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 Friday, November 09, 2012

Over 500 people attended the first day of the three-day conference, Making the Connection – value chains for transforming smallholder agriculture. Held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the event attracted a broad range of individuals representing the private sector, government, civil society, farmers’ organizations and academia.

Value chains are all about making effective connections between farmers, input suppliers and buyers; between processors and supermarkets or buyers overseas. “It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this topic,” said CTA director Michael Hailu in his opening remarks. He quoted a popular Ethiopian saying: “You have the horse; you have the field – now it’s up to you to make things happen”.  Much, he said, could be achieved by conference participants over the coming days.

Mobile phones and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) are playing an increasingly important role in supporting agricultural value chains. This was the focus of the third parallel session, moderated by Ken Lohento of CTA. Shaun Ferris of the Catholic relief services (CRS) provided an overview of how different ICT technologies and products are being used to develop and improve agricultural value chains. Fritz Brugger of the Syngenta Foundation discussed the way in which his organization had used ICTs in index-based crop insurance schemes. Peter Thompson of Jamaica’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority highlighted the role of mobile phones in connecting farmers with information on everything from markets to the weather. “Agricultural losses to Hurricane Sandy would have been much greater had it not been for the text messaging service alerting farmers to how to cope with the hurricane”, he said.

Two presentations focused on specific interventions. One described the development of a dairy value chain in Kenya. In Nyala, Technoserve helped small-scale dairy farmers to develop a thriving market. This in turn benefited a range of other businesses, such as fodder producers, stimulating employment both within and beyond the agricultural sector. Tadesse Meskela described the astonishing success of the Oromio Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in Ethiopia, which now boasts over 200,000 members organized in 217 co-operatives. There was much to learn about the importance of leadership and the development of a strong cooperative model.

(Source: This is Africa Online)