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


  1. i think the rural people are the most disadvantaged and under rated persons in the world. We behave as if we always know what they want and when. In most developing countries they are used for political reasons. In many cases development starts in urban areas and the rural people last and in some cases as an after thought.


    1. Dear Douglas,

      Thanks very much and I value your contribution very much. From your comments, I pick up the emphasis on the need for genuine participatory approaches to development. The need for investing in ensuring that farmers get the resources they really need and when they really need them. It is not about simply giving farmers resources. Take for instance the timing of fertilizer subsidies in southern Africa. Though this is a good idea, the targeting and timing has not been commensurate with achieving long term economic growth. In some countries, it is difficult to separate the subsidy programmes with political ambitions. Large scale infrastructural development e.g. roads, energy etc, must definitely come to the rural areas as well because these people cannot develop if they do not have these essential factors. Therefore national government investment and planning must take these into account.

      Thanks again for your insight.


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