War in Ukraine: Perspectives and Key Responses for Food Security in Africa

On April 20, 2022, STRATEGIES! held the first in a series of talks on “The War in Ukraine and the Need for a Functional State in Africa”. Due to the importance of the impact of the Ukraine War on African agriculture, it was important to kick off the round of discussions with a focus on food security.

To frame the discussion, STRATEGIES! presented Africa Food and the War on Ukraine

Our resources persons

Following this framing, the discussion was kicked off by three resources persons from the African private sector.

Theo de Jager Executive Director, Southern African Agri Initiative and President of the World Farmers Organization
Worlali Senyo Head of Corporate Services, Farmerline Ltd Ghana
Bertrand Foffe Managing Director, Jangolo – Agritech Entrepreneur

Participation

About 100 people participated in the discussion across three different social media platforms coming from at least 10  African countries and representing farmers, agriculture technicians, policy makers and consumers.

Key ideas from the discussion

Hope and Dynamism 

Despite being in a food, energy and financing crisis, this is a moment for Africa to do radical thinking and revolutionize food. Panelists and participants all see this moment as a challenge that has created opportunity for quantum change in African agriculture.

Structural and Systemic Solutions

While it is urgent and necessary to respond to the needs of the 281.6 million people who are facing hunger on the continent with emergency and humanitarian aid, it is absolutely essential to define structural and systemic solutions that will build strong agricultural systems for Africa in the long term, while doing so. Some of these systemic solutions include:

  • Financing – Rethinking how Africa mobilizes financing for agriculture. Is it time for an African Agriculture Bank that connects private sector investment directly to farmers and agripreneurs? Can we use technology to capture financing that is largely in the informal sector?
  • Inputs – Building upon the current big and small initiatives to resolve the challenge of fertilizer supply. The Nigerian initiative of building a fertilizer production plant is interesting and should be looked at from at least a regional and perhaps a continental perspective. Governments need to link to this private sector initiative to their strategies. In Cameroon, Ghana and many other countries, there are successful small initiatives to produce and distribute organic fertilizer. This is the time to bring these initiatives to scale with financing and technical know-how.
  • Logistics – This was a major focus of the discussion. Getting food from production centers to urban markets remains one of Africa’s key challenges. As crisis response is rolled out, it will be important to address the structural challenge of transportation including road, rail and air transport. Logistics for managing post-harvest are also a challenge. Building warehouses, cold stores and other storage facilities is a priority.
  • Technology – The importance of data and technology in revolutionizing African agriculture is clear. Collecting data on the millions of actors in the value chain, using technology to provide market and climate information, connecting farmers and agripreneurs to financing are just some of the ways in which technology can enable Africa to leapfrog its agriculture development.
The Hidden Middle

Providing multi-faceted strategic support to actors throughout the agriculture value chain who are already producing, transforming and distributing, is key. Thousands of small agriculture businesses throughout Africa have a proven business model. They need linkages to research, financing and markets. The opportunity in this moment of crisis is to support and scale such businesses.

Women and Youth

Women and Youth are the majority in the agriculture value chain.  They are amongst those innovating and creating successful business models.  They remain amongst those who have the least access to resources and support. Women and Youth are also the majority among the most vulnerable populations. As crisis response is rolled out, it will be important to address the structural issues of access to land, training, financing and markets that are stopping these key groups from reaping the full benefits from their roles in agriculture value chains.

Accountability

In this moment when crisis response will mean that large amounts of funds will be managed by African States, the systems of accountability for these funds are urgent and of utmost importance. African citizens need accountability for the funds which are being spent in their name by both African States and donors. Putting into place citizen monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, conditioning funds to performance and other key elements of accountability must be addressed.

The Functional State

The presumption in all development strategies is that there is a functional state, capable of delivering the strategies designed. As a company, STRATEGIES! posits that this presumption belies the actual situation on the ground. In Africa, functional states that are present, ensure security and sustainability, then provide hope to the population are a minority. Analyzing the functionality of the State, integrating the strengthening of the state as a fundamental part of development strategies is an imperative for implementing solutions that resolve the decades-old structural problems in agriculture and other key areas of development.

Some provocative questions closed this discussion and are lead the way Talk 2.

Next conversation…

Can we imagine:

  • An African Union where voting and participation rights are conditioned by performance on key indicators such as access to water, kilometers of road built or reduction of the food import bill?
  • IMF and World Bank loans conditioned on performance and accountability and integrating strengthening the functionality of the state as an essential component of these loans?
  • Systematic analysis of the Functionality of the State at the start of all development programs?

The conversation has started.

Let us continue together on May 4, 2022 during Talk 2 – The War in Ukraine: Political and Security Perspectives and Responses for Africa.

Talk to you soon!

STRATEGIES! at Economic Forum GFFA 2022

STRATEGIES! was honoured to participate in the 14th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) as moderator of one of the 15 expert panels on the programme. The virtual conference took place from Monday 24th January – to Friday 28th January 2022 under the overall theme “Sustainable Land Use: Food Security Starts with the Soil”.

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TAKING INNOVATION TO SCALE IN AFRICAN AGRICULTURE

TAKING INNOVATION TO SCALE IN AFRICAN AGRICULTURE

Agriculture, a sector at the heart of Africa’s development challenges.

As we all know, Africa remains a continent with a fairly high poverty rate. Key facts and trends continue to reveal this:

  • About 41% of the population south of the Sahara lives below the global poverty line of $1.90 per person per day [1].
  • Undernourishment in Africa affects about 20.4% of the population, or just over 237 million people. In addition, the demand for food will increase in view of increasing demographic pressure. [2]
  • Agriculture already contributes to about 65% of employment in Africa, and this rate could be higher if the entire agri-food system is taken into account. However, these jobs remain precarious and do not allow small producers, who represent 80% of farmers, to live decently [3].

It therefore appears that agriculture is a key sector which, if developed, will help to achieve certain sustainable development objectives in Africa. These include poverty eradication, hunger eradication, access to decent work and stronger economic growth.

For years now, this sector has struggled to meet this potential due to low productivity, heavy losses, insufficient investment etc.  Climate change will undoubtedly magnify the productivity challenge. Within the last 5-7 years, many have begun to see innovation as the key to unlock Africa’s agricultural potential.  For innovation to act as a key to large scale improvements in agriculture, it must itself perform on scale.  What is happening with agricultural innovation on the continent and how can we bring innovations to scale so they in turn can impact agriculture on scale.  Let’s take a look.

Types of innovations in the agricultural sector in Africa.

Innovations in the agricultural sector in Africa focus on technical, technological and organizational aspects.

Technical innovations tend to focus on production, conservation and processing in both farming and livestock breeding.  They include the development of improved seeds, farm equipment and natural conservation techniques for agricultural and livestock products.

In the field of technology, drones are being developed to facilitate the performance of tasks such as crop protection and the surveillance of herds. Applications are being developed to enable farmers learn about weather, market prices and farming techniques. Networks on mobile devices enable farmers to exchange information, follow training courses and sell their products.

Images of Drones for Agricultural use and a mobile App to identify crops disease and find ways to cure.

Organizational innovations concern new forms of cooperation, with a view to enabling farmers to better organize themselves in order to strengthen their skills, disseminate technical knowledge as well as access funding and markets. Contract farming is an example where multi-year contracts with large companies can enable farmers to expand production, meet quality requirements and access both training and funding. The return to cooperatives is also enabling “innovation” that integrates lessons of the past to allow farmers better market their products and easily acquire their inputs.

Innovations are being developed daily across the continent.  Yet despite a lot of hype about drones on farms and mobile apps for cattle herders these innovations have so far had only a small impact on the development of the agricultural sector and the major challenges of production, conservation, transformation and the creation of decent jobs in African agriculture, remain intact.

Why have the innovations not had a significant impact on African agriculture so far?

STRATEGIES! facilitates an experience sharing event on innovation for rural development for over 200 participants from 14 countries for German Development Cooperation (GIZ)

 After a few years of supporting various organizations which focus on innovation, STRATEGIES! has identified a number of bottlenecks that limit the impact of agricultural innovations on the continent. The most salient are:

  • ►The weak involvement of public authorities in the innovation process. Innovations are very often driven by individual farmers or small start-ups. Few countries have a mechanism whereby these innovations can be supported by government services. Due to the lack of systems for identifying, adopting and replicating these innovations, they remain unknown to the general public and particularly to those in the agricultural sector who should use them. The innovator has neither the means nor the mandate to bring new equipment or technology to the farmers who need it most. Still today government services seem far removed from the cutting edge thinking that is innovating in agriculture.
  • ►The non-sustainability of innovations initiated through development organizations alone. Innovations initiated through development projects have the advantage of being supported for a creation and testing phase. However, if the project is not anchored within a large-scale farmers’ organization or within local, regional or national extension services, there is little chance that the innovation will be adopted by a large number of users.  As soon as the project ends, the innovation will either be abandoned or continue to be used on a very small scale.
  • ►The high cost of implementing innovation. Some innovations, because of the cost of their implementation, are beyond the reach of farmers. There is no mechanism in place to allow small farmers to access these innovations despite the cost. Other innovations are costly to develop and take to market. Neither farmers, nor innovators have support to develop and access innovations.

So overall, it is the absence of a system for identifying, supporting, introducing and scaling up innovations that limit their impact on the agricultural sector.

Key actions to scale agricultural innovations and boost agriculture in Africa

In order to scale up agricultural innovations in Africa, it would be wise to invest in the system for identifying, supporting, introducing and scaling innovations. In this cycle, each actor should play their role.

For Governments:

  1. Establish a system for promoting and identifying innovations at the local level, particularly in municipalities, within the education system and through agro-pastoral fairs.

– In municipalities, there should be a mechanism in place to enable innovators submit their work to the municipality and to local Ministry of Agriculture services. This will enable innovations to be identified early and will open up the possibility receive support for them.

– Identification should also be done at the level of schools and universities. To do so, agriculture should be a part of the education system, which will encourage young people to see agriculture as a professional option, even as it encourages innovation initiatives.

– Many governments organize agricultural fairs. During these fairs, innovation should be showcased and discussed. This will provide the opportunity to give innovators incentive awards and will facilitate outreach regarding to specific innovations.

  1. Strengthen government institutions in charge of innovation

This includes, for example, strengthening agricultural research and development institutes so that they are able to pick up the best innovations and scale them up. They must therefore receive funding to fully develop them in order to make them accessible to small farmers. Research facilities must also have a direct link to extension services which will enable farmers to be informed about an innovation, test the innovation and give feedback for scaling up.

  1. Subsidize innovations.

Some innovations require significant investment for both development and acquisition.  Subsidies which go directly to the innovator as well as those who enable the small farmer to access the innovation are essential.

In addition, municipalities can acquire expensive innovations (notably equipment) and set up a management system that enables large numbers of farmers to access the same equipment.

For Farmers’ Organizations:

It is important for farmers’ organizations to see innovation as an essential part of their work. Good organization will enable farmers’ organizations to partner with innovators, research institutions and/or governments.

Furthermore, well organized cooperatives and associations can develop partnerships which enable them to orient the development of specific innovations to solve problems identified by their members.

It is essential that farmers’ organizations identify, test, improve and scale up agricultural innovations with or without government support.

 For Development Organizations:

Today, development organizations are probably the actors that provide the greatest support to innovation on the African continent. This work is to be applauded as it has produced some remarkable results.  To scale it up and render it sustainable, development organizations must remember the following:

  • ►It is necessary for innovations to be anchored within the national ecosystem: farmers’ organizations, ministries of agriculture, research institutions, private sector organizations, etc. as early as possible.
  • ►It is necessary to develop the business case and business plan for an innovation. How will development, testing and dissemination be financed?  What is the market segment for the innovation, does that innovation have the buying power to access it, etc.
  • ►It is helpful to connect innovators across national borders and even across continental borders. It is important that this learning and sharing be anchored within the national ecosystem of the country where the innovation will be used.
  • ►A discussion on patents and intellectual property cannot come too soon. Africans have often been robbed of their innovations. Both innovators and actors in the national agriculture ecosystem may need assistance in navigating discussions on intellectual property.

Innovations, however successful they may be, are necessary but not sufficient instruments to enable the African agricultural sector to meet the challenges it faces. The answers to be provided must necessarily be part of collective approaches involving all the actors concerned. These responses must also highlight the mechanisms of interaction with the agriculture ecosystem in order to make innovations truly work for agriculture.

Africans are innovating.  It is essential to capitalize on these innovations to accelerate and scale up results in agriculture so we can meet the various challenges related to population growth, food needs and employment in Africa.

[1] 2018 Report of the world bank : https://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/poverty-and-shared-prosperity

[2]  2018 Report of FAO : Africa regional overview of food security and nutrition

[3] Banque Mondiale 2016: https://www.banquemondiale.org/fr/topic/agriculture/brief/the-west-africa-agricultural-productivity-program