Monday, 31 March 2014

Retelling the tale of "two-speed economies" - inclusive growth imperatives

Picture of Zimbabwean children working in a field
by Mabel Hungwe
Trustee, Barefoot Education for Afrika Trust
One third of the world's people depend on small farms for their livelihoods. This is a key development statistic. Inclusive smallholder agriculture driven growth should be a central part of our development priorities. Africa has experienced trends of impressive economic growth, improved governance and improved human development over the past decade. 

However, the pace and pattern of recent growth in Africa has not delivered the jobs and poverty reduction that Africa has been seeking. Africa's rural communities have been left behind in its “positive” economic growth. 

This is the “two-speed” economy tale told by the McKinsey Global Institute in a Mexican report titled "Growth and prosperity in a two-speed economy." The report shares how Mexico, a modern, fast-growing economy, with globally competitive multinationals and cutting-edge manufacturing plants exists amid a far larger group of traditional  enterprises that really do not contribute to growth. You can read the McKinsey report via this link

After reading this report, I got interested in unpacking the black box of the disparity between the developed minority and underdeveloped majority, I began to study more about Mexico. I learned that, in the rural areas of Mexico, 61% of people lived beneath the national rural poverty line in 2010, according to World Bank data. Given that the country’s rural population was estimated at about 25 million, this means that more than 15 million people in those areas were living in poverty.
A picture of a Zimbabwean farm worker in a Rose greenhouse
Picture also by Mabel Hungwe

I related this story to our homeland Africa, where we are similarly going through a trend of “two-speed” economies. Therefore inclusive growth is an imperative... not just for Africa... It is an imperative, no matter where in the world you are!

Last year I was working in an African agriculture organization. It so happened that one of our experts was engaged to assist in developing an issues paper for a renowned annual African agriculture event. 
Inclusive growth is an imperative... not just for Africa... It is an imperative, no matter where in the world you are.
It is at this time that I began to dig deeper into the world of "inclusive" economic growth and development. I came across a variety of materials, interacted with a variety of scholars and researchers, networks and platforms such as the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), The World Economic Forum and the Barefoot Education for Afrika Trust (BEAT).

In a nutshell, this is why Inclusive growth is an imperative for the African century:

Africa and other developing regions have millions of smallholder farmers who are settled on some the world's scarce arable land. These are potential producers to feed the world. Africa also has millions of youths with untapped innovation potential as entrepreneurs to drive the emerging food markets. With a growing population, Africa carries billions of people who are huge consumer market.  

Given Africa’s unique resource endowments and demographic features, inclusive, innovative, smallholder-centered business models are the entry point to the transformation that Africa is seeking.

The future of African agricultural development means making rural farming and entrepreneurship broader, deeper and stronger; also creating more economically viable non-farm activities linked to the growing rural farm activities to meet the emerging demands of a changing population.

Africa's Bottom of the Pyramid have the will, the qualities, the opportunity  to “lead” development in Africa as long as the right incentives are in place. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The YoBloCo Youth Blog Competition Public Evaluation has opened.. Vote for this Blog!

Exciting news! 
The Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards) is now open! 
After an initial selection that followed the blog submission, 145 blogs (out of 194 submissions) have met the minimal requirements of an eligible blog and have been qualified for public evaluation.
Guess what...?! 
This blog, "Afrika's Barefoot Agriculture E-ssue" is one of the pre-selected individual blogs!
There are 121 blogs in the individual category and 24 blogs in the institutional category. 
If this blog happens to be one of your favorite blogs, please do not hesitate to vote for it NOW!

Here is the procedure:
1. Click on the link below to go to the voting page:
(By the way you are supposed to vote for the two best blogs of your choice)
2. On the website of the YoBloCo Awards, you will find my blog's profile listed as "The Barefoot E-ssue". You should see something that looks almost like this:
3. Click Vote on my blog and then select the second blog you would like to vote for.
4. After this, A dialogue box will appear on the right of your screen indicated by the two red arrows in the picture
5. You will then be asked to enter your email address before the "Vote" button becomes active. 
6. After clicking the "Vote" button, an email will be sent to you... Go to your email and confirm the votes you would have just made
(Note that your votes will not be counted until you confirm them through the email sent to you).
7. That's it!

Many great thanks for your support, and see you on the vote counts!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

My best 2 minute lecture on Agricultural Development so far...

"When we invest together, good things grow"
IFAD, 2014

I have never heard it expressed in a simpler and more powerful way before.
I happened to bump into one of IFAD’s videos on the Year of family farming, and I must say, this short video is one of the best lectures I have had on agricultural investment and development so far.
You can watch the video here (right click to open it in a new tab or new window).
A screen shot from the video
Below, I share with you three main insights from the video and my short homework exercises on “what I learnt.”

Insight Number 1:

One third of the global population have their livelihoods dependent on small farms, that’s approximately 2.3 billion people and they work extremely hard for long hours every day, struggling to feed their families and educate their children.

What I learnt:

  • I realized just how important productivity and profitability increasing technologies are to helping change the world.
  • The need for more advanced seed, more effective, efficient and environmentally friendly technologies became more apparent to me as these could potentially raise farmers’ productivity.
  • I also learnt that profitability can also be improved for instance by interventions that result in enhancing the ease of doing business for the world's small family farmers.
  • This could be inclusive of lowering transaction costs and improving logistics and post-harvest technologies to reduce post-harvest loss.

Insight Number 2:

The Ultimate goal of agricultural development is about “Investing Together” to ensure that rural farmers get the resources they need to grow more and sell more.

What I learnt:

  • On this, I really liked the idea of “investing together” or pooling investments. On that note I realized that agricultural development is not a one person, one organization, one country issue; but must be a coordinated effort driven along the lines of a shared vision with clearly defined priorities.
  • I realized that agricultural development is really about “getting the fundamentals right, i.e. giving farmers access to NOT only resources, but the resources they REALLY need.
From having a first-hand experience and appreciation of rural farming as a young African boy my agricultural investment wish list would look something like this:
In order to help farmers grow more and sell more, there is need to invest in,
  • Number One: Research & Development that allows for co-creation of knowledge with farmers by combining word-class competencies with intrinsic indigenous knowledge and experience to boost plant and livestock performance effectively within African environments and also identify new niche markets without compromising humanity’s environmental stewardship.
This will help farmers to first, know what is best for them to grow (through market research), and then second, be able to grow more of it (through production research)
  • Number Two: Sustainable and flexible financial vehicles and instruments for rural farmers.
This will help farmers grow more by allowing them to access to enough working capital
  • Number Three: A well maintained, strategically linked transport/road network (perhaps something like growth corridors, that move along nodes of developing rural towns and growing cities linking rural producers to rural, urban and even export buyers). In my mind it could look something like this:

My simple illustration of how transport networks should link the rural farmers to more business
Improved transport networks will help farmers to sell more
  • Number Four: Reliable energy infrastructure.
A wide range of technologies have been developed to help farmers make the best of their farming and agribusiness experience. However, most rural farmers are still faced with the challenge of trading off between the best technological functionalities and limited energy supply.
Reliable energy infrastructure could significantly help rural farmers to sell more
Farmers also need energy to harness other natural resources to their advantage like water for irrigation, or gas and or solar for storing, refrigerating or processing their produce to ensure they get the best value for money.
  • Number Five: Efficient ICT infrastructure
I believe now is the time that governments and the agricultural development fraternity MUST have dedicated strategies towards leveraging ICT for agriculture e.g. for accessing market information and learning new production techniques. Agricultural ministries especially in Africa specifically need to have dedicated strategies towards making the most of emerging technologies especially to engage youths into agriculture

Insight Number 3:

Farmers, local leaders, national governments, private sector, donors make a great team, and “WHEN THEY INVEST TOGETHER, GOOD THINGS GROW, things like better nutrition, better schools and secure communities.” (IFAD, 2014)

When we invest together, good things grow, IFAD, 2014