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Friday, 30 September 2016

Joto Afrika Edition 18 is out

By Bob Aston
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is pleased to present edition 18 of Joto Afrika newsletter.  The edition is a joint effort between ALIN and the Ministry of Environment Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities (MENRRDA) through the Low Emission and Climate Resilient Development (LECRD) Project.
Funding for the LECRD Project is by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this is within the framework of the US Government led effort on Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategy (EC-LEDS).
Joto Afrika edition 18 cover
Joto Afrika, meaning “Africa is feeling the heat’ in Kiswahili is a series of printed briefings and online resources about climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in sub- Saharan Africa. The series helps people understand the issues, constraints, and opportunities that people face in adapting to climate change and escaping poverty.  
Edition 18 seeks to look into the role and involvement of youth in addressing climate change and further, highlight opportunities that need to be leveraged to consolidate ongoing engagements and build to scale successful youth led interventions.
Most evident, is the leading role youth in Kenya have played in championing for climate justice in global climate negotiations, their proven actions in conservation, afforestation, green energy, and smart agriculture. Of significance are their recent pilot actions to secure domestication of the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) in specific counties in Kenya.
It is in enabling transition to community level actions that we see a clear role for youth in Kenya. Considering that close to 50% of the Sub-Saharan population is under the age of 30 years and given the high levels of unemployment in the region, youth remain particularly vulnerable to climate threats and the impacts thereof.
Climate Change has remained one of the greatest threats to civilization. Its impacts continue to threaten lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable groups living in the global south.

It is our hope that readers will find the 18th edition of Joto Afrika as informative and that it would add value to their work in addressing the challenges and opportunities faced by youth regarding climate change as well as enable them learn about smart farming technologies that youth can adapt. You can download a copy of Joto Afrika issue here.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Increasing opportunities for smallholder farmers through partnerships

By Bob Aston
On September 24, 2016, Sokopepe convened a day’s meeting at Incredible Hotel in Meru County where Wanda Organic trained the social enterprise team on the importance of soil health and the role of bio-organic fertilizer.
Sokopepe is partnering with Wanda Organic to enhance good agricultural practices by promoting use of plantmate bio-organic fertilizer for enhanced soil fertility. 
The organic fertilizer is a mixture of plant and animal wastes through an advanced bio-fermentation process using BIO-PLUS activator. It is a result of over 40 years of biotechnology research in Southeast Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
Ms. Roseline Ngusa, Sokopepe Operations Director addressing the participants
Wanda Organic Director Ms. Marion Moon stressed on the importance of improving soil fertility. She noted that food crop yields per acre are on the decline partly due to continuous cropping without adequate soil nutrients replenishment. She said that plantmate bio-organic fertilizer works on the soils physical, biological, and chemical properties thus making it a unique product.
Further Ms. Moon stated that Wanda organic fertilizer contains beneficial microorganism and organic material, and is non-toxic and eco-friendly. In addition, they replenish soil nutrients, helps to increase yields, shorten crop cycles, and reduce crop diseases.
She noted that farmers could maximize their yields when they use it with a little chemical fertilizer. The organic fertilizer contains over 20 naturally occurring beneficial micro-organisms growing in a scientifically blended food base made of chelated trace elements, enzymes, amino acids, growth promotants and functional compounds.
“We want to improve productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers by providing economical, effective, and sustainable agricultural inputs,” said Ms. Moon.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, healthy soils are the foundation for food, fuel, fibre, and even medicine. FAO approximates that 33 percent of the global soil resources are degraded due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification and chemical pollution.
Ms. Roseline Ngusa, Sokopepe operations director said that the social enterprise is leveraging on partnerships in order to develop stronger value chains and systems that lead to improved income for smallholder farmers.
She said that the social enterprise, which is supporting the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information and farm records management services is partnering with agro-suppliers, agro-financiers, public-private extension services providers, knowledge partners, market access actors and farmer groups.
She noted that Wanda Organic partnership would enable farmers easily access bio-organic fertilizer through its agencies in Meru County.

Achieving and maintaining appropriate levels of soil fertility, especially plant nutrient availability, is of paramount importance if agricultural land is to remain capable of sustaining crop production at an acceptable level.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Sokopepe at 6th African Green Revolution Forum

By Bob Aston
The 6th African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), which concluded on September 9, 2016 at the United Nations (UN) complex in Nairobi, Kenya, featured Sokopepe among 15 Information and Communication Technology for Agriculture (ICT4Ag) innovations.
The landmark forum themed: ‘Seize the Moment: Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation’ aimed to advance the policies and secure the investments that will ensure a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families.
The open session on “the digital harvest: How to grow and sustain ICT4Ag solution” reviewed though a video documentary ICT4Ag Innovations, consumer feedback and steps made towards sustainability.
Sokopepe director Mr. James Nguo, was a panelist in the session moderated by Ms. Carol Kyazze Kakooza, Chief Technical Advisor, and Chief of Party for Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW)-Market-led, User-owned ICT4Ag Enabled Information Service (MUIIS), Uganda.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) supported an assessment of the business models of fifteen ICT4Ag solution providers in Kenya, Tanzania, and Ghana. The fifteen solution providers volunteered to share their successes and challenges in making ICT work for smallholder farmers during the forum.
Dr. Agnes Kalibata,AGRA president addressing delegates.PHOTO/AGRF
The review of Sokopepe business model by Advantech Ltd indicated that the two year old company is already 25 percent towards sustainability.
During the session, policy makers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society, scientists, and other stakeholders watched a video of Sokopepe highlighting testimonies from farmers and value preposition offered by Sokopepe through its Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS) innovation.
Mr. Nguo shared the successes and challenges faced by Sokopepe. He noted that data obtained through FARMIS would enable agriculture stakeholders such as County governments and central government, agro-input providers, providers of agriculture credit and development partners to get evidence of the status of agriculture.
 “FARMIS gives farmers holistic year-round monitoring, data collection, entry, storage, and mid-season analysis to enable appropriate farm planning and sustainable market linkages,” said Mr. Nguo.
The participants appreciated the efforts made by Sokopepe in Meru County, Kenya in addressing lack of accurate production, marketing and operational data in agriculture as well as limited access to finance by smallholder farmers.
The session reviewed examples of successful business models as well as how to improve uptake and usage of ICT4Ag.  The panelists also deliberated on what is hampering ICT4Ag solutions to grow and sustain.
The panelists agreed that challenges in business models such as lack of clear and unfavourable revenue models, limited view on cost drivers, and unwillingness by farmers to pay for services coupled with lack of clear business case for users usually lead to solutions that do not have robust revenue models.
The delegates concurred that sustainable ICT4Ag solutions have revenue models, diversified sources of income, organize regular customer feedback, have copyright protected technology and key performance indicators to monitor the business among others.
The forum realized a pledge of more than US $30 billion in investments to increase production, income, and employment for smallholder farmers and local African agriculture businesses.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Unlocking opportunities for smallholder farmers through financial inclusion

By Bob Aston
Increasing smallholder farmers’ access to financial and insurance services would ensure improved food security and increased incomes. Smallholder farmers need access to financial services to generate income from their agricultural enterprises, build assets, and manage risks.
Most smallholder farmers are unable to reach their potential due to difficulty in accessing financial products and services such as savings, insurance, and remittances that enable them to deal with crop failure, high cost of inputs among other challenges.
Smallholder farmer weeding
However, financial institutions cite lack of proper farmer records as a major constraint when evaluating farmers’ viability for credit.
Financial inclusion or inclusive financing is the delivery of financial services at affordable costs to sections of disadvantaged and low-income segments of society, in contrast to financial exclusion where those services are not available or affordable.
In Meru County, Kenya, Sokopepe, a social enterprise supporting the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information and farm records management services is taking an initiative to address the constraints by unlocking financial markets for smallholder farmers through partnerships.
The social enterprise through its Farm records management Information System (FARMIS) is keen to lay emphasis on building financial literacy for smallholder farmers as well as their financial capabilities. This is a critical investment as smallholder farmers are able to make informed decisions regarding financial products and services.
FARMIS provides a platform that enables farmers effectively store records and financial institutions can review farmers' performance over a period to help them make an informed decision about the farmer's capabilities to manage credit.
Through the innovation, farmers are able to track all their agribusiness enterprises, schedule different farm events and track all the expenses incurred. In addition, mobile financial services payments for produce have improved financial stability and security for the farmers.
Financial inclusion is a powerful tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and helping to ensure more banked farmers.
According to the 2016 Financial Access Household Survey, mobile money platforms have boosted the Country’s financial inclusion. However, women still have lower access to formal prudentially regulated services such as banks (35% for women compared to 50% for men). The report notes that a third of Kenyan adults report agriculture as their main source of income.
Sokopepe hopes to leverage on existing relationships within the value chains to ensure farmers access financial services sustainably while the financially excluded enjoy new possibilities.
Over the next few years, financial inclusion will continue to be a key element of Sokopepe’s commitment to increase incomes of smallholder farmers involved in agricultural production activities.

Friday, 9 September 2016

ICTs for sustainable development goals

By Bob Aston
The 2016 Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium themed:” Embracing capacity building opportunities in the digital era” that took place at Safari Park Hotel and Casino in Nairobi on September 6-8, 2016 pledged continued capacity building in Information and communication technologies (ICTs) in order to facilitate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The over 400 participants from regulatory authorities, academia, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations representatives agreed to improve’ digital skills and empower countries to take full advantage of strong continued growth in ICT-related jobs.
Delegates during the Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium.PHOTO/ITU
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) organized the Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium, while the Kenyan Government through the Communication Authority of Kenya hosted the event.
Mr. Francis Wangusi, Director General, Communications Authority of Kenya urged ICT stakeholders to work together to establish synergies in capacity building initiatives for greater impact.
Mr. Wangusi advocated for partnerships like the ITU centres as a way of ensuring the success of capacity building. He urged governments to increase investments in the development of ICT capabilities in order to mitigate against looming digital skills gap.
“As ICT skills become critical in the digital economy, there is need to develop some global benchmarks for ICT skills, as well as some tools for assessment, training, and certification,” said Mr. Wangusi.
Dr. Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau called for continuous capacity building as the ICT sector is evolving very fast. He stressed on the importance of new skills requirements in the digital era and in achieving the SDGs.
The delegates implored universities to adopt new innovative teaching methodologies that are in line with the recent developments in ICT. The symposium urged governments to capacity build top-level executives on mobile technology and Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) to enable them support digital economy initiatives.
The symposium supported a strong legal environment that fosters long-term policies for the creation of capacity building programmes in ICTs. The delegates urged ICT stakeholders to integrate ICT capacity building in education. This would help provide educational content in new, better and more effective way.
The symposium awarded long-standing ITU partners like Cisco, the United States Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI), and the United Kingdom Telecommunications Academy (UKTA). ITU also awarded Prof David Mellor for his personal contribution to building capacity building in the area of ICT while BRCK Education won the 2016 Young Innovators Award.
Two pre-events dedicated to "Capacity Building in Internet Governance" and "Regulators as Enablers and Consumers of Capacity Building" took place on September 5, 2016. The events enabled participants to map out strategies for capacity building in internet governance and to deliberate on innovative ways of regulation through upgrading of staff skills sets and training.
The outcome of the Symposium will provide strategic guidance to the national and international community on capacity building in the field of ICT, and on strengthening collaboration among the global ICT capacity building community.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Kenya determined to bridge gap between possibility and achievement in ICT

By Bob Aston
Deputy President H.E William Samoei Ruto has said that Kenya is determined to bridge the gap between possibility and achievement in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The Deputy president made the remarks while opening the Global ICT capacity Building Symposium (CBS) themed:” Embracing capacity building opportunities in the digital era” that is taking place at Safari Park Hotel and Casino in Nairobi on September 6-8, 2016.
Participants following proceedings during the Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium
He said that the 2016 Kenya Economic Survey indicated that the value of ICT output expanded from 259 million shillings in 2014 to 280 million in 2015. In addition, this year’s projection indicates that the sector will contribute at least 8 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“There are young people across the country doing phenomenal work and rolling out important apps, websites and solutions that are transforming our society into an easier one to live, work and prosper,” said the Deputy President.
He said that ICT is the enabling sector towards the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals and Vision 2030 in Kenya. In addition, the more connected people are, the higher the likelihood of more innovation and transformation.
He noted that various sectors in the economy like finance, health, education, agriculture and the government are quickly embracing technology to enable dissemination of information, enhancement of service delivery and effective reach to customers. 
He noted that mobile technology has revolutionized financial inclusion with two out of three adult Kenyans being part of the formal financial ecosystem. This phenomenon has up-ended the traditional business models of financial institutions and retail outlets. 
“As a country, we have embraced ICTs because of our firm belief in their transformative power. Kenya's ICT sector is vibrant, ambitious, and innovative, and is underpinned by sound and progressive National ICT Policy,” said the Deputy President.
On his part, Mr. Joe Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology said that the mobile and internet connectivity currently stands at 89.2 and 87.2 percent in the Country while more than 78 percent of Kenyans have access to 3G services.
He said that his ministry is reviewing the National ICT Sector Policy in consultation with stakeholders. The revised ICT policy will drive the pace of ICT innovations in the country and resonate with the rapid technological advances, changing public needs and evolving global trends.
He touched on the government’s initiative in producing quality ICT leaders in public service through the Presidential Digital Talent Program (PDTP). This year the project has overseen the recruitment of 400 ICT management trainees who are now working in both the public and private sectors.
He emphasized on the importance of the Digital Literacy Program (DLP), which aims to build 21st century skills amongst primary school students through use of digital technologies in education.
The Symposium has brought together stakeholders across 70 Countries to discuss trends and developments in the sector and their implications for human and institutional capacity building.
The outcome of the Symposium will provide strategic guidance to the national and international community on capacity building in the field of ICT, and on strengthening collaboration among the global ICT capacity building community.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Securing Africa’s rise through agricultural transformation

By Bob Aston
The 2016 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) kicks off in the United Nation Complex, Nairobi, Kenya on September 5-9, 2016. The landmark forum themed: ‘Seize the Moment: Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation’ aims to advance the policies and secure the investments that will ensure a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families.
This would help fulfill the head of states commitments outlined in the National Agricultural and Food Security Investment Plans (NAFSIPs), African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Smallholder farmers being trained on best agricultural practices
About 1500 leaders including African Heads of State and Government, Ministers, policy makers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society, scientists, and other stakeholders will attend the forum.
Africans have relied on agriculture for food, jobs, and economic growth for decades. However, despite the role and potential of African agriculture, transformative change remains out of reach for millions on the continent.
This year’s forum provides agriculture stakeholders with an opportunity to highlight the best elements of Africa’s agriculture, the changes that are allowing farming families to lift themselves out of poverty by embracing agribusiness.
AGRF has emerged as Africa’s leading platform that brings together a range of critical stakeholders in the agriculture landscape to discuss and develop concrete plans for achieving the green revolution in Africa.
According to Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the event marks a milestone moment over AGRA’s 10-year history, which has seen the achievement of tangible transformation at national levels and within the private and public sectors.
Conceptualized with a “less is more” format, the forum will promote optimal B2B engagement, big idea plenaries, interactive workshops, and empirical knowledge sharing.
There will be five thematic group discussions on finance; Inputs; trade; markets and the domestic private sector; agricultural infrastructure; technology and mechanization; and capacity development and women and youth in agriculture.
In addition, the forum will mark the inaugural launch of “The Africa Food Award.” The Award recognizes an outstanding individual or institution that is leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa-from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives.
Banking on agriculture for Africa’s future would help secure investments in agriculture thus ensuring a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families.

Follow the hashtag #AGRF2016 on Twitter and Facebook for live updates on the 2016 African Green Revolution Forum. Let us seize this unique moment to secure Africa’s rise through agricultural transformation.