Did you know that this week, 19th-23rd April 2015, is the Global Soil Week 2015? If you didn’t, now you do! But even as we commemorate the soil week, the invaluable natural resource, that is soil, is highly abused and is continuously degraded. Soil degradation is hampering economic development, costing the continent's farmers billions of dollars in lost income according to a report by Montpellier Panel. The report further adds that "In Africa, the impacts are substantial where 65% of arable land, 30% of grazing land and 20% of forests are already damaged.” These sentiments are again captured by the deliberations of the Soil Governance Conference held in Brasilia, March 25-27th, 2015 that noted that the improper use of soil causes losses of 5 to 7 million hectares annually and that nearly half of the fertile soils of the planet have been lost in the last 150 years.

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In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), cassava is mainly a subsistence crop grown for food by small-scale farmers who sell the surplus. Global research shows that cassava contributes significantly to the nutrition and livelihood of up to 500 million people and thousands of processors and traders around the world (Plucknett et al., 1998). Apart from food, cassava is very versatile and its derivatives and starch are applicable in many types of products such as foods, confectionery, sweeteners, glues, plywood, textiles, paper, biodegradable products, monosodium glutamate, and drugs. 

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Traditional African Vegetables (TAVs) have been part of the food systems in sub-Saharan Africa for generations, offering most of the daily requirements for vitamins A, B complex, C and minerals alike, yet many of these crops are currently underutilized and their nutritional value is widely unknown (IPGRI, 1997). The result of this is a chronic under nutrition affecting about 43% of the Sub Saharan region’s population (FAO, 1996). 

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Global research suggests that there currently exists a huge deficit in the production of maize vis-à-vis the demand. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), by the year 2020, the global cereal demand will be at an approximate 2.1 billion MT and will, for the first time, show a major shift in favor of maize with demand estimated at 852 million MT compared to 760 million MT for wheat and 503 million MT for rice. Thus, global demand for maize in 2020 will increase by 45%, a substantial growth of 72% for maize in developing countries. This means that globally, an additional 266 million MT of maize will need to be produced, 80% of which is required for the developing nations. 

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Farm Concern International (FCI), last week, had the great pleasure of taking part in the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, 2015 (GFIA) held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. FCI represented by its Africa Director, Mr. David Ruchiu, joined participants from 65 other countries from across the globe to share one of its innovations (AFMA-X, African Farms and Markets Exchange) technology. 

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FCI VISION : To have commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond