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.

SEED Awards

Small enterprises support food production and agriculture around the world, so it is a great opportunity to apply for SEED awards this year that recognise entrepreneurship in developing countries with a strong interest in sustainable development. SEED highlights the deadline for applications below:



Start-up enterprises that solve pressing local issues by integrating social and environmental benefits into their business models can apply for the 2016 SEED Awards, whose closure is nearing – interested applicants have only one week left!



This year SEED will make available up to:


  • 15 SAG-SEED Awards to enterprises in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Uganda supported by the SWITCH-Africa Green (SAG) project, which is implemented by UNEP with the assistance of the European Union;

  • 4 SEED Africa Awards to enterprises in Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia supported by the Government of Flanders;

  • 1 SEED Gender Equality Award to enterprises in Kenya that are run or owned by women and prioritise women‘s empowerment.


Candidates can apply until 21 March 2016, 23:59 CET.



Selected by an independent jury of international experts, winners will receive their awards at the International Awards Ceremony during the SEED Africa Symposium to be held on 28 29 September 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.



Winning enterprises will receive a tailor-made business support package. Over a period of 6 months, they will be offered expert advice on further developing their business plans, individual workshops targeted at their needs, high level profiling of their enterprises and access to an international network of businesses, governments and development institutions.


Seeing Agriculture as a Whole

Agricultural priorities have long included productivity and leading minds are focusing on the ways it can contribute to furthering human health, supporting ecosystems, and addressing climate change. The Farming First team have put together a great interview with Dr. Monkombu Swaminathan who, together with Dr. Norman Borlaug, helped found the spearhead the Green Revolution. His observations explain that agricultural research can never stand still. The first Green Revolution helped feed billions, and the continued progress of this research needs to include additional dimensions to continuously improve agriculture.

FarmingFirst.org

Farming First met Dr. Swaminathan at the Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa and asked him how research priorities have changed in the 29 years since he won the Prize.

“When Dr. Borlaug and I started our work, we had a single goal: productivity improvement,” he comments. Yet Dr. Swaminathan explained that agriculture nowadays not just about producing food – it is also a stabilizer of ecological services. It is also very important now to address the role agriculture can play in producing more nutritious food. “If I were to start my work today I would concentrate on the nutritive properties and (combatting) hidden hunger”, he commented.

Watch more interviews on Farming First’s YouTube channel.

Pulses Set Racing at Victoria Falls

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post

20160301_144129_resized_2Normally, Livingstone is home to 150,000 Zambians and international tourists seeking out the unique beauty of the Victoria Falls.

This week, Livingstone has also been host to the Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference, the first conference dedicated to boosting pulse productivity, nutrition and processing in Africa. It could be a potential milestone in the fight against global hunger.

The four hundred academics, NGOs and scientists are here to do something really important: turn around the lack of investment in agricultural research and development, which is handicapping the ability of poor, small holder African farmers to fight climate change, boost productivity and feed their families.

It's not that money isn't invested into agricultural productivity. It is. But many crops don't' attract their 'fair share' of investment. For example, pulses. The shame is these crops, often known as 'orphan crops' because they get ignored by funders, are potentially vital in the fight to deliver the UN's Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) because of their nutrition-density, affordability and positive impact on soil, which is why the UN FAO has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.

This lack of investment was underlined prior to the Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference, when a new global survey, showed agricultural researchers are concerned the current level of research funding into pulses is so low it may be handicapping efforts to improve food security and agricultural sustainability.

Called the 'Global Pulse Productivity & Sustainability Survey', the survey suggests annual investment in pulses hovers at $175m, whereas billions are invested into other crops such as corn.

There are some major contributors to global funding for pulse crop productivity and sustainability research such as CGIAR, USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Most countries in North America and Europe maintain an international funding agency. Others have national funding programs. But is it enough?

"No. Bottom line: we need a 10-fold increase in pulse research funding," according to Huseyin Arslan, President of the Global Pulse Confederation, which commissioned the survey. "With over 800 million people suffering from acute or chronic undernourishment, increasing pulse research is vital. We can only meet the world's protein needs with better varieties of chickpeas, peas, beans, and lentils."

Which brings us back to Livingstone.

#Legumes4Africa is the theme for the Pan African Grain Legume and Cowpea Conference. It's focused on grain legumes because of their potential to play a significant role in delivering against the UN's new SDGs - especially Zero Hunger, Good Health & Wellbeing and Life on land. Or, as Given Lubinda, Zambian Minister of Agriculture, so eloquently put it: 'The quality of life of a rapidly growing world population will be dependent on pulses.'

"Investments in pulses research have the potential for significant agricultural impact. The high nutritional value and climate resilience traits of pulses are well established to fight the global challenge of hidden hunger, poverty and environmental degradation, especially for the vulnerable populations of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia," says Shoba Sivasankar, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

India the largest consumer and a major producer of pulses has recently introduced subsidies for pulse production in a move which some see as a pointer for other Governments. Director General of ICARDA Dr. Mahmoud Solh, a leader in international agricultural research said: "India should be commended for being the first country giving subsidies now to pulses also which is expected to change the picture".

The Indian Government and others have also recently teamed up to launch a Global Pulse Research platform. "The platform will not only invest in the necessary research for new pulses technologies but also build the capacity of local scientists, extension workers and farmers, " according to Dr. Solh who calls pulses "climate smart crops" because they contribute positively to soil health. "The establishment of the Global Pulses Research Platform is a step in the right direction," Dr. Solh concluded.

The Global Pulse Productivity & Sustainability Survey and #Legumes4Africa both highlight a broad consensus among experts about the need and focus for research in a key 'orphan crop'.

"With investment in crop improvement and agronomy research, pulses can be made resilient to climate change as well as diversify income sources for farmers. Focused research efforts creating expanded value-added marketplace for pulses will generate new market opportunities for farmers to make farmers prosperous as well as modernize our food system to become more sustainable, equitable and nutritious," says David Bergvinson, Director General, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

This consensus is a 'Big Step' forward. But much still needs to be done.
'Pulse production is about half what it could be and storage problems still remain,' according to Ylva Hilbur, from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture.

''Smallholder farm yields are about 2-3 times lower than they are on research stations so we need to focus on sustainable intensification of cropping systems,' says Jeffrey Ehlers of the Gates Foundation, whose single biggest investment in pulses is the Tropical Legumes III project. His point is backed by many other experts.

By bringing together so many key people for the first time, #Legumes4Africa has already achieved much. It could become a significant milestone on a journey to place pulses at the top of the political agenda for food security and nutrition.

If Given Lubinda is right, we need it to be.

FANRPAN Voted Top Think Tank

Agriculture is always in need of great minds, and it is the consensus of everyone that the FANRPAN team, including CEO Lindiwe Sibanda, are some of the most innovative thinkers in the world.  Developing new ideas and building social innovations to advance agriculture and nutrition has made them leaders in Africa – and the world - as a recent index said.

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) has been ranked 13 out of 92 in Sub-Saharan Africa and 55 out of 175 globally in the 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (TTI), led by the University of Pennsylvania through its Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP).

In the Best Transdisciplinary Research Think Tanks category, FANRPAN was rated 15 out of 80, thanks to the recently launched flagship programme called — Agriculture to Nutrition (ATONU): Improving Nutrition Outcomes Through Optimized Agricultural Investments. The programme is a regional initiative and answers the question “What can agriculture programs do to achieve positive nutrition outcomes?” FANRPAN has assembled a leading global consortium of African and international organizations to design, pilot, rigorously evaluate and promote a range of nutrition sensitive agriculture interventions that will improve the nutrition outcomes of agricultural programs.

BioEnterprise in BC

There is great news from BioEnterprise that they are launching their office in BC. It is an honour to sit on the board and to help foster agricultural innovation and entrepreneurship.

Bioenterprise has established a strategic partnership with the BC Innovation Council (BCIC), and joins the BC Acceleration Network (BCAN) to support the commercialization of agricultural technologies and innovations in BC.

Bioenterprise BC, along with the other accelerators in BCAN, will help entrepreneurs grow their business ventures.

"British Columbia is the home to many great entrepreneurs within the agriculture, agri- food sectors and has created innovation leaders in agri-technology, with companies like BW Global, Terramera, and Tabletree," explains Dave Smardon, President & CEO of Bioenterprise Corporation. "With such an innovative culture in BC, it is only fitting that Bioenterprise establish a BC office to work in partnership with the BC Accelerator Network and to help foster these companies to become commercialization successes."

Learn more here.

Pulse Partnerships in India

DSC_2877 (003)The Pulses Conclave held in Jaipur February 17- 19 was one of 11 signature events in 2016 to mark the United Nations International Year of Pulses.  I had the honour of speaking during the opening session, and highlighted the many activities taking place across the Global Pulse Confederation to celebrate the International Year.  In just one day on January 6th, #PulseFeast was able to reach 21 million people on the importance of pulses through social media and 141 events in 36 countries.  It was a great launch and there are now hundreds of recipes and resources available at www.pulses.org.  All the delegates were encouraged to celebrate more #PulseFeast opportunities in April using some of the national dishes featured on the site and to include their tweets, pictures and stories with IYP.

The Conclave highlighted that pulse trade has been of increased importance to India as two years of poor harvests have reduced domestic production. India produced 17 million tonnes of pulses in past 2 years - a drop of 2 million tonnes from normal, due to poor harvests. The challenges in pulse production have been an ongoing issue as pulse crops have received less support and engagement.  To increase pulse production, pulses will need 10 times more research funding, said Huseyin Arslan, Chairman of GPC. India plans to move from 18.25 million tonnes of pulse production to 21 million tonnes in 2017-18 and 24 million tonnes in 2020-21, said Dr. J.S. Sandhu of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.  The government’s goal is to achieve nutritional security, not just food security.

According to Dr. D. Bergvinson, head of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) other changes also need to be made to reach this goal. He stated that there is a “strong need to bring rice-fallow land into pulses production, add 4 million acres to Indian production.” He also noted pulse storage needs to be closer to farmers and pulse processing should be improved to reduce losses. Taking up these calls to action, the Indian Pulse and Grain Association signed an agreement with ICRISAT to further pulse productivity in India.

The laudable plans to increase production will still require significant trade in the foreseeable future. At this time, it is important to keep the trade rules predictable.  Trade has not been able to keep pace with the production drops according to Mr. G. Chandrashekhar of the Hindi Business Line.  In this context, having over 1000 participants at the Pulses Conclave was a strong statement about the importance of the trade and its commitment to furthering the pulse sector.

This Conclave also brought many positive partnerships, such as when the Mynamar Overseas Trade Association and IPGA signed an understanding to work jointly to promote trade between the two countries. The IPGA also agreed to work with ITC to promote small business in developing countries and had a strong delegation of small businesses from Africa interested in meeting Indian supply needs.

IMG_0416The week capped off with the exciting #LovePulses Product Showcase.  A team of students from the Institute of Hotel Management in Bangalore won an Indian-wide food competition for developing innovative dishes using pulses.  Alok Prasad, Aseem Kumar, Harsh Bansal, and Saurabh Agarwal used adzuki beans, red split lentils, black gram and other ingredients to create “Adzuki Coins” - a wonderful new snack.  “The depth of the innovation and creativity was striking,” said Pravin Dongre, Chairman of the IPGA.  “It was an honour to recognise the team from Bangalore among the 36 entries initially received. This is one step on the nutrition side of food security and IPGA will also be working to increase productivity in pulses in India – a vital issue to national and international food security.”  It was an honour to be there.

See the latest from Farming First

Farming First kicks off 2016 with a spotlight on science in their February 2016 Newsletter. Explore 28 ways scientific innovations are shaping global development in their new interactive essay produced in partnership with CGIAR. Farming First also shares blogs written by speakers who attended the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture in Abu Dhabi this week.

Want to Influence Climate Debate? The UNFCCC accredited organisations can now make submissions to the Subsidary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice. Get your SBSTA Submissions in by 9th March! Click here to make your submission, or here to access an info note on this topic, from Farming First's partner CCAFS.

Read the guest blogs from the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture:

Young Agripreneurs, Your Time is Now! by João Igor, Co-Founder, CoolFarm

Strategies to Transform the Livestock Sector, by Harinder Makkar, Animal Production & Health Division, FAO

Integrating Food Systems to Improve Nutrition, by Marc Van Amerigen, Executive Director, GAIN Alliance

From Pulse Feast day to feast pulses all year!

These last weeks at Emerging Ag have been tremendously exciting thanks to the buzz created by Pulse Feast. Months of hard work and great collaborations between all the IYP2016 partners made January 6th a remarkable starting point for the International Year of Pulses.

From Canada to France, through Mexico, the US, UK and Mauritania, the Emerging team was mobilised to make Pulse Feast a day to remember.

A few numbers to give you a glimpse of the tremendous success? 141 events in 36 countries! And, thanks to Thunderclap we had the #PulseFeast tag trending all over social media platforms with 21 million posts!

The Emerging Ag team worked around the clock for 5 days to insure a dynamic and live update of the Pulse Feast events. A quick glance at our coverage shows that all the continents were on board for Pulse Feast:

Oceania - 9 events:  Australia (7), New Zealand (2)

Asia - 13 events: China (2), India (5), Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore (2)

Near East – 6 events: Bahrain, UAE, Lebanon, Turkey (3 events)

Europe – 14 events:  Belgium, France (2), Germany, Netherlands (2), Spain, Sweden, Russia, UK (6)

Africa - 7 events:  Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Morocco, South Africa (3)

North America – 49 events:  Canada (33), USA (19)

Latin America and Caribbean - 8 events:  Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Peru (2), Cuba, Mexico (2), Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic

Pulse Feast had been a great beginning of what is going to be a key year to make a global difference in the pulse value chain. In that regard, in order to promote the global production and consumption of pulses around the world, the International Year of Pulses will tackle key challenges through numerous signature events during the year.

The next events in line are already scheduled for February:
- The Pulse Conclave in India will promote the global pulses trade and industry
- The PanAfrican Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference in Zambia

We hope that all these efforts from all the key stakeholders of the pulse industry, small farmers or bigger producers will contribute to make a difference in a global effort to fight hunger and enhance the quality of nutrition around the world.

Pulse Feast Thunderclap - We Need Your Support

PulseFeast2

Tomorrow is a big day for us.  On January 6th we have a global thunderclap to promote Pulse Feasts around the world. Thunderclap is an app that allows organisations and their supporters to share messages on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr) automatically.  If you sign up, the Thunderclap will automatically post a #PulseFeast message around the world at 12pm GMT on 6th January. Please sign up using your own Twitter or Facebook profile and encourage your network to do so.  It is very simple and the link is here: bit.ly/1S0C1NH

There are more than 50 events planned around the world starting in New Zealand and moving all the way to the West Coast.  We can’t wait and the Emerging team will be working around the clock starting on January 5th at 11pm our time.  Visit www.pulses.org to see it all unfold.

International Migrants Day

According to the UN Population Division (DESA) estimates, the number of international migrants — persons living in a country other than where they were born — reached 244 million in 2015 for the world as a whole, an increase of 71 million, or 41 per cent, compared to 2000. The year 2015 will be remembered as one of migrant tragedies. But 2015 will also be remembered as the year in which the international community recognized the contributions of migrants, migration and mobility to countries of origin, destination and transit by integrating international migration in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We at Emerging wish a world of freedom, food security and personal security to all those making their way to new homes.

- Secretary-General’s Message for 2015 (see: http://www.un.org/en/events/migrantsday/2015/sgmessage.shtml)