Monday, December 31, 2012

A trip to Panama

The end of the year is approaching, an occasion to sit down and reflect on the year 2012. It has been a very full year with plenty of interesting activities and nice moments.

I spent most of my time working in Ethiopia. In 2012, I contributed to a farm household survey that surveyed 600 farmers in the Blue Nile, implemented 4 focus group discussions with farmers, contributed to the development of two spatial targeting tool boxes making sure that they would be up-taken by stakeholders. I developed games for engaging people with very different backgrounds and developed and implemented many trainings. I really enjoyed doing all these activities that made me meet many interesting people. I also could go to conferences, visited Mauritius and trainings on open-source GIS. Finally i also went back to Switzerland and the Netherlands for some leave.

On the private side, it has been the year where I finally somehow managed to find my way in Ethiopia. I finally made some Ethiopian friends with whom I could enjoy the Teddy Afro concert and deepen myself into Ethiopian politics. Also my birthday party at the Dashen beer brewery was an unforgettable moment.

In 2012, i also made the bitter discovery that i am not a superwoman, that my health, my energy and my capacity to cope with water shortage, daily harassment, food shortage or African (un-)logics are limited. The tiredness and wish to be closer to my family for a while pushed me to leave my Ethiopia, get a good rest for a while and later on look for a new adventure, that I hope will bring me back somehow to agricultural research and how it can contribute to development.

Like the tiger and the bear (in the video), i took off with my tigerduck, in search of Panama, the paradise that smells like banana, looking forward to what this trip and search will teach me and where my next destination will be.

I would like to take this occasion to thank Charlotte, Nigeru, the "Gondar" club, and more particularly Amare and Kibru, Linda, all my colleagues, my campus neighbors, my employees, people from partner organizations, for their support and sharing some good time. Somehow, I will end up missing my Ethiopian life with you!

Finally, I would like to thank you, as a reader of my blog. The year 2012 has been a year where more and more people started reading this blog on a regular base. I hope I will be able to keep up with the expectations and share with you ideas and developments from rural areas around the world.

I wish you a new year full of new and interesting adventures!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hunger for profit?

Food prices have been increasing over the last years. Why? and what does it imply for developing countries? Do the farmers benefit?I came across this interesting short movie, made available by the campaign why poverty? that answers some of these questions.

The claim in this movie is that food prices are high because of the food shortage. Because of the shortage, one can expect rising prices and it becomes interesting to speculate on food. In the developing world where about 60-80% of the income is spend on food, high food prices are pretty bad for the urban population that needs to buy food , but should be pretty good for crop farmers who can get more money for their production (not pastoralist see This movie shows with the example from Kenya that this is not the case. It is just the middle man who brings food to the market who will make more money. Similar patterns can be found in Ethiopia, check
Following the argumentation of this movie, high food prices are just bad for producers and consumers and a relatively simple solution (compared to implementing complex and possibly market distorting regulations) would be to produce more. And in many region of Africa, one could improve on productivity with relatively low inputs. But increasing productivity is a matter to bring the right technology to the right location and the right people as well as addressing impacts of climate change. No wonder that today, many new research projects focus on sustainable intensification options and climate change adaptation for Africa.