The World Bank projects that the African food market could triple by 2030, reaching a value of $1 trillion.
These prospects indicate great benefits for the region’s smallholder farmers, who produce more than three quarters of the food consumed in the continent.
However, for a meaningful impact in the financial well-being of the farmers, panellists at the 2018 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), in Kigali, Rwanda insist that better ways for market access are required.
“I have met farmers who do the right things only to later realise that there was no market for their produce. We need to rethink system and create full value chains,” said Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of Yara International.
To counter any market knowledge gaps, Simon Winter, the Executive Director of the Syngenta Foundation recommends proper farmer education on business models and modern production techniques.
“We need to help them get access to the right technologies, seeds, fertilizers, and the latest farming methods as well as business models,” said Winter.
“Furthermore, farmers need to be equipped with skills to manage risks via such products as insurance,” he added.
In addition, efficient technologies for the management of harvests are required to prevent losses arising pre-market.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 15 to 20 percent of grain crops in sub-Saharan Africa, and about half of fruits and vegetables, are damaged before they reach market.
This has been majorly attributed to poor road networks, lack of refrigeration facilities as well as improper sanitation processes.
Already, private companies such as Africa Improved Foods are taking critical steps towards a reduction in the wastage happening post-harvest by setting up farmer-advisory networks.
“We initially rejected 90 percent of the maize we sourced because of poor quality. But we later sent out our teams to investigate what was going wrong and helped the farmers find solutions to challenges encountered,” said Amar Ali, the chief executive of Africa Improved Foods.
“This effort reduced our rejection rate to about 20 percent, and we are now looking for ways of making our intervention solutions scalable.”
But all the speakers at the session agreed that financial support is critical in ensuring that smallholder farmers have the necessary requirements to set up secure farm-to-market structures.
“Nowadays, most financial institutions are committed to supporting farming projects. But the risks in the value chain have to be lessened in order to attract more investment,” said Annastacia Kerich Kimtai, the Director of Retail Banking at the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group.
Ms. Kimtai goes on to advise that smallholder farmers be given digitisation of records skills, which can then allow them to easily access credit via mobile platforms.
Likewise, Sean Jones, the Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator in charge of the Bureau for Food Security, at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), appeals for partnerships between all stakeholders to develop frameworks for the achievement of impact.
“No single players can be effective on their own, and it is important that all partners work together to develop solutions for the problems encountered locally,” said Jones.