Innovating Agribusiness Solutions for a better World

agrolution

THE FUTURE OF AFRICA DEPENDS ON AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is instrumental in Africa’s poverty: it must also be instrumental in its wealth. Only through agricultural regeneration can growth, diversification and job creation occur for African economies, for no region of the world has ever industrialised without the agricultural sector being first transformed.

In short, the future of Africa depends on agriculture. But Africa cannot develop quickly if farming remains largely a subsistence activity. 60% of the population are involved in farming, yet it accounts for less than one seventh of its GDP, and African agricultural yield is the lowest in the world.

So Africa is late in developing but even this very fact offers a large scale opportunity for international investors and big-ticket entrepreneurs.

Economic diversification and lasting wealth creation begins with a vibrant agriculture sector. Between $30 and $40 billion a year over the next ten years is needed to transform African agriculture and create the vibrancy. It’s a lot of money, but it is available, even within Africa, if the projects are good enough.

And they ought to be good enough, since such investments will create new markets worth at least $85 billion per year in added revenue by 2025. That’s a potential return of at least 100%. But which producers will own, influence and leverage these markets? Most, surely, should be made in Africa? We must own our development. The commitments of last year’s AGRF gave us a flying start with $30 billion over 10 years.

And with such transformation would come the reduction of Africa’s net trade deficit in food, potentially bringing net savings of up to $100 billion per year. We must bring an end to the costly and damaging anomaly of the net deficit in food. No more should Africa produce what it does not or cannot consume, and no more should it consume what it does not (but could easily) produce.

Other related measures would deliver similarly impressive albeit incalculable financial impacts: fiscal inclusion, tax reform, domestic revenue mobilization, higher remittances, reduced corruption and better governance.

 

 

There are also still huge and unexploited growth opportunities in Africa. The continent is endowed with 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land and huge reserves of water. Sub Saharan Africa also has 10% of the world’s oil reserves, 40% of its gold, and up to 90% of its chromium and platinum. And those are just the known reserves – the whole continent is one of the world’s largest unexplored resource basins. Africa may suffer from poverty but it is an unimaginably rich continent, even after fifty years and more of commodity exploitation.

But how to bring about this transformation? How to close this potential deal of the century? Public and private sector should be acting together. They are needed to provide significant opportunities for Africa’s emerging innovators and entrepreneurs, not to mention its financiers, fund managers and financial advisers.

Over the past few years, the Bank has been able to bring about a comprehensive re-evaluation of the potentially enormous role of agriculture in the transformation of Africa, and the AGRF has been a critical factor in the shared objective with the Bank of bringing about the green revolution in Africa.

The technologies to feed Africa exist already. This is the period of climate change. High yielding drought-tolerant maize can allow farmers to grow a good crop even during droughts. Some cassava varieties can yield 80 tonnes per hectare. High yielding rice varieties that meet or beat international standards of imported rice now exist. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes allow us to address the problem of vitamin A deficiency. Tropical and drought-tolerant wheat varieties are being grown in Nigeria, Kenya and Sudan.

These technologies need to be scaled up for widespread adoption. This will not happen by itself. It will require specific incentives. In particular, the African Development Bank and the World Bank plan to jointly provide $800 million through “Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation”, a flagship programme for the scaling up of agricultural technologies to reach millions of farmers in Africa over the next ten years

For agricultural transformation more generally, the African Development Bank has committed $24 billion to agriculture over the next 10 years, with a sharp focus on food self-sufficiency and agro-industrialization.

It’s also why we launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), to make an extra $3 billion available for women entrepreneurs, in order to improve food production levels on the basis that women are demonstrably more dependable and bankable than men.

Getting our youth involved in agriculture as a business is crucial. That is why the Bank launched the ENABLE Youth program. This program will provide access to capital and capacity to “Agripreneurs” to create about 300,000 agribusinesses and 1.5 million jobs in 30 countries across Africa, with an estimated investment of $15 billion over the next five years.

With so many entrepreneurs now on the case of farming, an issue to resolve quickly is the current low level of commercial financing for agriculture. Finance and farming have not been easy partners in Africa, and the farming sector receives less than 3% of the overall financing provided by the banking sector.

The African Development Bank is promoting national risk sharing facilities in every country to leverage agricultural finance, similar to the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), a facility designed to reduce the risks of lending to Nigerian agriculture value chains. The impact in Nigeria was massive. Over four years, 15 million farmers were reached, 2.5 million of them women. Food production expanded by over 21 million tonnes. Today, several African countries are adopting the approach, as well as others such as Afghanistan.

I predict that the next few years will see agriculture emerge fully from poverty and subsistence to become the next big booming business sector of Africa, with entrepreneurs, financiers, inventors and innovators all gathering round a honey pot of bankable projects, programmes and opportunities. After all, who eats copper? And who drinks oil? Africans need to become producers and creators, and not just consumers, in the fast-moving enterprising business of food.

The African Development Bank will play its active role as a catalyst of this activity, and I am confident that we will soon see Africa’s first tranche of billionaires coming from the farming and food sectors.

 

*Agrolution via https://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/the-future-of-africa-depends-on-agriculture-17310/

AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK TO INVEST $24b IN AGRICULTURE

The African Development Bank (AfDB) will invest US $24 billion dollars in agriculture as part of its Feed Africa programme- a strategy for agricultural development in Africa.

President of the Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, said this in a speech he delivered at the 50th anniversary celebration of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria,

Adesina emphasized that the goal of the Bank is to “ensure that Africa feeds itself within ten years, and unlocks the full potential of its agriculture.”

The IITA hosted a series of events to celebrate 50 years of excellence in research. Dignitaries attended the event from across the continent.

The Institute recognized Adesina’s immense contributions to improving agriculture and named a newly constructed building after him. The US $700,000 Akinwumi Adesina Youth Agripreneurs Building is a new Training Facility for Capacity Development for Youth Agripreneurs funded by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and IITA. The training facility comprises two major training rooms that can conveniently accommodate 50 trainees each, two big offices for 30 interns each, and 20 standard sized offices.

“I am humbled, and deeply appreciative of the opportunity to lend my name to this well-equipped building which will be used by young Agripreneurs to learn, set up and launch their own businesses, and create a prosperous living for themselves, their families and those they will employ,” Adesina said

Adesina re-affirmed his conviction that the future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will emerge from the agriculture sector. “Africa is today spending $35 billion a year importing food. That is US$35 billion that should be kept on the continent. This is a US$35 billion market that young people can tap into to create new wealth each year. To do that requires totally changing the lenses with which we look at agriculture. Agriculture should no longer be seen as a way of life or a development sector, but rather as a business for wealth creation,” he emphasized.

 

*Agrolution via https://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/afdb-to-invest-us-24-billion-in-agriculture-in-next-10-years-17218

FUTURE OF AFRICAN YOUTH LIES IN AGRICULTURE

Making agriculture profitable and “cool” for young people in Africa is key to lifting millions out of poverty and stemming migration to Europe, said the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Akinwumi Adesina was named the winner of this year’s World Food Prize on Monday for his decades-long work to boost food production in his native Nigeria, increase access to credit for small farmers across Africa and transform the continent’s agriculture.

Kenneth Quinn, president of the Des Moines, Iowa-based World Food Prize Foundation, said the $250,000 award reflected Adesina’s “breakthrough achievements” as Nigeria’s minister of agriculture and his critical role in the development of the nonprofit Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

Adesina, 57, told Reuters he was humbled by the award but felt his work to ensure Africa could feed itself was “uncompleted business.”

Almost 30 percent of the 795 million people in the world who do not have enough to eat are in Africa, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

“When I look at Africa today, I see that many rural areas unfortunately have become zones of economic misery,” Adesina said in a phone interview ahead of the award’s announcement.

No sector has greater potential to revive those areas than agriculture, but investments are needed to make it attractive for young people, many of whom risk their lives migrating in search of better opportunities in Europe, Adesina said.

“We must make agriculture cool for young people,” he said. “The key is to make agriculture a business. Agriculture is not a way of life, is not a development activity, it’s a business.”

Africa has 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land but imports food for $35 billion every year, a bill that is expected to swell to $110 billion by 2025, he said.

“It makes no sense. That is food Africa should be producing, processing, selling and exporting,” he said. “Africa in the future should not only feed itself, but it must contribute to feeding the world.”

Toward this end, agriculture must become more industrialized, with farmers gaining better access to seeds, fertilizer, credit, power and infrastructure, he said.

Farmers should be supported to transform from producers of raw materials, such as cocoa and cotton, to manufacturers of finished goods such as chocolate and garments, which have less volatile prices, Adesina said.

To accelerate growth, the AfDB aimed to invest $12 billion in the energy sector, hoping to leverage another $50 billion from the private sector, he said.

Last year, AfDB had invested $800 million to support young agro-entrepreneurs in eight countries and planned to extend the scheme to 30 nations, he added.

Adesina called on governments and institutional investors, such as pension and insurance funds, to “see the gold” in African agriculture and invest in it to unlock its potential. He said he was convinced the future billionaires of Africa would come from agriculture.

“I don’t believe that the future of African youth lies at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea,” he said. “The future of African young people lies in a more prosperous and inclusive Africa, and there is no other sector that has greater power to create growth than the agricultural sector.”

Adesina was named winner of the World Food Prize, regarded as the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for agriculture, in a ceremony on Monday at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.

 

* Agrolution via https://www.voanews.com/a/food-prize-laureate-future-african-youth-agriculture-migration-europe/3917631.html

 

Agriculture and Agribusiness can boost Industrialization in Africa

Rice fields in Northern Ghana. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

No region of the world has ever moved to industrialised economy status without a transformation of the agricultural sector. Agriculture, which contributes 16.2% of the GDP of Africa, and gives some form of employment to over 60% of the population, holds the key to accelerated growth, diversification and job creation for African economies.

But the performance of the sector has historically been low. Cereal yields are significantly below the global average. Modern farm inputs, including improved seeds, mechanisation and irrigation, are severely limited.

In the past, agriculture was seen as the domain of the humanitarian development sector, as a way to manage poverty. It was not seen as a business sector for wealth creation. Yet Africa has huge potential in agriculture – and with it huge investment potential. Some 65% of all the uncultivated arable land left in the world lies in Africa. When Africa manages to feed itself, as – within a generation – it will, it will also be able to to feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit the planet in 2050.

However, Africa is wasting vast amounts of money and resources by underrating its agriculture sector. For example, it spends $35 billion in foreign currency annually importing food, a figure that is set to rise to over $100 billion per year by 2030.

In so doing, Africa is choking its own economic future. It is importing the food that it should be growing itself. It is exporting, often to developed countries, the jobs it needs to keep and nurture. It also has to pay inflated prices resulting from global commodity supply fluctuations.

The food and agribusiness sector is projected to grow from $330 billion today to $1 trillion by 2030, and remember that there will also be 2 billion people looking for food and clothing. African enterprises and investors need to convert this opportunity and unlock this potential for Africa and Africans.

Africa must start by treating agriculture as a business. It must learn fast from experiences elsewhere, for example in south east Asia, where agriculture has been the foundation for fast-paced economic growth, built on a strong food processing and agro-industrial manufacturing base.

This is the transformation formula: agriculture allied with industry, manufacturing and processing capability equals strong and sustainable economic development, which creates wealth throughout the economy.

Africa must not miss opportunities for such linkages whenever and wherever they occur. We must reduce food system losses all along the food chain, from the farm, storage, transport, processing and retail marketing.

To drive agro-industrialization, we must be able to finance the sector. Doing so will help unlock the potential of agriculture as a business on the continent. Under its Feed Africa strategy, the African Development Bank will invest $24 billion in agriculture and agribusiness over the next ten years. This is a 400% increase in financing, from the current levels of $600 million per year.

A key component will be providing $700 million to a flagship program known as “Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation” for the scaling up of agricultural technologies to reach millions of farmers in Africa in the next ten years.

Finance and farming have not always been easy partners in Africa. Another pillar of the Bank’s strategy is to accelerate commercial financing for agriculture. Despite its importance, the agriculture sector receives less than 3% of the overall industry financing provided by the banking sector.

Risk sharing instruments may resolve this, by sharing the risk of lending by commercial banks to the agriculture sector. Development finance institutions and multilateral development banks should be setting up national risk-sharing facilities in every African country to leverage agricultural finance. And the African Development Bank is setting the pace based on a very successful risk sharing scheme that I promoted while Agriculture Minister in Nigeria.

Rural infrastructure development is critical for the transformation of the agriculture sector, including electricity, water, roads and rail to transport finished agricultural and processed foods.

The lack of this infrastructure drives up the cost of doing business and has discouraged food manufacturing companies from getting established in rural areas. Governments should provide fiscal and infrastructure incentives for food manufacturing companies to move into rural areas, closer to zones of production than consumption.

This can be achieved by developing agro-industrial zones and staple crop processing zones in rural areas. These zones, supported with consolidated infrastructure, including roads, water, electricity and perhaps suitable accommodation, will drive down the cost of doing business for private food and agribusiness firms.

They will create new markets for farmers, boosting economic opportunities in rural areas, stimulating jobs and attracting higher domestic and foreign investments into the rural areas. This will drive down the cost of doing business, as well as significantly reduce the high level of African post-harvest losses. As agricultural income rises, neglected rural areas will become zones of economic prosperity.

The goal is simple: to support massive agro-industrial development all across Africa. When that happens, Africa will have taken its rightful place as a global powerhouse in food production. It could well also be feeding the world. At this point the economic transformation that we are all working for will be complete.

 

* Agrolution via http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/using-agriculture-and-agribusiness-to-bring-about-industrialisation-in-africa

HOW TO HELP AFRICA FEED ITSELF

The threat of famine has added fuel to a long-running debate over whether African governments, working in concert with nongovernmental organizations, should do more to promote commercial-scale agriculture and ease the continent’s dependence on subsistence farming. Africa is facing the world’s most severe food crisis since World War II, with some 20 million people at risk of starvation because of a combination of drought conditions and armed conflict.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, smallholders provide as much as 80 percent of the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa. Chronically short of money for seeds and fertilizers and lacking the infrastructure to store and ship crops, these farmers are especially vulnerable to the ravages of climate change, to say nothing of civil wars. Still, the debate is not about productivity alone: In Africa, a higher share of the population is employed in farming than in any other part of the world, so policies that favor larger farms would by necessity push some growers off the land.

The issue is taking on new urgency in an age when some donor nations are turning inward. Donald Trump’s budget proposal cuts 37 percent from the U.S. Department of State and the Agency for International Development. That would touch everything from irrigation projects to nutrition programs aimed at schoolchildren.

Christopher Barrett, an agricultural economist at Cornell, says development aid needs to be channeled toward farmers who have the wherewithal to scale up and not drained away on subsistence-level growers, who can be wiped out by a single bad year. “When the commercial-farmer class is growing, they spend in their local community and they stimulate demand for products,” he says. “They’ll hire someone to clean the house, or they’ll start a local company.”

Africa’s commercial farmers encounter many of the same obstacles as smallholders, but they have some longer-term advantages, says Sam Jones, a professor at the University of Copenhagen whose work has focused on African agriculture. In the past, “there was a feeling that smallholder farmers can be more productive because they can take advantage of family labor,” he says. “But technology is playing a larger and larger role in agriculture, and that’s harder for small farmers to get access to.”

The term “technology,” in this instance, includes things such as drought and pest-resistant seeds and chemicals being developed by DuPont Co. and Monsanto Co. specifically for Africa. Smaller farmers tend to save seeds from previous harvests, lowering yields, and they skimp on fertilizer. Larger ones also benefit from access to credit and crop insurance. Jones describes a virtuous cycle in which better-equipped, better-capitalized farmers buy out their neighbors, some of whom become laborers and some of whom find jobs in cities.

* Agrolution via https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-27/how-to-help-africa-feed-itself?

THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO APPLYING FOR FARM GRANTS

 

Funding a farm? Don’t forget about grants!

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: getting funds is one of the trickier parts of farm start up. Many farmers get hung up on funding because they either don’t know how much money they need or they don’t know what options they have.

Solving this problem requires that farmers have an accurate financial plan in place and that they explore options like the 15 opportunities listed in this guide.

You might already be aware of funding options like using investors, capital funds, or personal resources. One option that farmers frequently forget is grants. Grant are usually a one-time donation of money connected with a certain cause or purpose. Since nationwide interest in local agriculture has increased, grants have as well.

Today, gathering funding can start with writing a few grant proposals to many of the generous donors hoping to back a great cause.

How does grant writing work?

How exactly does one get a grant?

Grants are facilitated by a company or organization that puts out a notice. The notice typically includes information about the qualifications as to who is eligible for the money. Many sites and communicators categorize grants by the qualifications (see the table here as an example).

Once growers find the best grant for them, they begin an application process. This generally involves a formal declaration of application and intent. This means submitting a few forms via email or website. This step is where the most of your writing will take place. See below for some tips on this step!

After the applications have been submitted, the potential candidates for the grant are evaluated by a committee or panel judging the merit of each application. Depending on the number of applicants, this process can be quick or take some time.

When the top candidates are chosen, they will be notified of the award. Finally, the awardees must begin the process of actually receiving the funding or support that the grant promises. Again, a little paperwork will be necessary to ensure the funds are transferred cleanly and legally.

*Note: Many, many grants go unawarded each year. These organizations are actively looking to give out money, but a lot of the time they don’t find people. This means that there is money out there waiting for the right person to come along and use it! In some cases, that person will be you.

Tips for grant writing team

A successful grant is rarely written, edited, and reviewed by a single person. Instead, most are a successful endeavor by a small group of people in a business or educational environment. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

7 Tips for grant writing

When you find a grant that you think might fit your farm, you’ll follow the instruction that come with it to apply. A lot of the time this will mean turning in a written form or letter of some kind.

To write a great grant application, be diligent to follow best practices like these seven tips:

  1. Before anything else, make your purpose clear
  2. Copy similar successful grants
  3. Find the right grants
  4. Prepare solid financial plans
  5. Write a great grant
  6. Edit heavily and match language
  7. The more grants, the better

1) Before anything else, make your purpose clear

Clearly writing out the purpose for grant funding will keep you focused and make your grant journey more efficient. This means defining the primary physical goal you’re trying to accomplish and why you’re trying to accomplish it.

Establish the bottom line for your funding needs as close to an exact dollar amount as you can, giving yourself a little extra breathing room in case of emergencies. Later on, you will repeat these goals to those evaluating your grant. Delivering specifics from the get-go will make your grant that much more appealing to those evaluators.

If you need help working out your farm goals, try Able farming software. Able tracks your expenses, crop output, and a plethora of other small financial details to help you better manage your farm.

Tips for Grant Writing green house

2) Find similar successful grants

Good grant authors borrow. Look for folks who are writing grants for similar situations as yours. Ask around your local growing community for successful grant writing stories. If you’re in the educational field, ask your administration for any similar projects that have been greenlighted that might have connections to successful grant appeals.

When you find someone who has been successful, ask them for a copy of their grant. Pick out the themes that could be responsible for that success and use them in yours.

Finally, visit community sites like Upstart University’s growing social media community and ask around for examples that you can use to jump start your grant.

Review these other grants and note the language, goals, and idea that they used to persuade the grant-givers. When writing your own grant appeal, try to use some of the successful approaches you’ve dug up. (Note: Don’t copy and paste their language. That’s plagiarism. But if you notice a particular tone of voice or type of content they use in their grant, consider mirroring that.)

Read tips from grant recipient Pulaski Grow Farm here.

3) Find the right grants

Once you’ve established some of your basic financial goals and found examples of successful grants similar to what you have in mind, you’ll need to begin to find grants that match your needs.

Those companies, organizations, and individuals that choose to award grants are typically looking to endorse those with similar goals, outlooks, and opinions on matters important to each individual group. Try to find grants with which you can make a strong case for having a lot of common goals.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t stretch your possible goals – as we mentioned earlier, many grants go unawarded due to low numbers of applicants – but focus your time and efforts on grants in the same ballpark as your needs. We’ve discussed finding grants in a recent post about addressing Issues in Starting Classroom Gardens, but here’s a quick run down on the three categories most farmers will be applying for:

   – Federal or State School Grants: These grants are focused on improving nutrition, student health, and educational opportunities nation or state wide. Examples include Farm to School and Team Nutrition.

   – Agricultural Initiatives: These grants focus on improving the state of agriculture, empowering local farmers, or improving crop research. For example, the Specialty Crop Grant focuses on improving specific crops, and experimenting with hydroponic viability falls under that category.

   – Big Box, Commercial, and Private Grants: “Big-Box” stores are stores like LowesHome Depot,Shopko and Walmart. These stores and many more have foundations established providing grants and other opportunities for people to better their communities – commonly through school programs. And don’t dismiss the possibility that local donors or other private grant awards might exist in your city, state, or region. Once again, your local community will be the best resource for information on these private sources.

Another useful strategy when choosing grants to pursue is to request more information, detail, or requirements from the organization providing the grants. Don’t be afraid to send an email or quick phone call to an organization offering a great grant opportunity. Asking questions will not only make your proposal stronger but hopefully impress the organization with your dedication to success.

4) Prepare solid financial plans

Once you’ve found a grant that is a great match for your needs, you’ll need to seriously begin thinking about how this grant will aid your proposed budget.

Those evaluating the various grant applications will be closely examining where their money will go and how it will be used on the farm. You’ll want an airtight budget proposal with every item explained and accounted for. Don’t forget to account for the small details of funding your farming project like utilities, backup parts, and seeds, as details will demonstrate competence and reliability to the grant evaluators.

Tips for grant writing writing

If you’re starting a vertical farm in particular, one great tool for financial planning is Bright Agrotech’s financial resources.

5) Write a great grant

For those potential farmers who lack confidence behind a keyboard, this can seem like a daunting task. But have no fear! Most grants will have a specific writing guideline to accompany the grant request, including a bulleted list of items to address. Be sure to stick closely to the guidelines provided.

Grant writing, like farming, is a straightforward process perfected daily by hundreds of people. Take your grant writing one step at at time, and success will come.

Going back to our second tip, this is also an opportunity to put to use similar grants. Look at the formatting, goals, and word choice of these similar grant appeals and detail out all the elements you find particularly engaging or successful.

Keep your language plain and straightforward, not flowery. Fancy language and extended metaphors can make your grant proposal look tacky or desperate. Professional writing is the name of the game.

If you’re still struggling, consider outsourcing the grant writing itself to a more capable colleague, friend, or family member skilled at writing. If you’re lucky, they might even already have grant writing experience! There’s nothing wrong with choosing a person more qualified for the job.

If all else fails you, here’s a basic format for a grant proposal, paragraph by paragraph.

You should be shooting for five to seven healthy sentences per paragraph:

   – Introduction: This paragraph should preview the big picture surrounding your project. Think of this like an “elevator” pitch, where you give a lot of information in a short period. You’re trying to explain the whole scope of your planned concept to someone who may have no idea of your goals. Keep it simple.

   – Background/Need: In this section, explain the context of the grant. Describe the reasons for and history of the project. Include language about how the project will help your community, improve farming techniques, and other specific needs.

   – Goals and Objectives: What’s your endgame? Explore what you’ll do after you get the funding, and how this will be a positive thing. Remember that farms will be operating in terms of years, so consider what your growing operation will be like in 1, 5 and 10 years respectively.

   – Qualifications and Resources: What tools and talent do you possess that will ensure that the grant award will be implemented successfully? This section is to ensure those evaluating the grant award that you are capable. You’re looking to demonstrate your competence.

   – Conclusion: Restate all your major points (the above paragraphs) in brief, and be sure to thank the organization awarding the grant for their time and the opportunity.

6) Edit heavily and match language

Your grant proposal, once written, should undergo a major editing revision. If you were the author, be sure to have a capable friend or colleague review your proposal. Be sure to address all the common editing challenges such as spelling, punctuation, and grammar. However, just as important is matching the language of the grant.

Here’s an example: The USDA Farm to School Grant specifies its goal as “…[to] establish a Farm to School Program in order to assist eligible entities, through grants and technical assistance, in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools.”

So if you’re writing your grant to build a, for example, indoor garden in a classroom and applying for funding from Farm to School, be sure to illustrate, as much as possible, that your indoor garden will provide food to local students. Go on at length about the opportunities to feed students with local produce grown from your own garden.

The fact that you might intend for the garden to focus more on educational opportunities rather than produce is irrelevant, as long as you can plan to deliver upon your promises to Farm to School.

Matching the language of the grant will let those evaluators know that you’ve given careful thought to your appeal for funds, and will make them feel at comfortable and at home with your proposal. Matching the language of the proposal is the same as using a company’s business language and culture in a job interview: you’re not trying to copy or mimic their success, just demonstrate that you pay attention and know their needs.

7) The more grants, the better

Be sure that you aren’t limiting yourself to just a few grants. To extend the job interview metaphor, you aren’t going to find your dream job the first go-around. Be ready for a little failure and disappointment before you hit the jackpot. The more grants to which you apply, the more likely you’ll be accepted.

Even more, each grant you write is practice for those down the line. Next thing you know, you’ll be a pro grant writer, and those sweet funding dollars will be rolling in to jump-start your growing operation!

* Agrolution via https://university.upstartfarmers.com/blog/the-beginners-guide-applying-farm-grants

The smart way to help African farmers tackle climate change

farm

Agriculture is the most important sector of African economies, from the livelihoods it supports to the future jobs it can generate.

The basic recipe for boosting performance is well known: more investment, better access to financial services, improved seeds, and a lot more fertiliser (appropriately applied).

What is less appreciated is the key role played by agricultural extension workers. They link small-scale farmers to new research, helping to improve their knowledge and skills so they can take advantage of market opportunities. In African countries prone to climate shocks, these extension workers have an increasingly important role to play if farmers are to learn to adapt and build their resilience.

There’s just one big problem: governments have tended to ignore extension work.

“The extension service provider’s role is enormous and urgent, especially as [the unpredictability of] climate change has brought a new dimension to agricultural research and development,” Max Olupot, of the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services, told IRIN.

In addition, Qureish Noordin, from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), warned that climate variability is distorting “a huge portion of indigenous knowledge”, making the design of “realistic and practical adaptation programmes” even harder.

African agriculture, in general, is massively underfunded. In 2003, African governments agreed to the Maputo Declaration, committing 10 percent of spending to agriculture. But only 13 countries have ever managed to reach that target in any one year.

Two decades of IMF programming had pushed governments to cut spending, diminishing the reach and quality of the assistance provided to small-scale producers.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization recommends there should be one extension worker for every 400 farmers. In the rich world, the ratio is roughly one to 200, but in Africa it’s closer to one to 3,000, according to Noordin.

The Kenyan example

Kenya has the largest, most diversified economy in East Africa, and farming is its market-driven mainstay. In 2010, it adopted a new constitution supposed to devolve significant powers to county governments.

But in reality, agricultural policy is still set at the national level and there is a complicated relationship with the counties over responsibilities for the day-to-day running and financing of services and programmes.

Kakamega is a lush county in western Kenya, a seven-hour drive from Nairobi. More than 80 percent of its population is directly employed in the agricultural sector.

The Kenyan government should be stepping up its help for farmers here, but since devolution there’s been a drop in the number of extension workers employed.

Currently, the ratio is roughly one to 3,000-5,000 farmers, according to Johnston Imbira, the county’s director of agriculture.

“The number has decreased due to officers retiring and exiting from the service since devolution,” Imbira told IRIN. “There are no deliberate efforts to support day-to-day extension delivery as it does not appeal to the county legislators compared to roads, which are visible to the electorate [and are a vote-winner].”

The county spends less than 4 percent on agriculture annually, despite the government’s 10 percent target.

“Expertise is dwindling,” said Jacob Masimba, an extension research liaison and training officer. “There is no regular short course training, even with climate change.”

banana

That’s bad news for farmers like Harrison Wesa, a 63-year-old retired teacher who grows bananas on his irrigated, half-hectare plot. “We used to have monthly visitations by government officers,” he told IRIN. “Today, you are lucky to be visited.”

Wesa was forced to abandon vegetable farming due to unpredictable rains and a rise in insect infestation. He soon found he was spending far too much on pesticides, pushed by agro-dealers out to turn a profit.

With losses mounting, his son introduced him to the internet, where he soon found plenty of websites on banana production. “My challenge [now] is too much information that at times confuses me,” he said.

Noordin recognised this problem well. “Even if some farmer can download some of the information, they might require help to interpret some of the messages,” he explained.

Smartphone use is spreading, but not all small-scale farmers can individually afford the data charges for downloading YouTube videos on the latest techniques, few of which are in Kiswahilli, the most broadly spoken language in Kenya.

New approaches

But there are alternatives.

In many countries, extension services are going through profound change, out of necessity. What used to be a centrally controlled, top-down model is increasingly more participatory, farmer-led, and market-orientated.

Farm Africa is an international NGO that has been working with East African farming communities for decades. Its approach includes not only a farmer-to-farmer extension model in which “elite” farmers are trained and pass on the message to their peers, but also partnerships with the private sector.

Geoffrey Nyamota, Farm Africa’s head of market engagement, explained how private businesses buying peas and beans are now providing extension services “directly to the farmers”.

“Public-private partnerships are a win-win,” he told IRIN. “The government is happy, as they know their goals will be delivered on; the private sector is happy, because they get the quality they need.”

Farm Africa has also tested mobile technology in Tanzania, with farmers viewing interactive training modules on tablet computers, as an alternative to traditional demonstration plots. It found that farmers trained using tablets were able to achieve similar increases in knowledge of sesame cultivation, but for about a third of the cost.

And old-fashioned radio still has a role to play, acting as a “megaphone” for extension work. Typically, farmers group themselves into listeners’ clubs and can call in or use SMS to participate in the FM programmes.

And while some governments don’t appear to be getting the message yet, Agriculture for Impact, an advocacy initiative, says a revitalised and expanded role for advisory and information services is now seen “as central to pro-poor agricultural growth”.

* Agrolution via http://www.irinnews.org

Do You Find Farming Hard? Try Out These Tips

persistence

There are hundreds of success stories in newspapers or online platforms dedicated to agribusiness success stories in Kenya. But not many who are interviewed in these farming success stories will stand up and talk about how their agribusiness ventures failed, how that actually feels, and how they are dealing with it.

It’s simply not very ‘empowering’ or inspirational…but it needs to be out in the open.

If you’re a successful farmer in Kenya right now, chances are, this isn’t your first agribusiness venture. Most successful farmers in Kenya whom I know are people who have tried, failed, tried, failed, and tried again…often many tries later…and eventually succeeded.

A beginner farmer in Kenya who succeeds at his or her first agribusiness venture is very rare and sometimes we can get lost in all the successful agribusiness stories in Kenya that when we fail we beat ourselves up and give up on farming all together.

This article is for those beginner farmers who are on their first, second, or third attempt in farming. You may have a string of failures behind you. But you’re still determined to succeed. What do you do?

Get up and Try Again

This is the best advice: Just get up and do it again. If that sounds harsh or impossible, then maybe you’re not cut out for farming. You won’t magically rise and become a successful farmer after failure. You have to fight back. You have to get up. Research more, Get Training, You have to hurl yourself back into the battle with all the ferocious energy that you can muster. Those who rise first will succeed the fastest.

get-up-and-try-again

 

Understand Why Your Agribusiness Venture Failed

Understand Why Your Agribusiness Venture Failed
Always learn from your failure. Don’t waste it. One of the first things you can do after watching your agribusiness go down in flames is to ask the question why? What did I do wrong? How? Write down the reasons why your farm failed and make improvements on the next time you try again.

why-did-it-fail

 

Get Agribusiness Management Training and Coaching

What did you miss when you started your farm? Capital? Training? Labour? Transport? Market readiness?

If you didn’t have a agribusiness/agricultural training to get you ready on your venture, then it’s no wonder you didn’t succeed. To shortcut your path to success, get good training and coaching from existing farmers or attend a practical training course on farming. Try looking for a variety of experienced farmers near you, each of whom will have perspective and experience that can guide you in your agribusiness venture.

training

 

Manage Your Emotions

Emotions are one of an entrepreneur’s most powerful personal assets. Why? Because emotions can keep you high when everything seems to come crashing down. If you’re emotionally calm when your agribusiness venture is stormy, then your emotions will keep you at a balanced level. You can make wise and rational decisions. Protecting your emotions doesn’t mean being weak. Protecting your emotions means staying intentionally positive, surrounding yourself with upward influences, and making sure that you’re receiving the right dose of encouragement to balance out the negativity.

manage-emotions

 

Connect with fellow beginner farmers and share your farming experiences. You will learn that you are not alone in this struggle. This will help you understands some of the challenges other young farmers go through and get inspired to grow and try again.

Ask advice from experienced mentor farmers who have gone through many failures before. They may have wise words to tell you to keep you going.

Relax after working so hard. This will help you get emotionally balanced after trying so hard.

Getting discouraged, losing your momentum, and giving up…these are the hallmarks of a beginner farmer in a nosedive. By maintaining a strong grip on your emotional power, you will be able to build an enduring agribusiness venture.

*Agrolution via http://graduatefarmer.co.ke/2017/01/01/do-you-find-farming-hard-try-out-these-tips/

3 Profitable Agribusiness Ideas for 2017

With less than 2 weeks to new year we need to look at new agribusiness investment ideas for 2017. With many agribusiness ideas in Kenya out there its very hard to determine which one is the best for you and can generate good returns for you. I have personally tried a few investment ideas this year some failed while others succeed but with farmers optimism is key and we have to be patient and hope for the best in every season.

Below are 3 profitable agribusiness ideas in Kenya you can try out in to consider as you usher in 2017.

3-profitable-agribusiness-ideas

ONION FARMING

Onions take between three to five months to mature while the spring one takes a period of four to six weeks. They are very tolerant to heat but also require a lot of water to grow, so make sure to water them well.

The amount of rainfall required is 500-2000mm per year. The vegetable requires well drained soil of ph 6 to 7. They are first planted in a nursery then transferred to the field. They require a long dry period of ripening with less expense on pest.

How to plant onions

There are two ways in which onions can be planted namely;

–  Onion Sets

–  Seeds

Growing Onions from Sets

Onion Sets

Growing onions from sets is the easiest way to grow onions. Sets are dry onion bulbs harvested the previous year and have a higher chance of all sets sprouting.

This is done by pushing the set into dump soil until the top is visible and the onion will grow quickly.

One of the disadvantages of sets is that it is not easy to tell what type of onion variety you have apart from it being either red onions or yellow onions.

Round onion sets will produce flat onion bulbs while elongated or tear shaped onion sets will produce round onion bulbs.

Larger sets are best used as green onions while small sets are best left in the ground to form bulbs.

Usually onions do not flower unless grown from sets

 

 Planting Onions from Seeds

Onion Seeds

1. Make a raised nursery bed 1 meter wide and any desired length. Apply well decomposed manure at a rate of 15kg per square meter.

2. Mix and Apply DAP fertilizer at a rate of 20 grams per meter square

3. Make shallow furrows 15 cm apart. Mix the seeds with dry ash, sand or soil at a ratio of 1:3 to help spread the small seeds. Plant the seeds and cover lightly with soil and apply mulches (Grass or Polythene cover spread over the soil on the nursery bed). After planting irrigate the nursery bed liberally for the first 10 days and continue watering regularly.

4. Germination of seeds will take about 7-10 days after which the mulches are removed and used to make a shade above the tender plants which have not fully developed.

5. Transplanting of the seedlings takes place 6 weeks after planting seeds in the nursery. Transplant when the seedlings have pencil thick base and a height of approximately 15cm. Seedlings should have 3 to 5 well-formed leaves at transplanting time. Two weeks before transplanting reduce the shade to improve seedling survival rate in the field.

6. Wait about 4 months for onions to mature

Pests and Disease Control 

Onion seedlings

Most common diseases you might encounter while growing onions are; blight purple blotch and thrips.

Purple blotch and blight are caused by fungus, with blight appears as whitish spots surrounded by a greenish halo. Purple blotch causes a purple discoloration of leaves.

Thrips are the most common and serious insect pest of onions, and are found wherever onions are grown.

High populations of thrips can reduce both yield and quality of onions. Thrips are most damaging when they feed during the early bulbing stage of plant development. Scarring of leaves is a serious problem on green onions.

Both diseases are common during periods of high moisture, proper spacing allows for ventilation reducing chances of fungal infection.

Thrips on the other hand are tiny insects barely 1mm long and can be eradicated using insecticide.

Harvesting

Onions are fully matured once the top part of the plant (leaves) has fallen over.

Harvest onions in the morning on a sunny day. After pulling the plant from the ground, allow the onion to dry then clip the roots and cut back the top to about 1 inch.

They must be dried thoroughly to avoid problems with rot. The entire neck (where the leaves meet the bulb) should be dry, all the way to the surface of the onion, and shouldn’t “slide” when you pinch it.

The key to preserving onions and keeping them from bruising is by keeping them in a cool dry place.

Remember to consume onions that are bloated or had flowered first as they have a short shelf life and would spoil faster.

The general rule is, the sweeter the onion the higher the water content and therefore the less the shelf life. The more pungent onions will last longer

Yield

20,000 Kgs

Capital Investment

Ksh 150,000 (Hybrid Seeds, Labour, Ploughing, Pesticides, Fungicides, Miscellaneous costs) This cost assumes you have irrigation, fencing and other miscellaneous costs in place.

 Expected Income

Market Price: Ksh 40 (Farm Gate)

Production Cost: Ksh 150,000
Average yield per Acre: 20,000 Kg

Ksh 40 x 20,000 Kgs = Ksh 800,000 (Revenue)

800,000 (Revenue) – 150,000 (Cost of Production) = Ksh 650,000

POTATO FARMING

Most of us when we hear potatoes think about fries and how good they taste. Potatoes are common food source taken in the form of potato chips.

It is a good source of vitamins, potassium, fiber and phosphorus which are important elements require by the human body by assisting in maintaining level of blood glucose.

Potatoes require fertile and well-drained soil with some quantity of sand content to make it suitable. It is a highland crop therefore also requires cooler conditions with adequate water supply of about 500mm during the growth and maturity cycle. The crop takes between 90 to 120 days to mature after emerging from the soil.

Potato farming is reliable since the time for growth is relatively small and has an immense market demand. Therefore putting it on top of the list of what farmers are looking for to grow and get good money.

Things you need to know before planting Potatoes;

–  Average production of potatoes per acre

–  Cost of Potato Seed ( Certified seed sell at KES 3,000 per 100kg bag)

Types of Potatoes 

–  Asante

–  Sanghi Tigoni

–  Kenya Karibu

–  Kenya mpya

How to Plant Potatoes

1. Dig furrows with a spacing 75cm from one furrow to another and 30 cm from one seed to another and 10 cm. irish potatoes perform well in sandy-loamy soils that are well drained. The soil should have adequate organic matter and be slightly acidic with a pH range of 5.5-7.0.

2. Mix the soil with D.A.P fertilizer at planting time at a rate of 200kg per acre (1kg DAP per 35m of furrow).

3. Water regularly every week with a water supply of about 25mm.

4. Covering the crops with soil is required (Earthing) as they grow with the final earthing up done at 25cm high

 Pests and Diseases 

–  Blight

–  Bacterial wilt

–  Root not nematodes

–  Moths

–  Leaf Miners

–  Wire Worms

Harvesting

Potato Field

Potatoes mature 90 to 120 days depending on the variety. When the plant starts having yellow leaves and has easy separation of the tubers from their stolons that’s when you know its maturity.

Harvesting can be facilitated by removing the vines two weeks before the potatoes are dug up. The potatoes should always be handled with care to avoid bruising. This will provide entry points for storage diseases.

Potatoes should be kept in a cool and dark, well-ventilated environment with high relative humidity to prevent “greening”.

Potatoes that will be used for planting (Seed tubers) are normally stored under diffused light for good sprouting.

NB: Before venturing into potato farming you must first find out which seed variety is suitable for your area. You can know this by consulting agricultural experts or by asking farmers from your area which seed performs best with their soil.

The temperature range for Irish potatoes should be 10 to 24 degrees Celsius and rainfall amounts of 900-1,400mm per annum.

 

Yield

90 bags (100 Kgs) per acre

 Investing Capital

Ksh 62,000 (Certified Seeds, Labour, Ploughing, Pesticides, Fungicides, Miscellaneous costs) This cost assumes you have irrigation, fencing and other miscellaneous costs in place.

Expected Income

Market Price: Ksh 2,000
Production Cost: Ksh 62,000
Average Bags per Acre: 90 (100kgs per bag)

Ksh 2000 x 90 bags = Ksh 180,000 (Revenue)

180,000 (Revenue)- 62,000 (Cost of Production) = Ksh 118,000 (Net Profit)

WATERMELON FARMING

This fruit does not need any introduction. If you have ever been thirsty and someone offered you a piece of watermelon then you know how juicy and satisfying watermelon is.

It’s a fruit that that does well in hot regions that gives them exposure to sun and high temperatures and this gives sweet taste when ripening.

Insect pollination contributes highly to the yield of watermelons and therefore contributes highly to yield of watermelon and therefore farmers is advised to put at least one beehive per acre piece of land, while reduce the use of pesticides.

The fruit matures between 4-5months period of time.

 

Watermelons are grown from seed. Watermelon seeds germinate easily and quickly, within a few days of planting. Their plants outgrow the seedling stage very quickly and they don’t like transplanting. It won’t help you in saving much time and you end up with a weaker plant.

 

Types of seeds

Open Pollinated Melons- Produced from self-fertilization of flowers of one variety.

Hybrid Melons- These come from a result of cross-pollination of melons. They produce higher yields.

Popular Varieties in Kenya include;

–  Pato F1

–  Sukari F1 hybrid

–  Charleston Gray

–  Early Scarlet F1

–  Sugar Baby

Watermelons require deep, rich, easily crumbled soils. Raising the soil into mounds will help your watermelon to grow well.

Making mounds has several advantages mentioned below:

–  Raising your soil will make it free draining (watermelons don’t like wet ground when developing).If your soil has heavy clay you will definitely need to raise it.

–  If your soil is poor and lacks enough nutrients you should also make a mound with a lot of compost. This will enable it to grow watermelons.

–  Making a mould would enable you to plant watermelons over large area. Raise your soil and plant like the large scale commercial growers.

Seedling

How to Grow Watermelon

1. Make shallow furrows with a spacing of 2m between rows and 1m between the holes where the seeds are to be planted.

2. Apply fertilizer.

3. Germination begins after 7 days and the first fruit will be seen after one month.

4. After growth apply CAN every two-three weeks to help fix nitrogen in the soil.

Diseases and Pests

–  Leaf spot

–  Damping off

–  Powdery mildew

–  Blight

–  Flea Beetles

–  Mites

–  Leaf miners

–  Thrips

 

Harvesting

The tendril, nearest where the vine enters the watermelon turns brown and begins to die

Watermelons reach harvest 65 to 90 days after sowing. Smaller varieties will usually be ready before larger ones, but not always.

Knowing when a watermelon is ripe is an art, and you will get better at it with time.

When watermelons near maturity, the vine’s tendrils begin to turn brown and die. Some varieties develop a circular crack around the stem. Others soften at the blossom end.

Another sign is the light coloured patch on the bottom of the fruit where the melon touches the ground. It is initially greenish-white, but as the melon ripens the green tinge fades and it becomes yellowish. The skin overall becomes duller and tougher.

The fruit typically ripen over two weeks and soon as one melon is ripe, the others won’t be far behind.

Ripe Watermelon

The most popular way to tell if they are ripe is the sound. Knock them with a stick and listen for a dull, hollow sound. The unripe melons have a higher pitched sound. Keep knocking a lot of them and comparing sound until you can tell the difference.

As you see some of the signs emerging, limit water for the last weeks to before harvesting to concentrate sweetness. You should water only as necessary to keep vines from wilting.

After picking, watermelons will keep in the refrigerator up to a week, but they will last two to three weeks before cutting, without refrigeration, if kept in a cool, slightly moist place

Investing Capital

Production Cost: Ksh 150,000 (Hybrid Seeds, Labour, Ploughing, Pesticides, Fungicides, Miscellaneous costs). This cost assumes you have irrigation, fencing and other miscellaneous costs in place.

 

Yield

15,000 Kgs

The new hybrid varieties of watermelon can give you a yield of up to 20,000 (Kgs) fruits per acre.

Expected Income

Market Price: Ksh 30 per Kg

Production Cost: Ksh 150,000

Ksh 30 x 15,000 Kgs (Yield) = Ksh 450,000 (Revenue)

450,000 (Revenue)- 150,000 (Cost of Production) = Ksh 300,000 (Net Profit in 3 months)

* Agrolution via http://graduatefarmer.co.ke/2016/12/22/3-profitable-agribusiness-ideas-for-2017/

Farming 4.0: The future of agriculture?

Rising demand for bigger yields and higher environmental protection has put pressure on the agricultural sector to “produce more with less”. Smart farming or “farming 4.0.” could hold the key.

In Europe, Precision Agriculture (PA) and the integration of digital technology are set to become the most influential trends in the sector, as a growing number of farmers start to adopt digital technologies to run their businesses.

According to the machinery industry in Europe, 70 to 80% of new farm equipment sold now has some form of PA component technology inside. There are 4,500 manufacturers, producing 450 different machine types with an annual turnover of €26 billion. The sector also employs 135,000 people.

However, the uptake of Precision Farming in Europe is still very low. For instance, only 35% of new fertiliser spreaders are sold with a precision weighing instrument included, essential for adjusting quantity and direction of spread.

Precision Farming can potentially help farmers produce higher yields, less crop damage and fewer inputs such as water, fuel and fertiliser. The European Joint Research Center estimates that PA can make a huge CO2 saving contribution in European agriculture until 2030.

These technologies are still expensive to most farmers, especially for the smaller ones. Europe is also facing an ageing workforce on farms, and the introduction of new technologies could result in a “two-speed” EU agriculture.

In many EU rural areas, Internet access is limited and this holds back the use of big data.

The EU is pushing for a digital revolution within the agricultural sector by supporting specific schemes and offering financial incentives to farms.

But industry believes that costly compliance with EU legislation will hamper future innovation. According to industry, nearly one third of the price increase of a tractor in the last 15 years can be attributed to comply with new EU legislation.

Sources: ANSEMAT, CEMA, Eurostat, Boston Consulting Group, EcAMPA 2 report – Joint Research Center, Spanish Ministry of Agriculture

* Agrolution via http://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/infographic/farming-4-0-the-future-of-agriculture/