Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What does Development Mean to you?... Never miss the VALUE for the money

Most of Africa's youth are unemployed. Reportedly, 60% of the Africa’s unemployed are aged 15-24 years, and underemployment is pervasive among rural youth and growing among urban youth. 

"Young Academics Mutating into Farmers"...
Smiling over a small garden I share with a friend
in the town on Norton, Zimbabwe. In background,
is a small portion of potatoes growing in sacks,
an Israeli technology that is growing
fast as a form of urban farming in Zimbabwe.
The technology allows for a larger number of
plants per unit area and improved management
and efficiency of input use.
Earning a University Degree, is really an envied achievement in Africa, but recently, in some African countries like Zimbabwe, the rate of unemployed graduates has soared and young people are desperate for jobs even if they do not understand the job description! What some youth are looking for, is just... a job. In the midst of the crisis a remnant of the resilient are mutating into entrepreneurs. But in this post, I want to talk about the Job and Money System and the implication it has had on African Development, of which I am very passionate about.

An article in a Zimbabwean Newspaper reads, "Each year, Zimbabwe churns out close to 10 000 graduates. But... few of them have any real chance of a job"

On the backdrop of a collapsing private sector, jobs in the non-governmental/non-profit making sector (NGOs/NPOs) are a lucrative landing for most young Zimbabweans. Some are even quickly starting their own NGOs to hopefully find a donor and at least make a living. Some have ventured into NGO or NPO through genuine passion, but the line between the authentic and inauthentic is increasingly becoming difficult to draw. 

While aid has played and will continue to play a crucial role in cushioning the impacts of poverty and vulnerability to external shocks, experts agree that it is not proving to be the answer for poverty eradication. I just read an article by David Bennett on "African Agriculture needs Trade not Aid"... and I it just confirmed the need for sustainable, practical and working solutions.

While I came across the gloomy Zimbabwean article on unemployed graduates, I then bumped into an interesting Post by a Forbes member of staff on "10 jobs that did not exist 10 years ago"! Really interesting, but in between these two observations, I began to remember reading a book by Calum Roberts entitled the "The Wealth of Nations, Timeless Concepts for Today." As I remembered this book, my memory was brought to a section where the author explains how "markets can be manipulated" and that innovation, is at times limited to a system already created, and that innovation does not always naturally create markets. In the Job Market sense, I then presumed that this might mean that "not all jobs created necessarily address specific needs" because we end up consumed by the system and miss the ultimate purpose. 

Today, I would want to believe that so many donors and African governments have a lot of financial resources. Additionally, it is not a mystery where those resources should be channeled to or in what they should be invested in to eradicate poverty. There are also so many people, young and old who have great skill and knowledge and it is also not a mystery how that skill and knowledge can be utilized to drive transformation. However, these financial resources, skills and knowledge are are not put in the right places because of impeding systems and bottlenecks.

Anyway, intuitively, I began to ask myself a day ago, do we really need some of these new "jobs" (I mean new descriptions of titles) that are emerging? What does it all add up to? For instance, let us take a look at agricultural development in Africa, I choose that because that is my profession.We could ask ourselves, "What is Development all about?"... Well "If development in poor countries is about lifting the poor people out of poverty, then all development interventions (regardless who is driving them) must be linked directly to the specific needs of the poor people. Whatever a development intervention is bout, it should automatically focus on things that make the currently poor more self-reliant rather than dependent in the near or distant future. 

I believe that some African and non-African approaches to development have failed because they have been manipulated as markets that have to create and/or sustain certain jobs or systems even if it means that "the poor remain poor or even become poorer." 

Well we all know that at a higher level, there is always a conflict of the ideals of power, governance and money between various parties while at a lower or operational level there is the hunger to find and keep employment by always pleasing our clients or partners, even when we do not necessarily have to. At the end of the day, the net effect of the forces tends to pull towards fuelling poverty and hunger instead of eliminating it.

What is your role in development? Are you an Entrepreneur... Development Practitioner... Donor... Government Officer... Student... Researcher... Consultant... ?

Are you not missing the "forest for the trees" by shortchanging long term gains for short term benefits?

Trust your instinct,
Do the right thing,
I have always said... "Never Miss the value for the money"


oh, by the way, keep on the look out for my new magazine coming soon. just follow this blog by email or RSS feed and you won't miss out! 

Monday, 30 December 2013

Celebrating the Year of Agriculture and the Year Family Farming the BAREFOOT Way!!!

Volume 1, Post 1
"Qouted from Prof Mandi Rukuni"

As we are knocking on the door of 2014 which will be the Year of Family Farming at the FAO and the Year of Agriculture and Nutrition/Food Security at the Africa Union, I have decided to dedicate this blog to celebrating Agriculture. By the way, I have also changed the sub-domain name of the blog from beatzw.blogspot.com to barefootagri.blogspot.com, "so don't get lost". This post also unveils the first Post, under the title of "The Barefoot E-ssue Vol. 1." So let's enjoy the ride and see how far we go with this Volume.

Specifically, as we discuss and deliberate on agricultural issues on this e-ssue, it is my hope that we will in 2014, bring to light the type of agriculture that will create a pathway out of poverty for hundreds of millions of Africans.

After learning of so many farming and agriculture models as a young African student; I have received, during my time working with the Barefoot Education for Afrika Trust (BEAT),  additional education on an "alternative" farming model. This model is actually more than just a farming model but rather a "renaissance of an Afrikan lifestyle". Yep, I’m talking about “Barefoot Agriculture”.

(Without really seeing the expressions on the many people reading this post right now, I know that this kind of a "farming model" will likely be received with some grumbling and a little bit of resentment.) I mean, "who in this day and age of shoes with different styles and sizes would be still interested in doing anything "barefoot"???!!!. :))

BUT... Hold your horses and don’t fire! (as yet). 

Let me explain... When I say “Barefoot Agriculture”, I do not imply or advocate for stagnating progression of farming and entrenching rural people in poverty and an underdeveloped or less mechanized subsistence-oriented farming; certainly not. I will discuss in subsequent posts in this e-ssue how I strongly believe that technology, urbanization and modernization all form a central part of the future of Barefoot Agriculture.

I believe (and these are my thoughts, no theory from a Professor, or what, But just basically how I have understood these issues during my junior career):
"By 'Barefoot Agriculture', we envision  an 'open' agriculture with equal opportunities. An Agriculture that appreciates grass roots knowledge and wisdom and embraces co-creation rather than imposition. 
Barefoot Agriculture seeks to further open up the markets of technology, knowledge and even products which allows each people and culture to identify their niche in the current complexity of global challenges and how each culture and people can supply and uniquely contribute to a better and more food secure world. 
A Picture a relative's family farm in the area of Ruwa, Zimbabwe.
As you can see family farms are transforming rapidly in Zimbabwe,
a high level of resilience and entrepreneurship is being exhibited as family
farmers start thinking "beyond grain", diversifying into ventures like
horticulture.They ingenuously find ways of getting the right technologies
to compete in supplying growing and diverse
rural and urban markets, and it works!!!
Barefoot Agriculture removes the psychological barriers that have hindered the success of many African countries in solving even their own problems. In essence Barefoot Agriculture is about opening up the markets "psychologically" rather than in conventional trade theory terms. Practically, the ground we can never level the ground, but we can raise the level at which we Africans view ourselves in a competitive world. 
Barefoot Agriculture restores the confidence of African agriculture and food brands while appreciating the need for Africans to “up the game” and meet the standards of competing in an aggressive global market.
Barefoot Agriculture allows Africans to change from just “adjusting to become faithful servants and followers in the agri-food markets” to “adapting to compete threatening rivals in agri-food markets”
I believe that as we celebrate the 2014 Year of Agriculture and the Year of Family Farming; it is time that we as Africans call for aggressiveness towards agricultural development. Where we are willing to stand the heat without losing, but rather, making the most of our uniqueness. Like my good old Professor, Mandi Rukuni says:

“Modernize, Don’t Westernize or Easternize African Agriculture” 


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Sustaining Agriculture Momentum in Africa... The Story of Youth and Agripreneurship in Zimbabwe

The greatest thing that has ever happened to Young People, Agriculture and Entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe... The Agripreneurship Summit 2013!

I was sitting in a building called The Engineering Workshop at Zimbabwe’s Harare Institute of Technology. However, at the same time, I was surrounded by the aura of a Grandeur Arena similar to that of a place of great authority such as a Kings Palace; where every word spoken seems powerful beyond measure; where one can actually touch and feel the power that resonates in words of confidence and words of great vision. Yes it sounds irregular and unconventional, being in an Engineer's Workshop and feeling the proud and electric energy of young agricultural leaders and entrepreneurs resonating in the background. Sitting in that environment I knew and I felt that the future belongs to the youth of Africa. Believe me, there is nothing conventional about what I am talking about; nothing is, nothing has been, and nothing ever will be conventional about the Agripreneurship Summit! You don’t even find the word “Agripreneurship” in the dictionary and that’s just what makes it!

From the 10th to the 12th of December 2013, the Zimbabwe Farmers Union has been running the inaugural Youth Agripreneurship Summit 2013. By the way, ever since I have opened this blog, I have changed the name of the blog a dozen times to try and explain what it is we really want to achieve. After a variety of names came up, I realized at the end of the day, that all the issues I am discussing, all this Barefoot mindset and philosophy we have been working on with other scholars at our organization, BEAT, for years is all about ways of finding or defining the sustainability of development in Africa, and hence from today, I have called the blog, “A Long Walk to the Sustainability of Development in Africa… The Barefoot Principle”. And of course, I have been inspired by the courage, boldness and resolve of the Great African legend Nelson Mandela's "Long Walk to Freedom." May he rest in eternal peace.

Refocusing on the Agripreneurship Summit, the Barefoot Education for Afrika Trust (BEAT) was invited to the Youth Agripreneurship Summit as a strategic and potential knowledge partner. Barefoot Professor Mandi Rukuni gave the Keynote Speech and the atmosphere was electric as young people itched and boiled with the eagerness to take on the challenges of agriculture and entrepreneurship. BEAT believes that partnering in any way, with initiatives that engage the Youth effectively into agriculture is essential to completing the Long Walk to the Sustainability of Development in Africa, and hence a crucial part of the Barefoot story. 

One of the most radical things about the Summit, is the unconventional and non-traditional way that the Agripreneurship Summit has been launched and organized. Of course, a few bolts and nuts will need to be tightened but this is the first time ever, I have seen the youth in Zimbabwe keenly involved and enthusiastically engaged in agriculture, with a voice that is shouting, “We wanna do this!!!” The use of Open Space Technology gave young people the room to say their views and feelings unapologetically. 

The overall theme of the Summit was, “Breaking the Barriers” and the first barrier that has been broken in Zimbabwe over the past few days of this summit is the socio-cultural misconception and barrier of inequality that has always side-lined the voice and opinion of young people and especially young women. It was a touching and eye opening experience as young girls talked about their challenges regarding critical issues such as access to land and capital.

Perhaps most of our readers and followers might not understand, but it is not conventional in Africa and more evidently in Zimbabwe, for the young people to confidently voice their opinions with regards to strategically important issues such as agriculture and in particular land. Well to “statisize” this statement, the Human Development Reports over the years assert that the rates of inequality of income, resources/assets, health and education in Sub Saharan Africa are among the highest in the world. In 2010, the ten countries in Africa with the highest Inequality adjusted Human Development Indicator (IHDI) were: Gabon, Tunisia, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Ghana, Namibia, Congo, Swaziland, and Kenya. It is glad to note that Zimbabwe was among the ten countries with the lowest IHDI in the same period and the Youth Agripreneurship has been testimony to this.

I will not take the limelight from the Young Farmers’ Agrpreneurship Summit. For more information, visit their Facebook Page by simply clicking this link https://www.facebook.com/ZFUYoungFarmersClubs