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African Development Bank hosts experts to accelerate food transformation in West Africa through technology



Image: AfDB

The African Development Bank has hosted a group of experts to discuss how technology can be deployed to transform food systems in West Africa.

The Bank co-hosted the workshop with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the African Green Revolution Alliance, the World Economic Forum and Rabobank for the Food Systems Action Platform (FSAP) for West Africa at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on 20-21 June.

More than 70 representatives from multi-lateral organizations attended the two-day session, along with delegates from food companies, African governments, including Togo and Ghana, research institutes, commodity exchanges, processor and producer organizations, and financial institutions.

“Africa is lagging behind in terms of food value chains. Never in the history of the world has there been more technologies, more know-how and other tools at our fingertips,” said Jennifer Blanke, Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development. “How can we all get together to use it to make a difference?”

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The FSAP and partners’ workshop agenda centered the relationship between climate resilience and nutrition and how to integrate those factors into food value chains, such as rice, cassava, fruits and vegetables, in West Africa. The event brought the FSAP partner organizations to create a collective base of value chain initiatives, and identify existing turnkey projects and innovative solutions to achieve the platform’s objectives.

“The stakeholders came together to see what they can do as a team and what are the actions that we need to prioritize in terms of bringing the food systems approach forward,” said Bank Director for Agricultural Finance and Rural Development Atsuko Toda, who coordinated the workshop.

Workshop participants determined actions to prioritize include: preparing business cases; codifying experiences that can be shared at future conferences like the African Green Revolution Forum, the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly or the Bank’s Africa Investment Forum. Attendees also agreed to establish a leadership work stream that draws knowledge from government, business and other African institutions.


– African Development Bank


The Benefits of Honeybees




Bee- Image: Forbes

Imagine if all the honey bees in the world disappeared today. We would lose more than just honey. The benefits of honey bees goes beyond providing beeswax and honey.

There are over 20,000 species of bees in the world but it is only the honeybee that makes honey. They are also known for constructing nests for wax, the large size of their colony (each colony has about 60,000 honeybees), and their production and storage of honey.

The honey bee colony consists of the drones, the worker bee, and the queen bee. The worker bees are the largest population in the colony and are responsible for feeding larvae, foraging for pollen and nectar, tending to the queen and the drones and defending the nest for the survival of the colony. Their average lifespan is six weeks.

The queen bee is the only bee that can lay eggs. They lay up to 2,000 eggs a day and can live for up to five years. The queen bee can mate early in life and store millions of sperm within their bodies. The only job of the drone bees is to fertilize the queen bee and they die immediately after mating. Some other facts about honey bees are:

  • Honey bees gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.
  • The average honey bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
  • If the queen bee dies, the hive can produce an “emergency queen” by selecting a young larva from the previous queen and feeding it a special food called “royal jelly” so it can develop into a fertile queen.
  • The buzz sound from honeybees is made by their wings, which can beat 11,400 times per minute.
  • The honeybee is the only insect that produces food we can eat.

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Benefits of Honeybees

  • Pollination 

One of the main benefits of honeybees are their functions as insect pollinators. While flowers provide bees with nectar and pollen to feed the colonies, bees help spread pollen between flowers in a process known as pollination. Without pollination, plants would be unable to create seeds and this could affect feeding for humans.

Worker bees, whose jobs are to feed the colony, collect nectar. Nectar is the sweet liquid substance that flowers produce to attract bees or other animals.The honeybees’ fuzzy bodies are used to collect pollen.

Pollen is a powder which contains the male genetic material of flowering plants. This pollen rubs off on flowers which they collect nectar from. This pollen transfer makes it possible to fertilize ovaries and enable reproduction. Plants are then able to produce fruits and seeds.

Although some plants are self pollinating or depend on the wind for pollination, most depend on pollinators such as honey bees. Therefore taking away bees would mean a huge decline in the availability of food and fruits.

  • Production of Honey

Production of honey is one of the popular benefits of honeybees. Worker bees collect nectar from flowers by using their proboscis to suck it out and storing it in their stomachs to take to the beehive. While in the bee’s stomach, the nectar mixes with an enzyme produced by the bees, thus converting the nectar to honey.

The bees further drop the honey into the beeswax comb, which are produced by the bees, and repeat this process till the combs are full. For long term storage, the bees fan their wings to thicken the honey and when this is done, they cap the honeycomb with wax and move on to the next comb to start over.

You can use honey in just about any cooking method from grilling to baking. It is also a good substitute for sugar as it is more natural. Some of its non-edible uses include skin treatments and as an antioxidant.

  • Byproducts of Bees

Honey is not the only good thing that comes out of bees. They also produce a natural wax known as beeswax. This happens when the glands of the worker bees convert the sugar content in honey into wax.

The beeswax comes out from the bee’s small pores to produce tiny flakes of wax on their abdomen. The worker bees chew these pieces of wax until they become soft and moldable and then add them to the honeycomb construction.

People use beeswax to make candles, wax wood furniture, polishing, and for waterproofing leather. They also use it in skin care products. Other byproducts of bees include royal jelly, mead, and bee bread.

Did we leave anything out? Let us know what else you benefit from honeybees.


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5 Things You Need to Know About Sustainable Agriculture




Almost every conversation surrounding the agricultural industry has the term “sustainable agriculture” in it. This is because it concerns everyone, from the farmers to the middle men and the consumers. However, there are five things you should know which will help you understand why people are having conversations on this topic:

What Sustainable Agriculture Means 

Sustainable agriculture can be defined in many ways but one common denominator in all its definition is carrying out agricultural practices which provide long term crops and livestock and has as little negative effect on the environment as possible.

The concept tries to understand the relationship between organisms and their environment and find a balance between the need for food production and the preservation of the environment. Its key focus are – a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. The practice also supports less use of chemicals, energy and water conservation, biodiversity and ecology, as well as local food production

Why We Need Sustainable Agriculture

There are 7 billion people in the world, and that gives us 7 billion reasons why we need sustainable agriculture. Aside from the fact that sustainable agriculture seeks to provide food for everyone, here are some other reasons why we need to consciously practice sustainable agriculture:

  • To Conserve Energy:

When agricultural products are moved from one point to another by any means of transport, energy is used. One of the main focuses of sustainable agriculture is to grow and sell agricultural products locally, thus reducing the need for transportation.

Other activities which require energy in their production are fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides.The agricultural industry relies heavily on fossil fuels for producing fertilizers, packaging, and others.  Sustainable agricultural practices seek to reduce the dependence of the industry on unsustainable energy sources which could be damaging to the natural environment.

Sustainable agriculture adapts methods which makes soil healthier and protects other natural resources such as air and water. Conserving these resources are necessary for future food production. It also embraces farming practices which require less energy and thus, eliminates the need for fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions which are produced by the agricultural sector.

  • To Promote Biodiversity:

Sustainable agriculture seeks to understand the relationship between organisms and their environments to make for better food production. This could lead to a healthier ecosystem and create a balance. It also encourages diverse farming systems which includes incorporating variety of crops.

  • To Produce Healthy Food:

Crops grown using sustainable agriculture do not contain residues of harmful chemicals and pesticides, thus they’re considered healthier. These healthy crops are used to feed livestock, which ultimately leads to nutritious food for people.

  • To Reduce Pollution:

Sometimes chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers wash away and become land and water pollutants, causing harm and ruining the environment. Adopting sustainable agricultural practices can help reduce pollution with its use of organic methods of fertilizers and pest control.

Sustainable Agriculture Practices

  • Crop Rotation:

When crops are planted, they use up the soil nutrients. One of the ways to replace those nutrients is through crop rotation. This involved planting a particular crop to replace the nutrients a previous crop used up.

For instance, planting a heavy nitrogen depositing plant such as soyabeans after a heavy nitrogen using plant such as corn, can help maintain the nutrients in the soil. Crop rotation helps keep the soil healthy and conserve the nutrients in it as well as prevent diseases and allow the soil to fallow after planting, which is good for the health of the soil.

  • Urban Agriculture:

We need to start growing food closer to home and there’s no better way to do that than through urban agriculture. So many people already live in the cities and to bridge that gap between where food is produced and where it’s mostly consumed, urban agriculture comes to play. We can grow our own farms in backyards, gardens, and rooftop gardens.

  • Rotational Grazing:

When livestock grazes on a particular field, without allowing that land to fallow and regain its nutrients, it becomes dangerous. Rotational grazing is similar to crop rotation but it applies to livestock. The livestock grazes on different fields and is exposed to nutrients. The land also fallows and regains its nutrients.

The excreta of those animals can also serve as manure for the soil and fosters the growth of plants. Also, when overgrazing occurs, the soil is exposed and trampled upon, which can easily be eroded but rotational grazing helps reduce this.

  • Water Management: 

Water management is a big issue in agriculture. Irrigation systems that are planned will help in channel water where it is needed. Luckily, technological advancements have made it possible to apply precision to agriculture and help conserve resources such as water. For instance, agricultural drones can be used to track plants and spray the exact amount of water needed for growth.

  • Natural Pest Management:

Overuse of pesticides could result in environmental damage. Sustainable agriculture entails using biological and mechanical pest control methods to eliminate pests. For instance, some insects such as birds and bats can serve as predators of beetles and weeds.

Some countries are already adapting this method. For instance, in Japan, farmers are using ducks instead of pesticides to control weeds in their rice farms. The ducks are specially trained. The farmers release the ducks into the paddy fields and the ducks eat insects, weeds, and even the weed’s seeds. They eat everything except the rice.

Planting trees around the farm can attract birds, who will not only nest there but feed on the insects and control pest.

What Happens if There’s no Sustainable Agriculture?

Based on the reasons why we need sustainable agriculture, it is easy to see all the things that could go wrong if we don’t adapt it. The practice gives balance to the environmental, social, and economic needs of agriculture, and to the society at large.

Sustainable agriculture reduces the release of toxic chemicals into the environment and encourages the growth of nutritional food for humans. It also encourages practices which will ensure sufficient supply of food.

Also Read Five startups emerge winners at the UK Government’s Lagos Immersion program

How You Can Contribute to Sustainable Agriculture

  • Creating Awareness: Farmers need to understand the implications of their farming practices. Some farmers practice harmful farming activities. These activities could be detrimental to the environment in the long run. With your knowledge of sustainable agriculture, you can spread the word.

  • By Providing Appropriate Technology:There are tools which can help reduce the use of harmful practices. For instance, proper irrigation systems which supply plants with the exact amount of water they need can help reduce water wastage. The right planting and harvesting technology can also prevent wastage.

  • Purchase Locally: When we buy and sell locally, it helps. Food sold locally requires less packaging, and less fuel in transport, It also keeps the food in the economy, and takes less time to move from farm to consumption than other foods, it fosters good community relationships.



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Agricultural Safety Tips for the Rainy Season




Farming, ranching, and other agricultural managing jobs are considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. This is because casualties on the farm are usually just an accident away. Rainy season comes with slippery floors and wet surfaces; add that to the mix and it makes things much more dangerous. Here are some tips to stay safe during the season:


1. Keep Farm Equipment Away from Rain:

Many farm equipment are made of iron and are therefore prone to rust if exposed to heavy rain. Similarly, exposing wooden equipment to rainfall could cause decay.

However, the most dangerous of them all is exposing electrical farm equipment to rain so ensure that exposed or bad wires on any equipment are fixed promptly.

Also, it may not out-rightly show that water has damaged an equipment. If you use a farm tool, with no idea that some parts have been damaged by water, the results could be disastrous. To prevent this, make sure you lock your equipment in a safe, dry place, and don’t leave them out overnight.


2. Make Sure Water Areas are Fenced:

If you have an open water source on your farm, ensure they’re properly protected during the rainy season.

It can be difficult to spot dams, wells, and lakes during the rainy season and one can easily fall in. Similarly, heavy rain could carry small livestock to those bodies of water.

Establish barriers around these places by locking or fencing them in order to prevent accidents when it rains.


3. Keep Farm Produce Away from Rain:

There’s a reason why fruits and vegetables are to be stored in a cool, dry place. This is because moisture accumulation on these farm produces could bring about microbial growth.

Fungus such as mould could grow on these farm products. Consuming these infested products or selling them could be detrimental to the health. Also, if farm produce is ready to be harvested, leaving them in water logged soil could cause negative effects.

Livestock feed should also be kept from rain as they could also be contaminated.

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4. Be Wary of Electric Outlets:

Water and electricity are not a good mix, and definitely not on a farming ground. Perhaps you built a wired fence to keep off predators, try not to lean on those fences when it rains. Also, put a notice on electric fences so that passersby, and farm visitors take extra precautions.

Do not cut or make contact with particularly wet branches that have come in contact with electric lines as they may be conductors of electricity. You might also want to tie your farm equipment somewhere else, and not on electric poles.  Also, livestock such as cows can get electrocuted so keep them away from electric outlets and live wires.

If electric poles fall around your farm area, do not inspect it as the wires could still be live. Call the right authorities to handle it.


5. Take Care of your Health:

The rainy season is usually accompanied with cold, windy weather. Exposure to cold weather can increase your risk of getting infected with something detrimental to your health.

When farming during this season, especially early in the morning, dress appropriately for the weather. Rain also brings worms and muddy water so ensure to wear the proper footwear to avoid exposing your feet to harmful bacteria and sharp objects.

The rainy season also brings stagnant water which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, the primary transmitter of malaria. Ensure that farmhouses are sprayed with insecticides and always go to the farm with mosquito nets and mosquito repellent.

Similarly, livestock diseases such as fowl pox and lumpy skin disease are common during the rainy season. Precautions such as keeping livestock feed away from rain and being mindful of where they graze should be taken.

It is easy to fall an accident victim on the farm during the rainy season but these tips will help reduce the chances of that happening. Remember, “prevention is better than cure.”

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