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Farm risk management project will help African smallholders
14 June 2012
Greenwich, University of
housands of poor African farmers whose livelihoods depend on their crops and livestock are being offered a multi-million pound boost by a new project led by the University of Greenwich Natural Resources Institute experts.
A package of economic and marketing measures to ensure the farmers secure a return on their activities is being made available by Farm Risk Management for Africa (FaRMAf).
Natural Resources Institute (NRI) rural finance experts on the university’s Medway Campus will co-ordinate the four-year project with their partners in Europe and Africa, who have secured £4.3million (4.7million euros) from the European Union.
The European partners are working together under the umbrella of Agrinatura, the European Alliance on Agricultural Knowledge for Development.
The project will be launched in the autumn and farmers in three countries are being initially targeted – Burkina Faso in the west, Tanzania in the east and Zambia in the south of the continent.
These countries have been chosen in order to assess the project’s impact under different economic and natural conditions. The aim is to pass on best practice from lessons learned in the initial countries to many thousands of smallholders elsewhere.
Among the economic measures being put forward is crop and livestock insurance with better links to farm loan credit. This would help combat the high risk for farmers of losses caused by drought, floods and other sudden weather changes, and the risks for banks of a poor return on their investment.
Other measures include warehouse receipts, using both signed paper versions or an electronic system online, to guarantee the value of crops held in storage for some time; joint marketing by groups of smallholders so that collectively they can benefit from higher sales volumes, and sales through agricultural commodity exchanges which are accessible to smallholders.
The project will also seek to improve market information systems, and influence government agricultural policies to encourage more support for farm sector growth and rural development.
As a first step, consultation about detailed work programmes for the three target countries is being carried out this summer.
NRI and its partners have developed this fresh approach over the last five years, in response to demands from African farmers. Some of the measures have already been successfully tried and tested in other African countries. The project will pay special attention to women, who are responsible for a large proportion of farm production in Africa.
Professor Andrew Westby, Director of the Natural Resources Institute, and President of Agrinatura European Economic Interest Group, says: “Crop failure is a matter of life or death in Africa, as the media constantly reminds us. This project could make a big difference to so many people’s lives.
“In the past, efforts have been made to tackle the problems in isolation. Farm Risk Management for Africa is unique in that it will try to help farmers in a more integrated way, combining different approaches.”