Robynne has extensive experience in the agriculture and food sector, working throughout the value chain – from basic inputs to farmers in the field to the grocery store shelf. She works internationally in the sector, including speaking at the United Nations on agriculture and food issues, and representing the International Agri-Food Network at the UN.Throughout her career she has worked with farm organisations like the Prairie Oat Growers Association, the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi and the Himalayan Farmers Association, as well as global groups, to further the voice of agriculture in the food debate. She has also worked with Fortune 500 companies growing worldwide businesses to assist them with issues management and strategy decisions.

#IamAg

What could be more exciting than recruiting young people to agriculture?  Farming First is launching a great campaign called #IamAg campaign, to encourage more young people to take up agricultural careers.  Between now and 21st October, farmingfirst.org will be sharing the stories of ag professionals from across the globe, across the whole value chain.

Our first blog post is from 29 year old Judy Nyawira, Production Manager at Shamba Shape Up - share the story of how she became involved in the hit TV show!  I am thrilled to be adding my voice in the weeks ahead.  Here’s how you can get involved too…

  1. Sign up to our Thunderclap that will send a timed tweet out, declaring what great opportunities exist in agriculture, especially for youth 
  2. Share or embed our infographic "Working in Agriculture" that showcases the many careers young people can pursue 
  3. Tweet out our individual career illustrations - we may have illustrated your career! (attached)
  4. Add a badge to your Twitter or Facebook profile to declare "I am Ag"
  5. Share blogs, videos, case studies, advice and insights using #IamAg - and you could be turned into an illustration or feature in our wrap up video at the end of the campaign!
  6. Retweet our content - there will be plenty to choose from!

 

Oat Grower Overcomes Harvest Challenges to Support African Schools

Prairie Oat Growers Association President, and a good friend, Art Enns, sowed a 35-acre crop this spring with the generous intention of donating the revenues of the harvest to the Manyinga Project. With a wet and rainy start to the harvest season, Art was in store for an adventurous day in the field. 

MEDIA RELEASE

MANITOBA – When Manitoba oat grower and Prairie Oat Growers Association President, Art Enns, sowed a 35-acre crop this spring with the intention of donating the revenues of the harvest to the Manyinga Project, he had no idea what an adventure that harvest would be.

“It’s been a challenge. In our area, we’ve been really inundated with some heavy rain and the field that I had was no exception,” says Enns. “I had some difficulties trying to get the crop in shape to harvest and then when harvesting came we also had a breakdown, but you know what – that’s all part of life.”

Swathing had to be done between rainstorms and in the mud, but the skies had cleared up by the time Enns started to combine on September 3 and the weather cooperated just long enough for him to get most of the oats in the bin.

His good luck didn’t last long. An axle on the combine broke in a mud hole, and the rain started again before he could assemble the friends and equipment needed to repair it. 

Five days later, with the help of those friends and a track hoe, he was finally able to get the combine off the field and onto higher ground. But the work wasn’t over yet.

Enns figured he still had about four hours of harvesting to finish the field, but when he thought of the obstacles faced by the kids at the two schools in Zambia, Africa that the Manyinga Project supports, he was more than willing to go back out. 

“We’ve got challenges over here, but they pale in comparison to the challenges these kids face just getting their start in life,” says Enns. “We are teaching children 10,000 miles away about agriculture and I say that we can improve their lives. I think it’s really worth it.”

This is the second year Enns has planted a field in support of the Manyinga Project, which funds two schools for orphaned and vulnerable children at Chinema and Samafunda, small villages in the Manyinga region of Zambia.

The two schools have a combined enrolment of over 400 students annually, where they are taught the state curriculum in grades one through seven.

Each school also raises field crops, garden vegetables, orchard fruits and goats to teach critical life skills in an area where subsistence farming is the primary way of life, and to help support a student nutrition program.

“Art has been a great supporter of the project, and these fields of oats he has planted and harvest over the past two seasons have made a real difference in our fundraising to support these two schools in Africa,” says Robynne Anderson, one of the founders of the group that started the Manyinga Project.

Enns estimates the crop’s total revenue should be between $9,000 and $10,000, with all of the expenses of raising the crop covered by himself and a few donors. Last year the field yielded about 125 bushels per acre, but he expects the yield to be closer to 90 bushels per acre this year.

Enns jokes that Anderson owes him a couple of stiff drinks after what he went through getting the oats off the field, but is looking forward to doing it all over again next year.

“It’s all about the children, and I’ve always had a real, deep desire to help young people,” says Enns. “For me, to be a part of something that is teaching the next generation about farming is pretty special.”

 

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Photos:

Caption: Art Enns gives the thumbs up to the track hoe driver.

Caption: A track hoe lifts the rear axle of the combine out of the mud to be repaired.

Caption: A broken rear axle leave the combine stranded in the mud.

Caption: The field of oats earlier in the season.

 

For interviews, contact:

Art Enns
Farmer and President of the Prairie Oat Growers Association
204-746-5037
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Robynne Anderson
Manyinga Project
204-227-4611
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Tackling Malaria Through Innovation

The ability to create innovative products is essential for improved living. One of the most compelling challenges we face is malaria. About 3.4 billion people - half the world’s population - are at risk of malaria. In Africa, a child dies every 2 MINUTES from malaria. In addition to deaths, the social and economic costs from the illness are huge, estimated at $12 billion a year in Africa alone.

It is my pleasure to note that Target Malaria is nominated for the “Moonshot” award by Wired. Target Malaria is a not-for-profit consortium aiming to reduce the population of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes in sub-Saharan Africa. By reducing the population of malaria mosquitoes, they can reduce the transmission of the disease. You can vote here to support them and other innovators in this category (second award grouping).

Innovation is something that should be encouraged and celebrated in every sector. The Wired Audi Innovation Awards promote teams and individuals striving to break down barriers in whatever sector they’re working in.

In February 2016, scientist Astor Teller laid out the principles of the “Moonshot” philosophy. A moonshot, he said, should be firstly about solving “a huge problem in the world that affects many millions of people” - like malaria. Second, a moonshot should not settle for half-baked measures: it has to provide a “radical solution” that can do away with the problem for good. The last criterion, Teller explained, is the reasonable expectation that technology can actually solve the problem. Moonshots should be as much about pragmatism as they are about dreaming. Target Malaria incorporates all of this criteria, and excels in its field. Not only is this a cutting-edge research project, but it also has the potential to save millions of lives.

Specifically, the Target Malaria team is researching approaches that can reduce the numbers of mosquitoes that spread malaria. By reducing the population of the malaria mosquito, (a very specific beast called Anopheles), they are able to combat transmission of the disease. Their strategy relies on reducing the number of female malaria mosquitoes. Only female Anopheles gambiae transmit the disease, and a reduction in the number of females limits reproduction and the future population size, therefore dropping the transmission of malaria. This approach is expected to be complementary to other mosquito control methods, easy and inexpensive to implement, because the mosquitoes themselves do the work of stopping malaria. The control method would be a long-term, sustainable, and cost effective solution to prevent malaria.

 

Request for Proposal For a Consultant to Co-ordinate Development of a 10-Year Research Strategy for Pulse Crops

Emerging ag inc is soliciting proposals from qualified suppliers to assist in coordinating the development of a 10-Year Research Strategy for in the context of the 2016 International Year of Pulses.

The supplier will work closely with Emerging ag inc in development of the strategy.  In the context of the International Year of Pulses, Emerging ag inc acts as Secretariat to the Global Pulse Confederation which has convened a Productivity and Sustainability Committee comprised of experts from many pulse institutions.  The group has helped to frame the scope of the report and assisted in the development of a list of experts.  It will be available as advisors through the process of developing the project.

Emerging ag inc will co-ordinate communications and activities for the champions programme related to this project.

Potential suppliers should demonstrate previous experience in a similar role.  A doctorate is preferred in agricultural sciences or nutrition.  Experience in pulses is desirable.    

All proposals must be received by 5:00 pm Mountain Daylight Time on August 29, 2016.   

Proposals and all enquiries are to be submitted via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Emerging ag inc. reserves the right to reject any or all proposals, as well as to accept the proposal which will be to the best advantage, as determined at the sole discretion of Emerging ag inc.

Review the full Request for Proposal 10 Year Research Strategy here. 

First-Ever National Academy of Sciences Prize Dedicated to Food and Agriculture Sciences Established by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research with Support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Beginning in 2017, the National Academy of Sciences will recognize one annual recipient for an extraordinary contribution to agriculture or to the understanding of the biology of species fundamentally important to agriculture or food production. This fantastic award is jointly supported by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Establishing the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences is part of FFAR’s efforts to elevate food and agriculture research in the scientific arena and highlight the critical need for scientists working toward more productive, sustainable agriculture and better health through nutritious food. 

Nominations for 2017 are now open, with a deadline of October 3rd, 2016. Mid-career researchers at U.S. institutions may be nominated online. “Mid-career” is defined as up to 20 years since Ph.D. completion. The Prize may also be shared by one or more individuals for a collaborative accomplishment. For the purpose of the prize, areas of science with applications to agriculture include the following:

  • Plant and animal sciences
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition and food science
  • Soil science
  • Entomology
  • Veterinary medicine
  • Agricultural economics

 

Election of the UN Secretary General

With Ban Ki-Moon’s term as Secretary General wrapping up, the selection process has been in full swing. The leadership shown by Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly, to increase transparency in the process is laudable. The webcast sessions to introduce candidates to member states and the world is a leap forward from the process being confined to the Security Council members.

Another innovation has been to allow civil society to contribute questions to the candidates via a process facilitated by UN-NGLS.  Details from UN-NGLS are below:

More than 1500 questions from nearly 100 countries have been submitted since the process began at the end of February. From among these, each candidate has been asked 2-3 unique questions during their UN General Assembly dialogue. In addition, two were used during the 12 July debate with 10 candidates in UN General Assembly Hall, and the President of the General Assembly posted 10 of the questions on his web site, requesting all candidates to respond to them.

The civil society questions asked during the UN General Assembly dialogues with individual candidates, along with the candidates' responses, may be viewed here:

The two civil society questions used during the 12 July debate in UN General Assembly Hall (broadcast live by Al Jazeera and UN Web TV) along with candidate responses, may be viewed here: 

The 10 questions for all candidates posted on the President of the General Assembly's web site may be viewed here, along with responses from 4 of the candidates so far.

To view all questions received, and learn more about the process, including how the questions were selected, please visit the UN-NGLS website.

No one left behind: Livestock at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) participated in this week’s UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. This is the first of many meetings and processes that will take place to monitor progress in meeting the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Shirley Tarawali, assistant director general of ILRI, was in New York this week to take part in a livestock-focused side meeting, which took place on July 20, 2016. Tarawali is passionate about the forum theme “No one left behind”, as well as passionate that “livestock” not be left behind in the may agendas being put forward to meet the 17 goals.

Tarawali was one of five panel members who gave a short talk to frame the discussion.

Read the essay based on Tarawali’s presentation at the livestock event here.

Outcomes of the Pan-African Conference in Zambia

The pulse of development is often a bean.

The Pan-African Legumes conference is highlighting some of the outcomes of their meeting in Zambia.  It was a pleasure to be a speaker regarding the International Year of Pulses. I’ve never seen such an enthused and dedicated audience at any meeting.  Every workshop was packed, people were engaged, and they worked 12-14 hour days in session.  More than 400 young scientists showed their passion for pulse crops, every one of whom is needed to foster the productivity of pulse crops and the diversity of the food system.

Read the event recap from the MSU publication ‘Futures’ here.

Investing in Nutrition

Global action is urgently needed to tackle the pervasive problem of malnutrition. For too long, it has been underfunded – receiving just $3.9 billion annually in global funding. Reaching the targets to reduce stunting among children and anemia in women, increase exclusive breastfeeding rates, and mitigate the impact of wasting will require an average annual investment of $7 billion over the next 10 years.

While this level of investment is ambitious, it is not unprecedented. In fact, donors and country governments can immediately begin to invest in a subset of high-impact solutions. This priority set of interventions would require only $2.2 billion a year above what is currently spent and is estimated to save 2.2 million lives and empower 50 million more children to grow to their full physical and cognitive potential in 2025.

The World Bank, Results for Development (R4D), and 1,000 Days provided this first-of-its-kind analysis of the global resources needed to achieve four of the six WHA targets (stunting, breastfeeding, anemia, and wasting). It highlights the need for many actors to engage in nutrition, and furthers the case for partnerships to accelerate actions.

The Private Sector Mechanism will be holding a Partnerships Forum on Nutrition in Rome at the end of April to accelerate these actions. This forum will provide a unique setting for sharing examples and concrete experiences of successful initiatives across sectors in many countries.

Follow the International Agri-food Network on Twitter (@Agrifoodnet) and LinkedIn to stay up to date on developments and event updates. Use the hashtag #InvestInNutrition to join the conversation and create impact through Twitter and Facebook!

Getting Oat Innovation on the Agenda

Oats – they are a grain that evokes comfort, home, and a hearty healthiness. Whether oatmeal cookies, oatmeal, or an amazing addition to savoury dishes, there is something about oats that evokes fond memories for me. Plus it is a reminder of Canada’s productive farming capacity. Canada produces the most oats and is responsible for half the world’s exports of oats.

I’ve just wrapped up a visit to Ottawa with the Prairie Oat Growers Association, where visits to all three political parties provided an opportunity to share the story of oats. Over the past two decades, oat farming has become increasingly productive. Canadian oats have high levels of beta-glucan that make them heart-healthy and excellent quality in terms of weight and colour. These competitive advantages cannot be taken for granted.

Oat milling in Canada has declined in favour of American processing. With that has come the need to export, so when grain transportation arose two years ago and oats were not able to move, the impact was grave. Millers couldn’t get what they needed without exports from other countries as far away as Sweden. American millers have encouraged a return to American production resulting in market losses to Canadians.

poga-graph1

This situation reminds us all of some fundamental needs. It is essential to ensure the reliability of oat exports – already the industry has implemented 100 car unit trains, increased trucking, and railway fleet options. The ongoing regulatory environment must monitor and sustain solutions in all corridors. Movement South to the US and Mexico needs just as much attention as movement to port position.

There is also a need to support domestic consumption and processing. After years of reductions, it is time to think about our domestic capacity for processing and the ways to excite Canadians production of oats.

POGA-graph2

This requires innovation. Part of that innovation is to help consumers think of oats as more than just a breakfast food. Oats make a great addition to all meals and are a wonderful snack food. Use of oats as an ingredient needs more exploration, including traits like beta-glucan to make other foods more heart-healthy.

Oats also need new markets – domestic and foreign – plus better ways to serve the American processors like Cheerios and Quaker Oats that have been such great supporters of Canadian oats. They need high beta-glucan levels, strong evidence on the natural sustainability claims of a low-water use crop like oats.

Innovation is the pathway to lift the Canadian oat market and we hope more leaders are seeing the role for this vital crop.