This article has been written by Francesca Fryer, Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer at Concern Worldwide UK, and has been published with permission from Concern Worldwide UK.

Together with The All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development, Concern Worldwide convened a round table discussion in June to discuss how to tackle natural disasters and others crises that prevent the world's poorest people from lifiting themselves out of poverty.

Joanthan Dimbleby chairs roundtable with Desmond SwayneThe event was chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby and attended by 12 parliamentarians, including International Development Minister Desmond Swayne, as well as researchers and officials from the Department for International Development. The discussion started with a presentation from Concern's Dom Hunt who explained why we need to build resilience to disasters at a community level:

'The world is changing, there are more disasters in the world. These are driven by climate change, changing consumption patterns, environmental degradation. There are also more people in the world and these people are living in inherently vulnerable areas – such as large cities on active fault lines. Disasters are not just a bump in the road for development; they derail the whole process with regard to agriculture and food security. If we allow disasters to happen, we derail everything we've been doing. We need to get a handle on disasters or we will not be able to help people develop.'

Building resilience means being prepared for the predictable disasters that affect communities, like climatic shocks. If we prepare for a disaster before it turns into a crisis, communities have a better chance of recovering quickly. And the research shows that it not only saves lives, but saves money too. DFID's own research in Ethiopia shows that for every £1 spent on building a community's resilience to prevent food crises, £8 is saved in future emergency response. See how resilience works in practice in our 'Resilient Village'.

Resilience isn't something that can be imposed from outside; it's something that emerges out of collaboration with communities, experts, donors and government at all levels. Helping people to build their assets and their livelihoods so that they can pull themselves out of poverty and prevent themselves from falling into crisis is a collaborative process. Donor countries, national governments, local governments, local and international NGOs and the communities most at risk need to all work together to confront an increasingly hazardous world.

Our campaign, Growing Resilience, asks governments to scale up funding for programmes that build community resilience to food crises. It also asks national governments in countries in East and West Africa to include resilience building in their national policy frameworks. Working together, we can tackle predictable and preventable food crises so communities can access sufficient, nutritious food.

The round table opened up opportunities for us to collaborate further with the UK government and parliamentarians to tackle hunger by ensuring that the poorest communities are better prepared for, and can recover from, disasters. You can read more about what we're asking the UK government to do here.

APPG AgDev Banner Final Design page 001On Thursday 2nd July the APPG was formally reconstituted for the new Parliament.

Jeremy Lefroy MP (Conservative) was elected as Chair, Lord Cameron of Dillington (Crossbench) was re-elected as Co-Chair, and Lord Boateng of Akyem and Wembley (Labour) was relected as Secretary.

Joining the executive, Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour), Mark Durkan MP (SDLP), Pauline Latham OBE MP (Conservaitve), Lord Chidgey (Liberal Democrat) and the Countess of Mar (Crossbench) were duly elected as Vice-Chairs.

Following the election, Officers discussed the APPG's priorities and strategy for the year ahead. It was agreed that the APPG will focus on the following broad areas:

  • Access to and sources of finance for smallholder farmers and on- and off-farm agribusiness development;
  • Infrastructure facilitating smallholder participation in markets;
  • The impact of climate change on food security and smallholder agriculture and support for smallholders to adapt and build resilience;
  • The implementation of proposed Sustainable Development Goal 2 and the role of different actors and partnerships in its delivery;
  • Nutritious food systems.

Parliament event 4On Wednesday 24th June Bill Gates addressed MPs and Peers in the State Rooms, Speaker's House in an event hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Development APPGs and BOND. Bill Gates was introduced and the Q&A chaired by Jeremy Lefroy MP (Chair of the APPG AgDev). Prior to the event, Bill Gates had met with several MPs and stressed how important supporting smallholder farmers is to the Gates Foundation, saying 'Agriculture is really big for us.'

In his wide-ranging address to parliamentarians, Bill Gates thanked the UK government for their generosity and leadership and thanked the APPGs for their partnership and role in keeping parliamentarians engaged. During his address Bill Gates focused on health issues and achievements such as reducing the number of deaths from malaria by 50%, and talked about the importance of solving malnutrition, saying that until malnutrition is no longer an issue, Africa will not be able to become self-sufficient. Bill Gates also talked about the need to increase contraception in developing countries and the role of women's groups in achieving this, as well as highlighting how vitally important it is to create functioning tax collection systems to increase domestic resource collection and funding of public services.

20150624 131420 resized 1In an equally wide-ranging Q&A, Bill Gates answered questions centred on the role of data collection and transparency, the need for modern health care systems, the impacts of climate change on development and corruption. Lord Cameron (Co-Chair of the APPG AgDev) asked about the importance of knowledge sharing, access to knowledge and the role of ICTs for smallholder farmers. Bill Gates' responses agreed and in addition highlighted the importance of accessing seed, credit, adequate soil quality and land rights, as well as talking about the positive role that agro-dealers can play.

The event concluded with the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP thanking Bill and Melinda Gates and the Gates Foundation for their leadership and their commitment to ending poverty.

APPG AgDev Parliamentary Briefing thumbAs Parliament springs back into action following the General Election, the APPG AgDev is actively recuriting new members from across the political parties. The APPG AgDev has produced and is distributing a new briefing 'All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture & Food for Development: Promoting smallholder agriculture to end poverty and boost food security' to new and returning MPs. The briefing sets out of the vision and objectives of the Group, keys facts about smallholder agriculture, achievements of the Group to date and, most importantly, how parliamentarians can play a vital role in supporting smallholder farmers in this parliament.

Having worked hard to push DFID and other donors to pay more attention to smallholder agriculture, we want it to remain a priority in this parliament. Over the coming weeks the APPG will be seeking to recruit new members to the Group ahead of a busy schedule of events and meetings in July.

Lord Cameron Sylvia Banda Kola MashaThe final week of this Parliament has been a busy and exciting one for the APPG on Agriculture & Food for Development. On Tuesday members of the APPG met with Sylvia Banda from Zambia and Kola Masha from Nigeria – two inspirational African agribusiness entrepreneurs whose visit to Parliament coincided with the second roundtable in our Smallholder Agribusiness Development inquiry.

Sylvia Banda is the Managing Director of Sylva Food Solutions in Zambia. Since 1986 Sylvia has created small businesses like Sylva Professional Catering Services Limited, which offers courses in hospitality and food processing and production and has trained over 16,000 students since its inception. Her businesses have successfully created markets for local farmers and emphasised local cooking methods. Her innovations include the 'Sylva Solar Dryer' for processing traditional vegetables, fruits and other food products, and the 'Matebeto Mobile Kitchen' – a kitchen on bicycle wheels. Sylvia founded Sylva University, the first and only university offering courses in catering south of the Sahara. Sylvia is an Ashoka Fellow and was awarded the Fellowship in recognition of innovation and intelligent methods of promoting nutrition in Zambia food through Post Harvest Training workshops. Earlier this year Sylvia was appointed as a Board Member of the Industrial Development Corporation by the President of the Republic of Zambia.

154On Monday 2nd February the APPG joined forces with the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition and HarvestPlus to launch the Global Panel's Biofortification Policy Brief. The event included presentations from a distringuished panel followed by a lively Q&A.

The policy brief lays out the technical evidence and arguments for supporting biofortification as one element of a nutrient-sensitive national agricultural research and investment strategy.

Lord Cameron of Dillington, Chair of the APPG began the event by saying that there has been an interesting shift in research in the past few years where the focus has moved from resilience of yields to nutrition per hectare and that the topic of biofortification is a good example of this shift.

Tim Wheeler, Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser at DFID welcomed the new policy brief on biofortification. He said it places biofortification initiatives in the reign of complementary approaches to reduce micronutrient deficiencies.

20141202 182933 resizedOn Tuesday 2nd December the APPG hosted the UK launch of the inaugural Global Nutrition Report. The Global Nutrition Report, one outcome of the Nutrition for Growth Summit in London 2013, is the first-ever comprehensive narrative on global and country level progress in all forms of malnutrition and its drivers.

Introducing the event Lord Chidgey, Vice-Chair of the APPG, said that: 'One of the most pressing challenges facing us in our planet today is malnutrition... The benefits of improved nutrition cascade through the life cycle and across generations and the cost of failing to act are tragically high for all countries: premature death, stressed health systems and severe drag in current future and economic progress.'

The distinguished panel included the Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening MP and Lawrence Haddad, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI and Co-Chair of the Independent Expert Group that authored the report.

CPA and NRI Parliamentary Agriculture CommitteesThis article is written by Tony Worthington on behalf of the Natural Resource Institute.

Parliamentary Agriculture Committees in developing countries have a hugely important function. The Committees are supposed to ensure the quality of the legislation regulating the industry that frequently provides work for over 70% of their country's population, to hold the government to account on its actions or inactions on agricultural matters, and to represent the interest of citizens in parliament. Their role is essential to ensure, for example, that women, frequently the majority of farmers, are properly safeguarded.

They also have a role to play in ensuring that the internet is accessible to all farmers everywhere. At the recent APPG inquiry on ICTs (Information and Communication Technologys) in agriculture we heard from Digital Green. Digital Green, which is based in India, uses Digital Video for extension work. Digital Green has a data base of over 2,900 videos in 20 different languages lasting 8-10 min each, which have each been distributed to more than 250,000 farmers across 3,000 villages in India. Each video has been viewed on line on Digital Green's website and YouTube more than 2 million times. Fundamental to the Digital Green model is participatory content production.

It is crucial that Parliamentary Agriculture Committees know of such organisations in both their central committee work and as constituency MPs.

APPG-AF4D-ICTs and Knowledge Sharing thumbToday the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agriculture and Food for Development launched their report 'Harnessing the potential: ICTs and Knowledge Sharing in Agriculture'. The report advocates that Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) have the potential to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in developing countries, offering great opportunities to increase their productivity, incomes and resilience.

Whilst less than 10% of farmers in Africa and South America have access to the internet, almost 90% have access to basic mobile technology, including SMS. This rapid increase in mobile communication enables farmers in even the most remote locations to receive timely and targeted agricultural advice bridging the information gap that conventional public extension services cannot span. In India only 6.8% of farmers get support from traditional extension services, and in Africa the average farmer to extension ratio is 4000:1. In this context, ICTs have the potential to be powerful tools in agriculture.

Through a series of seminars, the APPG heard that ICTs are already playing a critical role and are being utilised across the agricultural value chain offering access to information about inputs, agronomic practices, weather forecasts, pest control and the market as well as facilitating farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange. ICT applications are providing access to financial services, mobile banking, micro-credit and micro-insurance.

'ICTs are powerful tools with benefits that go beyond delivering and collecting information. However, ICTs are not a panacea. Significantly, the challenge of fulfilling the opportunities offered by ICTs includes realising them in an inclusive way. ICT4Agriculture is an area that is active, diverse and has the potential to deliver increasingly positive impacts for the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers.'
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development

WFP ED Rome MeetingThis week the APPG visited the UN Food and Agriculture agencies in Rome (11th and 12th November 2014) to learn more about the role and work of the organisations in promoting smallholder agriculture, particularly in Africa.

Lord Cameron and Lord Boateng, together with Guy Poulter (NRI) and Lis Wallace (APPG Coordinator), had an action-packed agenda with meetings at the FAO, IFAD and WFP.

During their visit the delegation met with Josè Graziano da Silva, FAO Director General, Michel Mordasini, IFAD Vice-President and Ertharin Cousin, WFP Executive Director, as well as staff at all three agencies focusing on engagement with the private sector, climate resilience and adaptation, gender and nutrition.

AU Year of Agriculture and Food Security PanelOn Thursday 23rd October the APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development, together with the African Smallholders Farmer Group, hosted an event to celebrate the African Union Year of Agriculture and Food Security. We were delighted to host a distinguished panel.

In her keynote speech Her Excellency Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner for the Rural Economy and Agriculture, said that ‘Small is beautiful, but as long as it grows… Smallholder farmers are central to Africa’s agricultural transformation.’

The Commissioner reflected on the successes of CAADP in raising the profile of agriculture on the development agenda both for national governments and for donors. As a result of CAADP agricultural expenditure in Africa has doubled, however, countries are still falling short of their commitment made in Maputo in 2003 when governments committed spending at least 10% of their national budgets on agriculture.

Looking ahead to the next 10 years and the Malabo Declaration, the Commissioner explained that governments have prioritised: ‘A modernised agricultural food sector, which is productive, competitive, profitable, rewarding and therefore attractive, especially to women and youth. Putting the emphasis on generating knowledge and technologies. Securing access to and rights over land, especially for smallholders and women. A future of agri-food systems organised as a viable business that contributes to economy-wide transformation agenda by developing agro-processing, agro-industries and agribusinesses. Resilient production and livelihood systems with adequate capacity to mitigate and adapt to shocks. We want a future where Africa harnesses its immense potential, including markets and the abundance of natural resources to drive agricultural transformation and improve nutrition.’

Translating the Malabo Declaration into action the Commissioner said she wanted to see sustained commitment from African leaders and strengthened alignment between the priorities of national governments and the priorities of donors.