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Isabelle Baltenweck: an agricultural economist passionate about making the world a better place for women and men in livestock

5 days 4 hours ago
The CGIAR Research Program on Livestock recently announced with pleasure the appointment of Dr. Isabelle Baltenweck as its new flagship leader for Livestock, Livelihoods and Agro-food Systems (LLAFS). Originally from France, Isabelle brings to the role close to 20 years of post-doctoral experience in smallholder value chains in Africa, South and South-East Asia, with a … Continue reading →

Climate-Smart Agricultural Value Chains: Risks and Perspectives

1 month 2 weeks ago
Climate-Smart Agricultural Value Chains: Risks and Perspectives Mwongera, Caroline; Nowak, Andreea; Notenbaert, An Maria Omer; Grey, Sebastian; Osiemi, Jamleck; Kinyua, Ivy; Lizarazo, Miguel; Gilvetz, Evan Extreme weather is causing significant problems for smallholder farmers and others who depend on agricultural value chains in developing countries. Although value-chain analysis can help untangle the complex relationships within agricultural systems, it often has failed to take into account the effects of climate change. Climate-change assessments, meanwhile, often focus on the production node while neglecting other components of the value chain. In response to these shortcomings, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in collaboration with the Government of Kenya, developed the climate risk profiles (CRP) approach. Using a case study from Nyandarua County in Kenya, we illustrate how this approach (i) supports identification of major climate risks and their impacts on the value chain, (ii) identifies adaptation interventions, and (iii) promotes the mainstreaming of climate-change considerations into development planning at the subnational level. Our results show that the magnitude of a climate risk varies across value chains. At the input and production stage, strategies for supporting climate-smart value chains include the following: improving access to input markets, supporting diversification and value addition, provision of climate-smart production technologies, dissemination of climate information services, and making financial and insurance services available. At the harvesting, processing and marketing stages, useful interventions would include strengthening farmer organization, investing in climate-proofed infrastructure including roads and facilities for storage, processing and improving access to output markets. Finally, climate-change adaptation along the value chain would be improved by strengthening existing institutions, exploring public-private partnerships and adopting coherent local policies.

Top of the tree: FTA in 2018

1 month 4 weeks ago
The year 2018 saw the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) chalk up some notable achievements in the worlds of sustainable development, food security and addressing climate change. A number of the program’s research findings reverberated throughout the scientific community, impacting discussions at major events and informing work on the ground. Read on to find out which […]

New project will develop aquaculture knowledge and practical skills of students and fish farmers in Zambia

1 month 4 weeks ago
Posted onDec 17, 2018

WorldFish and its partners have launched a major new project in Zambia. The Aquaculture Technical, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training for Improved Private Sector and Smallholder Skills project aims to increase the human resources in the private sector and the number of smallholder commercial fish farmers with enhanced aquaculture knowledge and up-to-date practical skills.

Zambia has a high rate of unemployment. There are noticeable disparities between men and women in the labor force, especially a lack of women formally working in the fisheries sector who have received fisheries skills training. In addition, the current technical education, vocational and entrepreneurship training (TEVET) system faces challenges, including developing skills that are relevant to the employment market, particularly the private sector. 

Moreover, there are poor linkages between the private sector and smallholder fish farmers, affecting their ability to organize for improved input supply, aggregation and sale of their outputs as well as their greater participation in other aquaculture value chain activities.

Enhancing technical education

The new USD 2.5 million, 3.5-year project is funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. It will be implemented by WorldFish through FISH, in partnership withthe Natural Resources Development College(NRDC), Musika and BluePlanet. It will be carried out in the Zambian capital Lusaka and the Northern and Luapula provinces. 

The project has two components:

  • upgrading the fisheries science curriculum (long- and short-term courses) and training tools, and developing an online training platform and internship program at NRDC with links to other TEVET institutions to scale the upgraded training ‘package’ over the course of the project;
  • enhancing the technical education, vocational and entrepreneurship skills of rural women, men and youth smallholder commercial fish farmers and increasing their linkages to input/output markets and entrepreneurship opportunities via private sector extension support and services delivery.

The project will also contribute to the goals of several government and global initiatives. Among them are the Zambia 7thNational Development Plan, the Zambia Aquaculture Enterprise Development Project and the UNESCO Strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (2016–2021).

Private sector commitment

The project was launched on 9 November 2018 at NRDC. The launch was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, University of Zambia, Copperbelt University and the German Corporation for International cooperation (GIZ).

Cecilia Kamanga, Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, noted the importance of the fisheries sector to Zambia’s economic development, income generation and contribution to food and nutrition security. 

“I have no doubts that the project being been launched today will complement the vision of the Aquaculture Enterprise Development Project, which was launched by President Edgar Chagwa Lungu in October 2017 and aims at promoting fish production through aquaculture,” she said.

“Aquaculture knowledge and updated practical skills will help to sustainably grow the sector,” added Dr. Sloans Chimatiro, Country Director Zambia and Tanzania, WorldFish. “Our efforts will focus on youth and women, positively impacting their meaningful integration into the aquaculture value chain once they graduate from NRDC and other institutions to which the upgraded curriculum will be scaled.”

The presence of a number of private companies at the launch, including Yalelo, Skretting, Novatek and Great Lake Products, underlined the commitment of the private sector to supporting the project and to the equitable growth of aquaculture more broadly. 


Standing tall: Bamboo from restoration to economic development

2 months ago
Can grass be used to make tissues, furniture, pipes and even housing? Can it help to improve livelihoods and to mitigate climate change? Think beyond garden lawns and savannah landscapes, to bamboo. “Bamboos, although they look like trees,” said the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation’s (INBAR) Director General Hans Friederich in opening a recent side event at the Global Landscapes […]

Workshop on social and gender dynamics aims to improve resilience and livelihoods in Ghana

2 months 1 week ago
Raising awareness of gender equity and equality is critical for Africa’s future, with workshops like one held recently in Ghana an important contribution. Almost two dozen representatives from Ghanaian development agencies working in partnership with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in northern Ghana gathered in the city of Bolgatanga on Nov. 13, 2018 for a training workshop titled Social and […]

Addressing climate displacement in the MENA region

2 months 1 week ago

Climate change threatens the viability of agriculture, ecosystems, and rural livelihoods in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In a region where agriculture is a critical source of employment and income, environmental degradation and the decline of more variable productivity could potentially cause widespread displacement, posing significant challenges. Climate change now appears to be influencing migration flows in some areas, and this influence is expected to grow as conditions become progressively hotter and drier.

We need strategic investments now to strengthen resilience and maintain rural livelihoods. Communities will need support to prepare for and recover from immediate weather shocks such as drought, and adapt to shifting climatic conditions over the medium- to longer-term. The costs of our inaction will only grow as adaptation needs escalate.

A new discussion paper published by ICARDA and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) outlines a ‘resilience strategy’ that MENA countries can adopt to address the threats of climate displacement.

The strategy is not designed to stop migration altogether – given the existence of migration networks and the fact that millions of rural households already use migration as a form of income diversification. Its aim is more practical: to give rural people the option of remaining where they are to build productive lives, and in situations where agriculture is no longer viable, assistance to leave climate-vulnerable areas.

A strategic response to the threat of climate displacement

A critical first step is to improve the collection of data, developing an evidence base to inform policies and decision-making. Countries can start by reviewing existing evidence to identify knowledge gaps, linking census data and climatic information to identify vulnerable groups, and ensuring that environmental indicators are included in household surveys.

Climate-vulnerable areas should also be targeted with proven adaptation measures – in response to both short-term and longer-term risks. The region’s exposure to climate variability and weather shocks such as drought, for example, requires early warning systems, weather-index insurance schemes and climate-advisory services, which not only help farmers prepare and recover from extreme events, but also strengthen their long-term resilience to the more progressive impacts of climate change.

The hotter and drier conditions that the MENA region is expected to endure over the course of this century will need a holistic response that includes the more efficient use of scarce water resources; the conservation, collection, and utilization of biodiversity – for climate-resilient crops and livestock breeds; integrated crop–livestock farming systems; the promotion of sustainable value chains and off-farm activities; and improved efforts to scale-up proven technologies – ensuring that innovations get into the hands of farmers.

In areas where agriculture is no longer viable, countries should explore alternative livelihoods, such as eco-tourism and the generation of solar power, or utilize migration as a form of climate change adaptation, helping to reduce pressures in climate-vulnerable areas and strengthening resilience - through the circulation of remittances and new ideas and knowledge that could potentially support climate-smart agriculture.

Implementing a resilience strategy

Countries already have several planning mechanisms they can utilize to embed resilience-strengthening measures into their climate adaptation strategies – for instance, Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans. A major challenge, however, will be accessing the necessary funds to finance resilience, particularly given declining donor investments in agricultural research.

It is imperative, therefore, that MENA countries adopt practical and strategic financial outreach plans that effectively target diverse sources of funding – identifying suitable funding sources, increasing or initiating engagement with donors, and preparing proposals that are ‘bankable.’ Additional efforts are also needed to engage the private sector.

In addition, there is the need to strengthen capacities – ensuring that government agencies, ministries, and national agricultural research systems can undertake and utilize research more effectively, and embrace technological innovations such as geo-informatics and climate modeling.

It's a tall order, but not impossible. With strong political leadership, the support of international development organizations like the CGIAR, and the financial contributions of donors, MENA countries have an opportunity to implement a resilience strategy that delivers for vulnerable rural communities, helping them to build productive lives and avoid the uncertainties and challenges posed by displacement.

Read the discussion paper Investing in resilience: Addressing climate-induced displacement in the MENA region.

This blog originally appeared on the ICARDA DryWire - news and views on drylands research from ICARDA and its partners.