Saturday, 16 August 2014

Together we can make the world a better place... Launching Climate "Smarts" Perspectives

The Climate Smart Challenge

We have all heard by now that global food demand is increasing and that food consumption worldwide is expected to increase in 2018 by nearly 30 per cent over 2005 figures! This is driven to a great extent by a growing middle class in emerging markets fueling an increased demand for non-staple crops such as cashews, tree nuts, chocolate, and coffee. 

This trend also comes on the backdrop of complexly changing climatic conditions evidenced by increasing floods, deforestation, and soil erosion which has had a disproportionate effect on agriculture, especially in developing countries because of their high dependence on agriculture. In some cases these effects have been catastrophic.

You should be thinking climate smart by now

In the face of an increasingly hungry population (an estimated 870 million people, one in eight of the world’s population, were undernourished in 2010–2012) and a rapidly transforming transforming population (annual cereal production will need to rise to about 3 billion tonnes from 2.1 billion today and annual meat production will need to rise by over 200 million tonnes to reach 470 million tonnes) we face two big challenges to meeting future needs:
  1. Scarce and in some cases, inequitably distributed factors of production (e.g. land, labor, capital, scientific knowledge, indigenous technical knowledge); and 
  2. Ecosystem services degradation 
The challenge to meet food demand in the future is not only a challenge for agriculture. Actually as the food equation has become more complex to solve in the recent past, other fields such as electronics and ICT, engineering, structures and design, renewable energy, finance, biotechnology have all become more relevant to and intertwined with agriculture.  
In July, I visited Kenya as a Social Reporter for the Fin4ag Internantional Conference. During the field trips, I learnt that being climate smart is not only about cropping but also has to do with livestock. Here a smallholder farmer demonstrated to us how their recycle chicken manure to make "good" dairy feed out of it. They then use the dairy manure to fertilize napier grass as well as supplying bio-fuel for household energy. Relying less on industrially manufactured dairy feed as well as the utilization of bio-fuel is an integrated and climate smart approach to farming and reduces Carbon emissions for a more sustainable future.
Reportedly, most climate models indicate that the agricultural potential of developing countries may be more adversely affected by climate change than the world average. 

While citizens of developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate induced food insecurity; climate "Smarts" have better sure be a part of the agricultural transformation phase. And that is why I launched the Climate Smart Perspectives recently at a meeting with three people in Harare, Zimbabwe.

What is Climate Smart Perspectives

Climate Smart Perspectives is a voluntary initiative to engage young people in more climate smart dialogue and action.

The initiative also seeks to identify and scaling the voices of youths who are climate smart, i.e. "climate smarts." I have learnt that "climate smarts" are not necessarily farmers, climate smarts are also engineers, software developers, actuarial scientists, biotechnologists, marketers, graphic designers, researchers... virtually people in any profession with any skill who know how to employ their skills to ensure a climate smart future. 
The model we use is very simple:

Climate Smart Talk

We invite a Climate Smart professional or researcher who spares just an hour to talk with young people in schools and colleges. The talk is not meant to be a lecture but a two way interactive discussion where young people get to know more about the trends such as those I have shared in this post and basically where are our world is going in terms of sustainable development.

Share your Climate Smart Perspective with the world

Following the talk, we want to know whether the perspective of the young people involved in the talk has been changed and what they are going to do to contribute to a climate smart world. We therefore ask them to share their story of their Climate Smart perspective and their climate smart contribution through a blog post to be featured on this blog or their own blogs (or both).

Progress so far

Well the first thing is that my small "Climate Smart Movement" has declared our two main digital territories, i.e. our two sites and strictly climate smart zones! Meaning our dialogue on these sights is climate smart.

The second is that we are in the process of negotiating with a university in Zimbabwe to give our first University Climate Smart Talk. 

The third thing is that we have been invited to join the formation of a sustainable development initiative called the Preserve Trust Zimbabwe. We look forward to greater partnerships with you and other people. If you feel like joining the Climate Smart Perspectives Initiative feel free to contact 
Knowledge exists only at the point of action
Barefoot Education for Afrika Trust

Monday, 4 August 2014

And they lived dairy ever after...

The Story of Kiambaa Rural Dairy Cooperative

The Fin4ag International Conference held in Nairobi from the 14th to the 18th of July 2014 set in motion a number of evolutionary processes, especially among young people whose impact on agriculture in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific is going to be revolutionary. A recent news article by the main organizers of the conference, the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) supports this. 

As a young African agriculture enthusiast, one of my encounters with destiny at the Fin4ag conference was during the field trips when we visited Kiambaa Rural Dairy Cooperative and met two happy couples that are living "dairy ever after" in rural Kenya, Mr and Mrs Nyaka and Mr and Mrs Njeka. 

The two couples shared their life stories and how dairy farming through the network of a Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO) is impacting positively on their families and communities. I was astonished by how these humble and hardworking farmers have an intrinsic understanding of the markets. 

Members of the Kiambaa Dairy Cooperative share a lighter moment as they demonstrate to Fin4ag Field Trip 1 participants how they carry out milk quality testing at their milk colletcion depot
During the trip, Mr Nyaka explained to us that African agri-food markets are growing relatively fast and the growing, modernizing and diversifying population in Kenya and beyond will need to be fed, especially with dairy products. "I'm in the right business!" Shouted the optimistic look on his face as he explained to the startled crowd of Bankers, Policy makers and investors standing around his field of napier grass.

The impact of Saving and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) on rural farmers

The SACCOs are creating communities of dynamic service oriented farmers who I believe that with the right support will be able to feed the growing local, regional and even global population. 

In particular, the Kiambaa Dairy Cooperative comprises of about 2,500 smallholder dairy farmers and produces about 16,000 liters of milk per day. Through the SACCO, the farmers have organized themselves, trained themselves to save, by providing the incentive to borrow once you have consistently saved for about 3 months. As such, the small scale farmers have been gradually expanding their operations and profits. 

In addition, through organization, the farmers have been able to access services,  and benefits such as agricultural extension, transportation, refrigeration and processing that would have otherwise been inaccessible to individual farmers. In our language, they have over come infrastructural bottlenecks. 

The Kiambaa Dairy Cooperative Society has evolved over the years to become a viable "business model" for and driven by smallholder farmers themselves. Currently, the society enjoys a "big brother" relationships with big market lenders such as Kenya's Cooperative Bank. 

Here are a few more interesting achievements at Kiambaa:
1. They employ their own support staff for extension, administration, milk testing etc.
2. They have their own yogurt brand, "Dafina Yogurt"
3. They  contributed tosuccessful advocacy towards a
Value Added Tax exemption on dairy feeds!
4. There is a dairy cow insurance scheme that specifically services them

Isn't that impact...

The sustainability lessons

One of my teachers and mentors, Prof Mandi Rukuni often says, "Development is about people, helping people help themselves." This principle, first taught to me about 2 years ago, I believe, is the mantra of resilience and sustainability. 

The Kiambaa Dairy SACCO is a model of how rural farmers have been able to help themselves, they have organised themselves; and have leveraged that to negotiate better input and output prices, to create relationships with bigger banks and dairy processors.

The Kiambaa SACCO has evolved from a simple grouping of organized farmers into a fluid and functional system with default rates on credit of less than 2%. The SACCO is therefore now a safer and high potential haven for additional investment and greater partnership, for instance to access higher level technology to enhance their processing capacity so as to penetrate higher level markets and create more jobs.

Development partners, governments and private sector should invest time and resources in learning from models such as the Kiambaa SACCO so as to scale them up for sustainable and broad socio-economic development. 


I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation CTA for awarding me the opportunity to contribute to the online coverage of the Fin4ag International Conference in Nairobi, Kenya from the 14th to 18th of July 2014. It was through this conference that my resolve to continue sharing and disseminating knowledge on sustainable solutions such as what I have shared was strengthened. 

It was also during this conference that I got the wonderful opportunity to meet with some dynamic and inspiring smallholder dairy farmers iin Kenya such as Peris Njeka and Gladys Nyaka, togeter with their supportive husbands and families, wishing them continued success in feeding their families, country and whole world.

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