Are we really tackling the challenge of improving livelihoods for poor farmers?

An Ethiopian success story: With regular support from extension worker Tsigeredaa Negesu, 50 year old widow farmer Temegnush Dabi grew drought tolerant chickpea using more effective farming methods.
Photo: A Paul-Bossuet, ICRISAT

Agricultural research for development, including the consortium of research centres CGIAR, is regularly assessed to ensure money is being wisely spent on effective measures to promote better lives for rural communities. 2014 is the African Union Year of Agriculture and Food Security and the 10th Year of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme, CAADP, which is also being reviewed for its success in improving food and nutrition security.

On 15th July, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture & Food for Development debated the impact of CAADP and how to ensure a sustainable future for African agriculture. The event, held at the UK Houses of Parliament,  was chaired by Lord Cameron of Dillington  and brought  together  a panel of experts including Dr Yvonne Pinto (Director, Agricultural Learning and Impacts Network (ALINe) and Colin Poulton (SOAS Centre for Development, Environment and Policy), co-authors of ‘African Agriculture: Drivers for Success for CAADP implementation’.

Science, market and political will must work together to successfully revive vulnerable soils and halt further land degradation

Members of the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) in Nigeria being trained in groundnut processing

Dr William Dar as one of the panelists in the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security 2014. Photo: IofC

Earlier this month, I was a panelist at the Caux dialogue on land and security. This is an annual forum bringing together civil society, government and donor representatives, scientists and development practitioners from the North and South, to debate the critical issue of land degradation and desertification, which is a threat especially for the forgotten poor in the drylands.

We are rapidly heading “ towards a soil peak with possibly worse consequences than the oil peak” as Luc Gnacadja, the former UNCDD secretary general warned.  This soil peak is seen where the value of land is rising; doubling or even tripling in many parts of the world, and a land rush in some countries such as in Ethiopia. Alongside this we continue to witness wide-scale land degradation as not enough is being invested to prevent soil erosion, nutrient mining and other forms of land degradation.