Strengthening Food Systems Through Rural and Market Development
Despite the setbacks in 2020 across the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa is on the edge of a breakthrough in agriculture. This is evident as seen in the pace of adoption of innovation and interventions in response to the recovery plans set out across many African countries.
From farmers, to aggregators, to processors, to retailers, the Summit session on ‘Rural and Market developments’ spoke to interventions in logistics and marketing, as well as the means to getting integrated value chains functioning more effectively in Africa.
“Rwanda has taken various measures that have led to improvement of our agricultural systems. Among these are that we are working strongly with local authorities to ensure construction of market infrastructure in most villages and more importantly creating market linkages regionally and globally, encouraging more nutritious food of high quality, which in turn is growing the economy and benefiting farmers,” said H.E. Gerardine Mukeshimana, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda, as she opened the session.
The panellist in the first session delved deeper in speaking to strengthening mechanisms post-2020. Professor Siza Tumbo, the Deputy PS, Ministry of Agriculture, United Republic of Tanzania, indicated: “In Tanzania, the first priority is the farmer, it’s impossible to advance agriculture without involving private sector for the provision of inputs, and financing. We created a consortium with different players to create effective and adequate financing.”
In upholding the theme of the day ‘building forward better’, Dr. Holger A. Kray, Practice Manager Agriculture & Food Security, The World Bank, indicated some of the challenges that the farmers are facing, including lower-than-expected prices, being disconnected from international markets, fewer incentives to invest in productivity of storage solutions, hence why he posed the question if perhaps we are dis-incentivizing the original objectives leading to compromising productivity.
“I have dedicated my life to better agricultural policy, I want good policy and at the World Bank we measure good policy using the business of agriculture index and what I want to see is the states being facilitators by creating regulatory environments, and not just being actors.”
Mr. Ayodeji Balogun, Chief Executive Officer, AFEX Nigeria, put strong emphasis on access to technological and infrastructural advancements, especially in storage. “It’s not just creating supply for infrastructure, but also asking ‘can you deliver the supply of it in a cost efficient manner?’,” added Mr. Tom Kehoe, Deputy Dir. Shaping Inclusive Markets, Agriculture, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In the second session, the speakers introduced working examples within their organizations on how they are strengthening agricultural value chains.
Ms. Ashini Patel, Senior Manager, IDAS, KPMG, began by stating that due to the Covid19 pandemic, they have supported and worked with participants on improving digital technologies, such as mobile banking, and satellite data to collect input data from and for small scale farmers. “They also use WhatsApp groups for online training and dissemination of information on financial inclusion, good agricultural practices among others.”
In answering how smallholder farmers can be strengthened, Michelle Kagari, the Global Director of Government Relations and Policy, One Acre Fund, said: “Building smallholder capacity to withstand shocks and stresses is key. At One Acre Fund we encourage practices that maximize productivity, saving on previous harvest, securing alternative sources of incomes and having strong support systems in cooperatives.”
Professor Edward Mabaya, Research, International Programs, Cornell University, stated that for most African countries, agriculture, food systems and economic recovery are inextricably intertwined. Governments, private sector, development institutions, and research organizations must join forces to build back better and more resilient food systems serving the continent sustainably.”
As a plea to the government on behalf of smallholder farmers, Hellen Onyango, a Crop Aggregator, Farm to Market Alliance, said: “We need to ensure that smallholder farmers have access to crop insurance to cushion the adverse effects of the losses incurred because of various shocks.”