Six tidal shifts and game changers in African Agriculture | Heartland Global

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What has created the dramatic shift in the last six years in Africa’s Agriculture? Here are some of the key tidal shifts and game changers creating change and a uniquely African farm revolution. 

2008-09 Food and Fuel Price,  and Availability Crises

Increasing import cost and reduced import reliability
Food shortages caused political instability
Reliance on imports unsustainable

Rising local Private Sector and Foreign Direct Investment

Wave of new internal and external investment for food value chains.
Government commitments and incentives support agriculture as the engine for growth
Donor support for private sector growth and ag infrastructure

Rapid Rise of African Cities, and ICT’s

Changing consumption patterns
Consumption diversity, ease of use, branded foods
More meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables
Quality as well as quantity increases.
Revolutionary changes in information technology and mobile banking

Increasing Democracy, Relative Stability and Political Will

AU, NEPAD, CAADP, Regional Economic Blocks
Shift from donor dependency to self-driven national policy
Commitments to agriculture as the engine for growth
Region wide regulatory harmonization efforts free up trade

Increasing Wealth and Rapid Economic Growth

Increasing disposable incomes from national growth
Remittances and returning educated and experienced business managers.
Rapid rise of middle class (now more than 34%)
Reduction in extreme poverty

Potential for Africa as a Global food basket

Export potential to BRICS
Fresh product to Europe, Middle East, China, India.
Internal and Regional urban markets.

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Heartland Global Gender In Agriculture Series: Finding Monica

“Monica was a street hawker, and a very good one too.  During a walk on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, I discovered just how good she was: I handed over money to purchase a flashlight she was selling, despite my own perfectly functioning flashlight being in the bag I was carrying on that very walk.  So I immediately I asked her to work with me.  Monica was just what I needed to convince farmers to try research outputs.  And I knew that once these new innovations were tried, the results would speak for themselves.”

World Bank women in marketCurt Carnemark, The World Bank

My friend Paul Seward (the ever unassuming CEO of Farm Inputs Promotion Scheme) once told me this story, and its profound implications have stuck with me.  It turns out that in his efforts to get farm inputs from the labs and warehouses of researchers and innovation providers, to the fields of farmers, Paul had encountered more resistance than anticipated.  His efforts revealed a simple truth: Approximately half the farmers he encountered were women; however, this critical mass of women farmers did not have the same access to information, resources and decision-making opportunities as men.  Furthermore, Paul often found that the women’s husbands did not take well to their wives spending time buying farm inputs and receiving information from male stockists (retail outlet owners).  In the face of these dual barriers – gender inequality and farmers’ reluctance to try new methods – Paul decided something needed to be done.

So he began to recruit women and provide them with the resources to become farm-input stockists.  He decided to target women who served as the heads of their households and women who were already well trusted in the community.  He focused on giving them the support and training necessary to fully establish themselves in their new roles as stockists, and he also encouraged them to utilise opportunities for marketing new farm inputs to reluctant farmers.  For example, market days – when women were already gathered en masse to buy and sell goods – proved to be an ideal opportunity for the women stockists to pitch new inputs to a “captive” audience; they had a good excuse to be at the market, and had time to discuss the farm inputs on sale.  

Similarly, working with primary schools enabled girls as well as boys to see firsthand, and at a young age, the benefits of improved varieties and agronomy.  In some cases, self-pollinating crops provided an ideal opportunity for women with limited resources to benefit from research: Through a “seed loan,” the women received improved vegetable seed, which they then could plant and watch flourish.  They then then “paid it back” with the seed reaped from these harvests.

None of this was rocket science, it just required attention: A team sitting down with and listening to women farmers and stockists, identifying the issues inhibiting women farmers’ participation and decision-making ability, and then brainstorming simple solutions for how these issues could be addressed. 

And then, of course, the most critical factor was identifying the Monicas – those female leaders who have the ability and drive to get the work done on the ground. Part of Paul’s success at FIPS was identifying where his organization needed to focus on working with women, then backing this up by partnering with the individuals who would be able to successfully do something about it.

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Our Gender in Agriculture Series is written by Heartland Global partner Dr. Andrew Ward.  Heartland Global’s vision is to deliver value-chain and technology innovations that provide lasting economic and livelihood growth, helping communities solve their own needs sustainably.

For more information on Heartland Global, Inc. see www.heartland-global.com.

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Gender in Agriculture: Involving both men and women critical in changing misconceptions

Woman smiling ChinaWorld Bank Photo Collection
© Curt Carnemark, World Bank
 

Gender in Agriculture: Involving both men and women critical in changing misconceptions

We live in a world of stereotypes and misconceptions. So much potential for agricultural improvement in developing countries is not met because the roles of women, and the access and control that women have (or more importantly don’t have) is not understood. It is often assumed that women will benefit directly from a development initiative or that benefits will automatically trickle down to them. In reality however, these agricultural innovations and initiatives that bring productivity improvements are not adopted because women don’t, or aren’t able to, engage with the program.  Men may benefit in the short term,  but women and benefits to the family are minimal, and therefore the initiative is short lived as without funding there is no incentive to ‘include women’ and it is not accepted beyond the life of the initiative.

Interestingly there are other misconceptions and assumptions affecting gender. When you think of a gender expert most people think of a woman and are surprised when a man arrives. My career has included additional specialized gender training because I felt that for men to realize the need to change their behavior, they are more likely to listen to a man. This links to another misconception that gender is the same as feminism, women’s empowerment, men’s dis-empowerment.  Many men therefore are ‘turned off’ from considering gender because they perceive it to be a threat.

Sometimes we get so certain of gender stereotypes that we forget to thoroughly  understand the actual situation in the specific community. During the 1990′s I worked in Central Nigeria for a non-profit organisation. In the neighboring state there was a development project and we occasionally attended their meetings. In one, a gender ‘expert’ berated an extension worker who had reported that the women did not really farm, they just kept a garden close to the house. Instead of understand the specifics of the community, the ‘expert’ lectured the extension worker on how much of the farm work in Africa was done by women, and that clearly the extension worker had introduced male bias into his assessment. In many cases the ‘expert’ would have been right, but in this case the extension worker represented an area where the women were great traders and would buy from male farmers to sell produce throughout the country. The women in that community did not have time to travel to the farms but keep gardens close to their houses which can be managed by others if they are away. 

Maybe I was lucky, my boss at the time was a woman who was very successful at communicating with men. When it came to gender issues she would sit down and drink palm wine with the men and then ask questions to the group. This stimulated a discussion on how providing their women with greater opportunities would be of benefit to all in the family.

I learnt a lot, but maybe the important lesson was not to assume – not to assume that women will benefit, but also not to assume that there is a blue print with certain skill requirements to bring about gender change. 

I would be interested to hear the experiences of others.

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Our Gender in Agriculture Series is written by Heartland Global partner Dr. Andrew Ward.  Heartland Global’s vision is to deliver value-chain and technology innovations that provide lasting economic and livelihood growth, helping communities solve their own needs sustainably.

 For more information on Heartland Global, Inc. see www.heartland-global.com.

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