practices not only enhance the flavor and size of coffee beans but also promote biodiversity, with trees acting as havens for beneficial predators and pollinators.

While agroforestry presents a viable short-term solution, it has its limitations. Climate models project that in many regions, temperatures may eventually surpass the tolerance levels of the sensitive Arabica plant. This necessitates a more profound transformation in the coffee industry—a change in the very nature of the coffee bean itself.

READ: 72 Kenyan Coffee Factories to be Upgraded through Coffee Revitalization Program

Rediscovering Forgotten Gems: Diverse Coffee Species for a Changing Climate

In the pursuit of a resilient coffee plant, scientists are revisiting overlooked coffee species that flourished in warmer or drier environments. Botanist Aaron Davis, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has dedicated his efforts to exploring forgotten varieties such as Coffea stenophylla and Coffea affinis. These species, found in Sierra Leone, exhibit promising traits, hinting at their ability to withstand higher temperatures compared to Arabica and Robusta.

Research indicates that C. stenophylla boasts a fruitier profile and better acidity than Brazilian Arabica, offering a potential replacement for the vulnerable species. Additionally, Coffea dewevrei, known as Excelsa, emerges as an attractive option due to its heat tolerance, high yield, and resistance to the coffee-rust fungus.

Genetic Engineering and Cross-Breeding

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, researchers are exploring a combination of genetic engineering and cross-breeding to transfer desirable traits from these resilient species into Arabica. Dr. Davis, involved in comprehensive Arabica genome research, aims to facilitate this transformative process. However, the timeline for commercial use of a new coffee cultivar remains a decade or more.

In the interim, agricultural engineer Dr. Dias emphasizes the need for immediate measures, urging coffee-producing nations like Brazil to adopt a dual strategy—moving some farms uphill while incorporating agroforestry practices. This strategic approach can provide a temporary buffer, allowing scientists the time required to develop a coffee plant capable of thriving in a warmer world.

In summary, the future of our morning cup of coffee lies in the hands of innovative solutions, blending traditional wisdom with cutting-edge technology. As we navigate the challenges posed by climate change, the global coffee community must unite in its commitment to sustainable practices, ensuring the longevity of this cherished beverage.


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In the midst of a global technological revolution, the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to reshape economies is both thrilling and concerning. As we navigate the complexities of AI, it becomes imperative to explore how this transformative technology can revolutionize the agricultural sector, particularly in the context of Africa.

The Impact of AI on Global Labor Markets

Before delving into the specifics of agriculture, it is crucial to understand the broader implications of artificial intelligence on the global economy. According to recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), nearly 40 percent of global employment is exposed to artificial intelligence. Unlike previous technological advancements, AI has the unique capability to impact highly skilled jobs, creating both risks and opportunities.

In advanced economies, where approximately 60 percent of jobs may be affected by artificial intelligence, there is a dual prospect of job enhancement and displacement. Meanwhile, emerging markets and low-income countries face a lower immediate disruption rate of 40 percent and 26 percent, respectively. However, the lack of infrastructure and skilled workforces in these regions poses a risk of exacerbating global inequality over time.

AI’s Influence on Inequality and the Labor Market

The IMF’s findings also suggest that artificial intelligence could exacerbate income and wealth inequality within countries. As AI becomes integrated into businesses worldwide, there is a potential for polarization within income brackets. Workers adept at harnessing artificial intelligence may experience increased productivity and wages, while those unable to adapt could fall behind.

To mitigate this risk, policymakers are urged to establish comprehensive social safety nets and retraining programs for vulnerable workers. The goal is to ensure an inclusive transition to an AI-driven world, protecting livelihoods and curbing inequality.

AI Preparedness Index: Crafting Inclusive Policies

The AI Preparedness Index, measuring readiness in key areas such as digital infrastructure, human capital, innovation, and regulation shows that wealthier economies, including advanced and some emerging market economies, tend to be better equipped for AI adoption. However, there is considerable variation among countries.AI Preparedness Index

For advanced economies, the focus should be on prioritizing AI innovation and integration while developing robust regulatory frameworks. In contrast, emerging markets and developing economies need to lay a strong foundation through investments in digital infrastructure and a digitally competent workforce. By doing so, we can cultivate a safe and responsible artificial intelligence environment that maintains public trust.

READ: Top Technology Trends That Are Revolutionizing Agriculture

AI in African Agriculture: A Game-Changer

In the agricultural sector, artificial intelligence holds immense potential to address critical challenges faced by Africa, including low productivity, unpredictable climate conditions, and inadequate infrastructure. The integration of artificial intelligence technologies can bring about transformative changes in the agricultural sector.

For example, in precision agriculture, AI-driven technologies such as drones and sensors provide real-time data on soil conditions, crop health, and weather patterns, enabling informed decision-making and resource optimization.

AI can also be used to optimize the supply chain with AI algorithms that can predict market demands, optimize logistics, and minimize post-harvest losses, benefiting farmers and contributing to national food security.

In smart farming practices, AI-powered applications can assist farmers in remotely monitoring and managing their farms, from automated irrigation systems to predictive analytics for disease control.

Tailoring AI Adoption to African Realities

Contrary to concerns about global income inequality, Africa has the potential to bridge the gap through thoughtful AI integration in agriculture. Tailored solutions addressing crop diversity, regional climate variations, and socio-economic contexts are essential. Capacity building initiatives and investments in digital infrastructure, especially in rural areas, are imperative for successful AI adoption.

Despite IMF’s warning of potential inequalities, Africa can chart a different course by leveraging artificial intelligence to foster inclusive growth. The emphasis should be on empowering smallholder farmers, a significant portion of the agricultural workforce, with AI tools and knowledge. Governments, in collaboration with private stakeholders, can play a pivotal role in ensuring equitable distribution of AI benefits.

As Africa stands at a pivotal juncture, the transformative power of artificial intelligence in agriculture offers a unique chance to leapfrog traditional development barriers. Embracing artificial intelligence with a tailored approach can not only bridge technological gaps but also pave the way for building a resilient and prosperous agricultural future. In this AI-driven era, Africa has the opportunity to pioneer a sustainable and inclusive agricultural ecosystem that sets a global standard for progress and equity.


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January 15, 2024 AGRI TECHRESEARCH0

As the global population surges towards 9.6 billion by 2050, the imperative to boost food production by 60% looms large. In this quest for sustainable solutions, the field of hydroponic agriculture has emerged as a promising candidate. Hydroponics, or plant cultivation without soil, provides water efficiency and reduced fertilizer usage compared to traditional soil-based methods.

Recent breakthroughs in the agriculture industry have introduced a revolutionary technology – the eSoil. A low-power bioelectronic growth scaffold, the eSoil stimulates plant growth through electrical stimulation of the root system in hydroponic settings. This innovative solution could potentially transform the agricultural landscape, particularly in regions facing challenges such as minimal arable land or harsh environmental conditions.

The eSoil’s active material, an organic mixed ionic electronic conductor, combined with its structural backbone of cellulose, the most abundant biopolymer, presents a cutting-edge approach to hydroponic cultivation. A notable feature of the eSoil is its ability to house barley seedlings, a staple used for fodder, within its porous matrix. Remarkably, a study by researchers from Linköping University showed that by polarizing the eSoil, seedling growth accelerates, resulting in an average 50% increase in dry weight after just 15 days of growth.

This remarkable growth enhancement extends to both root and shoot development, offering a potential game-changer in the quest for increased crop yields. Notably, the stimulated plants exhibit enhanced efficiency in reducing and assimilating Nitrate (NO3), a key finding that may hold the key to minimizing fertilizer use and, consequently, reducing environmental impact.

READ: How to Advance Africa’s Agriculture Sector with Climate-Smart Policies and Investments

However, the journey of eSoil from laboratory success to widespread agricultural implementation is not without challenges. While the technology displays promise for fodder production, further studies are essential to elucidate its impact on the complete growth cycle of plants. The mechanism behind the eSoil’s influence on nitrogen assimilation requires deeper exploration, yet the potential for a significant reduction in fertilizer dependency offers a glimpse into a more sustainable future.

The eSoil’s unique properties, including its low-power consumption in the micro-watt range, make it a beacon of hope for large-scale adoption in closed environment agriculture. The ability to power the eSoil with photovoltaics adds an eco-friendly dimension to its feasibility, aligning with the growing focus on sustainable farming practices.


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November 30, 2023 AGRIBUSINESSINDUSTRY NEWS0

 

The ARCH Cold Chain Solutions Fund, with significant backing from the European Investment Bank (EIB), has introduced Africa’s first cutting-edge cold storage facility. Nestled within the Tatu City Special Economic Zone in Nairobi, Kenya, this facility, boasting a total investment of US$81 million, including a substantial US$15 million infusion from the EIB, promises to transform the food distribution landscape in East Africa. The main goal is to combat food waste and elevate safety standards in the region.

Spanning an expansive 17,700 square meters, the flagship facility is a marvel of design, offering unparalleled flexibility to accommodate a diverse array of products while operating seamlessly across various temperature ranges. With a storage capacity of up to 18,000 pallets—equivalent to a staggering 18,000 tons of perishable goods and pharmaceuticals at full tilt—the facility is envisioned to make a substantial impact on the region’s supply chain dynamics.

Setting itself apart, the facility is committed to adhering to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Standard, with aspirations for a coveted LEED Gold Certification. The European Investment Bank noted in a press release that, if achieved, this would mark a historic moment as the first facility in Africa to attain such recognition, signifying a significant stride in sustainable infrastructure development across the African continent.

According to IEB, the facility is committed to sourcing up to 30% of its energy needs from off-grid renewable power production, primarily leveraging solar photovoltaic technology to minimize its climate impact. The primary objective of the cold storage facility is to contribute to the reduction of food waste in East Africa.

According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), an alarming 37% of food produced in Sub-Saharan Africa is lost along the value chain. The ARCH Cold Chain Solutions Fund, through its state-of-the-art facility, aims to address this challenge by providing efficient cold storage and temperature-controlled solutions.

According to the Managing Director and Co-Head of ARCH Cold Chain Solutions East Africa Fund, the facility’s strategic expansion plan includes Mombasa, Kigali, Dar es Salaam, Addis Ababa, and Kampala, with an overall vision to reach a combined capacity of 100,000 tons in cold storage space.

The Head of the EIB Regional Hub for Eastern Africa expressed pride in supporting the ARCH Cold Chain Fund, highlighting the unique quality and flexibility offered by the facility for cold storage and acknowledging its role in reducing waste and setting global food safety standards in the region. The ARCH Cold Chain Solutions Fund is dedicated to developing and operating large-scale, energy-efficient cold chain solutions with a comprehensive logistics and distribution network across Eastern and Central Africa.


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November 30, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWS0

 

The recent East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit has ushered in a new era of commitment towards climate-smart policies and investments to fortify the agricultural sector across the continent. The consensus among the leaders is clear: by strengthening climate-smart agriculture and renewable energy, Africa can mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and ensure enhanced food access for its citizens.

One of the key focal points of the summit is the urgent need to augment rainwater harvesting for irrigation purposes, a vital component of sustainable agriculture. The leaders recognize that efficient water management is integral to addressing the challenges posed by climate change. As climate patterns shift, the availability of water for agricultural use becomes a critical factor, and investing in rainwater harvesting emerges as a practical solution.

The heads of state acknowledge the imperative to minimize post-harvest losses through the adoption of modern technologies. The integration of cutting-edge solutions for the storage and distribution of agricultural products is deemed crucial. Embracing these technologies not only ensures food security but also contributes to the economic sustainability of the agricultural sector.

A united stance was taken on the importance of expanding forest cover and safeguarding existing forests. The leaders see this as a strategic move to position the region favorably in carbon trading and climate financing on the global stage. By prioritizing environmental sustainability, the EAC aims to set an example for the rest of the world, emphasizing the interconnectedness of climate, forests, and economic prosperity.

READ: Understanding Carbon Credits and How They Can Be Harnessed In The African Agriculture

Addressing the summit, individual leaders outlined their countries’ specific initiatives, all agreeing to abide by the following stances:

  1. The Climate-Smart Approach

To effectively tackle climate change, the EAC Heads of State emphasized climate-smart agriculture—a holistic strategy that integrates sustainable practices to boost productivity, resilience, and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. This involves adopting modern technologies for better storage, reducing post-harvest losses, and improving the distribution of agricultural products. Furthermore, the leaders acknowledged the crucial role of rainwater harvesting in irrigation agriculture, addressing water scarcity concerns.

  1. Creative Integration in African Agriculture

The nations showcased innovative strategies, with Tanzania’s Build Better Tomorrow initiative focusing on engaging youth and women in agriculture through climate-smart technologies, promoting sustainability, and reducing poverty. Kenya’s commitment to conserving water towers and planting 15 billion trees aims to not only safeguard the environment but also tap into carbon trading for economic gains. On the other hand, Rwanda prioritizes collaboration between the government and the private sector, investing in infrastructure and cold storage to manage post-harvest losses.

  1. Common Purpose for COP 28

The unified stance of approaching COP 28 as a bloc emphasizes Africa’s commitment to addressing climate change on the global stage. This solidarity ensures that the region’s development goals align with climate change mitigation efforts, fostering complementarity among partner states.


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November 30, 2023 BLOGEAGMARK NEWS0
. Recent research reports highlight the disparity between Africa’s agriculture and that of leading food-producing nations like the US, EU, Australia, and Asia.
. The way forward involves significant investments in research, infrastructure, improved data, and technology transfer to foster sustainable productivity to ensure Africa’s competitiveness in the global market.

The agricultural community in Africa is currently struggling with many challenges, including the need to increase production, reduce emissions, and adapt to adverse weather conditions. Compounding these challenges is a decline in government funding for the sector. Recent research reports highlight the disparity between Africa’s agriculture and that of leading food-producing nations like the US, EU, Australia, and Asia, especially in terms of climate funding.

A closer look at the situation in Kenya reveals that while the 2023 government budget suggests a commitment to the agricultural sector, the allocated 49.9 billion Kenya Shillings (about $ 33 million) in the 2023-2024 budget is meant to strengthen operations in research, product development, and processing capacity, which pales in comparison to its peers in the global sphere. Kenya’s investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) as a percentage of its agricultural GDP is notably lower. In contrast, countries like China and the European Union are making substantial investments in revitalizing farmland and supporting sustainable agriculture practices.

Addressing this funding gap is not just a matter of optimizing statistics; it is crucial for securing Africa’s position as a major player in agriculture. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlights the need for increased investments in clean agriculture and substantial government support for research and development to ensure competitiveness in the global market.

Historically, Africa has been a significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, particularly in the Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector. Let’s delve into the details:

To put it in the context of global emissions, GHG emissions reached nearly 50 gigatons of CO2-equivalents per year in 2016. The energy sector accounted for 73% of these emissions, while AFOLU contributed 18% (with agriculture making up 12% of that). Industrial processes and waste management activities constituted the remaining shares. In Africa, AFOLU sectors have historically dominated emissions. These sectors encompass the balance between carbon sequestration (through forests and savannas) and carbon release (due to agricultural practices, deforestation, fires, and forest degradation).

In Sub-Saharan Africa, AFOLU still represents the majority of emissions (56% in 2016, down from 71% in 1990). North Africa, on the other hand, maintains a small negative balance (more sequestration than emissions).

While Africa’s overall contribution to global emissions may be modest, targeted efforts in the AFOLU sector are crucial for sustainable development and climate resilience. There is untapped potential to reduce emissions through initiatives such as carbon offsets and no-till farming. Other mitigation strategies involve the introduction of modern practices such as agroforestry, climate-smart agriculture, and organic farming in agricultural projects. These approaches can lead to reduced CO2 and N2O emissions, contributing to overall GHG mitigation.

Challenges in Agricultural Innovation and the Path Forward

One significant hurdle in advancing agricultural practices in Africa is the lack of advanced soil measurement technology. Concerns include data gaps, modeling accuracy, addressing emerging scientific understandings of indirect emissions, and tackling carbon leakage in emission reduction efforts within agriculture. To address these issues, a comprehensive measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) system throughout the value chain is crucial. Currently, less than 5% of African farmland undergoes testing, primarily relying on traditional, laborious, expensive, and time-consuming methods in soil labs, limiting the speed of data acquisition and analysis.

The cost of cutting-edge technology, such as smart sensors and remote sensing via satellites or drones, poses a barrier to widespread adoption among farmers due to its hefty price tag. Access to accurate data is pivotal for innovation, and collaborative efforts between governments and tech firms are essential to ensuring affordable technology solutions, enhancing efficiency, and curbing environmental impact.

Coherent government policies are essential to streamline investments, encourage collaboration, and provide a clear path for climate-smart agriculture. This involves unified government strategies, inter-governmental collaboration, and evaluating fertilizer emissions through a voluntary and extensively consultative approach. The Fertilizer Emissions Reduction Strategy must focus on emissions intensity per unit of production rather than absolute reduction, recognizing the critical and often costly role of fertilizers for farmers.

Incentivizing innovation in farming, similar to incentives for electric vehicles, requires government intervention through co-investments in new technologies. Agriculture’s strategic focus in Africa’s industrial policy presents a global growth opportunity, given its significance to the economy, environment, and society. Africa, as a major agricultural exporter with US$661.4 billion in exports in 2022 and relationships with nearly all the global countries, holds key markets, including the United States, China, India, and the European Union nations.

Attracting new talent to the agriculture and food sectors in Africa necessitates building a 21st-century talent pipeline with a focus on digital and business skills. Elevating the profile of agriculture as a career choice for youth and individuals transitioning from declining industries requires new educational initiatives and collaboration with academic institutions.

Despite these hurdles, the African agricultural sector has the potential to lead in various areas. By adopting innovative methods like zero tillage, diverse crop rotations, and conservation tillage, countries like Kenya can rejuvenate their agriculture, reduce emissions, and increase yields. Introducing novel crop varieties and organic enhancements, along with investments in these areas, can further strengthen Africa’s position.

To achieve this, there is a need for unified government strategies, inter-governmental collaboration, and a focus on evaluating fertilizer emissions through a voluntary and consultative process. Incentivizing innovation, making agriculture a strategic focus in industrial policy, and attracting new talent through educational initiatives are also crucial steps forward.

The way forward involves significant investments in research, infrastructure, improved data, and technology transfer to foster sustainable productivity, ensure food security, and reduce environmental impacts. As global crises disrupt supply chains and countries face food shortages, prioritizing climate-smart agriculture is crucial. Implementing suitable policies will not only strengthen the economy but also alleviate geopolitical risks and accelerate emissions reductions.

Africa, with its favorable climate and soils, has the potential to emerge as a sustainable global food source, contributing to the challenges of food security, climate change, and sustainable development on a global scale.


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November 24, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWS0

 

Kenya’s President William Ruto announced plans to privatize 35 state-owned companies, with an additional 100 under consideration, in what is termed a transformative step towards economic recovery. The decision comes at a crucial juncture for the East African nation, grappling with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the aftershocks of the conflict in Ukraine, and a historic drought in the Horn of Africa.

President Ruto, speaking to investors on November 23, emphasized the government’s commitment to reducing bureaucracy and enhancing efficiency in the delivery of services. The move is seen as a response to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) recent call for reforms in state-owned enterprises, particularly highlighting the challenges faced by entities such as Kenya Power and Kenya Airways, both of which reported significant losses in 2022.

The Privatization Bill 2023, approved by the Kenyan Cabinet in March 2023, empowers the Ministry of Treasury to facilitate the sale of non-strategic parastatals without the need for parliamentary approval. This radical legislation aims to streamline the privatization process, allowing the private sector to play a more significant role in the nation’s economy.

“We have very lucrative (public) enterprises, but they are stifled by government bureaucracy, whereas the services they offer can be better provided by the private sector,” he asserted. The government’s proactive approach seeks to unleash the potential of these enterprises, positioning them for growth and increased competitiveness.

The revised law, signed into effect in October 2023, seeks to increase private sector participation, reduce the burden on government coffers, and foster economic resilience. Notably, the Privatization Commission will transform into the Privatization Authority, housed within the Treasury, overseeing the implementation of the sales.

READ: New Study Suggests that Nutrient Found in Beef and Dairy Improves Immune Response to Cancer

Among the agricultural state-owned entities earmarked for privatization are Chemelil Sugar, South Nyanza Sugar, Nzoia Sugar, Miwani Sugar, Agro-Chemical and Food Company, Kenya Wine Agencies, and Kenya Meat Commission. Other companies include Kabarnet Hotel, Mt. Elgon Lodge, Golf Hotel, Sunset Hotel Kisumu, Kenya Safari Lodges and Hotels, Consolidated Bank, Development Bank of Kenya, and public universities, among others.

This move comes as part of the government’s broader strategy to address the country’s economic challenges. Kenya’s public debt reached over 10.1 trillion shillings at the end of June 2023, equivalent to around two-thirds of its gross domestic product. In response, the government has introduced a budget that includes new taxes, albeit facing resistance and protests from the public.

President William Ruto’s government has secured financial support from various international institutions, including the IMF and the World Bank, further raising the country’s debt ceiling. On November 16th, the IMF announced that it had finalized an agreement for a loan of $938 million for Kenya, as the nation faces the upcoming repayment of a $2 billion Eurobond in 2024. At the same time, on November 20th, the World Bank disclosed its intentions to extend a financial support package of $12 billion to Kenya over the course of the next three years.

Despite public skepticism about his economic recovery plans, judging from his remarks, President Ruto remains bullish about the privatization initiative, which is expected to generate much-needed revenues, reduce conflicts between regulatory and commercial functions, and spur growth in the capital markets.


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November 24, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWS2

 

A transformative breakthrough is unfolding for cashew nut farmers in the coastal Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) in Kenya. The visionary initiative comes from an economic diversification program aimed at establishing cashew nut nurseries and farms in these regions.

The State Department for Crop Development has been stalwart in advancing agricultural technologies, initially launching four new cashew nut varieties that boast drought tolerance, disease resistance, and a remarkable one-and-a-half-year maturation period, in stark contrast to traditional varieties taking five years. Named Kkrorosho75, Kkorosho 81, Kkrosho 82, and Kkrosho 100, these varieties are set to improve farmers’ earnings by enabling quicker planting, harvesting, and selling cycles.

Cashew nut farming is a good opportunity for Kenyans who want to cultivate in arid areas because it does not require a lot of rain and is drought-tolerant.

However, the industry has been facing unique challenges that saw most of the cashew nut farmers abandon the enterprise for other ventures due to diseases, pricing and climate change challenges that mostly affected the conventional varieties.

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has previously stated that the newly developed cashew nut varieties have the capability to address the challenges previously faced by farmers since they are tolerant to major cashew nut diseases and are resilient to adverse weather conditions since they require minimal water. The new varieties are also said to fetch higher market prices, ranging from about 50-70 Kenya Shillings per kilogram, a significant improvement from the earlier rates of 10 to 20 Kenya Shillings.

According to KALRO, the cashew nut industry supports around 50,000 people, with a production of 10,000 metric tonnes. The demand for cashew nuts far exceeds the current production, presenting a lucrative opportunity for farmers to capitalize on the market, both locally and abroad.

READ: Understanding Carbon Credits and How They Can Be Harnessed In The African Agriculture

Historically, veteran cashew nut farmers in coastal regions had heydays as it was the main economic activity. However, political interference and mismanagement led to the decline of the once-thriving Kenya Cashew Nut Limited, impacting farmers’ livelihoods.

The closure of the processing factory in 1990 dealt a severe blow to the industry, prompting farmers to cut down their cashew nut trees. The void left by the processing plant allowed middlemen to exploit farmers, controlling prices to the detriment of those dependent on cashew nut farming.

To address these challenges and breathe new life into the cashew nut industry, a comprehensive 360-degree approach is needed for implementation of a cashew nut enhancement productivity program, focusing on annual seedling planting, training of farmers, establishing cottage industries to discourage the exportation of raw nuts, value addition, and marketing.

It will take concerted efforts from all stakeholders in order to fully revive the cashew nut industry, with the need for policy direction, organized farmer groups, and strategic investments.


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November 23, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWSRESEARCH0

 

Scientists from the University of Chicago have uncovered the immune-boosting potential of trans-vaccenic acid (TVA), a fatty acid abundant in beef, lamb, and dairy products. This discovery, published in Nature, sheds light on how TVA enhances the effectiveness of immune cells, specifically CD8+ T cells, in infiltrating tumors and combating cancer cells.

Lead researcher Professor Jing Chen, along with colleagues Hao Fan and Siyuan Xia, embarked on a meticulous exploration into the impact of nutrients on anti-tumor immunity. Their work, detailed in the publication, unveils TVA as a standout candidate among 255 bioactive molecules screened for their ability to activate CD8+ T cells. Intriguingly, TVA, found in substantial quantities in human milk and derived from grazing animals, demonstrated superior performance in both human and mouse cells.

The study’s significance extends beyond the laboratory, as the team conducted experiments feeding mice a diet enriched with TVA. The results were striking—tumors, particularly melanoma and colon cancer cells, exhibited reduced growth potential compared to mice on a control diet. Additionally, CD8+ T cells displayed enhanced infiltration into tumors, showcasing TVA’s potential in augmenting the body’s natural defenses against cancer.

Delving deeper into the molecular realm, the researchers harnessed innovative techniques such as kethoxal-assisted single-stranded DNA sequencing (KAS-seq) to uncover how TVA influences cellular processes. Their findings revealed that TVA inactivates the GPR43 receptor on cell surfaces, outperforming short-chain fatty acids often produced by the gut microbiota. This activation triggers the CREB pathway, a cellular signaling process crucial for growth, survival, and differentiation.

READ: Genetic Foundations of Production, Reproduction, and Health in Agriculture

The team also analyzed blood samples from lymphoma patients undergoing CAR-T cell immunotherapy. Strikingly, patients with higher TVA levels exhibited more favorable responses to treatment. Similarly, testing leukemia cell lines demonstrated TVA’s ability to enhance the effectiveness of immunotherapy drugs against leukemia cells.

Despite these promising findings, Professor Chen emphasizes caution regarding dietary implications. While TVA shows potential as a dietary supplement for T cell-based cancer treatments, the emphasis should be on optimizing the nutrient itself rather than increasing consumption of red meat and dairy, which have known health risks. Professor Chen anticipates that other nutrients, possibly from plant sources, may also activate the CREB pathway, opening avenues for further research.

This new research elaborates on the potential of a “metabolomic” approach to understanding how dietary components impact health. Professor Chen and his team aspire to construct a comprehensive library of nutrients circulating in the blood to understand their impact on immunity and broader biological processes, including aging.


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November 23, 2023 BLOG2

 

The relentless downpours this season have left a trail of destruction, with crops submerged and besieged by slugs, marking this November as Kenya’s wettest since the turn of the third decade of the millennium. Fields stand as testament to the deluge; some have already declared losses as seeds languish in waterlogged soil.

Most growers in most of the regions in Kenya have shared their plight. While some cereals managed to find their place in most fields, those sown in the final days of September and October wear a cloak of distress. Farmers anticipate that most of these belatedly planted crops may not give a good yield due to poor establishment. A perceptible shift towards the next cropping season and environmental fallow schemes is on the horizon.

Farmers reckon that currently the soils are saturated, and unless a substantial dry spell graces us, resuming field activities seems unlikely until next year, stressing the need for growers to temporarily shutter their field operations. Comparing this year’s rainy season to its predecessor, there is a significant financial toll as crops already in the ground succumb to the combined forces of rain, seed loss, fuel, herbicides, and labor.

Unprecedented challenges arise in the form of slugs, presenting an agricultural conundrum. Consolate, with over 40 years of farming and agronomy under her belt, admits that she has never seen anything like it. Entire fields of corn, vegetables and other crops succumb to the insatiable appetite of these slimy invaders.

Weed control becomes an additional headache for growers. Some crops, lacking the shelter of a herbicide program, face an uphill battle. Some managed an early pre-emergence herbicide application before the rains hit, but a considerable number did not. There is potential for application opportunities, albeit with a caveat: a subsequent spell of rain could exacerbate the stress on crops.

Sloping terrains introduce another set of concerns, with cautions against leaching and runoff risks, especially when applying herbicides or fertilizer, as chemicals may pollute water sources and aquifers. In areas where fields have been rendered impassable, growers need to utilize post-emergence sprays where necessary.

In extreme scenarios where weed control remains elusive, terminating crops with glyphosate applications can be an option since this minimizes the weed burden and aids the long-term crop rotation strategy.

READ: Understanding Carbon Credits and How They Can Be Harnessed In The African Agriculture

While there is an impediment of wet soils on root development and crop resilience, it is recommended that an early dry season-applied phosphorus spray or fertilizer be used. This, coupled with an easily metabolizable carbon source and amino acids, could foster rooting and provide crops with a much-needed energy boost. Shallow rooting resulting from the sodden rainy season becomes particularly problematic if a dry spring compounds the challenges, leading to potential drought issues.

As we grapple with the repercussions of this season’s inundation, echoes of similar challenges reverberate globally. The resilience of farmers and the adaptability of agricultural practices, especially in regions like Africa, become paramount. The lessons learned from tackling waterlogged soils can serve as a beacon of inspiration for creative integration into African agricultural systems, ensuring sustainable practices amidst unpredictable climates.

All said, the art of managing waterlogged soils demands a delicate balance of experience, innovation, and resilience. As the rains recede in the coming days, farmers face the daunting task of revitalizing fields, embracing lessons learned, and fortifying against future floods.


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November 23, 2023 BLOG0

 

Global warming, fueled by the greenhouse gas effect, poses a significant threat to our planet. Agriculture, contributing to about one-third of global GHG emissions, is both a culprit and a potential savior in this scenario.

Climate change is a consequence of the greenhouse gas (GHG) effect, resulting from the release of GHGs like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). These gases trap sunlight within the atmosphere, causing an increase in temperature. The greater the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere, the more elevated the temperature becomes. Primary sources of GHG emissions stem from various human activities, including electricity and heat production, transportation, agriculture, and alterations in land use. It is estimated that agri-food systems contribute approximately one-third of the total global GHG emissions.

Addressing climate change is especially crucial for countries with lower-middle and low incomes, where agriculture contributes a larger proportion to overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to wealthier nations. A study published in 2020 shows that in low-income countries, agriculture is responsible for 48% of total emissions, whereas in high-income countries, it constitutes 7%. Additionally, research study published in 2023 in the American Association Journal has shown that implementing measures to reduce GHG emissions can be economically viable in middle- and low-income countries. Despite agriculture being a significant source of GHG emissions, it also holds a critical role in mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Understanding Carbon Credits and their Global Impact

To reverse the effects of climate change, the spotlight has now shifted to carbon credits, a mechanism designed to reward those who actively reduce emissions or sequester carbon. This concept forms the backbone of carbon markets, which are either compliance markets regulated by governments or voluntary carbon markets (VCM), where participation is voluntary.

This revolutionary concept has taken center stage in agriculture, promising not only to combat climate change but also to reinforce the financial standing of farmers.

In the intricate web of climate change mitigation, agriculture emerges as a player rather than just a contributor. Farmers, who often bear the brunt of climate change impacts, can now be at the forefront of positive change. By adopting sustainable practices, they can generate carbon credits, a quantifiable unit representing a reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This reduction is achieved by implementing eco-friendly practices, such as avoiding the traditional burning of agricultural residues.

In the heart of this transformative movement lies Africa, where the potential for farmers to enter the carbon credit market is a game-changer. The unique socio-economic landscape of the continent, combined with the growing awareness of climate issues, positions African farmers as key players in this global sustainability movement.

READ: The Controversy and Potential of CDR Technologies

The Process of Carbon Credit Generation

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions involves implementing policies that fall into two main categories: regulations and incentives. Carbon markets, which put a price tag on carbon emissions, are built on these foundations, and there are two types: compliance markets, regulated by governments or international agencies, and voluntary carbon markets (VCM), which offer incentives for emission reduction. Unlike compliance markets, participation in VCM is voluntary, where individuals, companies, or governments trade carbon credits generated from activities like agriculture.

The journey begins with project developers conceptualizing and designing projects tailored to specific carbon offset programs. In Africa, startups and established companies alike are spearheading initiatives, assisting farmers in implementing sustainable agricultural practices. The resulting emissions reduction is validated and verified by third-party bodies, ensuring the credibility of the process.

Recognizing the potential of carbon markets, some governments across the globe are gearing up to launch their own carbon market. The core of these markets lies in carbon credits, where entities can earn financial rewards for reducing emissions below a specified baseline. The reduction is measured in carbon credits, each equivalent to one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), a unit considering the warming potential of CO2, CH4, and N2O.

Consider a scenario where a carbon company or an NGO persuades farmers not to burn crop residue. They propose a plan that if the farmers abstain from burning, they will receive a specified amount of money after verification. The farmer agrees, refrains from burning, and achieves a reduction of 1.5 tonnes of CO2e per hectare compared to the previous season. This reduction translates to the generation of 1.5 carbon credits per hectare, with each credit valued at US$10 in the market. According to the agreement, 60% of the revenue reaches the farmers, resulting in an estimated amount of approximately 1,400 Kenya Shillings per hectare.

Importantly, the disbursal of funds is contingent on a third-party verifier confirming that the farmer has indeed refrained from burning residues, and that the calculations are accurate. This approach not only provides financial incentives for farmers to adopt sustainable practices but also contributes to climate change mitigation. The involvement of a third-party verifier ensures the process’s integrity and credibility, providing assurance to all stakeholders.

Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) Companies as Catalysts

A global shift driven by changing consumer preferences and Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) has placed Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies at the forefront of the carbon credit market. As these companies strive to meet their environmental commitments, they increasingly rely on purchasing carbon credits from farmers, creating a new revenue stream for agricultural communities.

The narrative extends beyond Africa, echoing similar tales from across the globe. Agriculture is evolving into a sector where sustainability is not just an option but a necessity. The collaboration between farmers, CPG companies, and global sustainability initiatives showcases the transformative power of agriculture. Each farmer becomes a key stakeholder in the battle against climate change, simultaneously contributing to a more sustainable and prosperous tomorrow.


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November 23, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWS0

 

The Kenyan government, through the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB), has unveiled a 10-year plan, the Kenya Dairy Industry Sustainability Roadmap 2023–2033, aimed at doubling dairy farmers’ income by increasing milk production per cow. The announcement was made by Mithika Linturi, the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture and Livestock Development, during a launch event in Nairobi.

Linturi emphasized that the primary goal of the government is to raise annual milk production from the current five billion liters to an impressive 10 billion liters. The strategy includes a plan to increase dairy exports to one billion liters, elevate the formally marketed milk percentage from 30% to 50%, and boost the monthly revenue of small-scale dairy farmers to 56,000 Kenya Shillings.

The CS outlined key interventions to achieve these targets, focusing on improved access to fodder and feeds. The roadmap seeks to double the daily milk productivity per cow, addressing the challenge of the current yield per cow, which is below seven liters per day and falls short of global standards.

With an estimated dairy herd population of 5.1 million and over two million smallholder dairy farmers, Kenya currently produces 5.2 billion liters of milk annually, valued at over 230 billion Kenya Shillings. Linturi stressed the importance of enhancing productivity and noted that doubling production per cow is a more practical approach than increasing the size of the dairy herd.

To achieve this, the CS stressed the significance of providing better feeds, veterinary services, and a clean environment, with observable results in less than a week. He acknowledged that low productivity, high production costs, and other inefficiencies have hindered the industry’s potential.

In a bid to address environmental concerns, Linturi revealed the government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy sector by 0.4 Metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030. He highlighted ongoing collaborative efforts, including the “Pathways to Dairy Net Zero” (PADNET) project, developed in partnership with the State Department of Livestock Development, Kenya Dairy Board, UN, FAO, and IFAD.

READ: The 4 Key Roles of Food Traceability in Boosting Consumer Trust

The PADNET project aims to transition the dairy industry to lower greenhouse gas emissions and adapt more climate-resilient dairy systems. Linturi expressed optimism that the roadmap would enable the country to leverage modern technology and climate-smart approaches to competitively produce, process, and market an additional 2.5 billion liters of quality milk annually to meet growing demand.

Margaret Kibogy, the Managing Director of the Kenya Dairy Board, highlighted the roadmap’s goals, including increasing milk production to meet 105% of local demand, enhancing productivity to 20 liters per lactating cow per day for micro-commercial farms, and ensuring 80% of marketed milk undergoes the cold chain.

Developed with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the roadmap envisions modern farming, efficient manufacturing, cutting-edge research and development, increased finance, and expanded trade opportunities with implications for rural transformation.

Kibogy also revealed plans to reduce the retail price of packaged whole milk by at least 20% and provide on-farm coolers to farmers producing over 50 liters of milk per day and located beyond walking distance from a collective cooling facility.


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November 23, 2023 AGRIBUSINESSINDUSTRY NEWS0

Eni Engineer at the oilseed collection and pressing plant (agri-hub) in Makueni, Kenya.

 

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is planning to inject a substantial loan of up to $210 million into Eni Kenya, an Italian firm, in a strategic effort to fortify its Agri-Feedstock Project in Kenya. This visionary initiative by Eni is set to transform agri-business activities in the region, particularly through the establishment of four cutting-edge Agri-Hubs with a combined annual output capacity of 200,000 metric tons of vegetable oil.

The financing from IFC will be channeled into diverse facets of Eni’s agri-business operations, ranging from setting up working capital for feedstock sourcing to the formulation of a risk-sharing facility in collaboration with a Kenyan commercial bank. The latter will play a key role in supporting portfolios of eligible loans, amounting to $60 million, for farmers and aggregators supplying Eni’s Agri-Hubs.

Eni’s Agri-Feedstock Project aspires to make a positive impact on over 700,000 farming families by 2026, escalating to over a million by 2030. This ambitious undertaking aligns with the broader goal of enhancing food security through the production of one million tons of animal feed and fertilizers by 2026, with even more substantial contributions in the subsequent years.

This narrative is not an isolated case in the global agricultural landscape. It resonates with similar success stories from various corners of the world where agri-tech initiatives have spurred socio-economic development. Particularly noteworthy is the trend of rejuvenating degraded lands, a phenomenon witnessed in diverse geographical settings globally.

The Agri-Feedstock Project involves a collaborative effort with third-party aggregators and farmers, a model reminiscent of successful agri-tech ventures worldwide. This cooperative engagement revolves around the supply of agri-feedstock, encompassing cultivated oilseeds and residues from agro-processing and agroforestry, to Eni’s state-of-the-art Agri-Hubs. These hubs serve as transformative platforms where biomasses are processed to yield vegetable oil, subsequently destined for Eni’s bio-refineries in Italy. The refined products, including various bio-energy derivatives like biofuels, contribute significantly to the renewable energy sector.

READ: Bayer and Microsoft Forge Partnership to Address Data Interoperability Gap in Agriculture

Eni’s global footprint in the Agri Feedstock program is expanding, with a target production of 700,000 tons of vegetable oil in 2026 set to soar to over a million tons by 2030. Notably, Eni has already operationalized one Agri-Hub in Makueni County, with construction underway for a second in Kwale County. Looking ahead, plans for the third Agri-Hub slated for early 2025 are in motion, and the location for the fourth Agri-Hub, boasting a production capacity of approximately 100,000 metric tons per year, is currently under assessment.

The Makueni Agri-Hub, commissioned in July 2022, exemplifies the success of Eni’s vision, producing a substantial 15,000 metric tons of oil annually. The feedstock processed here includes non-food oilseeds, such as castor, cultivated in degraded lands, residues from agro-processing like cotton seeds, and residues from nut processing. Additionally, the hub incorporates other oilseeds, like croton, sourced from spontaneous trees abundant in Kenya.

Biofuels produced from non-edible oilseeds like castor and croton are derived from feedstocks that do not compromise food production. These are grown on degraded lands, primarily in arid and semi-arid areas where traditional food production is impractical. Additionally, some of these oilseeds are cultivated in rotation or intercropping with food crops, ensuring a delicate balance between agri-business expansion and food security.


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November 14, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWSRESEARCH0

 

Bayer and Microsoft have unveiled groundbreaking updates in their strategic collaboration in a monumental stride toward a more interconnected and sustainable future for global agriculture. The recent developments showcase a concerted effort to address the long-standing challenge of data interoperability in the agri-food sector. As farmers increasingly harness technology to enhance efficiency and sustainability, the fusion of Bayer’s expertise and Microsoft’s cutting-edge capabilities marks a turning point.

Breaking Down Data Silos

Historically, the vast amount of data generated by satellites, field sensors, drones, and other agri-tech tools faced a critical roadblock – the lack of a common digital infrastructure. This hindered the seamless exchange of information related to production patterns, weather data, and pest tracking. Recognizing this challenge, Bayer and Microsoft have now introduced the Microsoft Azure Data Manager for Agriculture platform. This platform bridges the gap, allowing diverse farm data sources to connect, fostering interoperability, and paving the way for more informed decision-making.

Complementing the Azure Data Manager, Bayer introduces AgPowered Services, a suite of tools developed on the platform to transform data into actionable insights. These services, ranging from crop health monitoring to weather forecasts, leverage Bayer’s agronomic expertise. Farmers, agri-food value chain companies, and stakeholders can utilize these tools to accelerate digital innovation and extract valuable insights into disease tracking, heat stress impact, precision inputs, crop growth patterns, potential yield, crop water usage, and weather analysis.

Building on these advancements, Bayer has strengthened connectivity with Microsoft through strategic collaborations. The flagship digital farming product, Climate FieldView™, now seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Azure Data Manager for Agriculture, facilitating secure and compliant data exchange between Bayer’s platform and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This collaboration enhances accessibility to farm machinery data, addressing a significant challenge in the agricultural technology landscape.

Enroll for the Data Management in Agriculture Course

Machine Data Connectivity and Decoding

In collaboration with leading OEMs such as Stara, Topcon, and Trimble, Bayer is developing AgPowered Services to enable machine data connectivity. Sonata Software, a modernization engineering company, plays a crucial role in this initiative. The aim is to provide an integrated solution for enterprise users, reducing technical investment costs. Additionally, Bayer’s Farm Machinery Decoder, powered by Leaf Agriculture, acts as a bridge, translating machine data from various OEMs and platforms. This service not only accelerates innovation but also streamlines data interpretation for more effective decision-making.

Remote Sensing for In-Season Crop Identification

Bayer, in collaboration with OneSoil, introduces a revolutionary capability – In-Season Crop Identification. This service utilizes satellite imagery for real-time detection of key cash crops across North America, South America, and Europe. The applications of this technology span verification for carbon platforms, government subsidy programs, capacity planning for crop processing companies, and enhanced insurance assessments.

Embracing Microsoft Fabric for Unified Analytics

The collaboration extends beyond Azure Data Manager, with Microsoft Fabric playing a pivotal role. Microsoft’s end-to-end unified analytics platform supports greater interoperability, enabling seamless data movement and transformation in agriculture-specific scenarios. The partnership with Bayer ensures that agriculture-specific connectors and capabilities continually evolve, breaking down limitations imposed by data types and sources.

Ready-to-Use Capabilities for Diverse Solutions

AgPowered Services from Bayer, in conjunction with Azure Data Manager, offers ready-to-use capabilities for a spectrum of businesses – from startups to global enterprises. This collaboration allows the development of digital tools supporting favorable agronomic outcomes for growers or consumer-facing solutions offering insights into nutrients, sustainability, and production practices.

Charting a Sustainable Future

As the agricultural industry embraces this new era of connectivity, the combined efforts of Bayer and Microsoft promise a more sustainable, efficient, and interconnected food system. The ability to leverage data for informed decision-making not only benefits farmers but also aligns with consumer demands for healthier, high-quality food. The unveiling of these advancements stands as a testament to the commitment to revolutionize agriculture on a global scale, bringing us one step closer to a future where technology harmonizes with nature for the greater good.


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The story of genomics in commercial agriculture resonates with transformation, one where cutting-edge technology intersects with the age-old practice of farming. With the arrival of microarray and next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies, agriculture is being revolutionized at another level never witnessed before in the history of the industry. These innovations have become the bedrock of modern farming and breeding practices, offering a glimpse into the future of agriculture.

At the center of this revolution lies the concept of genomic selection and trait screening. Gone are the days of relying solely on physical traits to guide breeding choices. Today, genetic markers are the torchbearers, leading the world toward a new era of selective breeding. These markers are linked to specific values and traits, allowing scientists to screen vast numbers of plants and animals and identify those with the desired characteristics. It’s an ideal solution for traits that are complex, multigenic, and challenging to manage using traditional methods. This technique has not only improved breeding efficiency but also enhanced the precision of trait selections.

The shift towards genomics has resonated with dairy cattle farmers, where genomic testing is rewriting the rules of the game. Cattle farmers around the world have been on record attesting to the power of genotyping, with different experiences that speak of doubled production, longer-lasting cows, and the promising future benefits that genotyping technology offers.

Genomics is also being used to tackle nutritional and environmental challenges, bringing about a transformation in bovine assessment. These efforts strengthen cattle herds and address the challenges of modern livestock farming.

Crop breeding hasn’t been left behind by genomics, and the technology of marker-assisted backcrossing has gained a great deal of prominence in the industry. At advanced levels, the technique, which involves the use of microarrays and NGS, allows researchers to swiftly transmit a single trait of interest from a donor parent to the progeny. This results in a significant reduction in the time required to release commercially viable plant lines or breeding stock. This innovation has paved the way for breakthroughs in crop development, changing the food supply chain on a global scale.

READ: The Rise of Biological Solutions in Sustainable Agriculture

In countries like Brazil, which is the world’s second-largest beef producer and largest beef exporter, genomic selection is being applied in cattle breeding. The technology has greatly improved the breeding of zebu cattle in the country while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact. Other countries are now emulating the same as they seek to meet the growing demands of a burgeoning global population.

Genomics also has the potential to offer a lifeline for the biosecurity of animal populations, with companies having developed genotyping platforms that provide the needed speed, reliability, and scalability for animal identity verification and parentage testing, especially for large-scale producers.

The rise of new infectious diseases among animal populations has prompted a reevaluation of diagnostic tools. Next-generation sequencing has emerged as a game-changer in the field of metagenomics, enabling rapid detection of infectious agents and tracking disease outbreaks. As the world faces evolving health challenges, genomics provides a dynamic and essential solution for safeguarding animal populations.

In cases where single markers may not yield conclusive results, multiple genetic markers come to the rescue. These markers are crucial in identifying animals and determining parentage, particularly in linebreeding situations. It’s a harmonious blend of science and tradition, ensuring the lineage of each animal.

But genomics doesn’t stop at the farm gate. Environmental DNA (eDNA) sequencing is emerging as a vital tool for studying biodiversity without disrupting ecosystems. From biodiversity surveys to ballast water testing, genomics has the potential to transform our understanding of the environment.

Genomics is also at the center of the production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), playing a major role in the molecular characterization of organisms. The efficiency and consistency of NGS have made it the go-to method for event selection and regulatory approval. This transformation has not only benefited the agricultural sector but has also ensured safety and compliance with industry standards and ethics.

Soil metagenomics is another exciting frontier. By understanding and characterizing soil microbial communities, scientists can now optimize land management, crop rotation, and the use of pesticides and fertilizers. It’s a soil-to-plate journey where genomics plays a central role in ensuring the health of crops.

In the grand tapestry of agriculture, genomics is the thread that weaves tradition with innovation and science with practice. As the world embraces this new age of agriculture, we must remember that our roots are firmly planted in the soil, but our eyes are set on the future, guided by the light of new innovations such as genomics.


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The heart of our collective efforts revolves around the workforce that accomplishes the tasks and success is unattainable without the individuals who tirelessly labor, day in and day out. The agricultural sector faces its own distinctive workforce challenges, which include a scarcity of applicants, demanding working conditions, and fierce competition for labor.

While technology isn’t a magic solution, recent advancements offer potential relief from the labor-related burdens that farmers are grappling with. Beyond automating manual tasks and addressing hiring gaps, technology can create a safer and more efficient work environment, which can, in turn, enhance recruitment and staff retention.

For a long time now, agriculture has faced a plethora of challenges, but one issue consistently stands out as a top concern: labor. While other challenges, like government regulations and climate change, have surfaced over the years, labor remains the primary concern. It has become evident that mechanization is the only viable solution for sustaining production worldwide.

However, there is perhaps undue optimism about the speed of mechanization adoption. The development of technology is a gradual process, akin to constructing a skyscraper one story at a time. It’s not characterized by sudden breakthroughs but rather incremental progress. Failures are common in the realm of invention, and the disappointment in the slow progress of robotics can be attributed to the nature of technological development.

The agriculture industry faces the perennial challenge of attracting and retaining labor. However, the younger generation entering the workforce is discovering appealing and innovative opportunities in agriculture, largely thanks to ag tech. This technology is instrumental in attracting young individuals to an industry that is both exciting and purpose-driven.

Young people with a passion for technology see agriculture as a means to make a positive impact on the world. Agriculture is no longer at odds with sustainability; in fact, it leads the way in promoting it. To attract and retain talent, the industry needs to better convey its critical mission and the opportunities it offers for personal and financial growth.

Also, agriculture is one of the few professions with a steady demand for its products. People may choose how to spend their money, but they can’t choose whether or not to eat. This aspect, coupled with opportunities for travel within major agricultural companies, makes agriculture an attractive career option for young professionals.

The rapid transformation of the agriculture industry, driven by technological advancements, demands a different kind of workforce. It requires expertise in satellite technology and data science, placing agriculture in direct competition with tech giants like Google and Microsoft for talent. While those with a background in agriculture may be more inclined to pursue careers in the industry, there is a need to attract non-traditional candidates, including women, who are underrepresented.

Ag tech not only has a “cool factor” but also aligns with the values of the younger generation. It allows them to make a tangible impact on global issues like food security and sustainability. The ability to work remotely and enjoy a better work-life balance adds to the appeal of ag tech careers. These roles offer uncapped career potential and do not require prior agricultural experience.

Universities and technical schools are now offering specialized programs in ag tech, equipping young individuals with the skills and knowledge to excel in the field. This educational support further enhances the attractiveness of ag tech careers. The combination of technological innovation, sustainability objectives, diverse career paths, and success stories within the agriculture industry is drawing more young talent to explore the possibilities that ag tech has to offer.


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October 14, 2023 BLOGEAGMARK NEWS0

 

In an era where health-conscious consumers increasingly seek healthier and sustainable food options, trust in the food system is paramount. Transparency, as revealed by numerous studies, is the cornerstone of this trust and transformation in the agri-food industry. The latest EIT Food Trust Report from 2021 hints at growing consumer awareness, but it also emphasizes that there is more work to be done. Consumers desire clarity regarding the criteria for food products and increased supply chain transparency.

We’ve been witnessing the evolution of consumer preferences and industry dynamics. The need for transparency has never been more apparent, and digital technology is emerging as a vital solution. Digital innovations have made it possible to track, trace, and document the journey of food items through the supply chain, enhancing trust and security in the food we consume.

While trust in the food system has shown some positive growth, there is still much work to be done. Consumers are not only looking for companies to adapt to their needs but also for greater transparency in the food supply chain.

The agri-food industry faces the challenge of producing for a global market while ensuring the integrity and trust of consumers. In the age of complex and extensive supply chains, maintaining visibility throughout the journey of food products has become essential. This visibility is vital in reducing the risks of foodborne illnesses like E. coli, listeria, and salmonella.

READ: Biobanking Initiative to Preserve African Indigenous Chicken

The adoption of traceability technology has emerged as a fundamental solution to this challenge. By using this technology, companies can precisely identify the source, location, and ownership of food products as they traverse the supply chain. This enables them to effectively track and trace potentially contaminated items, ensuring the safety and quality of their products.

Here are four compelling reasons why traceability is pivotal for food and retail companies:

  1. Enhancing Supply Chain Visibility and Efficiency: The days when local farmers and markets were trusted by small communities are long gone. In today’s globalized world, food companies cater to mass markets, making supply chains more intricate. This complexity brings risks of food-borne illnesses. Traceability technology empowers companies to identify the source, location, and ownership of food products, making it easier to track and trace contaminated items, thus ensuring the safety and quality of products.
  2. Ensuring Transparency with Consumers: With concerns about food safety and the increasing desire for certified product origin, traceability has emerged as a guardian of customer confidence. This technology allows companies to transparently share information about the origin of food products with consumers, enabling them to make informed decisions. Whether it’s information about health and sustainability, food safety, or product authenticity, traceability technology equips customers with the evidence needed to trust the food they purchase.
  3. Boosting Company Reputation and Compliance: Companies that embrace traceability can not only enhance their reputation but also communicate their commitment to sustainability, ethical sourcing, and responsible production practices. In today’s market, this commitment can be a competitive advantage. Moreover, as governments worldwide tighten regulations to ensure food safety, traceability is crucial for compliance. Accurate records of product origins and movements demonstrate a company’s commitment to adhering to regulations and avoiding costly fines and legal repercussions.
  4. Risk Management and Consumer Protection: Traceability is a valuable tool for managing risks in the food industry. It enables companies to quickly pinpoint affected batches in the event of a food safety issue or product recall. This minimizes the scope of the problem and protects consumers from potentially harmful products, ensuring that food products meet safety and quality standards and reducing the risk of liability.

The integration of technology and innovation has revolutionized food traceability, with comprehensive systems that provide a detailed view of a product’s lifecycle, from planting or harvesting to the end consumer. Information on production stages, farming locations, inputs, processes, and quality controls is readily available, ensuring product safety and quality. To further empower consumers, farmers and retailers can generate QR codes, allowing customers to access traceability data with a simple scan. This not only enhances consumer knowledge but also fosters trust by providing information on production efforts, safety compliance, and pesticide usage reports, therefore providing consumers with the transparency and confidence they seek when choosing food products.


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The world is bracing itself for a potential increase in chocolate prices due to cocoa crop shortage in the leading cocoa-producing regions of Ghana and Ivory Coast. These two countries collectively supply two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, and their struggles with adverse weather conditions and crop diseases have sent cocoa prices surging by approximately 47% over the past year.

The cocoa market is no stranger to fluctuations, but the combination of recent challenges has raised alarm bells in the sector. Cocoa prices have been on a relentless climb, largely driven by concerns over adverse weather conditions and crop diseases in Ivory Coast and Ghana. These issues have significantly impacted cocoa production, sending shockwaves throughout the industry.

The recent surge in cocoa prices has raised concerns among major chocolate manufacturers such as Hershey Co. and Lindt & Spruengli AG. They have cautioned about potential price hikes that could potentially affect demand in both Europe and the crucial growth market of Asia. This situation has caused ripples across the cocoa supply chain.

“The current situation is looking relatively dire unless there is a dramatic improvement in the outlook. Further price increases could weigh on consumption,” noted Darren Stetzel, Vice President of Soft Commodities for Asia at broker StoneX.

The cocoa crisis is not solely the result of one factor but rather a confluence of challenges. Excessive rainfall, pest infestations, and crop diseases have wreaked havoc on West African cocoa crops. The key question revolves around the size of the two annual cocoa harvests in Ghana and Ivory Coast, with Ivory Coast initially forecasting a nearly 20% decrease in output for the main-crop season.

Rabobank and Marex analysts have projected a drop in West African cocoa output for the 2023-24 season, with Marex even anticipating a global deficit of 279,000 tons, surpassing the combined shortfalls of the previous two seasons. This poses a significant threat to the livelihoods of African cocoa farmers, many of whom are already living below the poverty line.

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Agricultural inputs like fertilizers and pesticides have also become scarcer and more expensive for these farmers, hampering efforts to rejuvenate or treat damaged cocoa trees and address the swollen-shoot disease, which threatens Ivory Coast’s cocoa output, affecting approximately 20% of the nation’s crop.

Despite the jitters, Ghana has taken proactive steps to address the crisis. The country has increased cocoa farmer pay by over 60% to curb smuggling into Ivory Coast and encourage investment. This move may lead to increased cocoa production in Ghana, but challenges remain.

One such challenge is the aging cocoa trees in Ghana, which could contribute to a declining production trend. The cocoa market’s tight supply chain has also resulted in reduced processing of cocoa beans into confectionery products globally. High cocoa prices are starting to impact demand in Asia, with Swiss grinder Barry Callebaut AG reporting lower sales in July.


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October 5, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWSRESEARCH0

 

A project aimed at creating four potato varieties resistant to late blight disease is poised to revolutionize the industry. Launched in late 2021, the initiative, known as the Global Biotech Potato Partnership, is a collaborative effort involving scientists from Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, with coordination by Michigan State University. Key partners in this endeavor include the International Potato Center (CIP) in Africa, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), and the Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).

Late blight disease has long plagued potato farmers, causing heavy losses and necessitating frequent chemical spraying. Farmers often resort to spraying their crops up to 20 times in a growing season to combat this devastating disease. Dr. Eric Magembe, the project leader in Kenya and a member of CIP, emphasized the need for a more sustainable solution, acknowledging the losses farmers incur during their production process and thus, the intent to choose the best variety out of the four to distribute to farmers and eventually enhance potato output for food and nutritional security, as well as for revenues.

One of the most significant benefits of developing late blight-resistant potato varieties is the reduced need for chemical spraying. Dr. Magembe highlighted the positive impact on both the environment and the general health of farmers, stating, “The environment and the general health of farmers will benefit from the use of fewer chemicals to combat the disease in these GMO potatoes.”

The project in Kenya has already progressed past the confined field trials (CFTs) stage in the Njabini, Muguga, and Molo potato-growing districts. Experts are currently assessing the potentials of the four genetically modified biotech potato types in these regions. Dr. Catherine Taracha, the project’s Principal Investigator (PI) at KALRO, explained that the data gathered from the CFTs would be crucial in determining which varieties should advance to the National Performance Trials (NPTs) stage.

Dr. Taracha stressed the significance of this project for smallholder potato farmers in Kenya, who face numerous challenges, including the relentless threat of late blight. She noted, “Many smallholder potato farmers in Kenya are faced by a number of challenges including potato late blight, whose management continues to be a difficult process by the growers owing to their limited production capacity.”

READ: Biobanking Initiative to Preserve African Indigenous Chicken

Despite being the second most cultivated crop in the country and employing over 2.5 million people, Kenya loses a staggering 30 to 60 percent of its potato yield to the deadly late blight disease each year. Dr. Taracha underlined the necessity of developing biotech varieties to combat this issue, saying, “Due to the inability of resource-strained farmers to control late blight, the optimum management of the disease in the country is likely to be achieved through the development of biotech varieties.”

The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) has granted KALRO and its project partners authorization to conduct late blight disease trials over three growing seasons within the nationwide Multi-Location CFTs (ML-CFTs). Mr. Erick Korir, principal biosafety officer at the NBA, explained that this extended testing period would provide ample data to guide the subsequent phases of the project. He also emphasized the importance of strict biosafety guidelines for field testing biotech crops, given their use of foreign genes. Consequently, the tested biotech potato varieties must remain on the CFT trial site until they receive NBA approval for release into the environment.

Compared to traditional potato varieties, which are significantly affected by late blight, the results from the second round of ML-CFTs reveal that biotech potatoes exhibit higher yields and do not necessitate any chemical spraying.

This ambitious project holds the promise of not only transforming potato farming in Kenya but also offering hope to potato farmers in other countries grappling with late blight disease.


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October 4, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWSRESEARCH0

 

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has embarked on a mission to preserve Africa’s indigenous chicken breeds by conducting a transformative training program for twenty-five scientists hailing from eastern and central Africa. The workshop, held at the National Animal Genetic Resource Centre and Data Bank (NAGRC&DB) in Entebbe, Uganda, focused on avian reproductive biotechnology and aimed to equip experts with the knowledge and skills needed to conserve and enhance the genetic resources of Africa’s indigenous chickens.

Indigenous chicken populations have long been under threat from diseases, genetic challenges, breeding limitations, and natural disasters. These challenges jeopardize the rich genetic diversity present in these chickens, which have adapted to the African environment over generations.

The training, conducted from September 4th to 9th, was part of the ‘Biobanking of Indigenous Chicken Breeds’ project. This initiative aims to safeguard the genetic heritage of African and Southeast Asian indigenous poultry breeds for future use, ultimately enhancing their resilience and productivity.

Traditionally, preserving biological materials in birds has been reliant on semen, which has limited the conservation of certain crucial genetic elements. Moreover, the unique structure of avian eggs posed a challenge, as it made preserving ova and fertilized embryos difficult. Christian Tiambo, a scientist at ILRI and one of the trainers, pointed out these challenges but also presented a solution.

Avian primordial germ cells (PGCs), the initial population of germ cells established during early development, can be extracted and reintegrated into recipient embryos, preserving the complete genetic makeup of the avian stock. This breakthrough technique enables the conservation of avian genetic diversity without relocating genetic material from its original regions or countries.

Mary Mbole Kariuki, a technology and innovation specialist at the African Union-InterAfrican Bureau of Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), highlighted the importance of preserving indigenous animal genetics, which are well-suited to the African environment and play a crucial role in sustaining livelihoods.

The six-day training program included lectures on stem cell biobanking and hands-on laboratory sessions using Ugandan chicken ecotype eggs. Participants also had the opportunity to visit NAGRC&DB, an AU-IBAR regional animal resources seed center of excellence.

READ: McKinsey: Alternative Seafood to Meet Growing Global Demand

Jackson Mubiru, head of assisted animal reproductive technologies at NAGRC&DB, emphasized the vital role of biobanking in conserving poultry breeds for research purposes, particularly in enhancing disease resistance and productivity.

Ben Lukuyu, a senior scientist and ILRI Uganda’s country representative, shared ILRI’s regional research findings, underlining the significant impact of improved genetics on household incomes and livelihoods. He pointed out that ILRI’s work in the Ugandan pig sector had demonstrated that smallholder farmers could increase their incomes by accessing more productive breeds.

With the poultry sector in Uganda rapidly expanding and incorporating breeds from around the world, this training not only presents research opportunities but also holds the potential to boost smallholder livestock farming while safeguarding local breeds.

The training program is creating a community of practice to facilitate knowledge transfer and support national agricultural research services in livestock development using stem cell biobanking in Africa. Materials used during the training have been biobanked, and the conservation actions initiated during the event will be extended and implemented by the trainees in their respective countries.

The outcomes of this training will also serve as an advocacy tool for the development of local poultry conservation programs in eastern Africa and their related value chains, ultimately leading to improved livelihoods for communities in the region.

The ‘East Africa training workshop on reproductive and surrogate technologies for biobanking and restoration of indigenous chicken genetic resources’ held in September marks a significant step forward in avian reproductive and surrogate biotechnology in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This collaborative initiative on south-to-south cooperation is supported by the International Livestock Research Institute, the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health, the African Union Development Agency, the African Union-InterAfrican Bureau of Animal Resources, and the National Animal Genetic Resource Centre and Data Bank. Participants in this groundbreaking training came from Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Cameroon, and Uganda, reflecting the regional and collaborative nature of the endeavor.


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Image Credit: KALRO

 

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has raised the alarm over the dire consequences faced by farmers who unwittingly fall victim to counterfeit seeds that have proliferated in the Kenyan market. Dr. Lusike Wasilwa, the director of Crops at KALRO, spoke passionately about the pressing issue, emphasizing the need for immediate action to safeguard the livelihoods of countless farmers from these deceptive practices.

Dr. Wasilwa revealed that the infiltration of counterfeit seeds into the Kenyan agricultural market has been a persistent and devastating problem. These fraudulent products have been identified as the primary cause of poor crop yields and decreased agricultural productivity, ultimately leading to elevated living costs due to a higher dependence on food imports.

Speaking at the opening of a new Mkulima shop in Mwea, Kirinyaga County, Dr. Wasilwa unveiled KALRO’s proactive approach to addressing this crisis. The organization plans to establish an impressive total of 16 additional shops across Kenya. These shops will serve as a beacon of hope for farmers, offering them access to authentic, certified, and high-quality seeds directly from KALRO.

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One startling revelation from Dr. Wasilwa is that even KALRO’s own bean variety, ‘Nyota’, has fallen victim to counterfeiting. Unscrupulous actors have taken to branding counterfeit seed bags with the KALRO and ‘Nyota’ labels, duping unsuspecting farmers into purchasing fake products. This nefarious practice not only jeopardizes farmers’ yields but also tarnishes the reputation of dedicated scientists and researchers who work tirelessly to improve agricultural practices.

Dr. Wasilwa conveyed KALRO’s unwavering commitment to combating counterfeit seeds by expanding the reach of the Mkulima shops. The organization’s ambition is to establish these vital outlets in all of its 54 centers nationwide. By doing so, KALRO aims to ensure that every farmer in Kenya can access genuine, top-quality seeds, thereby bolstering the agricultural sector and fostering food security.

The issue of counterfeit seeds is not unique to Kenya, as it has plagued farmers globally, undermining food security and economic stability. Counterfeit seeds not only pose a direct threat to farmers’ income but also impact the wider economy.


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October 3, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWSRESEARCH0

 

A new study by McKinsey & Company shows that the global demand for fish and shellfish is on a rapid ascent, and the alternative protein industry seems ready to provide a sustainable solution to meet this surging demand. With billions of people relying on oceans for livelihoods and sustenance, the call for fish protein is on an upward trajectory, with projections indicating a 14 percent growth by 2030 compared to 2020 levels. This demand surge is particularly pronounced in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Oceania. However, this pressing demand for seafood coincides with the alarming reality that over 85 percent of the world’s fisheries are already pushed to their limits or beyond.

The critical conundrum emerges: how can we meet this growing demand when wild-caught seafood production remains stagnant? While aquaculture has partially bridged the gap in recent years, it has struggled to keep pace with the ever-increasing appetite for seafood. Enter “alternative seafood,” a promising solution that seeks to replicate popular fish and shellfish, such as tuna, salmon, and shrimp. Though in its nascent stages, the alternative seafood industry shows substantial promise through three distinct production options: plant-based, fermentation-enabled, and cultivated.

Global Demand Surges Amidst Production Constraints

The report by McKinsey & Company indicates that the global appetite for seafood is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Economic growth in countries correlates with an increased per-capita protein consumption, with seafood becoming a preferred choice. For instance, a recent survey in Singapore revealed a fivefold surge in seafood interest compared to a decade ago.

However, McKinsey demonstrates that there is a worrisome imbalance between this soaring demand and the overexploitation of fish stocks worldwide. Since the 1990s, global fish catches have dwindled by approximately 1 percent annually, primarily due to overfishing. This depletion has led many regions to limit existing fishing licenses and make new quotas exceedingly rare.

Despite these challenges, the OECD predicts that global fish production will reach 203 million metric tons by 2031, with aquaculture production surpassing wild catch around 2024. Yet, this growth might not be enough to meet the escalating demand, especially for sought-after species like salmon, given regulatory constraints and protections for wild fish.

Alternative seafood products are immune to many of these restrictions, providing a viable solution for scaling production. Innovations ranging from plant-based fish sticks to “whole cut” products and sushi-ready items like smoked salmon substitutes hold great promise for the industry’s future.

Drawing Lessons from the Alternative Meat Industry

While alternative proteins have historically focused on chicken, pork, and beef, seafood represents a more diverse and complex food category, with numerous species consumed worldwide. For instance, the tuna market, the third-largest in annual production, is simultaneously vulnerable to overfishing, challenging to farm, and possesses a substantial carbon footprint.

The McKinsey report suggests that for the alternative seafood industry to flourish, it must carefully consider these factors, including price points, consumer expectations, and regional preferences, when developing strategic products.

Challenges and Opportunities

The McKinsey analysis elucidates that alternative seafood faces several hurdles on its path to scalability, the most prominent being cost. Achieving production costs comparable to premium species remains a significant challenge. Nonetheless, this challenge presents an opportunity, as high-end species are particularly attractive to alternative producers, given their more achievable target prices.

Moreover, customer acceptance is crucial. Consumers expect high-quality alternatives that accurately mimic the taste, texture, and appearance of the original seafood. The industry must cater to the diverse preferences of different fish and shellfish varieties and take regional preferences into account.

READ:  Kenya Ramps Up Support for Fish Industry to Boost GDP

Unique Advantages

Despite these challenges, alternative seafood boasts unique advantages that can fuel its growth. Local production eliminates the need for costly and polluting long-distance transportation, making it an environmentally-friendly option. Furthermore, alternative seafood can provide the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids while circumventing the risks associated with mercury levels in traditional fish.

Additionally, alternative seafood doesn’t face the same hurdles in obtaining fishing and farming licenses, which can be cumbersome for traditional seafood producers.

Production Options and the Path Forward

The alternative seafood industry relies on three primary production options: plant-based, fermentation-enabled, and cultivated.

  • Plant-based alternatives utilize ingredients like soy, seaweed, yeast, legumes, and various vegetable oils and starches. These products, such as alternative tuna and scallops, have already entered the market, offering a more accessible and less regulated path compared to other alternatives.
  • Fermentation-enabled alternatives employ microbes in food production, with methods like biomass fermentation holding potential for alternative seafood. Biomass fermentation involves fast-growing microorganisms like algae or fungi and has been used to create mycelium-based products like steak.
  • Cultivated seafood relies on cells harvested from popular fish or shellfish, which are then cultured in bioreactors on biocompatible scaffolds to replicate the taste and texture of live-caught seafood. Although still in development, this approach shows promise but requires rigorous regulation and certification.

Paving the Way Forward

McKinsey analysis further shows that the alternative seafood industry faces the challenge of identifying target consumers and crafting messages that resonate with them. While the sector holds significant promise for addressing environmental concerns, it must also cater to non-premium consumers by offering lower price points.

The report concludes that alternative seafood presents a compelling solution to meet the surging global demand for fish and shellfish while reducing the environmental impact of fishing. To realize its potential, the industry must overcome challenges, innovate, and learn from the success of alternative proteins. As these products become more established in the market, their impact on consumer preferences and traditional fish production remains to be seen, but the future is promising for alternative seafood’s role in the sustainable food landscape.


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October 2, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWSRESEARCH0

 

In the ever-evolving world of agriculture, one resounding message reverberates: farmers worldwide are grappling with the relentless impacts of climate change and economic pressures. These findings are the heart of the “Farmer Voice” survey, a comprehensive study commissioned by Bayer, a life science company, and conducted by an independent agency. It’s a clarion call to action for the global agricultural community, as well as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of those who tend the Earth’s fields.

Climate Change Takes Center Stage

The survey paints a stark picture of the challenges faced by farmers across the globe. A staggering 71% of respondents affirmed that climate change has already left a substantial mark on their farms, and an even larger majority expressed concern about its impending consequences. Specifically, 76% of farmers worldwide voiced their anxieties about the potentially devastating effects of climate change, with Kenyan and Indian farmers emerging as the most concerned.

These concerns are not unfounded. Climate change has led to a surge in pest and disease pressure, as reported by a significant 73% of those surveyed. Moreover, farmers estimate a disheartening 15.7% reduction in their incomes over the past two years directly attributed to climate change. Alarmingly, one in six farmers has faced income losses exceeding 25% during this period, a somber testament to the profound impact of climatic shifts.

Rodrigo Santos, a Member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and President of the Crop Science Division, emphasized the gravity of the situation. “Farmers are already experiencing the adverse effects of climate change on their fields, and at the same time, they play a key role in tackling this huge challenge,” he noted. Santos underlined the urgent need to put farmers’ voices at the forefront of global discussions, recognizing the threat climate change poses to global food security.

Economic Challenges Compound the Pressure

While climate change takes center stage, economic challenges loom large on the horizon. Over the next three years, economic concerns top the list of priorities for farmers, with 55% naming fertilizer costs among their top three challenges. Energy costs (47%), price and income volatility (37%), and the cost of crop protection (36%) follow closely behind. This concern is particularly pronounced in countries like Kenya, India, and Ukraine, where farmers grapple with the dual burden of economic challenges and climate change impacts.

For Ukrainian farmers, fertilizer costs are especially burdensome, with 70% citing it as a top challenge, mirroring the broader economic struggles faced by the country due to ongoing disruptions. Notably, 40% of Ukrainian farmers also mentioned the general disruption caused by the ongoing conflict as a significant challenge.

Innovations to Combat Climate Change

Farmers are not merely passive victims of climate change and economic challenges; they are actively seeking solutions. More than 80% of surveyed farmers are already implementing or planning measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cover crops (43%), renewable energy or biofuels (37%), and innovative seeds to reduce fertilizer or crop protection use (33%) are top priority areas for sustainability efforts. Additionally, biodiversity conservation is a focal point, with 54% of farmers applying or planning measures to protect insects.

In terms of technology and innovation, farmers are eager for access to seeds and traits designed to withstand extreme weather conditions (53%), improved crop protection technology (50%), and better access to irrigation technology (42%). Improving land use efficiency, crop diversification, and soil health are also key strategies identified by farmers to secure a sustainable future.

Spotlight on Indian Smallholder Farmers

In a unique addition to the global survey, Bayer interviewed 2,056 Indian smallholder farmers, shedding light on the unique challenges faced by this critical demographic. While labor and fertilizer costs are their primary concerns, they also grapple with climate change-induced challenges such as reduced crop yields (42%) and increased pest pressures (31%). To mitigate these risks, Indian smallholders prioritize financial security through insurance (26%) and infrastructure improvement (21%).

Looking ahead, 60% of Indian smallholders believe that access to digital technologies and modern crop protection would be the most beneficial for their farms. Despite the challenges they face, a remarkable 80% of these smallholders remain optimistic about the future of farming.

A Global Consensus

The “Farmer Voice” survey stresses the global consensus among farmers on the pressing issues of climate change and economic pressures. While some variations exist between countries, the overarching concerns remain consistent. Rodrigo Santos concluded, “Farmers are facing multiple and related challenges. But despite this, we found that they are hopeful – almost three-quarters say they feel positive about the future of farming in their country.”

These survey results serve as a potent call to action for the entire food system to innovate, collaborate, and deliver the solutions that farmers urgently need. With a growing world population and limited time to address these issues, the global community must prioritize sustainable agriculture practices to ensure the resilience and prosperity of farming in the face of adversity.

The “Farmer Voice” survey, encompassing 800 farmers from eight countries, offers a crucial glimpse into the challenges and aspirations of those who feed the world. Conducted independently and anonymously, the survey offers unfiltered insights that demand our attention. As we navigate an uncertain future, it’s clear that the voices of farmers must be heard, and their concerns addressed promptly.


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September 29, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWS0

 

Kenyan smallholder tea farmers are gearing up to receive a staggering KSh.44.15 billion in bonus payments, marking an all-time high for the sector. These payments are set to be disbursed over the next two weeks, by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) to recipients in its 54 affiliated factories, which serve approximately 600,000 farmers.

This impressive bonus payout is set to elevate the total earnings of tea farmers by a remarkable 7.6 percent, reaching an unprecedented KSh.67.7 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30. A key driver of this substantial growth is the improved performance of tea prices on the international market, with the average selling price surging to KSh.341 per kilogram, up from KSh.311 in previous years. As a result, tea farmers are expected to pocket an average of KSh.59.02 per kilo of green leaf sold, reflecting a substantial 17.6 percent increase from last year’s figure of KSh.50.18.

“This year’s record-breaking payout for smallholder farmers can be attributed to a combination of factors, including increased sales volume, astute cost management, and a favorable foreign exchange regime. Furthermore, the surge in sales of orthodox tea has significantly contributed to higher earnings, with 10 million kilograms of orthodox tea sold compared to a mere three million kilos in the previous year,” shared KTDA’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Ndiga Kithae.

Remarkably, this increase in earnings occurred in the face of a notable nine percent decline in green leaf production. The year ending June witnessed a drop in green leaf production to 1.145 billion kilograms, down from 1.254 billion kilograms in the previous year, marking the lowest output since 2019. Drought conditions and a lack of adequate rainfall contributed to a 1.6 percent contraction in the agricultural sector.

Notably, Kiambu County was among the hardest-hit areas, with factories in Kambaa, Kagwe, Gacharage, and Nduti experiencing a decline in output by 15.2 percent. Similarly, Kericho and Bomet counties experienced a 14.3 percent reduction, while Kisii and Nyamira saw an 8.5 percent decline.

Breaking down the green leaf payout, farmers in the Kericho and Bomet regions are set to receive the largest share, amounting to KSh.16.1 billion, after supplying an impressive 305.4 million kilograms during the cycle. Smallholder farmers served by factories in Kapkoros, Tirgaga, Olenguruone, and Motigo will collectively receive KSh.4.9 billion from the total payout, marking the highest payment by sub-region.

In a close second, growers in the Kiambu region will collectively earn a total of KSh.12.8 billion, followed by Kirinyaga-Embu (KSh.10.4 billion), Meru (KSh.9.6 billion), Muranga-Nyeri (KSh.8.9 billion), Kisii-Nyamira (KSh.7.5 billion), and Vihiga-Kakamega-Nandi (KSh.2 billion).

The improved pricing for green leaf shows the ongoing reforms within the tea sector. The introduction of a minimum tea price/reserve price at the Mombasa auction in July 2021 has played a pivotal role in ensuring that farmers’ teas are not sold below a certain price point, thus translating into higher earnings per kilo of sold tea.

Furthermore, the favorable exchange rate, with green leaf sold in the international market in dollar terms, has also contributed to enhanced earnings in comparison to local currency terms.


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Namibia has suspended the import of live poultry, birds, and poultry products from its neighbor South Africa following the persistent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). This precautionary step, communicated by Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture, has been put into effect immediately and is set to endure until further updates are provided.

South Africa finds itself in the throes of a significant bird flu outbreak, marked by disheartening reports that nearly two million chickens have succumbed to this debilitating disease. Poultry producers, including industry giants Quantum Foods and Astral Foods, are grappling with substantial losses, tallying up to approximately R22 million.

Namibia’s reliance on South African poultry products, especially chicken, is substantial, with an estimated monthly consumption of 2,500 tons. Consequently, the suspension of imports from South Africa will reverberate through Namibia’s poultry industry and impact its consumers significantly.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza, a contagious viral disease, casts a shadow of menace over poultry populations. Namibia’s decision to halt imports from South Africa shows its commitment to protect its domestic poultry sector and shield its territory from the disease’s introduction.

Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture has issued prudent advice, urging both the public and stakeholders within the poultry sector to remain vigilant and diligently adhere to biosecurity measures. Hopefully, the authorities in both Namibia and South Africa will collaborate closely to contain the outbreak in South Africa and curtail its repercussions on the broader regional poultry sector. This united effort will curtail the spread of avian influenza within Namibia’s borders.

In the interim, the Namibian public and stakeholders in the poultry industry have been encouraged to actively cooperate with relevant authorities to contain the disease’s spread and mitigate its economic impact.

Earlier in the year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it was conducting trials for a new avian influenza vaccine designed to prevent the spread of the virus. The vaccine targets a specific part of the avian flu virus and is designed to be highly effective and provide long-lasting protection against the disease. The trials are being conducted in partnership with several poultry producers across the US. If successful, the vaccine could be made available to producers in the near future, providing a valuable tool in the fight against avian flu and helping to protect the health and wellbeing of both poultry and humans.


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September 29, 2023 AGRIBUSINESSINDUSTRY NEWS0

 

During the official launch of the 2023 Agricultural Society of Kenya’s (ASK) Nairobi International Trade Fair, Kenya’s President William Ruto unveiled a comprehensive plan to breathe new life into Kenya’s coffee sector. The Coffee Revitalization Program (CRP) is planned to uplift 72 coffee factories, aimed at addressing the persistent challenges that have beleaguered the industry for years.

The president’s announcement was met with anticipation and optimism among the gathered stakeholders, and for good reason. He shared his government’s commitment to providing farmers with subsidized seedlings and fertilizers, a move expected to significantly boost coffee production. The government’s goal is to double the annual coffee production from the present 50,000 metric tons to an impressive 102,000 metric tons by 2027.

Beyond the promise of higher yields, President Ruto conveyed his unwavering commitment to eliminating wastage, inefficiency, and corruption within the sector and ensure that coffee farmers truly reap the benefits of their toil.

Kenya’s agricultural productivity has been stagnant in the face of a burgeoning population. This, coupled with the failure of food production to meet domestic demand, has led to increased imports, trade deficits, and rising food prices, which now constitute a staggering 54 percent of household expenditure. It is a vicious cycle that urgently requires intervention.

In his statement, President Ruto further stated that increased agricultural productivity holds the key to breaking this cycle, further adding that agriculture has the potential to employ a substantial 70 percent of the population, making it a linchpin in the battle against poverty. By harnessing this full potential, Kenya can reduce its dependence on food imports, safeguard its foreign exchange reserves, and insulate itself from international price shocks.

“Our global competitiveness in agriculture,” the President added, “extends beyond traditional crops like tea, coffee, cut flowers, and vegetables. It also encompasses emerging export crops such as macadamia and avocado.” It’s a testament to the nation’s agricultural prowess, which, if tapped to its fullest, can propel Kenya to even greater heights on the global stage.

In addition to the coffee sector, President Ruto also addressed the challenges facing the sugar industry. He emphasized that the government is actively working on measures to ensure that farmers in the sugar belt regions reap the benefits of their labor. He reiterated that the sugar sector holds a special place in his vision for national development, wealth creation, and employment generation, adding that he is in discussions with leaders from cane-growing areas to devise strategies that address issues like aging mills, institutional indebtedness, soil fertility, land competition, and low adoption of researched cane varieties and fertilizers.


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September 26, 2023 INDUSTRY NEWS0

The sun-soaked groves of Florida, once the heartland of citrus production, have witnessed a staggering decline in orange production over the past two decades. In 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated Florida’s orange production at a robust 242 million boxes. By 2022, this figure had plummeted to a mere 41 million boxes. While various factors contributed to this alarming drop, none has garnered more attention than the relentless scourge of citrus greening.

Citrus greening, scientifically known as Huanglongbing (HLB), is a devastating disease transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny insect that carries the Liberibacter bacteria into a tree’s vascular system. Symptoms of HLB include mottled leaves, stunted growth, reduced fruit size, premature fruit drop, and, ultimately, tree death. Since its first detection in Florida in 2005, HLB has spread across the state, reducing citrus production by a staggering 75% and doubling production costs.

The global reach of this scourge is undeniable, with HLB making its presence known in several citrus-producing countries worldwide. From Brazil to China, eastern and southern Africa to the Indian subcontinent, and even the Saudi Arabian Peninsula, citrus growers everywhere have faced the relentless onslaught of this disease.

Finding a solution to combat HLB has proven elusive due to the unique challenges posed by the Liberibacter bacteria. Dr. Kurt Ristroph, an Assistant Professor at Purdue University, explains, “It can’t be grown in a dish because the dish isn’t similar enough to the phloem environment.” Consequently, the most effective solution to date has been the removal of infected trees.

However, a glimmer of hope has emerged in the form of Invaio’s groundbreaking Trecise technology. Unlike traditional injection treatments, Trecise uses a minimally invasive system to introduce small amounts of active ingredients directly into a tree’s vascular system. This approach aims to manage, rather than eradicate, the bacteria, a significant shift in strategy. Initial trials on bearing trees have shown a remarkable 30% increase in yield after just one treatment, with further increases expected with consecutive treatments.

Arcadia-based TriYield has also entered the fray, employing Aqua-Yield’s nanoliquid solution to treat infected trees with zinc and indole acetic acid, resulting in reduced fruit drop. Landon Bunderson, Chief Science Officer for Aqua-Yield, notes that the technology has improved calcium and potassium uptake, essential for healthy tree growth, and has shown promise in directly combating the infection.

However, the pervasive nature of HLB means that treated trees are susceptible to reinfection, necessitating regular injections. Dr. Ristroph highlights another challenge, stating, “The disease lives deep inside these trees, so getting through all the physiological barriers to reach the site of infection with an antibiotic is a major challenge.”

Research into HLB treatment has been ongoing for over a century, with recent efforts gaining momentum. In 2017, Bayer partnered with the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF), securing a substantial grant to fund a multi-year study. In California, researchers at the University of California Riverside have discovered a peptide that suppresses the disease’s effects, offering a potential breakthrough.

The U.S. citrus industry, valued at over $3.3 billion, is not the only region grappling with HLB. Brazil, a major orange producer, has seen a 56% increase in citrus greening in its main orange-producing regions. To combat the disease, the government has implemented strict measures, including the elimination of infected trees.

Syngenta, a prominent player in the agricultural industry, suggests a two-pronged approach involving the use of neonicotinoids and foliar insecticides, coupled with a root health treatment program. This multifaceted strategy aims to combat both the insect vector and the disease itself.

As we stand at the intersection of science, innovation, and determination, the battle against citrus greening continues. With each breakthrough, the hope of rejuvenating the citrus industry grows stronger. The struggle to save the groves is far from over, but the unwavering commitment of researchers and growers offers a promising future for citrus cultivation.


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September 26, 2023 AGRO BIOLOGICALRESEARCH0

Nutrition Technologies has introduced Vitalis™, a patent-pending, 100% natural bioactive spray derived from Black Soldier Fly (BSF) frass. This innovative product has been carefully fermented and enriched with additional chitin and a unique microbial inoculant, Bacillus halotolerans, sourced directly from BSF larvae. The result? An immensely effective plant protection product that enhances natural plant defenses against pathogens and bolsters drought tolerance.

Nutrition Technologies, a pioneer in insect-based solutions, has been at the forefront of this revolutionary approach since 2015. Their commitment to leveraging natural systems and upcycling nutrients aligns perfectly with the principles of Decomposition Ecology. With a dedicated team of over 20 scientists and a state-of-the-art microbiology laboratory, they have subjected their products to rigorous testing both internally and with third-party collaborators.

Vitalis™ is meticulously formulated to address multiple facets of plant health. It acts as a potent shield against fungal diseases, promotes the proliferation of beneficial microbes, and delivers essential micronutrients to plants. The key to its success lies in the microbial inoculant and insect chitin. The isolated bacteria, a marvel from the larvae’s digestive system, has been proven to suppress plant pathogens by an astounding 96%. Meanwhile, the chitin, sourced from mature larvae exoskeletons, encourages the growth of chitin-degrading bacteria in the liquid, which effectively combats pathogenic fungi.

This harmonious blend fortifies the plant’s natural defenses, creating robust and disease-resistant foliage and root zones. Unlike conventional methods reliant on fungicides and aggressive soil treatments, Vitalis™ nourishes the soil by enhancing microbial activity, increasing nutrient availability, and ultimately promoting healthier plants. According to Nutrition Technologies, a single bottle of Vitalis™ packs a punch with 12 billion beneficial bacteria, providing a quick and efficient method to enhance soil microbial profiles and safeguard plants from fungal infections.

Versatility and Sustainable Production

Vitalis™ offers a versatile application, suitable for use as both a foliar spray and root drench. It can be employed on its own or in combination with Diptia®, another bioactive fertilizer from Nutrition Technologies.

Nutrition Technologies have also developed a low-energy tropical production system, a remarkable fusion of micro-organisms and Black Soldier Flies, capable of converting 60,000 metric tons of organic by-products annually into value-added products for livestock and agriculture. The Black Soldier Fly larvae, thriving in the Malaysian climate, require minimal energy for growth and breeding. This unique approach ensures not only cost-effective production but also maintains the highest standards of quality and safety. The company’s products are shipped worldwide, from Asia to North & South America and Europe, demonstrating their commitment to global agriculture.

A Critical Innovation for Food Security

Nick Piggott, Co-CEO of Nutrition Technologies, emphasizes the critical role Vitalis™ plays in safeguarding the global food supply chain. By addressing two of the most economically threatening plant pathogens, Ganoderma in oil palms and Fusarium oxysporum in bananas, Vitalis™ helps secure the future of these staple crops.

As the world contends with the challenges of food security, Nutrition Technologies’ pioneering approach demonstrates a significant leap towards a more sustainable and resilient agricultural future. The insect sector, as a whole, is gaining substantial attention, with the global insect protein market expected to grow exponentially. With nearly $1 billion in investments, it’s clear that this sector is determined to drive change and sustainability in agriculture.


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September 26, 2023 AGRIBUSINESSINDUSTRY NEWS0

 

Kenya’s regular chili exports to the European Union (EU) have been successfully resumed after a two-month hiatus. This interruption in exports stemmed from the interception of chili shipments in July that failed to meet the EU’s stringent phytosanitary standards. This breakthrough signifies Kenya’s commitment to global trade and quality standards.

The Kenya Plants Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has played a pivotal role in resolving the chili export issue. According to KEPHIS’s Managing Director, Theophilus Mutui, there have been no further incidents since July, and Kenya is actively collaborating with the EU to establish clear and consistent export standards to maintain its reputation as a reliable supplier of agricultural products to international markets.

The EU has proceeded to proactively show its support in helping Kenya meet its export requirements and prevent future disruptions by donating laboratory testing equipment worth 3.1 million Kenya Shillings. These Certified Reference Materials (CRMs), calibrated to EU standards, will enable Kenya to meet Global Good Agricultural Practices (Global GAP) criteria for pesticide residue levels, aligning its agricultural products with EU regulations.

READ: $1.6 Million US Investment Partnership to Boost Coconut Processing and Export in Kenya

Adolfo Cires, the EU’s Manager for Finance and Private Sector Development in Kenya, emphasized that these testing capabilities would streamline the evaluation of pesticide residue levels in crops, making the process more accurate and efficient. This enhancement in testing infrastructure is not only beneficial for Kenya but also sets a positive precedent for global agricultural trade.

Kenya will indeed increase its agri-produce exports to the EU market significantly by meeting international phytosanitary standards, aligning perfectly with the concept of ‘one test accepted globally,’ which promotes seamless international trade and harmonized standards for agricultural products.

The EU is a crucial trading partner for Kenya, with the country earning an estimated 188 billion Kenya Shillings in foreign exchange primarily from the export of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. The previously signed EU-Kenya Economic Partnership Agreement, which removed tariffs and quotas on all Kenyan exports of goods (excluding arms), further solidifies this vital economic relationship.


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September 26, 2023 AGRI ECONOMICSINDUSTRY NEWS0

 

In a concerning development for Kenya’s agricultural sector, the production of sugar by local millers has taken a sharp nosedive, plunging by nearly a third within just seven months. The primary culprit behind this dramatic decline is a severe shortage of sugarcane that has sent sugar prices soaring to record highs, impacting consumers and the broader economy.

An analysis of the most recent data released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) reveals that domestic sugar production plummeted to 332,034 tonnes in the seven months leading up to July, marking a staggering 31.2 percent decrease from the 482,871 tonnes produced during the same period last year. This stark drop in sugar output paints a grim picture for an industry already choked with numerous challenges.

For consumers, the implications have been nothing short of a nightmare, as sugar prices have skyrocketed at an alarming rate over the past year. According to KNBS data, the cost of sugar has surged by a staggering 61.4 percent during this period. In plain contrast, the prices of other essential food commodities, such as beans, maize flour, and cooking oil, have seen substantial but comparatively modest increases of 27.9 percent, 9.6 percent, and 18.5 percent, respectively.

During the seven-month period under review, the highest sugar production was recorded in January when output peaked at 81,648 tonnes. However, this figure rapidly dwindled to just 31,495 tonnes by May.

Kenya boasts 16 sugar factories, with five of them – Miwani, Chemelil, Muhoroni, Nzoia, and South Nyanza – being government-owned. Additionally, the government holds a stake in Mumias Sugar, which currently operates under receivership. These millers have been struggling with a severe sugarcane shortage this year, primarily due to the depletion of stocks of mature cane. The dire situation even forced some millers to resort to crushing immature cane, a less than ideal solution.

To mitigate the crisis, some millers reduced their crushing schedules to only a few days a week, allowing them to maximize their limited cane supplies. Others temporarily suspended operations to conduct maintenance and upgrades. Nevertheless, the situation became so dire that the government stepped in, refusing to renew licenses for sugar millers in July. This suspension of milling activities will continue until November, giving cane the time needed to mature.

By the end of last month, only three factories – Transmara, Sony, and Sukari – were still operational, worsening the decline in local sugar production. The total sugarcane milled by all sugar factories also decreased by 10 percent, falling from 436,694 tonnes in June to 395,232 tonnes in July 2023. Sugar production mirrored this trend, dropping to 33,328 tonnes from 34,373 tonnes in June, according to the Agriculture and Food Authority.

This alarming decrease in sugar production is a drawback to the economy and also calls for the urgent need for comprehensive reforms in the Kenyan sugar industry. Earlier in September, the Kenyan government introduced stringent measures for duty-free sugar imports to curb rogue traders that are taking advantage of the market shortage.


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Kenya is taking significant strides towards restructuring its agricultural taxation system. The Kenyan government’s recent proposal to introduce a 5% withholding tax on agricultural products delivered to cooperatives or other organized groups has sent ripples through the country’s farming community.

In his statement, the Cabinet Secretary, National Treasury & Economic Planning, Prof. Njuguna Ndung’u, disclosed that in FY 2022/23, Kenya’s tax gap was estimated at 11.5% of GDP, indicating the need for the government to take measures to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio and ensure effective provision of services to the public.

Revenue collection from the agricultural sector has long been a challenge for many African governments. Historically, a substantial portion of agricultural income has escaped formal taxation due to the fragmented nature of the industry. The Kenyan government’s move to impose a 5% withholding tax seeks to remedy this issue by ensuring that revenue from agricultural produce is captured more efficiently. It is worth noting that this tax is designed to target agricultural producers delivering their goods to cooperatives or organized groups rather than individual small-scale farmers.

How Withholding Tax Works

Tax withholding is a way for the government to maintain its pay-as-you-earn income tax system. This means taxing individuals at the source of income rather than trying to collect income tax after wages are earned.

In the case of the proposed taxation system by the Kenyan government, this will mean that whenever a farmer delivers produce to the cooperative or farmer society and gets paid, the entity withholds five percent of the amount due to them as income tax. This is then paid by the cooperative or society (withholder) to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). The amount withheld should be remitted online by the withholder to KRA on or before the 20th of the following month.

Upon successful remittance of the withheld amount to KRA, the system generates and sends copies of the Withholding Certificate to the registered email addresses of both the cooperative or society (withholder) and the farmer (withholdee).

The amount deducted appears on the farmer’s payslip or statement, and the total amount deducted annually can be found on the P9 Form, which is a standard tax deduction card or form issued by the employers (in this case, the cooperative society) to the farmers with total emoluments. The cooperative or farmer society will then send the P9 Form to their members each year so they can file their annual income tax returns. The farmer will then be required to download the IT1 return form from the KRA online system and declare income earned as well as the tax withheld.

Although this proposal by the Kenyan government seems outrageous to many, it aligns with a global trend towards modernizing agricultural tax policies. In an era where governments are seeking innovative ways to boost revenue collection without overburdening the farming community, this approach warrants attention. This initiative by the government will be closely monitored by policymakers and experts, as it could serve as a case study for fine-tuning agricultural taxation systems in other regions.

While this may seem like a financial maneuver, it directly affects the lives of countless farmers and their families. The tax burden may result in disincentives for farmers to engage with cooperatives or organized farmer groups. However, if done correctly and with the right intentions, the system can have the transformative power of effective agricultural taxation. If appropriated well, the government can allocate resources more efficiently towards rural development, infrastructure, and agricultural extension services. This, in turn, empowers farmers with knowledge, resources, and market access, ultimately improving their livelihoods.

Only time will tell the effects this new tax system will have on the farming community in Kenya and on the country’s prominence as an agricultural hub in East Africa once it is implemented.

READ: Taxes on Alcohol and Sugar-Sweetened Products to Increase


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September 20, 2023 AGRI TECHEAGMARK NEWS0

 

The global agriculture industry is confronting a myriad of challenges that are putting farmers’ profitability at risk. The rising costs of inputs and labor, coupled with the impacts of climate change, have created a daunting scenario for farmers worldwide. In Africa, these challenges are particularly pronounced, and the need for innovative solutions has never been greater.

Escalating Input Costs and Climate Change Pressures

Farmers across the globe have witnessed a dramatic surge in the prices of essential inputs such as fertilizers and crop protection chemicals. Over the past few years, these costs have escalated by an alarming 80 to 250 percent. The reasons behind this surge are complex, including supply chain disruptions and geopolitical challenges.

In tandem with rising input costs, climate change is aggravating the situation. The consequences of a warming climate are increasingly evident: more frequent acute weather events, prolonged droughts, and the emergence of new invasive crops and pests, all of which diminish crop yields. For instance, Kenya experienced a 5-season long megadrought in arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) and drought-hit communities are still struggling to recover, despite some improvement from the March-May long rains. While counties such as Isiolo, Kwale, Marsabit, and Nyeri have moved into the recovery phase, Kitui and Taita Taveta remain in the alert drought phase. Meanwhile, flash floods triggered by the long rains have caused the loss of lives and livelihoods in various parts of the country, including ASAL counties.

The Promise of Automation

In the face of these challenges, globally, farmers are turning to automation as a beacon of hope. Automation technology offers a spectrum of solutions, ranging from semi-automated techniques like assisted steering to fully autonomous systems such as weeding robots. These innovations leverage sensors, analytics, robotics, and equipment to help farmers make more informed decisions in the field.

Generative AI, a recent development, holds immense potential to automate decision-making processes by harnessing extensive datasets. This could aid farmers in developing strategic plans regarding the application of inputs like fertilizers, crop protection, and seeds, optimizing both profitability and sustainability. With a comprehensive curriculum, programs like the Precision Agriculture Course offered by Eagmark have been developed for African farmers to help accelerate the adoption of technology for farm profitability and overall sustainability. One can enroll in the course through Eagmark’s Online Learning Campus at olc.eagmark.net.

ENROLL IN THE PRECISION AGRICULTURE COURSE AND EARN A CERTIFICATE TODAY

The benefits of automation are substantial, with the potential to deliver significant value to both row-crop and specialty-crop growers. For instance, in orchards and vineyards, fully autonomous systems can generate over $400 per acre annually, doubling to quadrupling returns on farmers’ automation investments.

Despite the promise, automation is still in its infancy. According to McKinsey’s 2022 Farmers Global Insights Survey, less than 5 percent of farmers globally have adopted this next-generation technology, while 21 percent are using farm management software. However, two distinct trends are poised to accelerate adoption: the economic pressures facing farmers and the growing emphasis on sustainable farming practices.

Addressing Farm Economics: Input Costs and Labor Challenges

Automation provides tangible solutions to two longstanding issues that have plagued farmers for years: rising chemical costs and labor-related challenges. Supply chain disruptions and geopolitical complexities have driven up the prices of fertilizers, with a staggering 15 percent annual increase over the past five years.

Automation can alleviate these costs by optimizing the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Precision spraying, enabled by sensors and real-time field data, adjusts chemical volumes and timing to minimize waste, significantly reducing expenses. The McKinsey report highlights that herbicide application technologies utilizing computer vision have demonstrated an 80 percent reduction in herbicide costs on large U.S. corn farms.

Labor challenges also persist, with farmworkers facing safety risks and wage pressures. Automation offers the potential to widen the labor pool by simplifying the tasks that require specialized skills. Additionally, it enhances productivity and reallocates labor to higher-value activities. Fully autonomous equipment can reduce the need for hazardous activities, ensuring a safer working environment for farmworkers.

Sustainability: A Catalyst for Change

While input costs provide immediate incentives for automation, sustainability pressures are poised to drive significant change in the near future. Governments worldwide are setting ambitious targets for environmentally sustainable farming practices. For instance, the European Green Deal aims to reduce pesticide use by 50 percent by 2030 and transition a quarter of agricultural land to organic farming. Canada, too, seeks to reduce fertilizer usage by 30 percent by 2030, with non-compliance resulting in significant financial penalties.

Automation emerges as a critical tool to meet these sustainability targets. Automated precision-spraying equipment and weeding technologies can drastically reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers, aligning with regulatory requirements. Automation also simplifies data collection and reporting, facilitating participation in programs like organic certification.

Consumer Demand for Sustainability

Consumer interest in sustainable food systems is on the rise, pressuring farmers to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. Sustainable brands are experiencing significant growth, with products making environmental, social, and governance (ESG) claims outpacing others. Consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) companies are committing to sustainability, driving demand for traceability in farming practices.

Software solutions and autonomous equipment are enabling traceability from farm to fork. By collecting and transmitting rich, standardized data, farmers can substantiate sustainable practices such as reduced chemical use and efficient irrigation, aligning with the demands of CPG companies.

The Growing Excitement for Automation

The adoption of automated farm equipment hinges on several factors, including technological maturity, economic conditions, regulatory decisions, and environmental changes. To promote adoption, agricultural companies should communicate the immediate return on investment, reimagine the farming experience with digital ecosystems, evolve business models to reduce upfront costs, and collaborate closely with CPG companies to enhance transparency and traceability.

As the dual pressures of farm economics and sustainability intensify, the adoption of automation technology is geared for exponential growth. Farmers are recognizing the triple benefits of automation: increased productivity and profits, enhanced safety, and progress toward sustainability goals. The excitement surrounding these technologies is set to spread, indicating a promising future for African agriculture and its role in the global agriculture industry.


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Photo: Farmers collect subsidized fertilizer at the NCPB depot in Eldoret in 2022 © Mathews Ndanyi

 

As the world contends with surging oil and natural gas prices, the global fertilizer markets have been experiencing a notable uptick in recent weeks, with consequences rippling across the agriculture industry. This development, while concerning, is not isolated, as it mirrors trends observed in the agricultural sector on a global scale.

The global price of ammonium nitrate per ton climbed in August, marking a significant price increase from the previous month. While this price hike may raise eyebrows, it is important to note that it remains significantly lower than the levels witnessed at the same time last year, which saw the introduction of subsidized fertilizer prices in September 2022 by the Kenyan government in response to the evolving dynamics of the global fertilizer market, providing a semblance of relief for farmers and growers.

Natural gas, a key component in fertilizer production, commands a significant share of the total production cost. In August 2023, natural gas prices sharply rose, and although they have since dipped slightly in early September, they remain above July levels. This natural gas price volatility has worsened the situation.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) in Kenya released the maximum retail prices for petroleum products that will be effective from September 15, 2023, to October 14, 2023. These new prices, calculated in accordance with the Petroleum Act 2019 and Legal Notice No. 192 of 2022, reflect changes in the global oil market and other economic factors. The price changes in Kenya have since taken effect, with Super Petrol, Diesel, and Kerosene increasing by KES 16.96 per liter, KES 21.32 per liter, and KES 33.13 per liter, respectively.

The soaring prices of crude oil and related products are exerting additional pressure on the fertilizer market. These developments demonstrate the industry’s vulnerability to external economic factors.

READ: Why the Increased Pump Prices Could Push Fertilizer Costs Upwards In The Long Run

To complicate matters further, the global supply of fertilizers has tightened due to reduced export volumes from China and decreased production within the European Union. In Europe, production cuts in Belgium, as well as lingering disruptions, have compounded the issue. These factors have created a challenging environment for both suppliers and growers alike.

The global tightness in supply is the primary reason behind the recent price hike and production cuts in Europe, particularly in Belgium, and geopolitical factors, such as Russia’s influence, are all contributors to the market’s volatility.

Globally, gas prices have retreated from their peak levels of the previous year, but they remain comparatively high. The geopolitical landscape, particularly sanctions impacting Russian fertilizer exports, has disrupted the historical flow of products across Eastern and Western Europe.

Additionally, China’s decision to reduce fertilizer exports in favor of bolstering domestic production has added to the supply challenge. These developments reverberate not only in Kenya but also across the global agriculture sector, where the interconnectedness of markets is increasingly evident.

Despite the challenges and price fluctuations, some traders in Kenya suggest that there is still an ample supply of fertilizers. However, market dynamics can shift rapidly, and a resurgence in grain prices may trigger increased demand for fertilizers in the coming weeks.

READ: Kenya’s Agriculture Sector Confronts Surging Interest Rates


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Over the years, we’ve witnessed an acceleration in the development of autonomous farming solutions across the world. From robotic harvesters to drones that monitor crop health, the AgriTech sector is undergoing a seismic shift.

The ever-evolving world of AgriTech has reached new heights and is frenzied with the race to develop autonomous farm vehicles. Autonomous farm vehicles are becoming increasingly sophisticated and capable, and are ready to revolutionize the agricultural industry. These vehicles can perform a wide range of tasks, from planting and harvesting to weeding and spraying, with little or no human intervention.

While the mechanical engineering aspects of creating these machines may seem straightforward – choosing the right powertrain, deciding between tracks and wheels, and building a suitable chassis – the real challenge lies in integrating advanced sensors, cameras, Lidar, satellite guidance, and other technologies that can withstand the rugged conditions of farmwork. The true heroes of this revolution are the software writers and electronics engineers who bring it all together, creating a digital platform for planning tasks and enabling 24/7 remote monitoring via mobile devices.

One of the biggest challenges in developing autonomous farm vehicles is creating a system that can reliably navigate complex environments and avoid obstacles. This requires a combination of sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence.

Another challenge is to develop a system that can efficiently and accurately perform agricultural tasks. This requires a deep understanding of the specific task at hand, as well as the ability to adapt to changing conditions.

Despite the challenges, there has been significant progress in the development of autonomous farm vehicles in recent years.

These autonomous machines are addressing two critical issues in agriculture: the scarcity of skilled operators and the imperative to protect soils through the use of smaller, lighter machinery that can work longer hours. A number of companies are now offering commercial products, and many more are in development. Let’s delve into some remarkable innovations in the field.

AgXeed AgBot

Where innovation reigns supreme, the AgXeed AgBot stands as a testament to the boundless potential of autonomous farming. This remarkable range of purpose-built autonomous tractors is revolutionizing agriculture, offering a spectrum of capabilities that cater to the diverse needs of modern farming.

At the helm of the AgBot lineup is a 156hp twin-track machine, a powerhouse designed to tackle the most demanding agricultural tasks. Complementing this titan are the 75hp four-wheel drive and narrow trike models, ensuring that there’s an AgBot for every application on the farm.

What unites these autonomous marvels is their innovative Deutz diesel-electric power unit. This ingenious setup sees the engine driving an integrated generator that supplies power to electric motors, a technological marvel in itself. Furthermore, these AgBots offer the option to incorporate a 55kW (74hp) electrically driven power take-off (PTO) at the rear. What sets this PTO apart is its ability to rotate both clockwise and anti-clockwise, affording these vehicles the unique capability to work with PTO-driven implements in either direction, with the implement leading or trailing.

The tracked AgBot 5.115T2 is a testament to engineering excellence. It boasts a substantial 350-litre fuel capacity, ensuring extended hours of uninterrupted operation. Additionally, it features up to four double-acting proportional spool valves, along with an 85-litre/min hydraulic pump that can be upgraded to a load-sensing system. This combination of power and hydraulic efficiency empowers the AgBot to seamlessly handle a diverse range of tasks.

Implement carriage is a crucial aspect of any agricultural machinery, and the AgBot shines in this regard. It sports an 8-tonne capacity three-point linkage at the rear, complemented by a 3-tonne capacity assembly at the front. This design flexibility allows for the transportation of various implements, such as a rear-mounted drill with a hopper.

One of the defining features of the AgBot range is its adaptability to different crop and cropping systems. With numerous combinations of traction belt widths, ranging from 300mm to 910mm, and adjustable track spacings, these autonomous workhorses can effortlessly navigate varying agricultural terrains.

The AgBot 2.055W3, often referred to as the “trike,” is tailored primarily for orchard and vineyard applications. Its versatility shines through as it can be configured to be as narrow as 1.38 meters, ensuring easy navigation through tight spaces.

On the other hand, the four-wheel AgBot 2.055W4 offers a more versatile autonomous solution, catering to farming and commercial horticulture. With front-end steering, unequal tire diameters, and tire widths typically ranging from 270mm to 710mm, this model provides a robust and adaptable solution for various agricultural needs. Its hydraulics setup mirrors that of the tracked machine, featuring up to three spools and implement linkage capacities of 1.5 tonnes at the front and 4 tonnes at the rear.

The AgXeed AgBot range exemplifies the evolving landscape of agricultural technology, where automation and innovation converge to redefine farming as we know it. These autonomous tractors are not just machines; they are the future of agriculture, providing efficiency, precision, and adaptability that empower farmers to meet the demands of a changing world.

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AgBot 2.055W4, 75hp, four-wheel drive from AgXeed © AgXeed

CNH Industrial

CNH Industrial, the parent company of Case IH and New Holland has a rich history of innovation and a commitment is pushing the boundaries of agricultural technology by easing into commercial autonomous tech after successful exploratory projects that hinted at a future where machines take the reins in the field.

One of their pioneering ventures, the Case IH AVC concept, introduced the idea of a cabless Magnum tractor, a bold step that showcased the potential of autonomous farming machinery. Following this trailblazing concept, CNH Industrial unveiled the New Holland NHDrive T8, a driver-optional tractor with autonomous working capabilities. These projects laid the groundwork for what was to come.

Fast forward to 2023, and CNH Industrial has set its sights on revolutionizing agriculture in the United States with the introduction of the Case IH Farmall 75C Electric and New Holland T4 Electric Power utility tractors. These battery electric tractors herald a new era, with limited self-driving features that promise to reshape the farming landscape.

One standout feature of these electric tractors is the “Follow Me” function. It allows operators to effortlessly guide the tractor along a designated path, such as a feed or fence line, without the need to constantly climb in and out of the cab. By simply walking ahead of the tractor and transmitting the appropriate commands through a smartphone app, the operator can ensure precise and efficient navigation. No more need for manual intervention during these routine tasks.

Another game-changing function empowers the tractor to autonomously pass-through gateways under remote command. This means no more time wasted hopping on and off the tractor to open and close gates, a common task that has traditionally disrupted workflow on the farm. With this innovation, the tractor seamlessly adapts to its environment, enhancing efficiency and reducing operator fatigue.

Case IH Farmall 75C Electric Tractor
Case IH Farmall 75C Electric Autonomous Electric Tractor © Case IH

Agrointelli Robotti

This Danish manufacturer’s Robotti tool-carrier is a versatile workhorse capable of operating various implements. Its capabilities are nothing short of astonishing, and it’s a testament to the ongoing transformation in agricultural technology. It has demonstrated its prowess by sowing beans, oilseed rape, cereals, sugar beets, maize, vegetables, salad crops, weeding, and even planting potatoes, showcasing its adaptability to diverse farming needs.

This intelligent machine represents a pivotal leap towards a more efficient and sustainable future for agriculture, effortlessly handling a wide array of implements between its four wheels.

But what truly sets the Robotti apart are its two distinctive versions, each tailored to meet specific agricultural demands. The Robotti LR is designed for light-duty operations, equipped with a modest 750k-rated linkage assembly. Its power source is a single 72hp Kubota diesel engine, ensuring up to 60 hours of uninterrupted operation on a single tank of fuel.

In contrast, the 150D version steps up to 144hp, making it suitable for more demanding tasks. It boasts an impressive 1,250kg lift capacity, a power take-off (PTO) system to drive various implements, and the brilliance of two engines – one for propulsion and another for PTO and hydraulic functions. This dual-engine setup provides a formidable total power output of 144hp when the situation demands it.

The Robotti’s design is a marvel of engineering, with a short wheelbase measuring a mere 1.55 meters. It offers flexibility with track widths ranging from 1.8 meters to 3.65 meters, making it adaptable to varying crop and terrain conditions. Its standard 320/65 R16 tires provide stability, while an optional narrower 260/70 R16 configuration is available for specific needs.

Maneuverability is at the heart of the Robotti’s operation, thanks to its front-end steering and four-wheel drive system. When being manually controlled, it can achieve speeds of up to 10 kilometers per hour, ensuring precise navigation. During work, the Robotti gracefully halves its speed, maintaining the utmost accuracy in steering.

The Robotti
The Robotti can operate varied implements © Robotti

Combined Powers

In a groundbreaking collaboration that fuses the expertise of grassland equipment specialist Krone and tillage machinery firm Lemken, a remarkable stride in agricultural technology has emerged—a four-wheel-drive tractor designed exclusively for autonomous operation. This revelation represents the pinnacle of innovation in the ever-evolving AgriTech industry and aligns seamlessly with the transformative momentum we’ve observed over the years.

With dimensions measuring 2.7 meters in width and a modest height of 2.6 meters, this autonomous marvel tips the scales at a sturdy 7.5 to 8 tons. Powered by a diesel-electric unit delivering an impressive 170kW (230hp), this tractor is more than capable of executing a wide array of tasks, from ploughing, cultivating, and seeding to mowing, tedding, and raking. Its versatility knows no bounds.

What sets this tractor apart is its intricate control system, tailored to harness the power of isobus Tractor Implement Management (TIM). This cutting-edge integration enables seamless communication between sensors and a dedicated job computer on the implement and the tractor itself. This means that control instructions, ranging from speed adjustments to hydraulic tweaks, and even start-stop commands, can be relayed effortlessly.

The year 2022 marked a significant milestone when this autonomous wonder publicly demonstrated its field capabilities. However, the journey doesn’t stop there. The project is now embarking on a phase of rigorous testing, exposing the tractor to typical and extreme working conditions. Simultaneously, invaluable feedback is being collected from farmers and contractors, providing essential insights into the concept’s practicality and adaptability.

Combined Powers Fully Autonomous Tractor
Combined Powers Fully Autonomous Tractor © Lemken/Krone

John Deere

As a pioneer in the industry, John Deere continues to push the boundaries of innovation with its groundbreaking forays into autonomous technologies and vehicles.

One of the most exciting breakthroughs from John Deere is the guided tractor and sprayer designed for orchards and similar applications. These intelligent machines feature automatic re-filling capabilities, enhancing efficiency and reducing the need for constant operator oversight.

John Deere has also unveiled a purpose-built driverless sprayer, specifically configured for high-clearance maize spraying, utilizing four track units for superior maneuverability. This innovation caters to the specialized needs of various crops, showcasing the adaptability of autonomous technology in the agricultural sector.

Recently, we have observed how the AgriTech industry worldwide has embraced electric-powered machinery. John Deere has not lagged behind in this aspect, introducing a remarkable 500kW (670hp) electric-drive single-axle autonomous tractor. This versatile tractor can seamlessly transition between wheels and tracks when coupled with cultivators, drills, and similar implements. This development resonates with the global shift towards sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices.

However, the revelation that truly turned heads was John Deere’s announcement in January 2022 regarding the imminent release of an autonomous version of its revered 8R series tractor in the USA. While the order book remains closed for now, the anticipation is palpable. The initial focus for this autonomous marvel will be chisel cultivation work, featuring the most potent model in the 8R series lineup.

The 8R 410, boasting 443hp for draft work and 458hp for PTO, transport, and applications with intense hydraulic demands, maintains the familiar configuration of its conventional counterpart. Still, it incorporates a groundbreaking feature—an array of six pairs of stereo cameras that facilitate 360-degree obstacle detection and distance calculation.

John Deere's Single-axle Electric Tractor
John Deere’s Single-axle Electric Tractor © John Deere

FarmDroid

FarmDroid’s FD20 stands out as a specialist tool carrier dedicated to precision sowing and weeding. Operating predominantly in the United Kingdom, it is finding its niche in organic sugar beet, fodder beet, and vegetable production.

The FarmDroid FD20, available in both trike and four-wheel configurations, showcases a commitment to sustainable energy sources. This marvel of engineering harnesses battery-electric power, fortified by an expansive solar panel canopy. But what truly sets it apart are the two unique autonomous power unit concepts currently being explored by Horsch, a pioneer in agricultural technology.

One concept takes the form of a driverless tracked unit that bears a striking resemblance to the traditional field tractor. The other, a formidable large tool carrier-type machine, is no less impressive. While official specifications remain somewhat elusive, insiders suggest that the Robo independent power unit, despite its compact size, boasts a formidable 450hp diesel engine. Equipped with either a hydrostatic drive or a hydro-mechanical “vario” transmission, it offers remarkable versatility.

The Robo’s ingenuity extends to its remote manual control for easy setup and a convenient pull-out drawbar at the front, allowing effortless towing to and from the field. But it’s the field trials featuring the Robo operating a trailed Maestro precision planter in a close-coupled configuration that have truly turned heads. This configuration effectively transforms the Robo into a self-propelled outfit, with the tracked unit shouldering a significant portion of the seed cart’s weight, offering efficiency like never before.

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FarmDroid FD20 weed even before crops emerges © FarmDroid

 

Kubota

Kubota, a name synonymous with agricultural machinery, made waves in 2020 when they unveiled the Kubota X, a four-track electric tractor concept that embodied the future of farming. Fast forward to today, and Kubota is on the cusp of turning this vision into reality by testing a fleet of autonomy-capable AgriRobo wheeled tractors.

Japan is facing a unique crisis with an aging population of farmers and a reluctance among younger generations to step into the shoes of their predecessors. This demographic challenge threatens the sustainability of agriculture in the country, but Kubota is determined to find a solution.

In addition to their iconic rice transplanter and rice combine, Kubota has introduced the MR1000A, a 100hp tractor equipped with an impressive array of self-driving guidance and sensor technologies. This innovation aims to ease the farm labor shortage by providing farmers with cutting-edge tools that enhance productivity and reduce their dependence on manual labor.

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100hp MR1000A AgriRobo tractor Kubota Tractor © Kubota

Horsch

One of Horsch’s visionary projects is the Robo independent power unit. This compact yet formidable machine is shrouded in secrecy, but some intriguing details have emerged. At its heart, it boasts a robust 450hp diesel engine, coupled with either hydrostatic drive or a hydro-mechanical “vario” transmission. This powerful combination ensures that the Robo is more than capable of tackling the demands of modern agriculture.

What sets the Robo apart is its versatility. With remote manual control for setup and a front-mounted drawbar, it can be effortlessly towed to and from the field, making it as adaptable as it is powerful. In a fascinating twist, the Robo has been put through its paces in field trials, where it operated in conjunction with a trailed Maestro precision planter. This close-coupled configuration effectively transforms the Robo into a self-propelled unit, with the tracked platform bearing the weight of the seed cart.

Meanwhile, Horsch’s Brazilian division is making waves with a gantry-like machine designed for precision planting. This 24-meter Maestro precision planter, tailored for maize, is perched atop four large-diameter swivel-steer drive wheels with hydrostatic propulsion motors. The design’s wide frame, which transitions seamlessly from the yard to the field, houses a central power unit flanked by hoppers on either side, with planter units suspended beneath.

While these innovations are undeniably impressive, what’s even more intriguing is the potential for a commercial rollout. Horsch has been collaborating with Trimble to develop an autonomy package for self-propelled sprayers. This partnership extends beyond just autonomous control; it encompasses full workflow automation, bridging the gap between office and field.

In its initial phase, the collaboration aims to automate planning, machine control, and logistics for sprayer operators. This holistic approach not only enhances machine performance but also alleviates the operator’s workload and minimizes the risk of errors. It’s a significant step towards realizing fully autonomous agricultural machines.

Horsch’s Robo Tractor with a Maestro precision planter © Horsch

Raven Industries

One of Raven’s groundbreaking contributions to the field is the development of two systems tailored to enhance the productivity of US growers. First in line is the OmniDrive system, a marvel of technology that empowers combine operators to effortlessly synchronize with automated grain tractors and trailers. This synchronization feature not only streamlines operations but also alleviates the burden on farmers during the demanding harvest season. This concept isn’t entirely new in the AgriTech world, as it builds on the foundation laid by similar systems globally.

The second jewel in Raven’s crown is the Cart Automation system. Unlike OmniDrive, this system focuses solely on speed and heading synchronization. Its beauty lies in its versatility, as it can be retrofitted to virtually any make of machinery and adapted to various harvesting tasks, including sugar beet farming. This adaptability showcases Raven’s commitment to providing solutions that cater to a wide spectrum of agricultural needs.

Raven Industries hasn’t limited its innovation to retrofit solutions alone. In a significant stride towards full autonomy, they have recently unveiled a comprehensive solution for the Case IH Trident 5550 self-propelled fertilizer spreader. This development resonates with the global trend of automating agricultural equipment, as we’ve seen similar strides in precision farming systems across continents.

While Raven’s Autonomy division primarily focuses on electronics and software, they do have a vehicle in their portfolio—the OmniPower 3200 tool carrier. Originally developed in collaboration with Dot Technology and Seedmaster in Canada, this vehicle boasts hydrostatic drive, four-wheel steering, and interchangeable modules for sowing, spreading, and spraying. It’s a testament to Raven’s commitment to diversification and ensuring they offer comprehensive solutions to their clientele.

Raven AutoCart
Raven AutoCart works by synchronizing with harvesters and trailers © Raven

To sum it up, we have seen that in this era of technological advancement, the agriculture technology industry is witnessing a transformation that promises increased efficiency, reduced labor dependency, and enhanced sustainability. These autonomous farm vehicles are not just a glimpse into the future of agriculture; they are the future, working tirelessly to meet the demands of modern farming while protecting our precious soils. As we look back on the journey so far, it’s clear that the AgriTech industry is on an unstoppable trajectory towards smarter, more sustainable agriculture.


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Increased tax on alcohol, sugar-sweetened products, and tobacco are on the horizon in Kenya as we look ahead to 2024. The newly proposed taxes are the government’s proactive measures to promote healthier lifestyles and discourage excessive consumption, aligning with global efforts to combat the rising tide of diet-related non-communicable diseases.

Historically, studies have linked excessive sugar consumption to a host of health issues, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, which is increasingly prevalent in Kenya and across Africa. In line with this concern, the Kenyan government is planning to reevaluate its taxation approach for sugar-sweetened non-alcoholic beverages. The new proposal aims to tax these products based on their sugar content, effectively creating an economic disincentive for their consumption. This move is part of the government’s broader strategy to combat obesity and related non-communicable diseases.

This development follows the earlier introduction of a tax on locally manufactured sugar confectionery, including white chocolate, in July 2023. This tax imposition was also justified as a means to promote healthier living.

Targeting Alcohol Consumption for Public Health Benefits

Alcohol consumption, too, is in the government’s crosshairs due to its association with various health risks, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) has further stressed the risks by linking alcohol consumption to injuries, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, drownings, and burns.

Enroll in the Agricultural Health and Medicine Course and earn your certificate

In the upcoming fiscal year, consumers of spirits and other high-alcohol-content products can expect an upward revision in taxes. The Treasury has explicitly stated that this tax hike is intended to discourage their consumption, given the elevated health risks they pose. The adjustment in tax rates will be guided by quantitative analysis to determine the optimal rates for each alcoholic product.

Tobacco Products Also Under Scrutiny

Taxes on cigarettes and tobacco-related products are also set to increase as part of the broader strategy to promote healthier living. This will apply to both filtered and non-filtered cigarettes, as well as other tobacco products. The objective is to harmonize excise duty rates across all tobacco products, ensuring fairness and equal treatment in taxation.

The government’s rationale is clear – the negative health consequences associated with these products necessitate action. Tax rates will be determined based on the extent of these health consequences, as well as recommendations from an ongoing study conducted in collaboration with East African Community partner states.

These changes, outlined in the draft three-year tax revenue strategy beginning in July 2024, will inevitably lead to higher prices for the affected products and will unquestionably have an impact on consumer behaviors, industry dynamics, and, ultimately, the country’s GDP.

READ: Kenya Implements Stringent Measures for Duty-Free Sugar Imports


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Kenya has shipped its inaugural avocados consignment to India, an occasion presided over by Kello Harsama, the Principal Secretary of the State Department for Crops Development, on September 16, 2023. During the event, Harsama emphasized the government’s unwavering dedication to strengthening international partnerships in agriculture, adding that the milestone was not just significant for Kenya but also for India, marking the fruitful outcome of their persistent bilateral negotiations. He stated that the move underscores Kenya’s status as a leading avocado exporter in Africa and the sixth-largest in the world.

This achievement aligns with Kenya’s pursuit of exploring new markets for its agricultural produce. Harsama affirmed that Kenya will continue to seek more markets for avocado farmers in line with the spirit of the government’s ‘bottom-up’ economic transformation agenda.

Enroll to the Avocado Production Course and earn your certificate

Kenya’s ascent in the global avocado export landscape has been remarkable. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Kenya now ranks among the top 15 avocado exporters globally. While Mexico leads the pack with a staggering 2.4 million tons of production, Kenya’s presence in this league is a testament to its agricultural prowess. The country rubs shoulders with the likes of Colombia, Peru, Indonesia, and the Dominican Republic in the upper echelons of avocado exporting nations.

Among those who witnessed the flagging off of the avocado export to India were Ms. Namgya C. Khampa, the High Commissioner for India in Kenya, and Ambassador Willy Bett, Kenya’s High Commissioner in India, symbolizing the strengthening of diplomatic and trade ties between the two nations through the lens of agriculture.

Kenya’s foray into avocado exports to India echoes a broader narrative of the continent’s potential in global markets, a move that aligns with advancing the nation’s agricultural agenda.


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September 17, 2023 BLOGEAGMARK NEWS0

 

The pressing issue of soil degradation is reverberating across the globe, casting a shadow on the future of agriculture. Recent assessments by international bodies, including the European Commission Joint Research Centre – European Soil Data Centre, have sounded alarm bells. The consensus is clear: our soils, especially those dedicated to agriculture, are facing unprecedented stress. The situation is compounded by urbanization, infrastructure development, erosion, pollution, poor nutrient management, and the loss of organic matter. In Africa, where agriculture is the backbone of many economies, this crisis poses a dire threat. To understand the gravity of this challenge, we must draw upon past experiences in the African agriculture industry.

Past Stories from Kenya and Africa

In Kenya and throughout Africa, the story of soil degradation has been unfolding for years. Rapid urbanization, driven by population growth and the demand for infrastructure, has led to the conversion of valuable agricultural land into concrete jungles. This trend mirrors the global phenomenon mentioned in the European Commission’s assessment.

Erosion and organic matter loss have plagued African soils, impacting crop yields and farmer livelihoods. Kenya, for instance, has faced severe challenges with soil erosion, particularly in its hilly terrains. The implications for food security are evident, as erosion leaves behind infertile, rocky landscapes where productive agriculture once thrived.

Moreover, climate change exacerbates these woes. Rising temperatures lead to higher mineralization rates, accelerating the breakdown of soil organic matter. The result is less resilient and infertile soil, making crops more susceptible to drought—a phenomenon affecting many African regions.

The Road to Redemption

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations warning that the world’s topsoil could vanish within 60 years is a chilling reminder of the urgency we face. The African agriculture industry, along with regulatory bodies, non-governmental organizations, and growers, must unite to tackle these challenges.

Technology emerges as a key ally in this battle. The journey to soil health involves sustainable land management, technical innovations, and heightened awareness. Drawing from previous success stories and lessons, the African agriculture sector must leverage technology to avert disaster.

Defining Soil Health – Before delving into technology’s role, let’s define “soil health.” It is the soil’s capacity to sustain a thriving ecosystem that supports plants, animals, and people. This concept goes beyond traditional approaches and delves into the intricate world of soil microbiomes.

The Four Pillars of Soil Health are:

  1. Vegetative Cover: Keeping the soil covered with vegetation.
  2. Plant Biodiversity: Encouraging a variety of plant species.
  3. Living Root Systems: Ensuring a live root system throughout the season.
  4. Minimizing Soil Disturbance: Reducing human-induced soil disruption.

These pillars lay the foundation for soil health and play a pivotal role in fostering agricultural sustainability.

Technology’s Role in Soil Health

Technology serves as a bridge to improving soil health on a larger scale. Making soil data accessible and understandable is vital for prompt action. Currently, there are innovations for agro testing that are being developed to help farmers measure, manage, and improve soil health efficiently. Crop input manufacturers are also stepping up, introducing products that optimize food production while enhancing soil health.

Changing Attitudes and Mindsets

The first step toward preserving soil health is acknowledging the issue. The widespread recognition of soil degradation’s severity in the last decade has driven action across the industry. Crop input providers are developing solutions that are kinder to soils, aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

In this battle, technology plays a significant role. Companies like Biome Makers are pioneering tools to revolutionize how farmers interact with soil. By processing vast data inputs and employing genomics and artificial intelligence, they identify microbial biomarkers, offering insights into soil function.

We must keep in mind that soil is a living ecosystem, and its health is paramount to food security and environmental sustainability. While challenges persist, the African agriculture industry must remain resilient and resourceful.

Soil By the Numbers

  • A tablespoon of soil teems with more organisms than there are people on Earth.
  • It takes a minimum of 500 years to form one inch of topsoil.
  • One gram of soil hosts 5,000 different types of bacteria.
  • Only 0.01% of the Earth’s water is held in soil.

The battle to safeguard our soil is a race against time. Failure to act now will have far-reaching consequences, but with determination and innovation, we can nurture the very foundation of our sustenance – the soil.


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Brookside, a milk processor in Kenya, has disbursed a staggering 711 million Kenya Shillings, an estimated $4.9 million, to farmers in Kenya’s North Rift region for their raw milk deliveries. The payment by Brookside is aimed at growing the dairy industry in Kenya.

Leading the pack in this payout is West Pokot, where dairy producers received a handsome sum of 197.8 million Kenya Shillings from Brookside. Trans Nzoia closely followed, with an impressive 183.9 million Kenya Shillings disbursed to farmers. Uasin Gishu, Nandi, and Elgeyo Marakwet counties also reaped the rewards, with payouts of Ksh.171.3 million, Ksh.126.1 million, and Ksh.31.9 million, respectively.

These figures demonstrate Brookside’s substantial financial investment in the North Rift region, stressing the economic significance of dairy farming in this part of Kenya.

Mr. Emmanuel Kabaki, the General Manager in charge of milk procurement at Brookside, emphasized the company’s unwavering commitment to working hand in hand with farmers to elevate dairy farming into a full-fledged commercial enterprise, offering guaranteed incomes to farmers. In his statement, Mr. Kabaki stated that, Brookside’s expanded processing capacity and aggressive product sales campaigns ensure that it remains a guaranteed market for milk from farmers. He further added that Brookside procures 100 per cent of all contracted milk volumes from its farmers, and does not ration supply, even in the seasons of surplus.

READ: Kenya’s ‘Omena’ Exports to China Surge, Reflecting Growing Trade Ties

In its efforts to promote sustainability and climate-smart practices, Mr. Kabaki highlighted that Brookside’s is actively promoting agroforestry on dairy farms by encouraging the planting of trees. He added that the company has established fodder resource centers in its raw milk bulking stations, including one in Kitale, for fodder multiplication and distribution to farmers, and to mitigate the impact of unpredictable weather patterns.

Mr. Kabaki urged farmers to conserve feed during the anticipated El-Niño rains for use during the dry season, adding that Brookside is piloting a semen and liquid nitrogen distribution program to enhance cow breeds, ultimately boosting milk production.


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In a significant milestone for Kenya’s fisheries sector, the nation has recently exported a substantial shipment of 52 tonnes of Silver Cyprinid, locally known as ‘omena,’ to Changsha Huanghua International Airport in China’s Hunan Province. This achievement is a direct result of a bilateral agreement inked between the two countries in January 2022, demonstrating the mutual benefits stemming from international cooperation.

This remarkable feat finds its roots in a broader narrative of strengthening trade ties between Kenya and China. The recent export success resonates with the ongoing efforts in Kenya and Africa as a whole to expand their agricultural exports and tap into international markets.

China’s commitment to importing freshwater fish from Kenya, as stated by Wu Peng, Director-General of the Department of African Affairs at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, signifies a significant shift in trade dynamics. Kenya’s export of anchovies to China marks the culmination of previous developments in the fish industry, highlighting China’s growing appetite for African agricultural products, ranging from anchovies to other fish products.

In June, Kenya commenced the export of anchovies to China, starting with a 315kg batch. The landmark event took place during the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, emphasizing China’s determination to diversify its sources of high-quality food and agricultural products. This mirrors previous reports on the evolving trade relationships between China and Africa, where African nations strive to meet China’s increasing demand for their produce.

READ: Kenya Ramps Up support for Fish Industry in a Move to Boost GDP

The successful export of Kenyan ‘omena’ was facilitated by Huawen Food, a Kenyan subsidiary of the Jinzai Food Group. The company, based in Kwale on Kenya’s coast, collaborates with local fishermen to source ‘omena’ for their processing plant.

Huawen Food’s value addition to ‘omena’ involves the infusion of various ingredients, including vegetable oil, onions, spices, sauce, and chili, to create snacks in 12-gram packages. The process has resulted in a final product that is distributed in China and sold in more than 30 countries worldwide, underscoring the global reach of African agricultural products.

In Kenya, these value-added anchovies are available at selected supermarkets, priced at an average of $6 per packet. The move towards value addition aligns with the ongoing efforts in Kenya’s agricultural sector to increase the value of their exports and capture a larger share of the international market.

Anchovies have found a versatile place in Chinese cuisine, featuring in a wide range of dishes from stir-fries to street snacks, and salads to heartier meals like anchovy fried rice. The trend showcases the adaptability of African agricultural products to diverse culinary traditions.

However, this success story also highlights the challenges facing Kenya’s local fish industry. Dwindling fish stocks have led to a heavy reliance on Chinese fish imports, valued at over 2 billion Kenyan Shillings and accounting for more than 80 percent of the Kenyan fish import market. This echos calls for the imposition of a 20 percent excise duty on imported fish to safeguard the interests of local fishermen.

 


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Image Credit: Reddit

 

In a bold move to bolster Kenya’s economy, the Kenya Fish Marketing Authority (KFMA) has unveiled a plan to substantially elevate the fish industry’s contribution to the nation’s gross domestic product. The KFMA’s strategic vision is to expand the sector’s contribution by a staggering 80%, skyrocketing from its current $204.4 million to a remarkable $1 billion within the next five years. The plan is set to revolutionize Kenya’s fish and fisheries products sector, potentially becoming a transformative force in the country’s agricultural landscape.

The commitment to this target was ardently expressed by Martin Ogindo, Chair of the KFMA Board, who detailed the authority’s comprehensive approach to boosting fish production and consumption across the nation. With the world gradually recognizing the profound health benefits associated with fish, the consumption rate is still not very high in Kenya.

Drawing from previous experiences and industry reports, it’s evident that the challenges facing the fish industry in Kenya are not unique. Similar issues have plagued the tea industry, another vital agricultural sector in the country. Over the years, both industries have grappled with the need for innovative solutions to enhance production, minimize losses, and improve quality. The KFMA’s strategies align with these longstanding concerns, illustrating a dedication to learning from past experiences to drive future success.

KFMA’s outlined strategies include leveraging research and technical expertise for evidence-based decision-making, introducing innovative value-added fish products, reducing post-harvest losses, and enhancing quality assurance standards for fish products. This is a keen reflection of the importance of streamlining the industry’s value chains, in a quest for efficiency and quality.

There have been calls to explore opportunities for technology transfer in the blue economy sector, which encompasses fisheries resources, for better yields and product quality.

The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), through its College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (COANRE) has embarked on research efforts to promote sustainable exploitation of blue economy resources. This includes groundbreaking innovations in aquaculture and human capital development.

JKUAT will be collaborating with KFMA in upgrading the value chain of silver cyprinid fish, locally known as ‘omena’. This collaborative project is part of a broader regional initiative named “Strengthening Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Ecosystem for Inclusive Rural Transformation and Livelihoods in Eastern Africa (AIRTEA),” funded by the EU and coordinated by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). Noteworthy achievements from this partnership include the deployment of hybrid (solar and biomass) greenhouse fish drying units, effectively reducing post-harvest losses at various locations.

Despite the formidable challenges facing the sector, including low technology adoption, uneven distribution of gains, a lack of value-addition technologies, and poor beach access roads, fish production in Kenya reached 163,702 tons in 2021. However, per capita fish consumption remains at 4.5 kg/person/year, below both the African and global averages. This situation mirrors the hurdles that other producers face in terms of distribution, access to markets, and value addition.

The ongoing development of value-added silver cyprinid-based products under the EU-funded project, led by a team at JKUAT, is intended to stimulate fish consumption throughout the nation. Kenya’s 445 documented fish landing points offer vast potential for integrated product innovation and value addition in processing facilities across Kenya.


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In a concerning revelation for Kenyan agriculture, farmers, horticultural workers, and users of open-source water systems are increasingly finding themselves at risk due to the pervasive use of toxic pesticides imported from China and Europe. These two global giants are the primary exporters of farm chemicals to Kenya, where the consequences of this practice are now becoming alarmingly clear.

Recent data released by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, an organization dedicated to environmental and food security advocacy, has shed light on a deeply troubling issue: Kenyan consumers are unwittingly ingesting food tainted with residues of pesticides that were banned in Europe over a decade ago but continue to be sold to Kenyan farmers. This report, titled “Toxic Business: Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) in Kenya”, highlights that among the 310 pesticides investigated, more than half were found to contain substances like carbosulfan, known for its potential to harm critical human organs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified carbosulfan exposure as a catalyst for liver and kidney failure, along with detrimental effects on protective layers in the human intestinal lining. Additionally, despite WHO and UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) endorsements, glyphosate has been linked to cancer in humans, according to research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2016.

Equally concerning is the continued presence of carbofuran, labeled differently in Kenya but listed as a banned substance by the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), both in Kenya and the US. These three substances—carbosulfan, glyphosate, and carbofuran—dominate the Kenyan pesticide market.

Today, Kenyan farmers are applying billions of liters of these toxic pesticides across their maize, wheat, coffee, potato, and tomato fields, particularly in the Rift Valley, Central, Western, and Nyanza regions. Shockingly, many of these readily available pesticides have been scientifically linked to cancer, genetic defects, fertility issues, and harm to unborn children.

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This thriving toxic pesticide industry costs Kenyan farmers up to USD 72.7 million annually (approximately Ksh.10.7 billion), sustaining the importation of these lethal chemicals while regulatory oversight falls short of reining it in. The report reveals that imported pesticides and fungicides are being used on over 635,000 hectares of agricultural land, implicating over 73 multinational agrochemical companies in this hazardous importation saga.

The report further underscores a stark reality: only a mere two percent of the total pesticide volume used in Kenya consists of sustainable biopesticides, while hazardous pesticides dominate at 76 percent. The pricing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides makes them more attractive per hectare compared to biopesticides, which are primarily used on beans destined for the European export market.

The consequences extend beyond human health. Chlorpyrifos, for instance, banned in the US due to its profound effects, continues to be used to control aphids in wheat-growing regions, negatively impacting the nervous systems of children and posing a threat to aquatic life. Even around Lake Naivasha, where flowers are predominantly grown, chlorpyrifos remains approved for aphid control, endangering the water supply and fisheries that local communities depend on.

This toxic pesticide issue is not isolated; it intersects with the nation’s food security concerns amid climate change impacts and drought. With genetically modified foods and their safety debated vigorously, neither GMOs nor the existing food supply chain assure Kenya’s food security.

READ: Indiscriminate Antibiotic Use in Agriculture Threatens Human Immune System, Study Warns

While the court halted the Kenyan government decision to import GMO foodstuffs, the ultimate decision now rests with Kenyan citizens who did not participate in the lifting of an 11-year-old ban. Climate change, coupled with the emergence of new pests and diseases, is forcing both commercial and smallholder farmers to resort to increasingly lethal pesticides, exacerbating the risks to human health and the environment.

In 2021, the African Development Bank (AfDB) conducted a survey in sub-Saharan Africa, revealing that smallholder farmers are turning to harmful pesticides to adapt to climate change, with these chemicals posing substantial risks to human health and the environment. The AfDB recommends a comprehensive ban on their manufacture, trade, and use.

As Kenya seeks to enhance its agricultural output to address the impact of drought in the North, these revelations about pesticide-laden foodstuffs on the market raise serious questions about both the safety and security of the nation’s food supply. The urgent need for stricter pesticide regulation and sustainable farming practices cannot be overstated, with lessons from this predicament echoing throughout Kenya and the broader African agricultural landscape.


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Photo Credit: NMG

 

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has introduced stringent regulations governing the importation of sugar under the State’s recently gazetted duty-free import window, which came into effect on August 9, 2023. The move by KEBS is aimed at taming the sugar production deficit hounding the Kenyan market, and stabilizing sugar prices, which had soared to a record range of Ksh.225 to Ksh.250 per kilogram by mid-2023 due to a severe shortage of the commodity.

In response to these soaring prices, the Kenyan Cabinet authorized an extension of duty-free sugar imports as a temporary measure to mitigate the crisis. However, with the anticipated influx of substantial sugar consignments, KEBS has taken proactive measures to thwart potential exploitation by unscrupulous traders.

The new regulations will require all imported sugar shipments possessing Certificates of Conformity (CoCs) to undergo mandatory re-inspection and testing at the port of entry, a service that will be provided free of charge. This inspection will be carried out in the presence of the importer or their appointed agent and is aimed at verifying compliance with the relevant quality and safety standards.

In instances where sugar consignments are shipped from countries where KEBS has engaged inspection companies, but they lack the necessary CoCs, the imports will be subject to inspection upon arrival. This service will be offered at a fee equivalent to five percent of the approved customs values. Additionally, sugar imports originating from countries without appointed inspection agents will continue to undergo destination inspection, with the importer bearing the cost of inspection, equivalent to 0.6 percent of the approved customs value, along with any applicable testing fees.

READ: KTDA Directors Set to Approve Bonuses to Tea Farmers

This new development in the sugar industry follows the Agriculture and Food Authority’s decision to suspend sugar milling operations earlier in July to allow sugar factories to address the pressing issue of sugarcane shortages, which have had a cascading effect on the industry’s overall production.

The biting sugarcane crisis in the Western and Nyanza regions of Kenya is a consequence of neglect and inadequate support for the sugar industry by key stakeholders. The two regions support the bulk of commercial sugarcane production in Kenya, in addition to other areas such as the Rift Valley and Coastal areas. More than 300,000 farmers supply sugarcane to various millers, with over 94 percent of this supply coming from out-growers, while the remainder is sourced from nucleus estates owned by milling companies.

Kenya currently boasts 16 sugar mills with a collective processing capacity of 51,450 metric tons of sugarcane per day. However, the actual capacity utilization stands at a modest 56 percent, as indicated by projections from the Ministry of Agriculture. This underutilization reflects the industry’s inability to reach its full potential due to numerous challenges, including inadequate infrastructure, a lack of investment, and recurring sugarcane shortages, all systemic issues that have plagued the sugar industry in Kenya for years.


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Directors representing the 71 tea factories managed by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) are gearing up for a crucial series of meetings this September to focus on the review and approval of their respective factories’ annual financial accounts for the year 2022/2023. The timing of these deliberations is pivotal, as they precede the eagerly awaited declaration of the second and final payment to farmers scheduled for October 2023.

KTDA announced that the directors’ primary agenda will revolve around assessing the performance of their individual factories during the financial year that concluded in June 2023. It is only after this comprehensive evaluation that the directors will unveil the second payment rates pertinent to their specific factories.

The backdrop against which these discussions are taking place has been marked by twin challenges for the tea industry in Kenya. First, a severe drought has plagued the tea-producing regions, significantly affecting farm output. Secondly, the global tea market has posed a formidable challenge due to the limited access to the US dollar by key tea-buying markets. In his statement to stakeholders, the KTDA Managing Director gave assurances that the organization remains unwavering in its commitment to ensure that farmers receive just compensation for their unwavering dedication and hard work.

This announcement harks back to the January disbursement by KTDA, which saw a total of Ksh.5.5 billion distributed. This sum encompassed Ksh.2.8 billion as payment for December’s green leaf deliveries and an additional Ksh.2.7 billion disbursed as mini-bonuses. These mini-bonuses were allocated to factories whose directors had passed resolutions to implement them. During this disbursement, farmers received bonuses ranging from Ksh.5 to Ksh.10 per kilogram of green leaf delivered to their respective factories for the six months leading up to December the previous year.

READ: Kenya’s Agriculture Sector Confronts Surging Interest Rates

According to KTDA, it adheres to a two-step payment model, encompassing monthly payments, interim payments (mini-bonuses), and a final payment (bonus) contingent upon the performance of each individual factory. The current meetings to determine bonus payments are being convened at a juncture when preliminary data reveals a marginal decline in both green leaf production and sales prices at the Mombasa tea auction.

Green leaf volumes delivered to factories managed by KTDA dwindled by 8.5 percent in the year concluding in June 2023, plummeting from 1.3 billion kilos to 1.1 billion kilos when compared to the preceding year. This decline is attributed to the enduring drought conditions that have plagued the region, leading to decreased farm output. In addition, the prices fetched at the tea auction experienced a modest decline of three percent. The average price per kilo across all factories stood at $2.7 (Ksh.394) during the 2022/2023 financial year, in contrast to $2.8 (Ksh.409) recorded in the previous year.

READ: Nairobi Coffee Exchange Auction Resumes After Brief Suspension

These recent developments in Kenya’s tea industry echo the recurring challenges faced by the sector in recent years. The ongoing drought conditions serve as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of tea farming to climatic fluctuations. In the past, we have witnessed similar struggles as farmers grappled with unpredictable weather patterns, resulting in diminished yields and financial strains.

In addition, the international tea market’s dynamics have proven to be a persistent challenge. Limited access to the US dollar by key tea-buying markets has often left Kenyan tea exports vulnerable to currency fluctuations and market uncertainties. The need for diversification and risk mitigation strategies in tea trading has been a recurring theme in discussions surrounding the industry’s future.


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In recent years, Kenya’s tech startup scene has garnered substantial attention and investment, with hopes of realizing the Silicon Savannah dream. However, beneath the surface, there are unsettling signs of distress, as at least eight Kenyan-born tech startups have shuttered their doors in the past two years, while a ninth appears to be teetering on the brink despite substantial investor funding. We delve into the challenges faced by these startups and seek to shed light on why they may be heading towards what some have termed a “sinking ship.”

The Startup Saga

A comprehensive analysis by the Business Daily published on September 11, 2023, reveals a grim picture: eight startups, fueled by a total investment of over Ksh.11.2 billion, have crumbled in the face of adversity. The situation becomes even more concerning when we examine the case of Twiga Foods, an agri-tech firm that has raised an astounding Ksh.23.4 billion (USD 157.1 million) in venture capital. Recently, Twiga Foods announced plans to trim its workforce by a third, citing a harsh funding climate.

As quoted by the newsroom, Twiga’s CEO, Peter Njonjo, lamented the funding drought that has enveloped the market, despite the company’s impressive cumulative funding of $160 million since its inception in 2013. This raises an important question: Are funding challenges the sole culprits behind the demise of these startups?

Beyond Funding Drought

While many startups point fingers at the funding drought, a closer look at available data and resounding sentiments from previous interviews with founders suggests a more nuanced narrative. It appears that factors beyond funding may be contributing to the ‘sinking ship’ phenomenon.

One of the reasons is business viability. Some startups may have struggled due to questions surrounding the viability of their business models. It is essential for these companies to offer unique solutions that address tangible problems in the market. Without a solid foundation for providing value, even the most significant investment can’t guarantee success.

Secondly, the ‘short-term vision’ effect is another reason, as some entrepreneurs may be too focused on building businesses for valuation and hoping for buyouts. Without continuous innovation and operational models that keep changing with the tech landscape and trends, it is almost impossible for any business to thrive in today’s tech-driven world. It essentially boils down to sustainability and long-term planning, as well as a deep understanding of market dynamics, which are crucial for survival.

Existing Support System

The success of any business is directly proportional to the business ecosystem in which it operates. A perfect example is what is currently happening between China and Apple Inc., which has resulted in a loss of an estimated $30 billion for the company—a story for another day.

The existing support system and business environment play a crucial role in the success or failure of businesses, especially startups. Recent developments, including the introduction of new taxations and low interest rates, have added to the challenges faced by these young businesses. While taxes are necessary to fund public services and infrastructure, excessive or poorly designed taxes can burden startups, making it difficult for them to grow and thrive.

One would say that the current tax systems have created a financial burden and strain on startups, limiting their financial resources and making it challenging to invest in growth and innovation. Investors may have also been spooked by the new stringent fiscal policy moves by the government, as well as low interest rates, and potentially this may have had a dipping effect on the flow of capital into the startup ecosystem, increasing investors’ appetite in other emerging markets.

Despite Kenya’s President being a vocal advocate for the nation’s ambition to become Africa’s ICT hub, the recent setbacks in the startup ecosystem call for a reevaluation of the Silicon Savannah dream. While ambitions are high, the practical challenges faced by startups demand a more comprehensive approach to fostering innovation.

The Collateral Damage

Several startups, including Sendy, Gearbox, Zumi, SkyGarden, Notify Logistics, Kune, BRCK, and WeFarm, have succumbed to these challenges. These entities collectively raised substantial sums of money before their unfortunate closure. Sendy, for instance, secured $26.5 million in funding before it had to make significant cutbacks.

Despite the challenges, some entrepreneurs are still bullish and are hoping to regain solid footing in the market by curving a path forward through cost-cutting strategies. The troubles facing Kenyan agricultural and other startups are likely not ending soon based on the statistics and trends, underscoring the need for a holistic approach that combines visionary leadership, sustainable business models, and robust long-term planning. Kenya’s Silicon Savannah dream may still be within reach, but it will require careful navigation through the turbulent waters of the tech startup world. Only then can the nation’s ambition to uplift livelihoods through technology and innovation gain the impetus it deserves.


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September 3, 2023 EAGMARK NEWSINDUSTRY NEWS0

In a monumental gathering of minds and a rallying cry for change, the Africa Food Systems Forum (AGRF) 2023 Summit officially commenced today in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. With the theme “Recover, Regenerate, Act: Africa’s Solutions to Food Systems Transformation,” the event places emphasis on youth and women at the forefront of rebuilding and revitalizing food systems across the continent.

The Summit, which is scheduled to run from September 5th to 8th, 2023, has garnered attention and participation from a diverse range of stakeholders, including policymakers, experts, farmers, youth advocates, and women leaders. It seeks to address the profound challenges facing Africa’s food systems while charting a path towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

The theme of the Summit encapsulates a comprehensive roadmap for achieving a transformation in Africa’s food systems through recovery, regenerative, and action pathways – geared towards shaping the future of agriculture in Africa, with a focus on recovering from crises, regenerating natural resources, and taking decisive action for transformative change.

A notable aspect of the Summit is its strong emphasis on youth and women as catalysts for positive change. Recognizing that they represent a substantial portion of the agricultural workforce and hold immense potential, the AGRF summit will provide a platform for these groups and other experts to share their perspectives, innovations, and solutions.

The Summit also sheds a spotlight on the role of digital technologies and innovation in enhancing agricultural productivity, improving access to markets, and strengthening resilience in food systems. The integration of cutting-edge solutions is viewed as crucial for advancing Africa’s food security agenda.

As the Africa Food Systems Forum 2023 Summit unfolds over the next few days, it promises to be a pivotal moment in the journey toward sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems on the African continent. Africa’s future on food security is at the balance, and the world is watching with anticipation.





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