What/where are the great technology universities in Africa?

Posted in: Uncategorized- Jul 25, 2013 No Comments

I have been researching food security in Africa as it relates to mobile technology for years.  I can not name one great technology university on the continent.  Money did not make Silicon Valley great, Stanford did.  Where are the Stamfords and MITs in tech in Africa?

I would appreciate it if you used the comments for your suggestions.

Read more on connection between Stanford and the valley from New Yorker 

Complex issues require facts, dialogue and clear thinking.

Posted in: Uncategorized- Jun 28, 2013 No Comments

Slide from presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at the Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition 2013 (credit: ILRI/Jimmy Smith).

The last bastion of unbelievers in climate change may unfortunately reside in the U.S. Congress.   Obama gave a speech this week on climate change without mentioning agriculture. It is known that agriculture plays important role in both producing carbon; for example, via livestock and the use of fertilizer, but also if properly managed can play valuable role in mitigating carbon release.    Healthy, productive soil is one of the best carbon traps known and key to better water management.

There are number of complex and seemingly intractable problems that are interconnected.  Climate change, youth employment, urbanization and growing middle class, rural development, desertification, water management, nutrition, maternal health, stunting, sustainable intensification vs organic vs GMO and the list goes on.  The “intereconnectedness” of these issues is amplified in Africa.  But therein also lies the opportunity to put in place solutions that work together to address the entire litany of problems; from climate change to nutrition, from growing middle class that wants and has a right to eat meat to carbon sequestration in soil, from building regional trade to improving rural income.

One piece of the climate change solution puzzle may be livestock.  Allan Savory of the Savory Institute puts forth idea that through better management of larger herds of livestock we can actually restore dry/grasslands and stop desertification.  It takes time and effort but it also restores healthy soil and provides natural habitat for herder/farmer communities and wildlife.

But the answers to hard problems are not so easy.

The real opportunities in African livestock are outlined to in the June 26 presentation by Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who briefed Felix Kosgey, Kenya’s new cabinet secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, who was guest of honour at the opening of the African Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE), on key messages delivered during the opening session of the conference.

The very real hurdles in applying solutions such as Allan Savory’s holistic grassland management in the Sabel are described in Mohammed Bello of CORET blog post CONFLICTS BETWEEN TRANSHUMANT PASTORALIST AND FARMERS IN NIGERIA-THE WAY OUT.

How to bridge the ideas of Allan Savory and the opportunities and problems as outline by Jimmy Smith and Mohammed Bello is of interest to me.  I would hope the attendees at the Savory Institute International Conference this week may speak directly to stopping desertification in the Sahel region of Africa.  I’ll be listening and you can too by following the twitter hashtag #savoryconf2013

Insightful thoughts from two women working in African agriculture

Posted in: Uncategorized- Jun 21, 2013 No Comments

Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, chief executive officer and head of mission, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, speaking at the Chicago Symposium

Raising enough food to feed a burgeoning global population is a complex problem that requires the best minds and coordination of the public/private sector.  There are couple interesting thoughts I’d like to share from two African women that work in agriculture.

The first is Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, chief executive officer and head of mission, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network.  I had the pleasure of hearing Dr Sibanda speak at the Chicago Symposium on Global Hunger in Washington DC in late May.  She made the following points.

There needs to be a focus on the farmer.  What are their assets, what are their needs and how to link research directly to farmer’s livelihood.  Further, typically there is little, or no, alignment of the farmers aspirations to the goals of the nation.  Secondly, too often researchers are focus on heir narrow area of expertise and engage farmers in very selective areas instead of more broadly.  A multi-discipline approach to helping farmers is need  Thirdly, in Africa there is a plethora of successful projects but taking those to scale is always a challenge.  What has always been missing is the interface of research and policy making.  Research is done in isolation of the policy that is required to scale the project.

Watch the entire panel discussion here. 

Josephine Okot is the founder of Victoria Seeds in Uganda. Photograph: Agriculture for Impact

Josephine Okot, founder of Victoria Seeds makes observation on lack of good extension services for Uganda farmers and then makes what I find an interesting point:

“Donors should focus on those higher up the value chain. It is enterprises that are the critical drivers, they drive demand from farmers,” she says. “If donors want to achieve their objectives, if they want to improve livelihoods, they should focus on businesses that add value to output.”

Read the full interview of Ms Okot here.



Need to focus on companies that server farmers. Make something of raw materials. http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2013/jun/17/uganda-seed-entrepreneur-josephine-okot?CMP=twt_gu

Need to align policy makers with pilots to get buy in. Kenya women from conference.

Intersection of climate change, food security and poverty reduction.

Posted in: Uncategorized- Jun 17, 2013 No Comments

Photo: Irina Fuhrmann/Oxfam, Herdsmen Wait for the Rain. There is no water, and the earth is so dry that deep cracks open in the ground under one’s feet. Pastoral communities, which are traditionally nomadic, have nowhere to go to find grazing land, and their only option is to wait for the arrival of rain. This will not occur for several months, and in the meantime the few animals that survive will be so weak that they will no longer serve as objects of barter.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) global carbon diozide emissions in 2012 reached a record.  At the intersection of climate change, food security and poverty reduction is the African smallholder farmer and their sisters and brothers whom are herder/farmers (pastoralists)  in the Sahel.  While the West works toward reducing fossil fuel consumption and vehicle emissions the opportunity to trap carbon in the dry/grasslands of the earth through better land management exists.

A proponent and the father of holistic grassland management is Dr. Allan Savory, of the Savory Institute (video). If done properly, grassland restoration positively impacts wetlands and waterways, restores natural habitat for wild and domesticated animals and provides pastures for animals and land for farms.  Healthy grass and farmlands stop the encroachment of deserts and trap carbon while supporting local communities’ ability to raise livestock and grow food.

But restoring grasslands takes a lot of  dedication, time and a concerted effort in the best of places.  It appears particularly difficult in the Sahel regions of western Africa as Mohammed Bello Tukur, Secretary General of Confederation of Traditional Herder Organizations in Africa (CORET) writes passionately and convincingly recently in his blog “Conflicts between Transhumant Pastoralist and Farmers in Nigeria – the Way Out” (part I and II).

The solutions are known as Dr Savory and Mr Bello document for those that want to look for them.  The problems are complex and interwoven across social, cultural, economic and political spheres.  Efforts of change and impact will take time but more importantly the political will and guidance at all levels to coordinate efforts and investments and to mitigate conflict.




Open Mobile Development Google Groups Invitation

Posted in: Uncategorized- May 24, 2013 No Comments

I enjoyed the MobileActive discussion group on Google Groups. I am not sure if it is still active as it appears the MobileActive project has stopped after a seven year run. I have started a new Google Groups for Mobile for Development practitioners, NGOs, solution providers, students and others to use as a resource to share information related to mobile for development.

To start the group will be open to anyone to join and post. However, if it becomes a problem due to commercial spam the group will be moderated.

Please join the group and post announcements and questions as well as opportunities https://groups.google.com/d/forum/mobile4dev

Brief Highlights from Chicago Council Symposium 2013

Posted in: Uncategorized- May 22, 2013 No Comments

I had a chance to attend the Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium 2013, Capitalizing on the Power of Science, Trade and Business to End Hunger and Poverty, Washington DC, on Tuesday, May 21st.  There was a good mix of both public and private as well as academia.  USAID administrator Raj Shah opened the forum and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack gave a brief speech at the end.

Fighting hunger and food insecurity is complex problem.  Pieces of it may be relatively easy but overall it is a very complex problem that requires lots if input from both public and private companies and partnerships.  You need to bring everyone to the table, government policy makers, business, scientific researchers, energy policy, climate scientist, environmentalist, food companies, transportation, storage, markets and of course farmers.   I am going to concentrate on the farmer.

Dr Sibanda made some great points when she said there needs to be understanding of aspirations of farmers.  Lot of farmers in Africa but best to identify those that really want to farm and concentrate on them.  Then there needs to be assessment of their goals and what assets they already have in place.  Then need to talk with them about what they need.  Really common sense but important points.  Other point she made is many times policy makers are not included in the conversation or pilots.  They are key to get buy-in and should be included.  Other point she made is to tie aspirations and goals of farmers on local level with national agricultural goals and then get policy makers involved.  If you can match up these things then can really make changes.

Some other points.

Complex systems.  There are complex problems that require lot of smart people working long term.  Need global strategies

Its not just agriculture but health and nutrition.

Women are important.  Need to get them involved and help them as play important role in the family.

Trade.  Regional trade needs to happen and is being done informally for example in East Africa between Kenya, Uganda, Rawanda but need more.

Access to markets.   Farmers grow for themselves. So they are not going to waste money or effort unless they can sell their produce.  But roads, storage, after harvest processing and access to markets are all impediments.

If farmers have the knowledge and information they’ll use it but key is to get them the information they need to make informed decisions.

Need stable food prices so farmers and government can plan and implement.  Need to reduce speculation in food prices.   Feed as fuel adds to the fluctuation in price   Without stable prices societies are vulnerable to food price shock.  People are suffering.

Got to look at the time horizon in implementing changes.  For example getting smallholder farmers to increase output will take years.  What can be done now, like putting transportation and storage in place to be ready when output increases.

No real talk about how to build markets for farmer or really feasibility or likelihood of pulling small holder farmers into international value chains.

The problem is vast, small improvements have been made but there is a long way to get all the pieces in the puzzle working together, sharing ideas and knowledge, partnering and listening to farmers.  Can’t take eye off what farmers need as they are key.

Below are copies of the Agenda.  You may also want to review the Twitter hashtag #globalag   FoodTank also provides good information about the Symposium


Chicago Symposium 2013 Agenda pg 1

Chicago Symposium 2013 Agenda pg 2

Chicago Symposium 2013 Agenda pg 3

Chicago Symposium 2013 Agenda pg 4



Growing gardens: The story of Lydiah Kathamibi, Meru, Kenya

Posted in: Uncategorized- Mar 26, 2013 No Comments


This is not just a story about one farmer in Meru, Kenya that grew her business from selling vegetables from baskets to supplying produce to supermarkets. This is a story about women, banking and employment in Africa.

Lydiah began selling vegetables in a basket and later graduated to pushing a wheelbarrow in the streets of Meru town. Today, she is a supplier of groceries to large supermarket chains. She has contracted over 100 farmers supporting livelihoods for many families. She has diversified into property development. See her transformational story.

Foreign Earnings by U.S. Corporations are not Foreign

Posted in: Uncategorized- Mar 25, 2013 No Comments

The New York Times has article online today How to Unlock That Stashed Foreign Cash By Jeff Sommer, March 23, 2013 that explains all kinds of tax and finance machinations that policy makers and company directors should consider to ‘repatriate’ profits earned in foreign countries and supposedly stashed overseas.  What the article fails to point out is most of this cash is not stashed in foreign banks but in USA banks in New York.

Presumably the reason behind no tax on foreign earnngs is somehow tied to helping foreign economies by leaving the cash there to be used by foreign partners for business expenditures or foreign investment.  What a novel idea!

African Agriculture Links for end March 2013

Posted in: Uncategorized- Mar 22, 2013 No Comments

Transforming lives through improved access to agricultural education in Africa, 21 March 2013, NRI.Org, via @MPULEinstitute

At an event hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture & Food for Development at the Houses of Parliament on 19th March participants discussed how the use of open educational resources (OER) can dramatically widen access to agricultural knowledge. Drawing on successful OER initiatives in Africa on teacher education and community education, Lesley-Anne Long of the Open University (OU) outlined how a similar approach can be applied to agricultural development.

Blog post on recent Catholic Relief Services ICT conference in Ghana 5th CRS ICT4D conference
The curtains have just closed down on the Catholic Relief Services’ 5th Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) conference, held in Accra from 19 to 21 March 2013. The event was a success

 Discrimination faced by rural women impacts negatively food security

Women also play an increasingly important role as farmworkers. They represent 20 to 30% of the 450 million people employed worldwide as waged agricultural workers, but are disproportionally represented in the “periphery” of employed farmworkers made of unskilled workers hired on a weekly or seasonal basis without a formal contract of employment. The main reason more women are found in this category is that they have fewer alternative options due to lower level of education. They are, thus, easier to exploit, underlined the UN expert.

World Agroforestry Centre salutes first UN International Day of Forests by Paul Stapleton on March 21, 201

“By 2050 there will be 2.4 billion more people to feed. Their survival will largely depend on the poorest of farmers, most of whom own and farm less than two acres of land in the developing world.” said Simons. “These farmers are critical to helping us recover the trees we lose in the forests. And through agroforestry, they reap more income from tree products and they diversify their diets, providing better nutrition for their families.”

Farmers and scientists: better together in the fight against climate change, 19th March 2013, By CCAFS Climate Change and Social Learning Champions

We need to see major changes in how food is grown and distributed. In Africa and Asia, where millions of families live on one to five hectares of land, we need to see improved farming systems. In fact, we need to see transformative changes, not small changes.

World food security and what young Africans can do about it
Published on : 19 March 2013, Leaders in sub-Saharan Africa, a region with the world’s fastest-growing and youngest population, seek to create more agriculture jobs. Using new technology and farming techniques, they hope to encourage a young, innovative emerging workforce to impact both economic growth and social development,

TZ farmers want in on the Mobile Revolution; believe tech can get them better deals Wednesday, 06 March 2013 18:03

Variable crop sowing dates ‘produce higher yields’
Bernard Appiah
16 March 2013

They found that cropping systems with variable sowing dates adapted to climate change produce crop yields up to 17 per cent higher than those that have constant sowing dates, according to Katharina Waha, lead author and research fellow at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Germany.

CGIAR will host the Global Consultation in 2013 on behalf of the partners at the ILRI main campus in Addis Ababa. Dates: 6th – 8th May 2013 (plus one optional day)

Briefing paper USAID ICT Applications and Agricultural Input Supply Companies: Highlights from Africa The paper includes a description of agricultural input supply companies, selected ICT applications they are using, and the impact these applications are having both on their operations and with farmers they sell to. It also includes implications for donor programs and ways to facilitate the integration of ICTs by targeted companies.

Video: mAgri (Mobile Agriculture Information Systems)

Making links from small farms to markets in Africa: lessons from villages and supply chains Posted on 15/03/2013 by Agriculture for Impact

On Monday 25th February, Gordon Conway and Steve Wiggins – along with other guests and panellists – took part in a seminar at the Overseas Development Institute to explore the progress made on our joint Leaping & Learning project.

Global hunger and undernutrition could be worsened by climate change, 13th March 2013

The links between climate, hunger and poor nutrition are becoming increasingly clear: a recent report for the Committee on World Food Security warned that climate change could significantly change the amount and quality of food consumed – with potentially devastating consequences for those most at risk of hunger.

What Can Seed Growers Learn from Cigarette Companies? MAR 13, 2013 by FEED THE FUTURE PARTNERING FOR INNOVATION

“If only we could sell bean seeds like cigarettes,” muses Luis Flores, a researcher at Michigan State University. “Cigarettes are in every rural market. You have to give credit to this very effective sales force as they get a message across to the consumer through flashy posters, banners, and radio.” Bean seeds, however, are more difficult to find and are not packaged and marketed in a way that draws consumers. Yet improved bean varieties can give rural farmers the significant increase in yields they need and want to proudly show off their fields to neighboring farmers. The demand for the product on the market is already there.

Is Agribusiness the Key to Africa’s Growth?, 3/11/13 by Vijaya Ramachandran, Global Development: Views from the Center

Today, the World Bank launched a new report, “Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness.” The report argues that agriculture and agribusiness should be at the top of the development and business agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Bank is right to emphasize this issue–of the $25 billion of food that African countries import annually, only $1 billion comes from other African countries. The report offers a clear and well-researched exposition of the state and prospects of African agribusiness. It is broad in scope, encompassing agricultural production and upstream input markets as well as supply chains and agro-processing.

Africa: Cash for Diagnostics May Help Track Cassava Disease BY GEORGE ACHIA, 11 MARCH 2013

Food Security: The View From Rome, March 8, 2013 Huffpost Impact Blog.  The FAO, IFAD and WFP’s strategies, to provide technical expertise, international financial assistance and food aid, respectively, are unique but complementary and seeking to be increasingly collaborative. They are working together on technical projects and emergency response, advocacy and communication to enhance their overall impact.

Nigeria to establish 18 cassava processing industries, Premium Times, March 7,2013 The aim of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda is to generate employment and transform the country into a leading player in global food markets to grow wealth for millions of farmers. It was designed to make the agricultural sector a business project to promote private investment in agriculture. It will also execute integrated projects through value chain processes, generate employment, and transform Nigeria into a net exporter of agricultural commodities.

GHANA Moving towards food security: YARA leads the way  CitiFm Online, March 7, 2013 YARA’s commitment to the development of Ghana’s agricultural sector has further been cemented with the establishment of 150 farmer clinics, farmer forums and educative radio sessions that marshal the support of government and other development partners for the purpose of educating and empowering farmers to increase production; productivity and quality at the same time facilitate access to markets.

Compilation of Infographics of African Technology by Emeka Okoye

Posted in: Uncategorized- Mar 17, 2013 No Comments

Infographics on African Technology

Emeka has pulled together a wide range (and possibly the definitive list) of interesting infographics on African technology on his Pinterest page.

If you produce infographic about African Technology, or know of other infographics that Emeka should include; please leave a comment below.