Whether for profit or social motives - and often both - an increasing number of investors are targeting opportunities in African agriculture. At the same time innovative approaches for deploying aid to support farming businesses linked to smallholders are emerging. This blog provides a snapshot of who is doing what, where and how.

30 December 2009

A giant step back in the fight against world hunger

Over a 20-month period in 2007 and '08 the planet's three staples — wheat, maize and rice — soared to peaks not seen in decades. By early 2008, wheat and maize were trading at triple the rate of five years earlier, while the price of rice had had gone up fivefold. Dairy products, beef and poultry also shot up in price. This surge in food prices was caused by many complex factors — the price of oil, weather and harvest failures, and declining investment in agriculture — but all led to one stark conclusion: That much of the world simply has little capacity to withstand such price shocks. CBC News Link

11 December 2009

UN warns of surge in food prices

Global food prices are on the rise again, says the latest Food Outlook issued by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Wednesday. Dawn.com link

6 December 2009

Pharos launches $350m private equity agri fund

Pharos Financial Advisors, a specialist investment manager authorised and regulated by Dubai Financial Services Authority, has set up a $350 million private equity fund focused on acquiring and operating farmland in East Europe, Eurasia and Africa. Alibaba.com link

28 November 2009

Smallholder farming key, COMESA told

Member States of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have been called upon to strengthen the existing initiatives and alliances that are geared towards the promotion of market oriented smallholder agriculture. CapitalFM link.

25 November 2009

World Bank to start agriculture fund with $1.5 bln

The World Bank will start a trust fund to boost agriculture in poor countries with an initial $1.5 billion, its president Robert Zoellick said on Tuesday, warning of the risk of another food price crisis. Reuters link.

24 November 2009

Africa’s agriculture sector grew more than 3.5 percent in 2008, compared to a population growth on the continent of 2 percent, the FAO says. However, several factors stand in the way of increased and sustainable food production in Africa. Eighty percent of the continent’s farms are less than two hectares. Irrigation is scant - only three percent of land in sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated, compared to more than 20 percent globally. Fertilizer use is far less in sub-Saharan Africa than it is in the rest of the world. For example, in 2002 it was only 13kg per hectare, compared to 190kg in East Asia and the Pacific. Link to Africa.com article

9 November 2009

WFP Making Inroads on Alleviating Hunger

A senior Official at the World Food Program says a pilot project in 21 developing countries, including 15 in Sub-Saharan Africa, to alleviate hunger is showing promising results. In an exclusive interview with VOA, WFP Deputy Executive Director Sheila Sisulu, says the farmers' associations involved in the project are starting to profit from the sale of their produce. News.com link.

5 November 2009

Arab bank to step up support for African agriculture

The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) is to step up funding for agriculture projects to help governments stave off future food price crises and droughts, the bank's director general said. Abdelaziz Khelef told Reuters the bank would increase total commitments to $1 billion under a new 2010-2014 five-year plan, a $100 million increase from the previous plan. Reuters link

31 October 2009

Guidelines could help improve farmland deals

A draft of the first-ever international code of conduct for farmland deals should be ready by the end of the year, the head of the United Nations' International Fund for Agricultural Development said. Reuters link.

23 October 2009

Congo Farmland Deal 10 Million Hectares

Agri SA has welcomed the signing of a farmland deal between South Africa and the Republic of the Congo. SABC reported AgriSA deputy president Theo de Jager as saying on Wednesday that the deal would give South African farmers access to up to 10 million hectares of land in the Congo. This would allow South African farmers to lease land for maize, soy beans, poultry, dairy cattle and other produce. News24 link

20 October 2009

Obama Administration Commits to Agricultural Aid

The Obama administration says it will spend $3.5 billion over the next three years to help developing-world farmers produce more food and get their products to market. News.com link

15 October 2009

Tanzania Suspends Biofuels Investments

Reacting to mounting pressure from farmers and environmental groups citing concerns over food shortages, the Tanzanian government has reportedly suspended all biofuel investments in the country and halted land allocations for biofuel development. New York Times link

14 October 2009

Global hunger worsening, warns UN

Targets to cut the number of hungry people in the world will not be met without greater international effort, UN food agencies have warned. BBC News article

13 October 2009

The Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Jacques Diouf, on Monday deplored the low use of irrigation for agricultural purposes in Africa, saying this had made agriculture vulnerable to the vagaries of the climate.

"Only seven per cent of arable lands throughout Africa and four per cent in sub-Saharan Africa benefit from irrigation, against 38 per cent in Asia despite the a bundance of natural water resources across the continent," the Director General of the UN agency told experts participating in a high-level forum in Rome, Italy, on the possibility of feeding the world in 2050.
Afrique en Ligne article

11 October 2009

Gulf Arab states to launch $2 bln agriculture fund

Gulf Arab states will pour $2 billion into a new agricultural fund in coming months to secure food supplies by buying stakes in existing agricultural firms, an executive involved in the fund's creation said on Sunday. Reuters article

9 October 2009

Agriculture needs billions of dollars by 2050: UN agency

Developing countries need investments of 83 billion dollars a year if there is to be enough food to feed the world's expected 9.1 billion people by 2050, the UN food agency said Thursday.

The report said that most of this investment, in both primary agriculture and downstream services, "will come from private investors, including farmers purchasing implements and machinery and businesses investing in processing facilities". But public funds would also be needed to achieve a better functioning of the agricultural system and food security.

"Priority areas for such public investments include: 1) agricultural research and development; 2) large-scale infrastructure such as roads, ports and power, and agricultural institutions and extension services; and 3) education, particularly of women, sanitation, clean water supply and healthcare." AFP article

7 October 2009

Uganda Trees First in Africa to Count as CO2 Emissions Reductions

The Ugandan project is one of only eight reforestation projects worldwide that have been approved to date to count towards emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. Environment News Service link.

2 October 2009

Enterprise contest for African agriculture goes into third round

The third and latest round of the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), which closed in mid-July, has attracted more than 250 applications for the $7m-9m to be disbursed in the form of grants and interest-free loans to projects in Africa’s agricultural and rural sectors. Business Day link.

27 September 2009

UK commits to new deal for African agriculture

The UK has signed up to a new action plan that will help lift millions out of poverty and hunger by supporting African governments' agricultural development strategies. ReliefWeb link

25 September 2009

G20 asks World Bank to form farm trust fund for poor

The Group of 20 has called on the World Bank to work with donor agencies to create a multilateral trust fund to increase agricultural investment in poor countries, a draft G20 communique said on Friday. Reuters link

24 September 2009

World food output must rise 70 percent by 2050

The world will have to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed a projected extra 2.3 billion people and as incomes rise, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization said Wednesday. Reuters link