Category Archives: Eastern and Southern Africa

Eastern and Southern Africa

Tasting Smart Food delicacies at the booth with (far left) Kenya’s former Agriculture Secretary Dr Wilson Songa and his wife Josephine (far right) and Moses Siambi.

Supporting global efforts to make data on agriculture and nutrition available and accessible

With dignitaries at the 2017 GODAN Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Abraham Ali (Image works Africa)

With dignitaries at the 2017 GODAN Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Abraham Ali (AGRA)

I recently had the opportunity to be part of the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) 2017 summit in Nairobi, Kenya, from 14-16 June. The monumental potential that data has to build resilience for food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture was evident at this event hosted jointly by the Government of Kenya and the GODAN Secretariat.

Hon. Willy Bett, the Kenya Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, rightly said during a press conference at the summit: “In the climate change era where drought has become a new and constant reality, we cannot build resilience without the right type of data being available to inform the decisions we make. Only an evidence-based approach using credible data will help us transform our economies through agriculture.” Read more

Invest Karnataka: Commercial investment needed for development

This week I traveled to Bengaluru (in Karnataka state, India) to take part in a global meeting of private investors. At ‘Invest Karnataka’ I felt there was a lot of enthusiasm and optimism around Karnataka and the role private sector can play in bringing about economic development.


I was among more than 4,000 participants from the private sector, the government and to a lesser degree civil society that had gathered to talk about ways in which we can build partnerships to invest in long term sustained growth through innovation, an open society and open approach to development. Read more

Seeds systems and farmer delivery focus of HOPE meeting

In discussion with two of our scientists working on the HOPE project – Tilahun Amede and Tom Hash.

In discussion with two of our scientists working on the HOPE project – Tilahun Amede and Tom Hash.

My final task in Nairobi this week was a working session with staff on the HOPE project, grappling with issues and developing a proposal for the sorghum and millet value chains.

This included talking about the science of delivery and adoption of new technologies by smallholder farmers. We discussed how HOPE fits within an overall country strategy and the important role of markets to translate surplus production into profitability. We also looked at ways to compress the time it takes an improved variety to reach a farmer.

I was enthused by the energy level of the conversations and the commitment of staff to ensure the project is well positioned to achieve impact at scale through a broad range of strategic partnerships along the commodity value chain.

Meeting ICRAF our valued host and partner

Touring the molecular laboratory at the World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi.

Touring the molecular laboratory at the World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi.

It was good to meet up with the leadership team at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) under the able leadership and boundless energy of Tony Simons. We are grateful for the hospitality and support the Centre offers ICRISAT. The wide range of development partners on the campus is also really valuable to foster partnerships.

We toured the molecular lab that is a reflection of the close collaboration between ICRISAT and ICRAF as we train young scientists to apply new tools to unlock the rich genetic diversity of African crops.

Following an introduction of the areas each director leads within ICRAF, we discussed areas of overlapping interest and opportunities for collaboration.  Tony put out the challenge to increase the number of projects we collaborate on given the importance of agroforestry in the dryland tropics of Africa and Asia. Read more

Scaling up opportunities in Kenya

Left to right: Andrew Read (USAID), myself, Harrigan Mukhongo (USAID), Moses Siambi (ICRISAT) and Stefania Grando (ICRISAT).

Left to right: Andrew Read (USAID), myself, Harrigan Mukhongo (USAID), Moses Siambi (ICRISAT) and Stefania Grando (ICRISAT).

Opportunities for scale up of agricultural innovations in Kenya was the main discussion point when I met with Andrew Read, USAID Agriculture Team Leader and coordinator of Feed the Future program in Kenya today.  Andrew is extremely excited about the prospects to help people living in the semi-arid tropics, particularly those who are surviving on less that $1.25 per day.

We updated Andrew on our process of developing country strategies and he was interested to explore further how the Ministry of Agriculture, USAID, private sector partners and CGIAR centers like ICRISAT can come together to accelerate the adoption of improved crop and livestock practices.

We shared with him the outcomes of our discussion with the Principal Secretary for Agriculture. We are all optimistic about the future of farming in Kenya.