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Monday, June 3, 2013

This is what happens when you give small farmers the confidence their food will sell

May 22nd, 2013 10:49 AM UTC
We can make food aid more sustainable not by giving away Western food, but by working with local farmers and creating a market for their crops in the region. ONE Agriculture Fellow Roger Thurow reports. 
Ten years after the Ethiopian famine of 2003, when international food aid rushed in to feed 14 million people, another World Food Program (WFP) tent has been erected on an open field. But this isn’t a scene of food distribution. It is a scene of food purchase.
leonidas storage- 30 percent loss
Leonida and her surplus food, stored in this hut. If farmers have the confidence their food will get sold, they will grow more. Photo: Roger Thurow
The action happens on the grounds of the Sidama Elto Farmers’ Cooperative Union in Awassa, Ethiopia. Sidama Elto is one of 16 cooperative unions in Ethiopia that have signed forward contracts with the World Food Programme for the purchase of more than 28,000 metric tons of maize grown by their smallholder farmer members. The maize, which is part of 112,000 tons of food the World Food Programme purchased in Ethiopia last year, will be used for relief distributions in the country. Ten years ago, many of those farmers and their families were receiving food aid from the World Food Programme.
One of the major lessons in agricultural development over the past decade is this: markets matter. The 2003 famine tragically, and incomprehensibly, followed two years of bumper harvests in Ethiopia. The surplus production overwhelmed the country’s weak and inefficient markets. There were no export channels; the domestic market’s ability to absorb the harvests was crippled by woeful infrastructure. The food piled up on farms and prices collapsed, upwards of 80% in some areas. Farmers lost incentive to plant the next year. Then the drought hit, and feast turned to famine. The markets had failed before the weather did.
That gobsmacking turnaround triggered a reversal of the neglect of agricultural development that had set in since the 1980s, as I noted in my TedxChange talk last month. In the past decade, science and research geared toward improving the work of smallholder farmers (who produce the majority of the food grown in the developing world) have been reinvigorated; so too have trade and business efforts accelerated to provide greater market incentives and opportunities for the farmers. Prior to 2003, boosting agricultural production – growing more food — was the primary focus and developing markets was considered to be a “second-generation problem.” Now, markets share top billing with production, as it should; markets provide incentive to produce more.
In Ethiopia, it started with the creation of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange in the wake of the famine. Now, the mantra spreads, in radio dramas, government pronouncements, business negotiations: If you grow it, someone will buy it.
The World Food Programme’s partnership with Sidama Elto is part of its Purchase for Progress (P4P)programme, which uses the World Food Programme’s purchasing power to create markets for smallholder farmers. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and implemented in collaboration with the government of Ethiopia through the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), P4P works with the farmers to improve the quality of their crops and the post-harvest handling.
Simiret Simeno, deputy manager of Sidama Elto, says that for the first time its 13,000 farmer members see that better quality can bring better prices. And they can also see their contribution to healthier communities, as one of the markets is an expanding network of school feeding programs supplied by locally grown crops rather than food being shipped in from abroad.
The ultimate goal of the World Food Programme purchases is to demonstrate to commercial buyers that smallholder farmers can reliably produce high-quality food worthy of their business. Sustainable success here could also bear witness to the potential impact of President Obama’s proposed food aid reform, which would allow for nearly half of the US food aid budget to be used to buy food nearer to the hunger crises – providing markets for smallholder farmers — rather than shipping it all the way from American farms (as has been the US policy for decades).
These public-private ventures bring both maturity and modernisation to markets that hadn’t changed much for centuries. Working with local banks and donor governments, P4P has introduced forward contracts to participating cooperatives and smallholder farmers. The ATA has also been crafting links between farmers and commercial buyers of several crops, like teff, barley, sesame and chickpeas.
Above all, says Khalid Bomba, the chief executive officer of ATA, “Smallholder farmers need confidence that there will be buyers for what they grow.”
And confidence that the misery of 2003 – the misery of failed markets — won’t happen again.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its annual Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, D.C., which will be held on May 21st. For more information on the symposium, click hereFollow @GlobalAgDev and use #globalag on Twitter to join the conversation on May 21.
Want to do more? Tell world leaders to make measurable commitments to reduce chronic child malnutrition for 25 million children. Sign the petition here.
Wed, 06 March 2013, 12:23PM
In the week of 18th February, a cross-party UK parliamentary delegation went to Ethiopia to explore how the country is dealing with key health issues. Sir Tony Cunningham MP, Heather Wheeler MP, Kevin Barron MP, Baroness Hooper and Lord Hussain visited the TB REACH project in Awassa, Southern Ethiopia to understand how it works and its impact.  Funded by the WHO’s Stop TB Partnership, the objective of the TB REACH project is to promote early and increased case detection of tuberculosis (TB) cases and ensure their timely treatment, while maintaining high cure rates within TB programmes at national level. TB REACH focuses on using ground-breaking approaches and activities in reaching people who are poor, vulnerable or have limited access to TB services. This collaborative implementation project was conceived by Dr. Mohammed Yassin (Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and honorary research fellow at LSTM)  who designed it with Dr. Daniel Datiko (TB REACH project, Ethiopia/LSTM),  Prof Luis Cuevas (LSTM) and Dr. Sally Theobald (LSTM). The project is managed in Ethiopia by Field Director Dr. Daniel Datiko and team.
The project uses a community-based approach that has engaged locally deployed female Health Extension Workers (HEWs). The HEWs are employees of the Ministry of Health, live in the villages where they work, and are thus part of and accepted by the community and familiar with the local culture.  In the first year of the project HEWs working in 524 kebeles (local areas) and over 300 staff from health facilities were trained. Individuals with TB symptoms were identified by HEWs through house-to-house visits and outreach activities. HEWs collect sputum, prepare smears and liaise with supervisors using mobile phones. One supervisor with a motorbike is deployed in each of the districts to collect and submit slides to laboratories and feedback results, initiate treatment for smear-positive cases in their residence and screen contacts. In the current year 2 of the project, the diagnostic process is being further strengthened through the introduction of the LED Fluorescent microscopes and automated nucleic acid test (Xpert® MTB/RIF) for smear-negative patients with a high risk of having active TB (such as HIV co-infected individuals and children). The innovative community-based approach is supported by key stakeholders in the region; it brings services closer to communities and in year 1 smear-positive case notification almost doubled.
Dr. Datiko hosted the visitors taking them to visit the Sidama Zone Health Department,  district offices, health posts (where HEWs are based) and communities. Dr. Datiko commented that the parliamentary delegation were especially impressed with the project’s integration within the health system, its innovation to improve access and the special focus on the poor, women and people with disabilities.