In November 2015, the project ‘Developing value chain innovation platforms to improve food security in East and Southern Africa’ carried out a scoping study in 2 of the project sites in Uganda; Kapchorwa (sub-counties of Kapchesombe and Tegeres, Kapteret and Kawowo) and Manafwa (sub-counties of Nalondo, Bunghofu and Bumbo) districts. The project aims to identify principles and drivers that support scalable establishment of effective and equitable innovation platforms that enhance food security through greater engagement of smallholder farmers (with particular focus on inclusion and improving livelihoods of women and youth) with markets.
The research sites are located in the eastern part of the country, clustered around Mount Elgon an extinct volcano that spans the Kenya and Uganda border. The area holds high potential agricultural production due to fertile volcanic soils on the slopes of Mount Elgon, which has three major topographic zones: lowland, upland and mountainous zones. The lowland areas are covered by savannah grassland, upland has remnants of the tropical rain forest and the mountainous zone is mostly covered by the Mt. Elgon National Park with the Alpine mountain vegetation. The Mt Elgon ecosystem hosts approximately two million people who derive their livelihoods from the natural resource endowment. Nearly 80% of residents depend directly on land for the direct use of resources and agriculture-dominated activities. The Mt. Elgon sub-region is a highly productive agricultural zone. However, opportunities are not fully realised as both districts are characterised by few and poorly developed markets, necessitating farmers to travel long distances to sell their farm produce and purchase inputs. Farmers are further constrained by remoteness of urban market outlets, poor infrastructure, limited range of processing opportunities, access to market information, lack of collective institutional arrangements and limited land holdings.
The Mount Elgon region of Uganda has also been a hotspot of landslides and flooding in the last decade, aggravated by recent settling and farming practices. It took the lives of hundreds and created a continuous threat to livelihoods of both upstream and downstream communities. In spite of this, inhabits of the land provide an interesting case study because communities are distant enough that local production networks are independent. This enables comparisons of social networks’ contributions to agricultural innovation and investigations of cross-cutting themes that impact innovation and change.
The majority of people in the Mt. Elgon Sub-region depend largely on smallholder agriculture and natural resource-based commodities obtained in the region’s ecosystem for their livelihoods. During the scoping study, the six most important crops enterprises prioritized by the farmers and key informants in Manafwa include coffee, beans, maize, banana, vegetables (onions, cabbage, tomato, kales) and fruits in order of importance. The criteria used by the farmers to rank the enterprises include the size of income generated by the enterprise, the number of people involved in the enterprise, market demand for the products, contribution to food security and household income, continuity of the income throughout the year and low input requirements (labour, land, capital), duration taken by the crop to reach maturity and fewer production risks (pests and diseases). While in Kapchorwa, the most important crops enterprises prioritized by the farmers and key informants included banana, maize, Irish potato, coffee, cabbage, beans and onions, with the criteria used by the farmers to rank the enterprises being very similar to that of Manafwa.
Differing levels of satisfaction with business development service providers have been reported by the farmers, but key ones include access to extension services and market information systems, where a vacuum in the provision of the former was created following the phasing out of the NAADs programme. Its derivative ‘Operation wealth creation’ (OWC), which ought to have taken over the advisory services, instead leaned towards input distribution. There is limited coordination between the local government staff and the implementers of OWC programme on the one hand and the local government staff and those in the ministry of agriculture on the other hand. In addition, there is limited attempt to harmonise the provision of market information services as the private sector service providers act independently from the local government staff and sometimes provide contradictory information to the farmers.
Access to markets: farmers currently prefer to sell individually to traders who come to the farm gate because they pass on the risks as well as transport cost to the traders. Due to a lack of proper storage facilities and post-harvest handling equipment, most of the produce with the exception of coffee, are sold without any form of value addition. There is the potential to improve farmers’ income through product differentiation and market segmentation, and this will be explored further in the selected commodities for the project. Several attempts have been made prior to add value to various agricultural commodities such as coffee and sunflower, however the processed products have not been able to gain reasonable market share. The quality and quantity of processed products (banana into wine, roasted coffee, sunflower into oil) needs to be improved by improving processing methods, packaging, and branding to target urban markets.
Despite the existing and growing demand for most of the agricultural products, farmers have not been able to exploit this potential because of unstructured and disorganised markets for most of the produce as farmers prefer to sell individually, rather than as a collective.
Inclusion: Initiatives such as the ‘Youth Livelihood Programme’ are encouraging young farmers to get into groups to apply for loans, made available by the government. However, an audit of the selected enterprises to check their viability and returns has not been done on the program, with many youth applying for loans to start boutiques and businesses such as salons. There is a need to carry out capacity building around innovation and entrepreneurship , starting and maintaining a business, which is another training opportunity coming up around the country.
A number of opportunities exist in the districts which can be tapped into such as availability of an enabling environment in the form of organised farmer groups and local cooperatives around different commodities, the existing and growing market demand for agricultural products both locally and regionally, and availability of business development service providers and chain enablers who are focusing on different value chains for potential collaboration and the possibility of exploring public-private partnership in the provision of market infrastructure (post-harvest handling equipment).
Solutions to the complex agricultural problems facing us today require a systems approach. Inputs need to be sought from multiple stakeholders including farmers, researchers, government, and the private sector. Interventions may target multiple points in the value chain. Innovation Platforms (sometimes known as multi-stakeholder processes, learning alliances, self-help groups, or social learning and innovation platforms) have been found to be successful vehicles for designing and implementing systemic solutions. Innovation platforms are groups of stakeholders who work together to identify research and policy interventions to address weaknesses in agricultural systems. They may then initiate scaling out activities, possibly in conjunction with development partners.
However, the facilitation of an innovation platform remains more of an art form than a science. The skill set required of a successful facilitator ranges from excellent communication and negotiation skills to an understanding of how to monitor and evaluate the unique processes inherent in platform interactions.
The ILRI Learning Platform has developed a course for facilitators of innovation platforms, which draws on the experience of multiple CGIAR partners and that of key agricultural research organisations including FARA, the BMGF, and the FAO, who have been working in this area. Recent training workshops coordinated by ILRI in Africa and the Mekong will provide a framework for the course. The task will require a thorough desk review as a base for generating teaching/learning materials consistent with internationally recognised best practice in adult learning.
Six online modules of the course have already been developed and can be reviewed on ILRIs eLearning portal at http://learning.ilri.org. These modules and the follow-up workshop component of the course were pilot tested with active IP facilitators in the Mekong in late 2015.
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MTS chair group is looking for motivated and self-starter student who wants to work in an exiting international team of researchers. You will be working on cutting-edge innovation projects for one to three months with the option to extension.
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PhD student vacancy on Post-Harvest Factors Influencing Climate-Resilient Maize Seed Demand in Ethiopia
The Management Studies Group (MST) at Wageningen University is seeking a Sandwich PhD candidate in Business Management and Economics as part of the research program within the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation).
Despite the evidence currently produced through current research projects funded by USAID both in the areas of farmers’ adoption for improved maize seed varieties and for post-harvest loss technologies, a persisting knowledge gap relates to the question: how does post-harvest and maize market information influence farmers’ demand for improved maize seeds?
Deadline: July 30th, 2015
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Referring to the news posted on July 9th, 2015, the deadline for this PhD position has been postponed to July 30th, 2015.
All interested students are invited to apply as soon as possible.
Read the full vacancy here