Monday, 21 October 2013

And the Keyword is... PARTNERSHIPS!!!

Partnerships lead to measurable impacts for Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa

Loosening The Bottlenecks for Commercial Smallholder Farming in Afrika by "Just Adding a Little Innovation..." HELLO EcoFarmer!



"Go where the need is greatest and the help is smallest... EcoFarmer will transform agriculture... We must use technology to address every day challenges of ordinary people... This is what I mean, when I say, 'just add a little innovation, to what you do best.' "- Mr Strive Masiyiwa, Executive Chairman and Founder of Econet Wireless Group and Board Member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

I am a strong Social Media follower of some of Afrika's most iconic leaders and transformers. But I must say as I read the words of Mr Masiyiwa on his Faceboook page recently, the spectre of highly risky smallholder characterized by low private investment is slowly coming to an end through ground breaking innovation, sustainable relationships and strategic partnerships. 

The Econet Wireless Zimbabwe website on the 26th of September revealed news of a "weather-indexed drought insurance service" developed by Econet Wireless. The product, which they are calling EcoFarmer allows farmers to "buy insurance for as little as eight cents per day, which is deducted from their prepaid phone account during the agricultural season. If the rain does not fall, resulting in a drought, the farmer will be given as much as $100 for every 10 kg seed pack planted." 

You can get more accurate information from the Econet Wireless Zimbabwe web page or follow Mr Strive Masiyiwa on Facebook or Twitter for more information. But here's a little lesson I would like to share from the Econet story:

There is great potential to grow businesses with the vast low-income majority, not through strengthening the bottlenecks, but rather eliminating them through partnering for greater collective impact... 

Cutting edge and transformational entrepreneurs, do not realize the vast rural majority as a source of cheap labor, but rather as hardworking and ready to commit producers and entrepreneurs with unique "barefoot" economic potential.

I am hopeful, that EcoFarmer will significantly contribute to making insurance and other financial products more broadly accessible to the rural farmers by risk-reduction and pioneering the elimination of more bottlenecks such as the distance, time and communication costs... and even language barriers and bottlenecks. 

Overall, thumbs up to EcoFarmer and we wish a successful roll-out and further scaling up that triggers sufficient public and private sector investment in a sustainable way for greater agricultural growth and prosperity to demystify commercial farming for the rural farmer... Yes, to Go Barefoot.

In light of this pursuit we should all share with companies like Econet Wireless of modernizing and commercializing smallholder farming in Afrika, there is a great need to capacitate and embolden the rural farmer to regain her confidence and level her reason and negotiating capacity to that of a variety of players she will meet in the dynamic market. 

The small but powerful voice of the rural woman farmer could be strengthened by stronger networks and greater collaboration of communities which ICT platforms can also facilitate. 

With the right partnerships, technologies and other institutional enablers, farmers will not be left victim to shrewd middlemen or opportunists. 

Again, I believe EcoFarmer has taken a pioneering step to making things simple on the insurance angle... And Oh! With EcoFarmer's more accurate rainfall data, some of the ailing research, extension and advisory services challenges are addressed as well. 

Well done EcoFarmer! And a call to every interested player and stakeholder to "..ADD A LITTLE INNOVATION..."

Friday, 18 October 2013

THE WEB IS GOING BAREFOOT!!! WEB 2.0, SOCIAL MEDIA AND DEVELOPMENT

Hello Team!


The Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is holding learning opportunities on Web 2.0 and Social Media for Development across ACP countries. They are just completing one in Zimbabwe at the Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) and I have been privileged to be part of this one, the first in Zimbabwe and a really exciting opportunity. Probably two or more will run in Zimbabwe so keep watching this space for more information on Web 2.0 for development in your country!

From my participation in the course I have just learned that the web is gradually "Going Barefoot." Great News!!!

So closer are we to saying "bye-bye" to the technical jargon and complexities of "sailing in the digital sea of the internet." Through Web 2.0 and Social Media, not only the "webmasters" or "expert programmers" can publish content on the internet. Even a young black, barefoot boy sitting under tree can do so... as long as they have internet connection... And that's the magic word, "internet connection" and the reason why Afrikan governments and entrepreneurs need to start thinking really serious about ICT infrastructure. (Not taking away any of the great work being done in countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt. 

Through, blogs, vlogs, social media, netowrking, and mash-ups (a combination of various technologies on a single platform) the  ground to co-create knowledge is becoming bigger and the scope for collaboration is becoming much deeper, and the possibility of transformation more probable. Knowledge can grow to become a global public good unlike a "monopolistic product." The world is changing and let's face it. Information is power, but information SHARED is much powerful, that's why Web 2.0 presents the greatest possibility of achieving effectiveness in any area, #African #Agriculture #Development also included. 

As opposed to the one-way traffic of Web 1.0 kind of internet preceding Web 2.0; Web 2.0 allows paves way for the Web to "Go Barefoot" across four broad areas:
  1. connecting with other people via social networks like facebook, twitter or LinkedIn);
  2. collaborating and doing things with other people (even if they are in remote locations through applications like Google Drive and Wikis);
  3. creating and sharing content (e.g. blogging and vlogging); and
  4. finding, using, organizing and reusing content.
Through a more open Web 2.0, we can capture the power of people and communities we never imagined we could tap into. 

Nonetheless, there are challenges we need to look into and be able to overcome to get the best out of this technological evolution. This includes:
  1. The possibilities of overload and competition for attention
  2. Uneven distribution of resources, resulting in marked differences in challenges organizational and personal processes of sharing knowledge
  3. It is also difficult to change personal and organizational traditions and processes.

Anyway bloggers, I always say, "the only way to do a hard thing is to do it." The only way we can find solutions for all these challenges is to... FIND THEM!! Get thinking about the future, getting thinking about yourself, your organization, your country, the world... HOW WILL YOU CONTRIBUTE TO MAKING IT A BETTER PLACE? Get blogging we need your views...

Go Barefoot

Thursday, 17 October 2013

My Story about the BAREFOOT EDUCATION FOR AFRIKA TRUST... FOUNDATIONS AND FUTURE

In my own Words, Barefoot means, 
"simplifying every complex and exclusive system to solicit and harness the contributable value from a rich and broad range of stakeholders (for Afrika particularly the vast rural)… It is breaking the walls of class, language, race and even geographical location and creating new platforms of freedom, rebuilding confidence even in societies’ ‘least’ sophisticated groups. It is reengaging, collaborating, rebuilding capacity of rural Afrika to challenge contemporary knowledge based on the rich Afrikan experience and wisdom.” 

The basis of the Barefoot Principle is: "Knowledge Exists only at the Point of Action and Decision Making"

Now, about BEAT

In 2009, a long conceived idea of pursuing a “Holistic Afrikan Education Model” took its first step to life by the establishment of the Barefoot Education for Afrika Trust (BEAT). This was the beginning of a journey; a journey starting from a confluence of people and ideas of similar belief, values and a united envisaged destiny of an Afrikan “Barefoot” University.

After working with some of the people who have laid the foundations of BEAT, such as Prof Mandi Rukuni (Director) and Dr Mabel Hungwe (Chairperson) I have developed my own understanding of this Barefoot philosophy.

In a paragraph, I would say, "Barefoot" is the code-name for simplifying every complex and exclusive system to solicit and harness the contributable value from a rich and broad range of stakeholders (for Afrika particularly the vast rural)… It is breaking the walls of class, language, race and even geographical location and creating new platforms of freedom, rebuilding confidence even in societies’ ‘least’ sophisticated groups. It is reengaging, collaborating, rebuilding capacity of rural Afrika to challenge contemporary knowledge based on the rich Afrikan experience and wisdom.” 

It may be education, it may be technology, it may be agricultural research and extension, it may be business management and entrepreneurship… whatever it is, I believe it can go higher for Afrika by “going Barefoot” (a phrase I will constantly use on this blog).
So, here is the BEAT philosophy and how BEAT works…

BEAT Beliefs (taken from the BEAT Profile Document 2009)

BEAT operates on the belief that knowledge exists only at the point of action and decision making…  That is, the point where information is converted to knowledge.
BEAT operates on the principles of:
1. Action learning; 
2. Participatory approaches to developing content (be it technical content, policy content etc.); and, 
3. Co-creation of knowledge.

BEAT Activities

Over the past years BEAT has been growing steadily. The past two years however have shown great prospects for accelerated growth of BEAT and the “Barefoot Revolution” in the coming decades. The African Union declared 2013 "The Year of African Renaissance" indicating significant political will to “Go Barefoot.” In partnership with organizations such as the Swedish Cooperative Centre, BEAT has played a pivotal role in the establishment of peer-learning activities as a community development tool as well as for professional development. 

Fore more information on BEAT visit: www.BeatAfrika.org 

Go Barefoot! 


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

AFRIKA'S OWN STORY...AFRIKA AND THE INTERNET

While the use of the internet is spreading like a virus across the globe and the digital space is growing larger and larger by the day statistics released by Google a couple of years ago revealed that about 5% of information on Google is from Africa. Of the 5%, half is only from South Africa. The remaining 2.5% is dominantly from Francophone countries while the remaining 1% is shared among the rest of Africa. While, it may be 5 or so years since this was spoken, I know the situation has not changed much. There may be a lot of information on the internet about Africa, but very little of this information is from Afrika. Even the spelling of "Africa" is not "Afrikan" according to my good old Professor, Prof Mandi Rukuni. So who will tell AFRIKA'S OWN STORY?

The little amount if information about Afrika that we will find on the internet is not even in vernacular languages. If technological advancement especially through the web is a source of information; it's information for who? for what? Does the internet have a real purpose. I believe the internet is about information for the people, to help them make better decisions. Now who are the Afrikan people? The rural, the poor. No matter how much we don't like to hear this, this is true. These people are our majority and Governments of Afrika should start rethinking about celebrating technological development if they are not doing anything to ensure so that its vast majority do not remain excluded from this revolution. 

Academics, professionals, entrepreneurs, experts, the youth and all other people who do have much better access to the internet should start thinking about how we can Afrikanize the internet so that it can  change the face of the African continent. All Afrikans shouldn't be celebrating the expansion of the digital space as long as a minority of that space is occupied by Afrikans in a purely Afrikan identity. We need Afrikan scholars, researchers, entrepreneurs, activists, leaders and everyone else to start telling the Afrikan story in the Afrikan language in this "internet auditorium." 

We all need to stand up, stand tall and fight for our space. The good thing is that through developments such as Web 2.0 and Social Media, the platform to be speak heard is becoming more open and less constrained. (Of course there are risks, but we also need to see the opportunities and use them). Today, there are so many platforms to raise the Afrikan voice, you don't need any long profile or swollen bio to say your mind, to write more about Afrika, to write more in the Afrikan language, to translate what has already been written, and distribute it in the digital space. 

By so doing, Afrika will gain more and more digital territory and be equally empowered and poised like any other region in the world to benefit from the technological revolution.

Colonization, could have been our "silver lining." Now we know the former colonizers' languages and cultures so well, but we have also retained our own Afrikanness. There is no greater strength than knowing both your own strengths and weaknesses and also those of your competitors; and being able to blend your capacities with those of others for much greater impact and results. On this premise there certainly can be an Afrikan century.

If you think this is a serious issue Afrika should be thinking about: what do you think would help? how can it be done???