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6th AGCO Africa Summit: My Experience as AGCO’s Africa Ambassador in Berlin

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When people hear “Madagascar”, the first thing that comes to their minds is the famous cartoon. However, it is a country – the country where I come from. I cannot tell you how happy I was when I received the final e-mail announcing that I was elected as the AGCO Africa Ambassador 2017 – I jumped for joy! At the same time I was afraid because a great responsibility had been given to me to represent a country, a continent.

And then, things went so fast! I prepared my trip with the help of my team, my family and friends. Then I took off to Berlin via Mauritius, then Paris. Far away from our sunny days, it was the first time I have faced such a cold, I assure you. Once I arrived in Berlin, I was welcomed warmly with honor by the organizing team of the AGCO Africa Summit and I was accommodated in a sumptuous hotel – “comfort guaranteed”.

There I met Tosin Odunfa, the AGCO Africa Ambassador of 2013 – what a great speaker. He supported and helped me in my preparations for the Summit. Together we visited Berlin, its tourist places, its urban sides and its gastronomy. If you can spend one day in Berlin, do not forget to taste their bread and their beer. What a magnificent city!

The evening before the conference we had a Speakers’ dinner and I had the first opportunity to get to know and chat with the speakers and senior officials from AGCO.

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On the morning of the 6th AGCO Africa Summit I was really nervous: I had the honor of being the host of the event. But I had the support of the whole AGCO team and two excellent moderators: Dr. Amrita Cheema from the famous TV channel DEUTSCHE WELLE (a really lively and talented woman), and Jeff Koinange from KENYA’S TELEVISION NETWORK (a voice so deep that when he speaks you’re obliged to turn around). To my surprise, I also met Jean Kaahwa, the winner of AGCO Africa Ambassador contest 2015, who also supported me and gave me courage.

I was amazed that so many people were mobilized to discuss the future of agriculture in Africa. The AGCO Africa Summit brought together so many personalities who are directly involved in agriculture (bankers, entrepreneurs, officials from public administration), as well as young people involved in activities and projects for the development of agriculture in Africa. This experience allowed me to establish professional relationships for our project LEGUMA. I was also able to meet His Excellency Christian Wulff, the Former Federal President of Germany and President of the Euro-Mediterranean Arab Association. The topics discussed during the Summit were exciting and unfortunately the day went by very quickly. By the end of the conference, I was surprised by Nuradin Osman, Vice President and General Manager Africa for AGCO Corporation, who called me on stage to thank me for my participation. The event ended with a dinner where everyone gathered around a good meal and we were able to appreciate talented African musicians who made us dance and vibrate until the end of the night.

The next day I prepared my suitcase to return blessed and safe to Madagascar. I would like to congratulate AGCO for this inspiring event and the possibility to get to know all these important people. I hope that we will go further together in promoting agriculture in Africa.

YVON KAMENA

AGCO AFRICA AMBASSADOR 2017

Young Farmers: Growing Their Future and Ours

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Quite possibly better educated and prepared than any generation before them, young producers still face major challenges in getting off the ground. For this FarmLife Special Report, we asked several young farmers about their challenges and goals, then listened as each spoke of hard lessons learned, their passion for farming and hopes for the future.

Three families are featured in profile stories and video interviews: the Skobergs, who grow peas, wheat and canola on Twin Oaks Farm in Lougheed, Alberta; the Robertses, who farm and run a fencing and custom gate business in Pittsylvania County, Virginia; and the Boeres, whose dairy operation is in Modesto, California. Each has a unique story to tell, including the innovative ways they have made a life and a living on the farm.

To go along with the family profiles, the Young Farmers Special Report includes advice from parents, resources to help young and new farmers, a look back at our previous special report and more.

In the article “Raising Farmers,” father Jerry McDonald and son Jon—now a father himself—offer advice on preparing the next generation for a career in agriculture. You’ll also read about how the National Young Farmers Coalition works to connect beginning farmers with resources, such as information on loans and subsidies.

See the entire special report, including video interviews: Young Farmers: Growing Their Future And Ours

Saving the Ogallala: A Sinking Feeling

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Farmers on the U.S. High Plains have managed one of the great feats of modern agriculture—turning semi-arid prairies into some of the most productive land on the planet. Overcoming obstacles of less-than-ideal climate and soil, producers in the region have been significant players in efforts to push the world’s crop yields to new heights.

Now, however, farmers and others are concerned with the decrease in water remaining in the Ogallala Aquifer, a key resource for agriculture in the region. There are numerous efforts under way to conserve water—endeavors with positive results that apply to farming in many regions of North America. While the diminishing amount of water in the Ogallala is cause for alarm, there are certainly reasons to be hopeful.

The Ogallala, or High Plains Aquifer, ranks as the largest such groundwater source in the U.S. Stretching from Texas and New Mexico to South Dakota and Wyoming, it underlies eight states and represents more than one-quarter of the nation’s entire irrigation water. In terms of agricultural output, it supplies an area that produces approximately one-fifth of the annual total of U.S. corn, wheat and cattle.

New technologies and approaches to water usage may hopefully one day solve the problem of dwindling water resources, or at least buy more time. Brent Rogers, who farms in Kansas’ Sheridan and Graham counties, and serves on the board of directors for Kansas Groundwater Management District (GMD) 4, is working with other farmers and leaders in his groundwater management district.

Some of the measures they’re undertaking are to apply water probe technology on a wider scale to first track water use, then implement practical conservation measures that can cut usage, while attempting to maintain crop output. Through a combination of federal cost incentives like USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), farmers have started retiring unused or outdated irrigation wells and better monitoring those still in production to find where they can make cuts.

“We saw the value of water probes and started funding them. They will save you water. We went through our GMD members and said, ‘Hey, we will fund up to $1,000 per probe,’” says Rogers, whose GMD4 covers three full counties and part of seven others in northwest Kansas. Farmers have started to respond, with more than 100 new probes installed in the last year alone.

“By saving water today, you’re also providing more time for the people who develop the crop irrigation and genetics technologies involved in increasing water-use efficiency,” says Kansas State University water resources and civil engineer David Steward. Already, he says, crop genetic improvements are adding to water-use efficiency at around 2% per year.

“Water probes, variable-rate technology, gene shuffling, crop drought genes … these are all just pieces of the puzzle that we need. They’re just tickling the cusp of what’s coming,” Rogers says. “It’s going to work if we can all just stay on the horse.”

To read much more about this complex issue and the measures farmers and others are taking to save this valuable resource, see the full story: Saving the Ogallala: A Sinking Feeling

Biomass at a Glance

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Biomass has been around since the dawn of man. In today’s quest to feed the world as well as quench our energy needs, the potential for biomass is huge.

It’s estimated that the Earth grows about 130 billion tons of biomass annually. That’s more than six times the world’s energy use. Today, we have the ability to convert biomass residue into fuel, high-value chemicals, recyclable products, feed pellets and more.

However, only a small percentage is being captured. According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, if more biomass was captured and converted, the residue could provide 14% of the U.S. electricity use or 13% of the nation’s motor fuel. And, that’s not all – the removal of ag residue also is proven to increase farming yields and profitability.

Think of it, a source of food and renewable energy, and increases profits for farmers all from the residue that is normally left on the fields.

Learn more about the impact that biomass is having throughout the world today by downloading an informative infographic we prepared with key data and information: biomass-at-a-glance.

Women in Agriculture: Finding Common Ground

Born of a partnership between and funding from the United Soybean Board and the National Corn Growers Association, an organization called CommonGround has pulled together a network of 200 women farmers across 19 states to educate others on how food is grown.

Cari Nance and son, Wyatt.

Cari Nance and son, Wyatt.

“The biggest strength is the desire for these farmers to have conversations with moms who have great questions and concerns about their food,” says Missy Morgan, associate director of CommonGround. She says CommonGround members take to the airwaves, blogs, local events and social media to provide knowledgeable advocates and science-backed research.

“Our women farmers really have compassion for moms, because for the most part our farmers are also mothers,” Morgan explains. “They know how much moms care about giving their children the best, safest foods because they care about that too.”

Of their many contributions, CommonGround volunteers often find themselves addressing misconceptions, from how they raise their animals to production methods.

In South Carolina, Caci Nance found CommonGround through the state soybean board director. She’d already been blogging about farming and raising a family, and education was part of her job too.

Recently, a commenter on a CommonGround blog post raised the issue of nitrate pollution in runoff. Nance swiftly addressed the issue, relying on her farming experience and expertise as her county’s water quality educator.

“Volunteers attend a national conference, where they have the opportunity to hear the latest consumer research and insights, and also meet women farmers in the program from other states,” says Morgan. “Our state partners often have state-level conferences where they plan local activities for the year.”

Nance says: “CommonGround utilizes women in the best way I’ve seen to make conversations relatable and real. Women are much more likely to reach out and connect in a conversational manner.”

And, she adds, “No matter what kind of farmer we are, we care not only about the bottom line, but also the environment, the livestock. We all want to take care of what we have.”

See the full story: Women in Agriculture: Finding Common Ground

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