IFAJ 2017 World Congress South Africa

Taking place between the 2nd and 8th of April 2017 in Gauteng- and the Western Cape. 
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IFAJ 2018 - The Netherlands

Theme: Dutch Roots

Main congress: 12- 15 July 2018

The main congress will start in the region Food Valley and further visits are planned to a diversity of hotspot in the Netherlands.

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In the Field

In this section you will find news and stories that our members have shared with IFAJ.

FARMERS’ DAY

News from the Ghana Agricultural & Rural Development Journalists Association

Another National Farmers’ Day is here with us on Friday, November 4th. Ghanaians, and the rest of the world, need not be told again that the day has been set aside to honour the nation’s gallant farmers and fisher folks. The acknowledgment is for their pivotal role in the nation’s socio-economic development.

The fundamental objective is clear – to motivate those in the sector to improve on productivity in order for Ghana to continually feed her growing population, provide raw materials to industries and contribute substantially to the nation’s foreign exchange earnings.

As we join many Ghanaians to express appreciation to our farmers and fishers, it is important to take stock of or gauge activities in the sector against plan.

Ghana’s agriculture still remains highly unmodernized with production inefficiency. While the Ministry of Food and Agriculture acknowledges that farm implements used are cutlasses, hoes, axes, mattocks, and equipment like spraying machines and pruners, it says these farm implements are accompanied by traditional practices like “slash and burn.”

What this means is that the use of modern agricultural technologies is limited, and therefore farm work is highly manpower-based. No doubt, this is thwarting efforts to ensure increasing productivity toward achieving food security and profitability for our farmers.

Today, the principal sources of funding for farming activities is either from the farmers’ own savings or private money lenders and relatives. The high cost of finance and the cumbersome procedures, coupled with lack of collateral demanded by banks and other financial institutions have made it impossible for our farmers to get credit for their farming activities.

Whilst 44 percent interest rate is charged on credit for agriculture, there is no partial guarantee for our farmers, let alone indemnity for the daring ones contracting loans. How does the common farmer – smallholder – expand. Meanwhile, importers are able to secure credit facility around 29.5 percent, and sometimes lower. Where lies our priority as a nation?  

We as journalists see it as mere rhetoric Government’s declaration of its commitment to the agriculture sector. If not, why will supply be nil for 180,000 metric tons of fertilization application captured in the 2014 budget? Last year, out of 360,000 metric tons of fertilizer budgeted to be distributed, only half of the figure was supplied for onward distribution to farmers across the country. This year (2016) is not different, and no one has found it expedient to explain to the Ghanaian populace why targets were missed.

Even the national policy on fertilizer subsidy has deliberately excluded phosphate fertilizer, which is badly needed by the people of Upper West Region. It is a known fact that two-thirds of soils in the Upper West Region are seriously deficient of phosphorus, but our leaders have turned a blind eye on it. To grow legumes, for example, requires application of phosphate fertilizer.

We want to tell Government not just to celebrate our farmers but be seen to addressing the main problems facing the agriculture sector, including low agricultural production, low level of technology, inadequate number of agricultural extension officers, shortage and high cost of labour, prevalence of pests and diseases, high cost of farm inputs, limited credit facilities, frequent land disputes, poor marketing network and facilities, and low prices of farm produce among others.

Once again, we take this opportunity to salute our farmers and fishers folks for their continuous support to food security and contribution to the economy.

Long live our gallant farmers and fishers!        
Long live Gardja
Long live Ghana!!

Mr. Ernest Kofi Adu
Secretary General
Richmond Frimpong
President


MrGerd Sonnleitner to agrijournalists in Bonn: Where we have a free press we can find bread and meat

To the honorary president of the German farmers’ union Mr Gerd Sonnleitner there is a connection between a free press and welfare of society.

The patron of the IFAJ congress in Bonn, Germany, Mr Gerd Sonnleitner highlights the connection between a free press and welfare of farming and society in his speech at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms university during the congress.

"We all know, that where there is peace, law and order, where there is access to land and credit, to education and especially a free and responsible press and agricultural press - there we will find bread and meat and fruit and good water and thriving villages and colorful markets. Where there is sustainability, there is a chance for a good life."

Mr Sonnleitner is honorary president of the German farmers’ union, Deutscher Bauernverband and former president of the European farmers’ association.

As a special envoy of the UN for family farms Mr Sonnleitner has seen during many meetings and speeches how many shortcomings and weaknesses you can find. That was also why he appealed to the participants to care for that agriculture and rural areas occupy an appropriate social, economic and political importance. By referring to the Hall of Peace in the town hall of Siena in Italy with the key work of European painting on the "Good and Bad Government" by Ambrogio Lorenzetti he underlined the connection between good governance and succesful agriculture:

"On one side of diligent work and acting in the city and a good cooperation with the country with flowering fertile fields - this is a consequence of good governance and management. On the other hand you find hell, misery and death by corruption and bad government."

Mr Sonnleitner said that he was deeply influenced during his childhood by the refugee families who had to give up their belongings after the war and then lived on his family farm.

"Even today many farming families suffer from wars, civil wars and drug wars. It is equally appalling when playing children or plowing farmers are killed by landmines. And it is a shameful chapter of our humanity that among the starving people in the world are still very many farming families," said Mr Sonnleitner.


Farmers Today brings international knowledge to farmers

Dutch agriculture differs significantly from African agriculture. The costly highly technologized agricultural system may seem too different for many small-scaled African Farmers to learn from. Stephen Dradenya however gives it a try with his magazine Farmers Today.

Looking at agriculture, The Netherlands may seem the opposite of an African country like, Uganda. The delta of Netherlands has fertile soils and a friendly climate. With the harbour of Rotterdam it has a history of relatively cheap access to all kinds of inputs like feed ingredients.

Dutch agriculture is an international leader in innovation. Not only because of the possibilities but also out of necessity. Despite the many advantages, food production in The Netherlands became rather expensive. Farmland prices are amongst the highest in the world and labour is very costly, mainly due to high social welfare. Above that, this densely populated country with critical citizens has high production standards regarding animal welfare and environment, which make farming an expensive profession.

Those possibilities and necessities made this small country the leading agricultural country that The Netherlands is today. With all its technological and economical knowledge, a liberal politically stable climate with willing politicians and ambitious agricultural business, the Netherlands became the world’s second largest agricultural exporting country. 

It is in this country where Stephen Dradenya, a prominent Ugandan journalist, publishes his magazine Farmers Today. He has a team of about twenty Ugandan writers who write the Ugandan on-farm stories, which enable farmers to share their practical knowledge on farming and marketing. 

Farmers Today can become an important tool for Ugandan farmers as an instrument to increase food production and food security. The knowledge provided in Farmers Today has the possibility to pull many subsistence farmers and small-scaled farmers out of poverty and help them to become small or medium-scale profitable enterprises. But also, in my opinion even more so, it will make them independent farmers who make the right decisions. 

Preparing a vision on farming and taking the right decisions may be the biggest task of most farmers in the world. Whether they are large-scale, high profitable exporting businesses in the west or small-scale subsistence farmers struggling to find a way out of poverty.

With this mission in mind, the magazine Farmers Today may be a big help for farmers. Stephen Dradenya describes the objective of Farmers Today as ‘to encourage farmers to love their job and trust that they are in the right course of jumping out of poverty.’

This pursuit however, is more difficult than it seems. Simply because, for a farmer, there is not just one course out of poverty. There are many ways. And farmers and experts around the world don’t agree on which agricultural system is the best.

Farmers are urged to produce food for the growing population and there is an increasing demand for quality food. In 2050 there will be 9,6 billion people in this world. In 2020 the middle class will be doubled from 2010 numbers. In 2030 it will even triple. This means a vast increase in the demand of quality food.

In Africa the figures are even more extreme. But so is the potential. On this continent, only 15 percent of all food is produced. It however uses only 20 percent of its capacity. 

Farmers around the world are urged to increase food production. All parties and stakeholders agree on this. And of course, farmers should. But most of all, a farmer himself should be able to choose the right direction. There is not one method to increase the production, the world knows many, sometimes conflicting farming systems.

Most farmers in the world, especially in Africa, produce on small traditional scale. While increasing their production, the big, highly mechanised farms might seem a model to strive for. Those farming companies, which are mainstream in the Netherlands, are based on a system of high inputs of chemicals, energy, fertilizers and even monocultures and genetic engineering.

This system may be more profitable for some farmers, if everything is perfectly carried out. Farmers however should be aware of the high costs of input and the huge risks that may come along. Although the production may be controlled to the utmost; weather and market prices can still ruin the farmer’s income.

There is a lot of money involved in this farming system. Farmers should realise that companies who produce those farm inputs, even banks that provide loans and companies offering insurances, make the biggest profits. The Netherlands is not only a success story. Many of the farmers are in deep debt and lots of small-scale farmers go bankrupt. 

Still, the big companies can be very insisting and encouraging about a high-input farming system. It may even become difficult for farmers to keep on realizing there are also alternative farming systems. Especially for the small-scale farmers who don’t have the means to invest in a high-input agricultural system. Organic farming, permacultures, agroforestry and agroecology don’t require that much investment and can be as productive as high-input agriculture. In the long run, they can even be more profitable, because consumers are willing to pay more for this food.

Of course, those farming systems require much more labour. Take for example, weeding. It needs more physical effort and if one wants to use the full capacity of his farmland, requires as much knowledge as high-input farming. Costs however are much lower and so are the risks.

For example, in the first edition of Farmers Today, Dr. Jetse Stoorvogel, professor on Wageningen University, states that Ugandan farmers may be constrained because of lack of money to purchase fertilizers and herbicides.

Dutch farmers easily produce ten tons of maize per hectare. Ugandan farmers hardly produce three tons. Stoorvogel is right when he says that Ugandan farmers can produce the same amount. Uganda also has fertile soils and even a better climate for maize.

The easiest way to reach this production is, as Stoorvogel mentions, an investment of nitrogen and other fertilizers. Dutch farmers use on average 200 kg’s, As well, they spend a lot of money on herbicides and other pesticides.

He, however, doesn’t explain that it’s also possible to increase the production without those expensive inputs. On the same university there are professors who tell a completely different story. Pablo Tittonell for example. He is professor in ecological farming systems and states that increasing food production should be done by utilizing the knowledge of nature, knowledge of traditional agriculture and knowledge of local farmers and conserving biodiversity. And all this, combined by using the latest knowledge and technology.

Who’s right? Within Wageningen University there are professors on agriculture with a completely different point of view. As well as big international organisations like the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. 

The world of agriculture is a complex playing field in which only farmers themselves can decide best what choices to make. For this, they need to be aware of the contradictions in farming. 

It will be hard to find choices that are more difficult to make then the ones farmers are facing. Gladly there are tools to help them make the right decisions. Like Farmers Today, which promises to become an indispensable instrument for Ugandan Farmers. With success stories of farmers in Europe as well as in Africa, can show farmers this contradiction.

Farming Africa wishes Stephan a lot of success with this publication.

By Marc van der Sterren  |  Farming Africa

Farmers Today

Farmers Today is the only agricultural magazine of Uganda. The first edition is published in august 2015 with a circulation of 3.000 copies. With this publication chief editor Stephen Dradenya has proven to have all the skills, the network and possibilities to publish a professional independent agricultural magazine.

The first edition is published without any income from advertisers or subscribers. At the moment he is looking for advertisers and other funding’s to publish his second edition.


Journalist members of AJAC hold Master Class on promotion of family farming

More than 30 journalist members of the Association of Agricultural Journalists of Congo (AJAC) gathered to build their capacity to be able to effectively participate in the promotion of family farming and to improve food security in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The training took place from March 16 to 18, 2016 in Kinshasa, the capital, at the Congolese Centre for Children and the Family, and was held to coincide with the philosophical leitmotif of family farming in the country. This was the second Master Class of this kind.

Organized by the National Support Centre for Development and Popular Participation (CENADEP) with financial support of SOS Faim Belgium, this Master Class revolved around the theme of pushing media professionals towards a serious subject: "Effective communications regarding the promotion of family farming in the DRC." Participants came from provinces such as Kinshasa, Bandundu (now divided into three new provinces), Bas-Congo (now Central Kongo), Ecuador (divided into five); Kasai Oriental; Kasai Occidental; North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale Province (divided in five).

This activity took place after the 'Round Table' which took place from March 14 to 16th in the INADES-Formation Congo on the theme' 'Family Farming: election issue for the DRC' '. Various actors involved in family farming participated including small and large farmers, some parliamentarians, ministries such as Agriculture & Rural Development, Land Affairs, and Environment & Planning.

“Since 2013 the civil society organizations in the DRC have been working for the promotion of family farming and have set up a framework called the "National Committee for the Promotion of Family Farming in the DRC" (CNPAF) whose main objective is to contribute to the formulation and implementation of mechanisms for the promotion and protection of family farming in the DRC to ensure food security and autonomy of the Congolese people,” (from the terms of reference for these two activities).

For his part, Jean Baptiste Lubamba, outgoing president of AJAC-DRC said that "the Master Class was organized for two main reasons: training and information of journalists specialized in the field of agriculture who have to be trained and informed so that they can better inform the population in the rural communities. Because a good journalist specializing in agricultural issues must always renew his or her knowledge, recharge their resources to face the many new challenges related to the promotion of agriculture."

He said the second reason for the Master Class was assessing the progress of the AJAC-DRC. In this respect the strengths and weaknesses were identified, along with appropriate solutions.

After the completion of the Round Table on family farming, the reporters followed matters relating to: the issues and perspectives of the PREPAR Project (building the political action capacities of farmer organizations and their national and provincial federations in DR Congo); on good communications to support family farming in the DRC; the status of agricultural legislation in the country; and Climate Change. The DRC and the COP 21 agreements - what will be the impact? etc.

The Master Class was also an opportunity for agricultural journalists to get information about AJAC-DRC, the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, the AJAC website and the general direction of its new structure and 2016 action plan.

It should be noted that Jean-Baptiste Lubamba, former coordinator of AJAC-DRC, stepped down to allow Emmanuel Kokolo to become the new coordinator. Mr. Lubamba will, however, continues to sit at the national committee as an adviser.


The Union of agricultural journalists of Ukraine and The National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine on February, 26, 2016 have launched the educational program for the Ukrainian agricultural journalists and young scientists titled “The School of the Agricultural Journalism”.

The necessity of such a program comes from the fact that there is no university in Ukraine (which was often called “the breadbasket of Europe”) that offers a major in agricultural journalism.

While the field of the modern agriculture is saturated with the ever available hi-tech tools from satellites and supercomputers for weather forecasting and remote analysis of fields and crops to biotechnology (to say nothing about drones and robots), young Ukrainian agricultural journalists and scientists have little knowledge of all this.

The first three hour “lesson” titled “The basics of the agricultural journalism” was presented by the president of the Ukrainian Union of agricultural journalists – Iurii Mykhailov. Iurii also plans to give three more lessons: an introduction to economics, agricultural commodity exchanges, the basics of the traditional and alternative power generation and the global food crisis. The fourth “lesson” will be dedicated to agricultural myths including the issues of the food safety, GMOs, organic food and the global climate change.

The goal of these lessons is not to put upon young Ukrainian agricultural journalists and scientists some special point of view but to launch within them the desire to develop their own critical approaches to the general and specific information.

The Ukrainian version of the report about the first “lesson” is available on the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine web-site: http://www.naas.gov.ua/newsall/newsnaan/2439/

The three more “lessons” will be given during March. After that lessons will be given by the professors of Ukrainian agricultural universities and scientists from the NAASU.

For more information, click here


It’s the cows or Scotland, so Valerie chooses both!

By Chris McCullough
Love certainly does strange things to people but for a young farm lass from Ballygowan in Northern Ireland it has meant packing up her cows and shipping them over to Perthshire.

Valerie Orr’s eyes met her Scottish boyfriend James Cameron across the cattle judging ring at Castlewellan Show back in 2012. As their relationship blossomed the long haul from Northern Ireland to Scotland was becoming a bit much.

Valerie, 27, had a decision to make, her beloved herd of Irish Moiled cattle at home, or James, so she choose both!

James, 42, was at the show to judge the Irish Moiled cattle and the Beef Shorthorn breeds but as it turned out he was judging something else as well!

Valerie has helped run Trainview Farm in Ballygowan, County Down, for the past five years with her parents after leaving Greenmount College.

Her interest in pedigree cattle developed ten years ago when she received an Irish Moiled heifer as a Christmas present.

She said: “We run a traditional mixed farm with beef cattle and broiler breeder hens run by my parents David and Rosemary.

“My interest in pedigree cattle started 10 years ago when an Irish Moiled heifer came home as a Christmas present for me which was the start of Knowehead Irish Moileds.

“James and I have been together for two years. He is from Glenshee in Perthshire and works as a beef stockman.

“We first met at Castlewellan Show in 2012 when James was judging the Irish Moiled and Shorthorn classes where I happened to be showing.

“I had a very good day that day being placed reserve Irish Moiled breed champion with my homebred cow Knowehead Jane.

“Two years later we met again at the February Stirling Bull sales and the rest as they say is history.”

As Valerie’s cows meant the world to her she could not be without them so she was in a bit of a dilemma. However, she choose both James and the cows and has taken them with her.

Valerie said: “Long distance relationships can be very hard work and with both of us working on farms getting chances to get away to see each other was very difficult.

“James moved over to Northern Ireland in June 2014 with the hope of finding work as a beef stockman here. At the same time we started to build up cow numbers on the family farm with the Beef Shorthorns coming home to run alongside the Irish Moileds.

“Beef farms in Northern Ireland tend to be smaller family run units so work opportunities for James were very limited.

“He decided to go back to Scotland to find work while I managed our herd back home.

“Over the last year things have gradually developed with opportunities coming our way that just seemed to be right. I applied for a job as an Agricultural Officer with ScotGov and low and behold I got the job.

“As James was getting ample work and with beef prices consistently higher in Scotland we decided just to move there. The next step was finding a farm to rent for the cows to move to.

“And, just in time for the move we secured the rent of sheds at Arnbog Farm, Meigle, Perthshire. This part of Scotland is famed for the quality of its livestock and has some of the best arable ground in the country with no shortage of straw to bed the cattle with.

“We shipped over 25 cattle in total which was all our Shorthorns and a portion of the Irish Moiled herd.

“Unfortunately Storm Gertrude hit the day we had arranged to move the cattle, but with all the export paperwork signed we only had a small window to move them.

“In the end we had to delay the move by around six hours until the weather had calmed enough to allow livestock to sail. It worked out well though because it meant we were able to load the cattle in the sunshine as opposed to the pitch black of 5am!

“The cows arrived safely at Arnbog farm later that evening and although a little tired from the journey they were glad to see a deep straw bed to lie on compared with the mud we left behind in County Down!”

Valerie did not find the decision to move to Scotland an easy one but in the end she followed her heart.

“It wasn’t as easy decision to make,” she said: “I have worked hard on the farm for five years to build up the cut flower and Christmas tree business along with my family.

“However, I knew I had to literally follow my heart and that is with James and our herd of cows (not forgetting our dogs Jude and Gyp).

“Home will always be home but I love Scotland too and we see the opportunities in farming here to be much better for us.”

 

This article was originally published in the Belfast Telegraph

Venturing high into the Austrian Alps to report on ‘hay milk’

By Chris McCullough
British and Irish Guilds member Chris McCullough recently travelled to Austria to report on the specialised production of hay milk in the Alpine region.

The tour was hosted by members of the Austrian Farm Writers Guild together with the European Network of Agricultural Journalists.

Chris joined 16 fellow journalists from other European Guilds for the three day trip which took in some of the best scenery in Austria.

Trips to dairy farms were top of the agenda but the tour also visited Lindner Tractors in Tyrol which was also very interesting.

Chris said: “It’s hard to believe that dairy farmers throughout the world are struggling to make a living from herds with hundreds of cows when some Austrian farmers can yield a good living from under 20 animals.

“A number of dairy farmers in different regions of the country are milking cows high up in the Alps producing what is called as hay milk or Heumilch in local language.

“Hay milk is produced without the use of silage or any fermented feed and is higher in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. It is not only good for consumers but it also produces better cheeses and chocolate and it attracts bonuses for the small farmers who produce it.

“Producing hay milk is a very traditional method of dairy farming in Austria, as well as in some parts of Switzerland and in France.

“In fact, cows on this system are only fed sun dried hay and some concentrates in the winter time and just luscious meadow grass, clean water and fresh air in the summer grazing time.

“The feeding of silage is prohibited and is closely monitored by ARGE Heumilch, an organisation set up to co-ordinate the hay milk producers and market their milk.”

Chris added: “This was one of the low budget tours facilitated by ENAJ and was very well organised by our colleagues in the Austrian Guild.

“The group bonded very well and was served what many described as ‘the best beef they have ever eaten’ in a farm restaurant nearing the end of the trip.

“These type of trips give excellent opportunity for journalists to visit other countries and learn of the farming systems there and to report on any similarities or differences between countries.”

Chris McCullough is a member of the UK and Irish guilds