QUITE A MIXED YEAR THIS HAS BEEN
As we come to the end of 2014, there is a lot to be grateful for. As AJFAND, we have managed to sustain the journal, and continued to give visibility to the contributors and to inform our readers about Africa's agricultural, food security, and nutrition research and activities. We owe all this to our authors, without whose manuscripts we would not have anything to publish. Sometimes we take longer than is expected, not intentionally; and sometimes we push our authors to hasten in making their corrections. Then there are those whose manuscripts we must reject, but only where the design is wrong or the review process does not pass the manuscript. In January next year, we shall share data on the rejection rates in the past few years. We then have our reviewers. Because our journal is multidisciplinary, our reviewer base is diverse and fairly robust. The dedication of these reviewers is amazing. We have kept quite a number right from inception in 2000/2001; we keep adding to the list with mostly those who volunteer and others we identify that have excellent writing skills through their contribution of manuscripts to the journal. We value both our peer and technical reviewers. There are many reviewers I have to yet meet. Then we have our technical and financial supporters, who help us to sustain the journal. You are most valued and we look forward to continued collaboration. THANK YOU SO MUCH. We have our more than 10,000 readers, just through the AJFAND website alone.
The journal is accessed through many other websites. We value our readers, for your interest and for sharing our work with others. Lastly, I have my team at the secretariat (3 of us and additional 3 interns), for their dedication and resolve to the very demanding job of processing manuscripts to their rightful conclusion. Together, we strive to provide as good a service as any to those who believe in us. We are always trying to improve in both process and output.
Through the journal, we share original research findings, we carry allowable reprints of interest with full acknowledgement, we profile our very able reviewers to give them visibility, and we provide exposure to upcoming young professionals. Through the journal, I mentor young people who wish to grow professionally and those who would like to improve their writing and editorial skills; most of this interaction is done virtually. A number of these young professionals start off as Junior Reviewers and then grow to become mature reviewers who can stand on their own. This is an aspect I enjoy very much, the mentoring one.
The journal also enables me to invite new friends, and old friends to send us papers they have presented in a forum, such as the World Food Prize. I feel honored when such a request is accepted as that way what was presented to a restricted audience can be shared more widely.
AWARD and RECOGNITION: In 2014, we were blessed with an award and recognition. In May 2014, I received a surprise call that I had been honored with a Lifetime Award for Distinguished Service in the areas of food security, nutrition, agriculture and gender, locally, regionally and internationally. The work I have done for more than three decades, in western Kenya, with smallholder women farmers, helping them to improve incomes and food and nutrition security for their families received international recognition. The then incoming President of IFAMA (International Food and Agribusiness Management Association) Dr Thad Simons called me to confirm the award. The African Journal of Food , Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) was also key in this recognition, given the visibility it was gives especially young professionals, and the sharing of African research findings and knowledge with the rest of the world. While I was in Capetown to receive the IFAMA award, I got a call from Fortune Magazine to say they were looking globally for innovative women in the food sector, so they could highlight them. After the interview which IFAMA President participated in, explaining why I had been honored by his organization, we left it there; I received the IFAMA award for which I was very grateful, participated in their extremely rich conference. I left Capetown feeling good that finally the work we have been doing in western Kenya, as a small NGO, was finally being recognized. I soon forgot about the Fortune Magazine interview. Later, however, they requested for pictures, and I said to myself: “Waw, I guess the process is going on”. Then in September on my visit to the USA for another conference, a friend came to me excited, holding the October copy of Fortune Magazine Food and Wine, and told me that I was in there as one of the 30 most innovative women worldwide in the food sector. She requested me to kindly initial her copy.
All this has been very humbling. It is the smallholder farmers of western Kenya, majority of whom are women, who won and got all this recognition. I have told them as much. All these farmers in Vihiga and Kakamega counties of western Kenya have allowed me, us, into their homes and on their small farms to learn as they too learn from us. We have been and continue to be good partners. We have become friends and that is what drives the passion to succeed.
I have been busy, very busy in 2014. It is like we are on a race to solve the world hunger problem. The Millennium Development Goals will come to an end at in 2015; they will be replaced by Sustainable Development Goals. A lot has changed since the MDGs were first initiated in the year 2000. Some of us lament that they did not address nutrition, only hunger and poverty. The SDGs are coming at a time when Climate Change is a major concern, same as natural resources and water in particular. Clearly, water and trees are major aspects of farming systems and should be treated as such.
Over the decades, conference after conference, we still have many hungry people in the world. We have also learnt that it is not only those who are underweight who go hungry. Even the overweight and obese also go hungry. Many children go hungry. What is also obvious and well known now is that, many more people eat badly and are thus nutritionally inadequate. In all the nearly 30 years I have worked with smallholder farmers in western Kenya, the AGRA sponsored ISFM project in 2011 was a game changer. Our target was 30,000 smallholder farmers in 3 years.
However, we surpassed that number by about 4 thousand. The project officially ended on April 30, 2014; and as we now go around testing the water efficiency maize with AATF (African Agricultural Technology Forum), our smallholder farmers are still practicing what they learnt during the 3-year ISFM project. Something else, about 3 decades later working with these smallholder farmers, tilling no more than a hectare of land, they are ready to purchase their own seed; they give us money to keep till next season for inputs. They say the money is too little to keep in the modern Bank, while on the other hand they will find other needs for it if they do not reserve it in a safe place for the agricultural inputs. The Umbrella savings scheme ROP established is that safe place for them.
So, as ROP Africa, we have taken the women’s merry-go- round and table banking practice and turned it into an upgraded table bank. This is an aspect we wish to step up as we go forward. Our smallholder farmers no longer want free inputs. They speak of free seeds they received before which did not germinate. It is very empowering when the normally resource-poor smallholder farmers are able to afford and purchase their own inputs. I wish to particularly thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the financing they provide to AGRA and others, enabling them to be more innovative and try new things. As ROP Africa, we are beneficiaries of that through AGRA, Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa. AGRA enabled us in three years to reach all those farmers in a deliberate and impactful manner. A green revolution for Africa is possible. Some of us can feel it.
We need to expand what actors on the ground are doing and for me they include: Sasakawa Africa Association, and Sasakawa Fund for Extension Education both organizations that I am associated with; IFDC, International Fertilizer Development Center, whose Board I have served on and started to actively address African soils way before anyone else; HarvestPlus for giving visibility to Nutrition, AGRA for offering support in a unique way that addresses building of capacities and competencies of the CBOs and NGOs they work with on the ground; and those CGIAR Centers that are approaching their work in a truly transformative way, and the many organizations that are funded by all the donors that are now paying attention to African agriculture, food security and nutrition. There are many that I have not mentioned that are doing very good work. What I can say for now is that we truly know what to do, we have the answers and let us get on and do it by expanding our reach, establishing confidence and trust with the farmers, valuing them, making good use of science, technology and innovation. The policy environment is much better now as the African governments begin to take these issues seriously.
We cannot wish away smallholder farmers; their small farm is their source of livelihood: food and wealth. Those of us who work with them can help them to maximize outputs and outcomes as well. Their lives and those of their families and communities they live in can be transformed fairly positively if we scientists and practitioners pay greater attention to the types of impacts we would like to see and put in place the right strategies to achieve those impacts. Collaboration and linkages and building on the unique capabilities of each stakeholder are key tenets of success. I urge our donors to think long term if they are interests in positive impacts.
WE CAN DO IT; let us see what can be achieved in 2015. Let 2015 be a water and soils focused year and ultimately a food and nutrition sensitive year. Let us join together towards all this.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!