Monday, November 26, 2012

Feature: Agriculture begins at home and school

By Adelle Z. Roopchand [reporting from Ethiopia] 
A farmer in Ethiopia
Agriculture has to begin very early in a child’s life in order to build the future people in agricultural development. 

That's the view of Prof. David Hughes of Imperial College London, an expert on agricultural business, who spoke with the media following the launch of a four-day international conference [6-9 November] in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia entitled “Making the Connection” on the theme ‘value chain for transforming smallholder agriculture’. 

He said agriculture and food production "must begin at home and in school from the developmental years of children to successfully get and keep young people interested in agriculture and the production of food.”
The expert presented the keynote address in which he discussed the implications of population growth, urbanisation and price volatility for agricultural value chains. 

He stressed the phenomenon of the ageing population of farmers around the world, who are now in the age range between 55 to 65. 

He said encouraging young people to be part of agriculture is a challenge. However, keeping food and agriculture studies at the primary school and early childhood level through secondary school, as well as, introducing backyard gardening at home will help children and families develop sustained degrees of providing food for themselves at a quality level. "This will generate an interest in the field of agriculture,” he said. 

The conference, organized by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) was attended by over 500 people from around the world representing the private sector, government, civil society, farmers’ organizations, media and academia.

Prof. Hughes said, “Value chains are all about making effective connections between farmers and buyers; between processors and supermarkets or buyers overseas and that small global retailers will continue to influence the shape of value chains, but local and regional trade are becoming increasingly important for developing world farmers.”

Michael Hailu, director of CTA in his welcome remarks called for the transformation of agriculture to make it sustainable in order to address the growing issue of food security and poverty reduction by 2030. 

Mr. Hailu also highlighted the need for young people to get involved in agriculture and called for greater participation of the youth in every aspect of agricultural and rural development. He said, “another crisis is upon us with the growing population of ageing farmers.” 

The CTA director explained that in order for farmers to function they depend on a whole range of trade facilitation, such as input suppliers and exporters. “It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this topic – value chain,” he noted. He quoted an Ethiopian saying, “You have the horse, you have the field – now it’s up to you to make things happen.” 

Launching the conference, His Excellency Wondirad Mandefro, Ethiopia’s State Minister of Agriculture, outlined some of the actions implemented by his government to assist the smallholder farmers. “Smallholders have huge potential to increase their production and income, but if that’s to happen, we need to gain a better understanding of value chains,” he said. 

Minister Mandefro further added, as part of the value chain in building capacity of the farmers, we deploy 70,000 extension workers to help achieve the target in promoting the success of farming and food production. 

During the plenary session on ‘Promoting Sustainable Market-led Value Chains’, participants agreed that in the very near future, local markets would become increasingly important for smallholders and that farmer organisations and co-operatives need to have more of a business orientation. They acknowledged that to achieve this they need to have access to better training in financial and business management as well as effective services.

Adelle Zaira Roopchand ( is a journalist based in Trinidad and Tobago, who works on agricultural development outreach programmes as a communications and media consultant with the Technical Centre for Agricultural Development and Rural Cooperation (CTA) in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. 
She spent a year working with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and has a background in national security communications. 

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai