Rice can improve nutrition, increase incomes, arrest food insecurity and improve the wellbeing of families in East Africa.
The East Africa Rice Conference 2021 slated for 18th May to 20th May has underscored the critical economic and social potential of rice to farmers, processors, marketers and consumers. The conference, attended by governments, development partners, the civil society, youth and farmers groups, researchers, donors, investors, and the private sector delved into deliberations on challenges and opportunities along the rice value chain. The deliberations are relevant to the Centre for African Bio-entrepreneurship (CABE) as it works to share knowledge to enhance the skills of smallholder farmers, women and youth entrepreneurs in Kenya to advance their meaningful participation in agriculture and agribusiness activities.
The conference attended by participants from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia discussed how rice research and development can enhance inclusive markets and value chains for the achievement of rice-based livelihoods. The conference also explored gender and youth integration to achieve an integrated rice sector development in a changing climate.
“This gathering of rice farmers, key stakeholders, county and national governments is useful since the shared experiences will inform a strategy that will enrich the value chain of rice which is the third most important cereal after maize and wheat,” says Mr. Josephat Gathiru, speaking on behalf of Prof. Hamadi Iddi Boga, Principal Secretary, State Department for Agricultural Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries & Cooperatives (MoALF&C) – Kenya.
Mr. Robert Kitene, speaking on behalf of the CEO of Council of Governors, Mrs. Jacqueline Mogeni, reiterated that the conference attended by county and national government officials is a big step towards the operationalization of the counties’ rice strategies not only in Kenya but across the region.
Eleven Kenyan agribusinesses tackling food security have been selected for the Food Africa Accelerator program in Kenya. The three-month accelerator program will support these women and youth-led agribusinesses towards the investment of up to USD 100,000 to scale their businesses. The accelerator program, which was launched in July is a project commissioned by GIZ Make-IT in Africa, a project on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by @iBizAfrica, Strathmore University’s business incubator, and Pangea Accelerator (a Norwegian based accelerator and an investment platform operating in East Africa that matches African start-ups with investors), foundations and development agencies to reach a global scale.
The competitive application process saw the accelerator receive over 420 applicants in Kenya according to Linda Kwamboka, entrepreneur-in-residence, and iBizAfrica’s Manager. She added that “we received over 700 applications, some across Africa and 424 Kenyan applicants. This proves our hypothesis that there are plenty of innovators in the agriculture sector. The diversity in agribusiness sub-sectors has been well represented- ranging from credit access to food manufacturing. We are also grateful for the support of ecosystem players including Viktoria Ventures, Luminate Group who have supported the shortlisting process.”
Joining its first cohort, the ten [WTGK1] businesses will undergo mentorship and coaching as well as investor readiness as they begin the process of investor matching. Speaking after their selection, Dysmus Kisilu, Co-Founder of Solar Freeze, a post-harvest solution for smallholder farmers remarked, “we are excited to be part of the Food Africa Accelerator which offers a chance for start-ups like ours to collaborate, grow and shape the new vision of a food secure Africa through youth-led innovation.”
Jonas Tesfu, Co-Founder and CEO of Pangea Accelerator also added, “we believe Kenya and East Africa are at a critical time and that innovation and young entrepreneurs have a big role to play in creating resilient and local food systems.”
The accelerator comes at a time when the Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture has vowed to sustain ongoing reforms in the agricultural sector in order to boost production and bring value to farmers. Further, it also comes after a recent report by the Kenya Food Security 2019 Steering Group revealed that approximately 1.3 million people in Kenya are currently facing a crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity, which has been further exacerbated by Covid-19 and the locust plague. Tracy Weru, Program Coordinator for GIZ Make-IT in Africa stated, “we are happy with the traction this program has received so far and are looking forward to supporting the 11 start-ups.”
The eleven selected start-ups joining the accelerator are;
IFarm360 – A digital crowd farming platform that brings together farmers, investors and markets to enable farming as a business.
SolarFreeze – A pioneering start-up providing mobile cold storage units powered by renewable energy for rural smallholder farmers to help them reduce the huge challenge of post-harvest loss.
Shamba Records – A distributed ledger that runs on Blockchain technology and uses big data and artificial intelligence to collect farmer’s data and process payments to farmers.
Ecodudu – a waste-to-value company that uses a proprietary innovation to recycle organic waste into high-protein animal feed and organic fertilizer using the black soldier fly.
Faina Innovation – a company that has developed a farm sanitation product (Solarbag®) for management of fruit fly and other pests. The product is also used for rapid on-farm production of compost fertilizer and soil sterilization.
Mhogo Foods – The company adds value to the cassava tubers by processing them into affordable, nutritious gluten-free flour, cassava crisps, cassava starch and cassava based animal feeds.
Digicow – a record keeping mobile application for both smallholder and enterprise farmers engaged in dairy farming enabling them to increase their profits through data driven decision making.
Mula Exports – a grower and exporter of fresh produce (fruits and veggies) in Kenya.The company also contracts small scale farmers to complement production and raise living standards by providing the smallholders with a ready market for their produce.
Origen Group – are producers of high quality cold pressed avocado oil made from the finest grown hass and fuerte Kenyan avocados for the export market.
Taste Afrique – are manufacturers of Chibundiro, a mixture of grounded natural spices to enhance nutritional value for consumers.
FreshPro Farms – a data-driven agribusiness consumer demand for fresh produce with farmers production capacity creating a seamless business model devoid of the waste and inefficiency associated with agriculture.
Drone technology is being used to collect and analyse data, monitor irrigated areas and combat pests
At a special event highlighting the partnership between the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) and Korea held on the sidelines of the Bank’s Annual Meetings, the role of drone technology to boost food production in Africa, was on full display.
This initiative will significantly contribute to The Netherlands’ international commitments on climate change.
Climate change threatens crop yields in Africa, and harvest losses may add up to 20 fold the investment costs of adapting agricultural practices now. The programme aims to increase food production and food security by enhancing climate resilience throughout the supply chain. By 2022 this will result in adaptive productive capacity and increased incomes for 300,000 medium-sized and smallholder producers. On top of that, we will improve the business performance of 50 small-medium enterprises and 30 cooperatives to mitigate the risks of climate change on their supply chains.
“This grant will help us scale up our support to farmer communities to feed their families and increase their income. This will require adapting the way they farm to more frequent drought and other climate-related changes” said Meike van Ginneken, CEO of SNV.
Scaling to systemic change
The programme uses a three-pronged approach. We will implement complementary interventions to increase the adoption of climate-smart practices and technologies among farmers and SMEs. We will stimulate their growth throughout the value chain by enhancing private sector investments in climate adaptation. And we will advocate with partners and the government of the three targeted countries to encourage a favorable enabling environment for large-scale market adoption. We collaborate with private and financial sector partners such as Rabobank – who will pave the way for financially viable Climate Smart Agriculture solutions and investment to agribusinesses. Dutch expertise in sustainable food production systems, particularly in potatoes, oilseeds, and pulses will be mobilized.
The programme activities will be in line with existing government strategies like the National Climate Plans and collaborate with multilateral climate investments and the Embassy of the Netherlands in all three countries.
Most stakeholders, be it from government, private sector or development partners tend to pay more attention to impact stories. As such, it is imperative for #UtafitiSera Houses to document their successes and impact. ~Dr. Hannington Odame,
Governments are the convener of spaces for engagement on policy that are unassuming and non-partisan. Whereas trust and credibility are built overtime, how do we make it a norm for more government ministries, departments and agencies to embrace this practice.