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Ensuring that Hunger does not Kill more people than COVID-19 in Africa

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With the global spread of the COVID-19, and gradual lockdowns in cities and countries across Africa, I have new fears – that starvation and hunger are mounting threats for people across continent. These fears are hinged on the realization that it is planting season in most parts of the Continent, and yet farmers are being asked to sit at home, the movement of seasonal workers is restricted, research institutes that provide seeds, fertilizer blending companies and agrodealers, processors and markets are all being shut down. Our regional and national borders are closed, and trading is being restricted. These realities, if pro-longed and not urgently addressed, will lead to short term consequences of food shortages, price hikes, and medium to long term consequences of under-nutrition, mass starvation and eventually death, especially among our most vulnerable populations.

We have to act with urgency to stem the virus through social distancing and lock downs. At the same time, we must recognize that farmers and workers in the food industry are essential to the fight against the pandemicand desperately need to be protected and supported. Indeed, without nutritious food, the sick cannot recover, and the healthy will eventually become unwell.

My fears are shared by a few stakeholders on the Continent and around the world. The EU Farmer’s organization – COPA-COGECAearlier this week actively advocated for support to ensure minimal disruptions to the food supply chain, worker protection and contingency plans. The United Kingdom and the United States have already outlined comprehensive plans to provide intervention grants, loans, and tax holidays, for stakeholders in the food industry, including restaurant owners and retailers affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic. In Mexico, farmers who continue to plough their fields are being celebrated as heroes.

Sadly, there has been no coordinated action from industry groups, the private sector, civil society, or the public sector to raise awareness about the looming food crises on the African Continent, linked to COVID-19.

Thankfully, it is not too late to act! We must take decisive and proactive steps to ensure that our people have access to affordable nutritious food in both our urban and rural communities. This will require that;

  • Our governments at the federal, state, and local levels recognize key stakeholders in the food and agricultural landscape as essential workers and provide them with the protection and support that they need to continue to work, following pre-stipulated safety and health protocols. We must keep food markets and factories open, with clear guidelines around limiting crowds, and widely publicized schedules for who can enter during what periods of time. We can also learn from China’s example over the last few months, where government officials, especially the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and National Health Commission repeatedly issued comprehensive notes to farmers on the control and prevention of the virus in rural areas, as well recommendations and protocols for preparing for their planting season and sustaining the livestock and poultry sectors.

Beyond guidance and protocols, our governments must urgently partner with the financial services sector to develop comprehensive loan packages for farmers, and entrepreneurs who are committed to working during the crises and can demonstrate their capacity to fill critical gaps in the food ecosystem. These interventions must actively engage women, who play a critical role in the sector. In addition, our governments must assess thenational strategic and emergency grain reserves to gauge what is available and how to effectively manage and deploy these reserves in a transparent and accountable manner to minimize price hikes and widespread shortages.

  • Our industry associations, fast moving consumer goods companies, international trading companies, aggregators, wholesalers, and retailers must work together seamlessly to ensure the efficient and effective provision of affordable food to the masses of people. Leveraging technology, raw material suppliers and processors can actively partner with logisticsproviders and retailers to ensure that food is moved to where it is needed most, and no community is left behind.

This is not a period for hoarding and price gouging, with a focus on profits and growth at all costs. Companies must rise to the higher ideal of shared corporate values, where they put the needs of their customers and the African people ahead of their own requirements for profits and shareholder value. To ensure that this occurs, consumer protection and anti-competition agencies must closely monitor the activities of the largest actors in the food industry to ensure a level playing field.

In addition, the private sector can facilitate the introduction ofdrones, sensors and other precision agriculture andinnovative technology solutions, which will allow for active monitoring of commercial farm activity from a distance. Companies such as Atlas AI  have demonstrated the power of technology to manage farms and assess impact, without direct human contact.

Our nonprofit organizations and media organizations must provide thought-leadership, monitoring and guidance to the entire ecosystem. Organizations such as GAIN are already providing critical guidance during this period.

  • Finally, average citizens must invest in their own backyard and community gardens, while ensuring social distancing, manage their food budgets judiciously and share with their neighbors. Faith based organizations must open soup kitchens, offering free meals and partner with logistics providers to coordinate drop-offs. We must rebuild trust in our communities by caring for the most vulnerable at this exceedingly challenging time in our history as humanity!

As an eternal optimist, I am hopeful that as a people we will survive the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging with some critical lessons and a more resilient, united,and efficient food ecosystem. Now is the time for governments, stakeholders in the food ecosystem and citizens to act! Every minute counts!

Also Read: The Rockefeller Foundation Appoints Two African Female Leaders to Board of Trustees

Article By: Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli is the managing partner of Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition and the Co-Founder of AACE Foods. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow and is currently writing a book titled “African Entrepreneurs Nourishing the World,” as a research fellow at the MR-CBG at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Visit: Sahel Consult

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Agriculture

Cocoa Pricing: Why Public-Private Sector Partnerships are Key to Sustaining the Livelihood of Smallholders Farmers in Africa

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AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited (AFEX) CEO, Ayodeji Balogun (Source: AFEX)

Pricing is a debating point in the cocoa sector, dominating contemporary stakeholder conversations; especially African cocoa producers. This is a result of the historically low cocoa prices that do not provide a fair income to farmers involved in cocoa production. Despite the announcement of the Living Income Differential (LID) by both Cote d’Ivoire and the Ghana Cocoa Boards, there still exist questions on the sustainability of this intervention – to take farmers out of poverty. Stakeholders in the African Cocoa industry need to rethink its strategy to improving farmers’ livelihood, by increasing their earning potential through value chain efficiency, facilitated by public-private sector partnership.

Interventions aimed at income enhancement and lifting farmers out of poverty are often based on the assumption that the said interventions, alone, are enough for the solution being pursued. On the surface, the decision to increase the farmgate price of cocoa and LID by an additional $400 a tonne on all cocoa contracts, appear to be a solution to lifting farmers out of poverty. However, even if farmers’ incomes were to increase – through increased farm gate prices – other structural issues like small farm sizes and low productivity levels will still keep these farmers below the poverty line.

For Cocoa farmers to earn a fair wage from their input, issues like ageing plantations, lack of adequate training and financing as well as direct access to the market, need to be addressed. These structural issues pose a more significant threat on the livelihood of cocoa producers in Africa.  Price increases on their own are not enough to lift the poorest farmers out of poverty. Price interventions like the LID must go hand in hand with other policies and programme, implemented to increase the volume and quality of beans produced. Achieving this will require a multi-stakeholder collaboration involving both the private and public sector aimed at not only improving the quality of lives of farmers but ensuring that the cocoa value chain is optimized.

To enable smallholder farmers benefit in an egalitarian way from the cocoa industry, the focus should be towards improving value chain efficiency while addressing structural challenges in the sector. This is achievable through a public-private collaboration that will drive private sector operations to deepen financial markets, scale-up infrastructure investments and enhance productivity and quality through training and input supply.

Through collaborating with Cocoa Cooperative Societies –providing training, input financing and market access, AFEX has enabled smallholder farmers to increase their productivity, while producing to international standards. With technology like AFEX Workbench – a value chain management platform which facilitates input sourcing, loan administration, sales, a transparent and efficiently executed cocoa process is achieved.

A public-private sector-driven model will create a sustainable approach which will revitalize and boost cocoa production in Africa – creating jobs and improving the living standard of the farmers. While the government takes the driver seat to develop policies and the infrastructure to catalyze this growth across the cocoa ecosystem, private sector organizations will ensure value chain efficiency – increasing the benefits stakeholders gain from the industry.

AFEX is committed to providing the support and technology to improve the quality of life for African cocoa farmers and their communities.

Author: Ayodeji Balogun is the CEO of AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited (AFEX)

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Agriculture

Goodwell Investments Backs Chicoa Fish Farm With $1.5 Million Funding To Support Food Security In Africa

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Chicoa Fish Farm Production Breeding Cage, Mozambique (Source: Chicoa Fish Farm)

Series A funding enables Chicoa to contribute to a stable market for affordable protein and improve outcomes for smallholder farmers and food vendors in Southern Africa.

Chicoa Fish Farm, a Mozambican-based company addressing the critical challenge of a lack of affordable protein in Southern Africa, announced today that it closed its Series A equity funding round totalling $1.5 million from Goodwell Investments.  

Building A Sustainable Aquaculture Industry

Chicoa Fish Farm was founded by Gerard McCollum and Damien Legros in 2015 with the vision to provide a blueprint for a sustainable aquaculture industry across Africa. Since its inception, Chicoa has focused on securing its supply chain through primary production of tilapia, establishing a breeding program, and developing sales and distribution channels in Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, and Zambia.   

The $1.5 million Series A funding boosts the transition to its next stage of growth — the processing and distribution of frozen tilapia products. To facilitate this growth, plans include extending production facilities, the installation of a processing plant and including local small-scale farmers in its model. At scale, Chicoa will produce over 5,000 tons of tilapia per annum, putting more than $10M of direct income into the local economy each year.  

“We are delighted that Goodwell has joined us on this really exciting journey to develop fish farming as an industry in Mozambique,” commented Gerry McCollum, CEO of Chicoa Fish Farm. “Being a first-mover is really challenging, but also hugely impactful. Not only do Goodwell bring a wealth of experience to the table, but their philosophy of supporting for transformative businesses in areas of most need makes them a perfect partner for us.”

Supporting Food Security

Food security is one of the biggest challenges facing Africa and Mozambique is amongst the worst affected, with nearly 80% of the population unable to afford an adequate diet. While the continent has the resources to feed its population, most countries are net exporters of food. Mozambique, for example, imports nearly double the value of fish products it exports. Further, regional aquaculture businesses currently satisfy just 6% of the total demand for fish across the Southern Africa region.

“The opportunity to develop the aquaculture industry to meet the local and regional demand is clear,” notes Dhanyal Davidson, Senior Investment Associate at Goodwell Investments. “The sector can play a key role in the economic development Mozambique by providing affordable, high-quality protein, creating jobs and generating income for local farmers, and promoting broader regional development.”

Affordable, High-Quality Protein

In the face of overfishing and climate change, aquaculture, in particular, provides a means of providing a stable fish supply without increasing the harvesting of wild fisheries beyond the maximum sustainable yields. Chicoa is the largest commercial provider of fish in Mozambique and works to increase yields to provide a sustainable protein source and facilitate import substitution, boosting the sector with an affordable, high-quality fish.   

“Chicoa’s significant traction achieved to date coupled with our visit to the farm in Tete solidified our confidence in the company and its potential. The company is driven by an experienced team with deep roots in aquaculture and Southern Africa, and we look forward to supporting Chicoa to fulfil its potential. Aquaculture is a new area to Goodwell Investments, and we are especially pleased to be joining the table with like-minded investors who bring along a wealth of knowledge in the aquaculture space,” added Davidson.   

Goodwell joins long-term Chicoa Fish Farm investor and leader in sustainable aquaculture investments, Aqua-SparkAmy Novogratz, Founder and Managing Partner at Aqua-Spark commented, “We are excited about Goodwell Investments joining the investor base of Chicoa. Finding a high-quality partner like Goodwell, committed to joining us for the long-term development of regional food security, keeps Chicoa’s vision on track.”  

By developing a vertically-integrated solution to kick-start the freshwater aquaculture industry in Mozambique, Chicoa helps to improve the lives and incomes of local fish farmers and increase the sustainability and stability of food supply across Southern Africa.

Source: Goodwell Investments

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Agriculture

Cold Logistics Academy: Perishable Export Logistics Training (PELT)

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Cold Logistics Academy, the training arm of Kennie O Cold Chain Logistics is poised to train aspiring and professionals in the cold chain and logistics industry. The Academy have a robust curriculum that spans across the relevant aspects of the profession. With seasoned facilitators, it guarantees a training experience with practicable modules and engagement.

Cold chain logistics plays a huge role in export of fruits and vegetables; whether by Air, Sea or Road. From the farm gate to the final destination.

Learn practicable skills in cold chain logistics and export from experts. Get certified in the Perishable Export Logistics Training (PELT).

The Cold Logistics Academy course has been developed to handle challenges and provide solutions in the transportation of perishables. The course content includes Cold Chain Logistics and Freight, Export documentation and planning, Insurance and claims, Packing and labeling for Export, Food safety and handling.

Who to attend

• Logistics professionals working in cold chain and related services.
• Senior and midlevel managers involved in cold chain design.
• Certification bodies.
• FMARD.
• Operations and logistics managers.
• Warehouse managers and supervisors.
• Transport managers and supervisors.
• Third-party logistics personnel looking to improve their current operations, or providing cold chain services.
• Supply Chain Managers.
• Exporters.
• Route Planning Managers.
• Cold Room and Storage Professional.
• Farmers and Agribusiness Practitioners.
• Pack house.
• Quality Assurance managers.
• Consultants.

The extensive modules includes; 

Module1. Export documentation and planning.
Module 2. Logistics and Freight (Cold Chain Logistics).
Module 3. Insurance and claims
Module 4. Packing and labeling for Export.
Module 5. Food safety and handling.

The Speakers

• Ope Olarenwaju CEO Kennie O Cold Chain Logistics.
• MudiagaOkumagba General Manager, RedStar Express PLC.
• Kinsley Kwalar CEO StilFresh.
• Adebola Akingbele Founder Msvalue food safety practices.

Date: 24th and 25th November 2020.

To register for the training, Clck here

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

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