Skip to main content

De-risking agricultural value chains using climate-smart agriculture

2 months 2 weeks ago

In April 2019, professionals from the soft commodity sectors who represent diverse value chains across the African continent came together for the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. The gathering served as an opportunity to learn from best practices, technologies, partnerships and real-life implementation of sustainable agriculture practices.

As part of the summit, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), in collaboration with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN) Kenya chapter, hosted a workshop on the role of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in de-risking agricultural value chains. Twenty-five participants mapped their value chains while identifying key risk factors and developing business pitches for CSA interventions that would de-risk their respective value chains.

“CSA as a de-risk strategy is based on three major concepts: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity, improving resilience to climate-related shocks, and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions where possible” explained Christine Lamanna, Climate Decision Scientist at ICRAF, and co-facilitator of the workshop. “But the question is, can such an approach also make business sense?”

Value chains, risks, and CSA options identified for the sorghum (L) and cassava (R) value chains. Photo: C. Lamanna (ICRAF)

Overall, climate change risks—particularly from droughts, unpredictable rainfall and flooding—were found to affect production in all commodities, with the production stage being the most affected. “For us, flooding is the biggest risk for horticultural farmers at the Kenyan coastal area” said Benson Mwendia, a farmer from Kilifi County, Kenya, and founder of the CSA Excellence Center.

To offset these risks, climate-smart interventions such as provision of clean, certified, drought tolerant seeds, water harvesting and irrigation, changing harvesting times, use of cover crops and regular soil checks were identified as remedies.

Beyond production risks

However, risks are not only found in the production stage. “Most of the agricultural losses and waste happen during post-harvest” noted Philip Simiyu, a graduate student at the University of Nairobi. Kenya loses 5 million bags of maize yearly to poor post-harvest handling through inadequate storage facilities and poor preservation techniques. With traditional drying techniques, changing weather patterns result in prolonged drying times and upraised aflatoxins. The situation is further worsened by long transportation periods from farms to markets. CSA options to mitigate post-harvest losses such as drying grains using solar dryers, use of appropriate preservation facilities, changing harvesting times and use of better storage bags could de-risk this stage of the value chain.

Evidently, the potential of CSA to mitigate risks in value chains is high, so why aren’t farmers and agribusiness professionals implementing them? A key barrier to adoption of CSA was found to be access to finance. Luckily, there are a growing number of innovative financing mechanisms, such as Financial Access, which lends exclusively to CSA and agribusiness farmers. Insurance is another option to reduce the financial risks faced by farmers. “Insurance for agriculture isn’t just limited to weather index-based insurance anymore. New products are being developed that cover the entire value chain, including risks to labor” said Wairimu Muthike of ACRE Africa.

There was agreement on CSA’s potential for risk mitigation as well as its business sense: “… we need to bring the private sector to farmers to bridge the gap and engage the government in support of local farmers incentives” concluded Kenneth Monjero, Lead Scientist with Kenya’s Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).

Read more:

Capacitating Farmers and Fishers to Manage Climate Risks in South Asia (CaFFSA)

2 months 2 weeks ago

Climate variability has a profound influence on fisheries and agriculture in South Asia, including the service industry and value chains. Progress in weather and sub-seasonal/seasonal forecasting has significantly increased the information available. Yet gaps still exist in the delivery and impact of climate information services, including reliability, uncertainty, scaling and delivery. CaFFSA will innovate in the delivery of climate information services (CIS) to 330,000 farm households in India (Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states) and 150,000 fish farming households in Odisha and Bangladesh (Barisal, Sylhet and Khulna divisions). Timely, reliable and contextualized climate information will profoundly change the climate risk equation in sectors that underpin the food security of millions. The project builds on the existing expertise of CGIAR and partnerships with national agencies and agricultural service and credit institutions to design and deliver scalable products, with an aim to reach more than 600,000 people by 2021.

National livestock sector policies and planning under a changing global economy

3 months 1 week ago

The livestock sector may have a key role to play in many low-and middle-income countries (LMICs): providing options for employment, poverty reduction and economic growth, while supplying animal proteins that are particularly important for improving the diets of nutritionally vulnerable segments of the population. The potential benefits of the sector must however be harnessed within the context of a rapidly changing global economy. Global trends, such as population and income growth, globalization, urbanization and climate change, all have bearings on the local dynamics of livestock value chains that policy planning for the sector will need to consider.

Read the working paper here.

The production and demand of livestock derived foods (LDFs) could change substantially in the future in many LMICs following major changes in global economic and climate conditions. A recent report assesses a standard global model’s projections of livestock production and the demand for LDFs in Ethiopia, Niger, Rwanda, Cambodia, Nepal and Burkina Faso in 2050.

To pursue these opportunities within the contexts of long-term food security and resource sustainability; however, national policies steering agricultural exports and food prices, as well as those affecting land use and livestock feed markets may need more careful design and implementation. The need also emerges for improved harmonization around common goals, of national policies that affect livestock, including those that originate outside of the sector. For example, export trade of livestock is projected to remain important in countries such as Ethiopia. However, under high global economic growth, boosts in overseas demand for beef could adversely impact the availability of the product more locally. There may be a need for policy adjustments to deal directly with potential impacts on nutrition and health within local populations. Increased production to meet demand under such a scenario also exacerbates pressures on agricultural or other land and may call for concerted planning for livestock expansion within strategies and programs for land use and environmental management.

The report recommends that the relevant stakeholders should be engaged early on in discussions regarding the management of the anticipated changes to livestock value chains. Given the variability of the countries included in the study, the assessments of national statistics and global model projections and reviews of national livestock policies lead to varied conclusions about which livestock sub-sectors will drive change, the major anticipated transitions and how these can be better captured within the national planning for the sector. The paper provides some initial pointers on the direction in which livestock sector planning in the study countries may need to evolve. A quick assessment of needed interventions identifies scope for increased agricultural productivity and animal feed development, particularly under global climate change. Other areas for attention are managing environmental impacts and the potential emergence of zoonotic diseases (that are infectious diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites that spread between animals and humans).

The report also emphasizes that model projections are not predictions for how the demand, supply or trade of LDF and related measures will evolve, but plausible outcomes based on data and current knowledge about key interactions of countries’ livestock sectors. However, the analyses are a good focal point around which to engage national stakeholders on discussions about how LDF demand and supply could transition in the different countries and the readiness of existing and planned policy or programs to accommodate these changes.

Read more:

The project was carried out under the auspices of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems (LSIL) which is managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the University of Florida.

Milk and money in Malawi: Reconnaissance visit to learn about the business challenges of smallholder dairy farming

3 months 2 weeks ago

This is an excerpt from an article originally posted on the Food & Business Knowledge Platform. Read the full article here.

Researchers from OSMARE1 – a GCP-4 research partnership funded by NWO and implemented by a global consortium from 2018-2020 – are studying the factors that detract from or contribute to resilient business models of smallholder farmers in East and Southern Africa. During a visit to a dairy farm, milk bulking group (MBG) and processing plant in Malawi in 2018, Francis Jiva and Rob Lubberink were introduced to some of the challenges in dairy production, from farm to fridge, and set out to better understand the context in which OSMARE research will take place over the next 3 years.


OSMARE draws on the agribusiness models supported by Vuna – a 3-year Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) programme, funded by UK-Aid and implemented by Adam Smith International in 5 countries in East and Southern Africa.

Vuna piloted a CSA-dairy project, working in 10 districts in Malawi, which sought to support dairy farming by addressing impacts of Climate Change. The Vuna project trained farmers on CSA practices and techniques and introduced technologies that address the issues of adaptation to and mitigation of climate change impacts, while addressing the dairy farmer’s business. OSMARE also considers if this intervention has strengthened the business of dairy farmers.

A smallholder dairy farmer part of the CSA Dairy project ran by Vuna in 2017-2018 milks his cow in the afternoon and prepares to take the milk to the milk bulking group.

Challenges for the dairy farmer

Hygiene and Quality

OSMARE met with Sarah2, a dairy farmer in Linthipe, one hour’s drive south of Lilongwe, Malawi. As a smallholder, she has 2 dairy cows that produce on average between 10-20 litres per cow per day and she grows legume seed – a typical combination of farming value chains in the region. But, as is the case with several other smallholder farmers, she faces challenges: maximising profit while maintaining milk quality, continuing milk sales through formal markets not informal side-selling, managing a household and adapting to the changing climate as she requires good quality feed for her cows.

As a dairy farmer selling to the formal market, her first challenge is hygiene and passing the MBG’s test for additives, adulteration and bacteria particles per millilitre. She explains that when selling to the formal market (the MBG), tests are performed on the milk at the bulking station. If she gets a positive result on all the tests, the milk is accepted, and she would receive payment. Additionally, she is able to receive a premium for the milk if it reaches a high quality. However, if the result indicates adulteration (i.e. a high quantity of water) or additives (i.e. baking soda) or if she fails the alcohol test (i.e. as a result of microbes in the milking container), the milk is rejected.

Sarah milks in the morning and evening and she normally combines the milk from the previous evening with the fresh morning milk. While it may affect the quality, she has little choice:

  • she wants to produce a large quantity of milk, in the shortest time, with little harm to the cow. To do this, she undertakes 2 milking sessions;
  • the MBG closes at a certain time of the day which means she can only take the milk to the MBG after the morning’s session. As some of the farmers travel some distance by foot or bicycle to the MBG, the milk is often exposed to the sun. If they travel too long after the milking process, this could result in compromising milk quality and further losses.

For Sarah, having introduced simple practices of washing hands, cleaning the cow’s udder, being aware of the cleanliness of the cow’s environment and using sanitised buckets or jugs, were key to hedge against some of the risk-factors compromising milk quality. The simple act of washing hands could be the difference between profit and loss.

But this might not always be the case. Hygiene seems to be a bigger factor when selling to the MBG, than it is when selling at the local market. Based on anecdotal evidence, when a buyer is in need of milk and has little money, they will buy directly from the nearest dairy farmer, in quantities they can afford and in containers they have available.

An employee at the Milk Bulking Group administers an alcohol test: milk brought by the farmer is drawn from the container into the silver filter, mixed with alcohol and poured on a petri dish.

Continue reading the article here.


1. OSMARE (Understanding and Scaling Organisational Structures for Smallholder Resilience) is a 3-year research project funded by NWO and research is undertaken by Wageningen University, Vuna, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Zimbabwe Super Seeds and CCAFS.

2. Name of smallholder farmer changed for privacy.

2 hours 35 minutes ago
Value chains
Subscribe to CRP feeds feed