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Home-grown African NGOs showcase success at GFIA in Abu Dhabi

By John Bambridge on 04.02.2014.

On top of the wide range of sizeable research and business institutions present at the Global Forum for Innovation in Agriculture from across the GCC, African continent and the world, numerous NGOs also gathered to demonstrate their own successes at the grassroots level.

Christina Agine, senior executive assistant at the Accra-based Forum for the Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) told GAR: “We are interested in supporting farmers from the grassroots. Initially we were involved in crop research, but we are now also looking at livestock.”

“In Uganda and Rwanda, the innovations that we have introduced have already increased yields. It is all about growing a support network.”

“We are mandated by the African Union, and we have projects in Uganda and Rwanda, the innovations that we have introduced have already increased yields. It is all about growing a support network – our problem for the moment is funding.”

FARA’s main offices in the Ghanaian capital have grown quickly from 2007 to 2013 into a team of 62, and its most recent capacity strengthening initiative is UniBRAIN, and collaborative university research that is being jointly run with the government of Denmark.

Farm Concern International (FCI), an Africa-wide market development agency that receives a significant portion of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was also present at the Abu Dhabi event.

FCI works to bring farmers together to form sustainable ‘commercial village’ models in so far a total of eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and then to link these co-operative communities farming units to local, regional and international markets.

Ideally the process of developing these pro-poor models takes five years through to maturity, and the organisation itself will celebrate its 10th year of operations in March.

Commenting on FCI’s presence at GFIA, its spokesperson noted: “We think the Gulf could be a big market [for the exported products], and we are looking for investors.”

The Grameen Foundation in Uganda is also strongly benefitting farmers at the grassroots by mobile-enabling communities through designated leaders with information on pests and diseases, weather and markets, provided by its partners and in-house agronomists.

Another programme being piloted in Kenya encourages the storing of crops at the end of the harvest for resale when prices go up again, while mobile micro-loans are facilitated to communities through an arrangement with the banks to cover short-term or emergency costs.

Other innovators were present at the show simply to share their knowledge with others, including Dr. Cletus Forbah from the Centre for African Research on Bananas and Plantain (CARBAP), advocating the PIF technique and other methods for disease control in the crops.

In the communication field, Access Agriculture is an initiative to convey the practical results of agricultural research to rural populations via video, and has now been developing agricultural training videos in local language versions since 2010 for mass dissemination.

It was established by Paul Van Mele of Agro-Insight and Phil Malone and Josephine Rodgers of Countrywise Communication, and the group collaborate with over 200 communication professionals across the globe and continue to spearhead farmer-to-farmer video.

Though just a selection of the broad range of NGOs and other research bodies present at GFIA, these demonstrate the remarkable diversity of approaches currently being employed to improve the lives of farmers in Africa and reveal the growing impact of the continent’s home-grown initiatives.