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Alex Hitzemann Media & Advertising

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ACDI/VOCA Learning Event Reviews 50 Years of Learning in Development

The Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) in Ethiopia—the birthplace of coffee—is the largest organic coffee exporter in the world. The union collects six types of high-quality, organic Arabica coffee beans, all with distinctive and highly desirable flavor characteristics, from more than 250,000 farmers across the Oromia region.

In only 15 years OCFCU’s exports have grown nearly a hundred­fold, with sales of $40 million, making it the largest coffee producer and exporter in Ethiopia. Key to the union’s success has been to link Ethiopia’s smallholder farm­ers directly to export markets. The prior central auction marketing process did not allow for quality distinctions.

Beginning in 2000, ACDI/VOCA, a nonprofit development organization, aided the young cooperative union under a USAID program, training cooperative members to improve coffee quality and productivity, and working with farmers, processors, export­ers and others to strengthen the overall coffee value chain in Ethiopia. Improvements included creating a system of traceability to guarantee coffee quality from farm to cup.

The general manager of OCFCU, Tadesse Meskela, recently reflected on the pivotal capacity building by ACDI/VOCA and others that spurred OCFCU’s growth. As one of the four panelists at a learning event held in conjunction with ACDI/VOCA’s 50th anniversary in June, he discussed his experience as a former aid recipient and recounted OCFCU’s progress. AAB sat down with him after the learning event for his perspective on capitalizing on export markets, effective marketing and next steps in helping the Ethiopian coffee sector to flourish.

AAB: What led to your cooperative union’s success over the past 10 years?

Tadesse Meskela: The key to success is promotion. As soon as Oromia was organized as a cooperative union, the challenge was getting the market.

With support from ACDI/VOCA, we came to San Francisco in 2000 [for a Specialty Coffee Association of America conference] with 146 kilograms of different coffees.  Roasters took the coffee for free, cupped it and found that our coffee is the best.

It was eye-opening for us to learn how the coffee industry works in the West. Before that, we didn’t have any experience and did not know how coffee is consumed in the developed world. After coming to San Francisco we identified how people care for the product and what kind of certifications are required. In the first two years Oromia participated in the specialty coffee conferences with support from ACDI/VOCA. Since 2006 we have financed ourselves by renting a booth with fair trade coffee buyers.

The other thing is training—training to all the farmers. When we participated in the specialty coffee conferences we got feedback on the quality of the coffee. Based on this we trained our farmers so that the quality of the bean improves. In the 2012 Coffee of the Year competition, coffee from Oromia was the first out of 250 different coffees.

This is all because of the feedback we got from coffee roasters and the training we gave to our members to improve quality.

What are some of the current challenges for the cooperative?

Mainly finance.

We do have banks [OCFCU recently created its own bank, a great benefit to its members for much-needed preharvest financing] but still to capture the value chain, cooperatives have to receive all the product from their members, which would be facilitated by access to finance.

The other thing is capacity building. We have to train farmers from year to year. It’s not a one-time job, it has to be continuous. ACDI/VOCA supported us in the beginning. We have done a lot with ACDI/VOCA, but these trainings have to continue. It’s a dynamic process—training, awareness creation for farmers to get organized to come out of poverty—it’s very important. This is has to be accompanied by finance; they have to come together.

What are the techniques you’ve found most successful for training?

The way we communicated to members at the beginning of ACDI/VOCA’s intervention was through bringing in volunteers [ACDI/VOCA’s expert volunteers serve on short-term assignments that complement long-term projects] to talk to the farmers; so that has to be there.

We also use video classes on cooperatives to change the minds of farmers to enable them to come together, because we used to have bad cooperative experiences during the socialist regime, where farmers had no control over the product or pricing. So by the time we started with ACDI/VOCA, we had to educate farmers and show them how to change their lives through cooperatives by capturing the value chain, the comprehensive process of producing, processing and exporting.

You mentioned in ACDI/VOCA’s learning event that cooperatives receive 250 percent more by participating in OCFCU as opposed to selling to middlemen. Can you give an example of what the price difference would be for an individual coffee farmer operating alone?
Especially during the time of the coffee crisis, 2000, when the price was at a three-year low, 4 cents a pound, [by participating in the Oromia Cooperative Union] farmers were getting more than double what they could get on the local market. Even now they are getting more than double because we certify the coffee organic fair trade and trace all of it to the cooperative. So the certification creates an additional price over the quality. We are also given a quality premium from our customers because our coffee is always top of the top. These together give our coffee a higher price and make us able to give back dividends to the unions. So this is how the lives of the farmers change.

And also through the fair trade premiums [an additional payment above the market price that must be spent on social and economic development in the producing communities], we build schools and other infrastructure. We’ve built 14 elementary schools, 10 high schools and more than 100 clean water supply programs. All in all, we have done about 226 different projects from the fair trade premium—success we got by creating quality and sustainability and supplying good quality coffee to our customers.

Our relationships with our coffee roasters and buyers, who started buying coffee from us in 2002, are now family-like. They visit us every year or every two years. We visit them. They give us feedback and based on the feedback, we train farmers. Our relationship is very strong.

What do members do with the extra money?

You can’t say the money the farmers are getting is beyond their expenses, because farmers are living hand to mouth. The price of coffee is going up and down, so with the extra money they get they send their kids to school, they buy good food for their families, they change their houses from thatch to corrugated iron.

What do you think are the current constraints in the Ethiopian coffee sector?
The government needs to support characterizing the different coffees in the country. This has to be given a big emphasis, so that the country—and we—can win in delivering the high premium prices in the international market.

The biggest concern is agronomic. In most of the rural parts in the country the coffee is getting older, and there should be a stronger extension activity around agronomic practices. In the 1980s we had a coffee improvement project funded by the European Union for maybe eight years. That brought a drastic change to the Ethiopian coffee industry, with nurseries to raise coffee trees, training for farmers and stamping the old trees. This really has helped the industry. But since the culmination of the coffee improvement project, these programs are not there. So we have to work harder now.

 

Watch Tadesse Meskela and others discuss sustainable economic growth in developing countries at ACDI/VOCA’s learning event, “Moving Forward Together” here: http://www.acdivoca.org/site/ID/Video-50-Anniversary-Learning-Event

250px-Mpumalanga_in_South_Africa.svgThe sun-drenched province of Mpumalanga in north-eastern South Africa is one of the country’s burgeoning agricultural hubs, and as thousands of emerging cattle, sugarcane, citrus and wheat farmers pop up across the region, an urgent need has emerged for viable financial structures to support them.

With the South African government punting the formation of co-operatives as a key strategy for economic growth, the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) have heeded the call. They have kick-started the development of a revolutionary co-operative bank which the association says will benefit more than 300 000 farmers operating in the small but fertile province.

Established in 2011 after a year-long consultation with developing farmers country-wide, AFASA now has over 11 000 members from all nine of South Africa’s provinces, and has placed the needs of emerging farmers on the top of their priority list.

mpumalanga-car-rentalOften struggling to establish themselves due to lack of funding and formal financing mechanisms, little access to market information and poor money-management skills, emerging farmers find themselves swimming in the deep end of South Africa’s agricultural pool. AFASA’s plans are to lift them out.

“The goal is to establish a bank which will be strong, sustainable, independent and supportive of farmers, enabling members to have easy access to affordable banking services,” says AFASA Mpumalanga President Dr Job Mthombeni, who is head of the bank’s newly formed 15 member board.

With support from the Cooperative Financial Institute of South Africa (COFISA) and the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration (DARDLA), the operations of the bank are scheduled to begin by the end of October.

Discussions regarding the bank commenced in April and focused on mobilizing farmers and co-operatives to join hands in establishing the institution. In order to build the initial capital for establishment, prospective members have been encouraged to invest R600 ($59) each after which time they will have full access to the comprehensive range of services that the bank will offer.

“With an experienced board of directors and a well trained staff complement, the bank will have on tap a wealth of agricultural specific financial expertise for members to utilise. A thorough understanding of the challenges facing emerging farmers and how to solve them is what makes this bank unique,” Mthombeni explained.

AFASA have recognised the need for easily accessible branches for all members, the absence of which has historically been a major cause for the failure of numerous co-operative banks formed in South Africa.

“The bank will launch branches in all the districts of the province, depending on which area is more active as a matter of which one will start first.  It is expected that not less than 300 000 farmers will be able to benefit in the next five years within the province,” Mthombeni added.

Through proper organisation of co-operatives and holistic support of smallholder farmers, AFASA aims to follow the path of countries such as Kenya, Italy and Brazil, whose co-operative movements are widely recognised as the most successful in the world.

From a global perspective, the importance of co-operatives can be highlighted by figures from the International Co-operative Alliance which show that their combined turnover totals some US$2 trillion annually, and in August 2005 a new Cooperatives Act (No.14 of 2005), based on international cooperative principles, was signed into law by the South African government.

The Act sees a major role for co-operatives in promoting the economic and social development of South Africa, in particular by “creating employment, generating income, facilitating broad-based black economic empowerment and eradicating poverty”, a sentiment which is at the cornerstone of AFASA’s constitution.

History demonstrates that white co-operatives played a significant role in the South African agricultural sector during Apartheid- in 1993 there were about 250 of these cooperatives with total assets of R12,7 billion ($1.26bn) and a total turnover of R22,5 billion ($2.2bn).

“Black farmers did not receive the same form of support, and this has led to them not being able to meaningfully participate in the mainstream economy,” said AFASA Secretary-General Aggrey Mahanjana.

“Therefore servicing these people and co-operatives while equipping them with the financial support they need to make a living for themselves and meaningfully contribute to the economy is a top priority for AFASA and South Africa as a whole,” Mahanjana added.

Mahanjana believes that provision of finance should not be the only support mechanism for smallholder farmers and presents what he terms “the wagon holistic approach” to farmer support and development.

“The approach places land and infrastructure at the centre and lists other support mechanisms such as logistics, market intelligence, business knowledge and networking to maximize profit and growth,” he explains.

With the right support, a lucrative potential market lies in wait for the developing farmers of Mpumalanga, who are delighted at the concept of the new bank.

Johnson Mtshali, who owns eighteen cattle on a farm in the Western Mpumalanga town of Emalahleni, believes that the institution will give him the financial support he needs to get his cattle-farming venture off the ground, while giving him access to the market.

“I have been struggling here and don’t have the right business knowledge to make a success of my life. I need a place where I can go to for financial support and to learn from people who have been successful in the farming industry so that I can achieve my dream of becoming a prosperous farmer. It has been very difficult to understand everything I need to do to get to that dream,” Mtshali said.

Dennis Nkuna, a farmer from the Nkomazi Cotton Farmers Association in Steenbok, highlighted the independence of the new institution as a major advantage.

“This is a great idea. We will be able to have ownership, access finances and loans in our own co-operative bank; I believe this is a remarkable step to greater things in the agricultural industry,” Nkuna said.

With AFASA’s innovative concept of a bank fully dedicated to assisting co-operatives and facilitating the province-wide boom of developing farmers, they seem to have tapped into something truly special, and much more importantly, sorely needed.

As Mahanjana concludes: “We cannot remain subsistence farmers. To contribute to food security in this country, we will have to become commercial producers.”

Mpumalanga

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nextgen_cassava_logoCassava is an important staple in sub Saharan Africa and provides daily calories for about 500 million. It is a generally hardy crop that thrives in marginal environments where other crops may fail due to drought, poor soils or other abiotic stresses making it a premium food security crop. Cassava is fraught with myriads of diseases chief of which are cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD), both viral diseases. CBSD is a huge threat to the entire cassava growing African nations because there is limited or in some cases no known sources of resistance in the cassava germplasm. It is spreading like wild fire from its hotspot zones of eastern Africa to central Africa and a debut in West Africa will pose a phenomenal disaster for West Africa especially in countries like Nigeria and Ghana where it is a major food. There are other important diseases like cassava bacterial blight (CBB) and pests such as cassava green mites (CGM) among others.

image_galleryThe Next Generation Cassava Breeding (NEXTGEN Cassava) project aims to significantly increase the rate of genetic improvement in cassava breeding.The project aims to test a new breeding method known as Genomic Selection that relies on statistical modeling to predict cassava performance before field-testing. Cornell University researchers has partnered with other scientists at cassava breeding programs at NaCRRI; the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), both in Nigeria; as well as the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research and the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE-JGI) of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, both in the U.S. NEXTGEN Cassava is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which donated $25 million, and the UK Department for International Development.

Chiedozie Egesi is an assistant director and head of the cassava breeding team at the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, Nigeria. He has led efforts at developing and releasing to Nigerian cassava farmers several improved varieties of cassava including pro-vitamin A cassava. His research activities involve the use of cross-cutting biotechnology tools in the genetic improvement of cassava including transgenic technologies. Chiedozie supports several African NARS cassava breeding programs in developing adaptive breeding schemes. He has worked previously as a university teacher and a yam breeder and have participated in the development and release of 6 yam varieties. The following is an interview he did for the magazine.

What is the importance of cassava on the African continent and the globe as a whole?

Cassavafarmers_nigeria_obisike.Tufan_Cassava is the African crop par excellence in terms of the number of people who depend on it daily for food and livelihood. Its advantages include the ability to store the roots in-ground for up to 2 or more years enables piece meal harvesting. Even though it contains cyanogen compounds these can easily be removed as the roots are processed into ready to eat forms. The cyangogenic compounds in turn protect it against animal attack. It is also an important raw material for starch and flour. It is excellent in the starch and flour yield per unit area surpassing most carbohydrate sources. It is also has potential use in biofuels.

What is open data?

Open data is the state of making all data freely available for use by any interested member of the public without restrictions. This is an adherence to what is called the Toronto Agreement on prepublication data release to foster transparent and accessible data sharing for the good of the public. It is important that the huge datasets being generated by the use of modern technologies in science are put together in standardized formats for unrestricted access by all who are interested.

What is the significance of data within the agricultural sector?

Scientists and policy or development workers make decisions daily based on available data. The quantum of information being generated in recent times will enable agricultural scientists make better decisions that will in turn benefit millions of people going hungry daily. Open data for agriculture will increase agricultural efficiency globally.

What implications would open data have on Africa? 

Open data for Africa means that African scientists will have access to Agricultural data generated by the developed countries. These data should be stored in databases that are easy to use, access, and with tools that will enable their utility in developing countries.

What challenges does this initiative face?

Challenges for the use of open data in crop improvement will include the ability to manage the huge data sets that are now available and how to make use of them to the benefit of mankind. Digitized agriculture should be the way forward in enabling higher precision research with most likelihood of success.

Manchester_Free_Trade_HallManchester Trade has had two decades of successful business in Washington, DC, providing strategic trade and business advisory services to domestic and international clients in areas such as trade negotiations, export development, investment promotion, and legislative advocacy. Their Principals and Associates work closely with clients to advance domestic and global business and policy interests in the U.S. market and abroad. Stephen Lande is the President of Manchester trade and is a distinguished international trade expert in the United States. Mr. Lande has been involved in international trade since the 1960s He had a twelve year career with the Office of the United State Trade Representative as the Senior Trade negotiator and the first of a long-line of Assistant USTRs. Mr. Lande has negotiated many bilateral and multilateral trade agreements on behalf of the US Government in Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean.

Welcome to the interview Mr. Lande. I would just like to start by asking you what AGOA is?

Lande2AGOA: African Global Opportunity Act. It is considered a flagship program of the U.S. in terms of our economic relations with Africa. It was developed, actually, by the Clinton Administration, in the last century! As an old program, an in one sense maybe not, it went into effect in the year 2001, it has received bipartisan support; meaning support from both Republicans and Democrats. It is mainly a Tariff Preference Program. Tariff preferences are generally available to developing countries. It is usually subject to conditions and limits. The U.S started a goal with the theory that we should designate every product for duty free. We didn’t quite make it. We missed a couple products, but particularly some agricultural products that we can discuss later.

I recently read a document stating that Manchester Trade has some recommendations to improve AGOA. What might those be?

Well, a lot depends on how you define AGOA: If you define it as a program that provides market access, obviously we have several recommendations but they are more limited. If you describe AGOA as being the US approach to Africa, then we can go beyond market access to include provisions which promote U.S investment, which supports regional infrastructure, which a real necessity in Africa as you know that now. (And) We support regional integration and relationships to developing pre-trade agreements common markets, giving Africa the required economic space to operate.

As far as improvements go to AGOA. Using the same standard I will explain a few. For the market access provisions we basically suggest three proposals. We suggest that AGOA be extended indefinitely. Meaning, the trade preferences be extended indefinitely for two reasons: number one, when the provisions are allowing Africa to use fabric or to incorporate fabric, produced in the Far East, which is only available- no other country can do that. A lot of people can import apparel to the U.S duty free, but they all have to use their own FRAVRIC. Very few can use the very competitive Far East Fabric. That was to expire, if I remember correctly, in October 2012. And it took us up until the last second to get it renewed. Well, by that time people cancelled their orders, they said “Wait a minute, I have a Christmas order coming in on December, I don’t know whether to pay Duty or not… How can I import those products?”. So you had what was called the ‘cliff’. What we argue is that we should make things permanent so that we don’t have the ‘cliff’.

Also, what happens when you negotiate a free trade agreement (negotiate reciprocity), you don’t increase duties, you keep your zero duties in place but you get paid for them. That’s what is called reciprocity; the other country reduces duty. So, at the end of the day you have a free trade agreement where there is no duties on either side. So that is why, by extending it duty free indefinitely, but also saying that we are going to give you a hiatus of ten years because of your development, because of the fact that in order to negotiate as a group, you have to be unified. That takes ten years to put (together) the reasonable economic communities. The African Union has a proposal for a continental free trade agreement. The Abuja treaty, which kind of regulates economic integration within Africa as an African common market, also to be completed at the end of the decade.

So what we basically say, is let us first extent the duty free treatment indefinitely. Let’s give Africa ten years so it can complete its own regional integration and then Africa should be strong enough as a group to negotiate with the U.S. Since duties don’t go up, the permanent duty free remains in place, the only difference is that Africa gradually gets to begins to provide the same rights to U.S duty free imports. 

Can we talk a little about the Trans-Atlantic South Partnership?

Well, that is one of our ideas, we appreciate the question. As you may know, the Obama administration has two major trade initiatives: One is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is designed to bring, I believe 18 countries that boarder the Pacific, not necessarily right on the border because some of them are inland but we still use that language. And this specifically based countries either in Latin America; so we include countries ranging from Chile, Peru, on up to Mexico. Canada now has joined too. To countries in the Pacific area including going as far as inland as Malaysia. But these countries have got to a Free Trade agreement.

Similarly, we are negotiating an agreement with the Europeans, called by what you had said the Trans- Atlantic South Partnership, in short we call T-TIP. So, we have TPP negotiations and T-TIP negotiations. Well, I looked at the map the other day, I didn’t have anything better to do, and guess what I discovered? That the Atlantic is a big ocean, but to be honest, it’s only the North Atlantic that separates the U.S from Europe, and the South Atlantic separates the United States from Africa. So, we said, “Okay, I’m very happy so let’s call it what it was, I would call T-TIP, TN-TIP, but I don’t wanna go there because that name has already been given by people, so they can keep it… so, why don’t we then put together, well, Manchester Trade said, why not put together something we call the Trans-Atlantic South Partnership. Which, in fact, if you look at the growth rate of the country is probably more economic promise in the Trans-Atlantic South than there is in the Trans-Atlantic North, or the U.S/ Europe Free Trade Agreement. So we say, “what should we include in it? We are not ready yet for Reciprocal Duties, We are ready for making AGOA permanent, we are ready, certainly,  to work together with the country to eliminate barriers to U.S trade. ” So, there is a number of things we can do in the TASP which are similar to perhaps a little more development, perhaps moving into a few more areas than the T-TIP, but certainly not having yet the free trade component that we have, or the Custom Union support.

The document states that the EU is part of a problem to this reform. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

You did read the document, I’d like to point that out, that you asked all the right questions. So, this is the challenge, and it’s a hard challenge. The problem with trade policy and the reason it puts everyone to sleep, the concepts are not very hard- it’s not nuclear science, it’s just that you have to go through all these long tedious stories to explain what happened so you can get to where we are today. Many years ago, two things occurred: number one, the Europeans, back in the 1970’s, they decided that they were going to come up with an agreement with their former colonies, which took place at the Lome Convention, where they were going to get back reciprocity. They were going to give them duty free treatment. And the U.S said “no, no, no, no that’s not how we picture it, these preferences should be given unilaterally, you’re not supposed to get a special position, or a special foothold in your market so that it gives you an advantage over everybody else, and so on.” So, we had a big fight with the Europeans, and we won. What we agreed was that one would have a system they called the Generalized System Preferences (GSP) where you would include all preferences, all products to the extent necessary, all developing countries that meet your criteria and you would not ask for Reciprocity. There would be non-Reciprocity.

This system worked well until the beginning of the century. Because, in the meantime, the Central Americans were very upset, because the Europeans had a number of “Regional Agreements” and the agreement with the African-Caribbean Pacific states were not subject to GSP. The old GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) was really a general agreement to talk and talk because there was no way to enforce a decision. If you found someone that was violating it then, big deal. I remember, when they formed the WTO after 1994; according to those dispute agreements, even if the people disagreed with you, but if you lost a case you were out or you would have to change your trade law or be subject retaliation. So, the Europeans kept losing the trade laws because ACP is not a generalized system it was only available to former African colonies and specific colonies of Pacific Africa and the Caribbean. The U.S wanted to do something for Africa so we got a WTOA, but the Europeans didn’t want that so the Europeans told the ACP countries that they either had to sign a Reciprocal agreement (not outlawed by the WTO), or they would lose preferences. Based on that history the Europeans were able to sign with the Caribbean countries possible because there were no Least Developed Countries (LDC) in the Caribbean, except for Haiti that had its own special interests, but they couldn’t sign with Africa!

Africa has two types of countries; they have those which do rely on the special preferences of loamy????, but there is another group of countries and I probably should have been done with that in my introduction, which are called Least Developed Countries, counties with a General Per capita income of less than 1400 bucks, they had to have a certain low on the human value poll and so on. There is a way to measure it. You had to provide duty free treatment for all LDC’s countries. So, you end up with this problem, on one hand you have some African countries that are going to lose market access but are not least developed. The Europeans end up saying “if you do not sign, they put a date on it- 1st October 2014- , if you do not accept agreements with us by that date you’re going to lose preferences.” So, we feel “wait a minute, that’s crazy. Since you are a common market and you hope to be a single market, you are moving in the right direction, you are partial already; why are you telling Africa it has to sign an agreement ahead of time?” We are saying to the Europeans; “forget it, you wait- give Africa ten years to form their Customs Union or their Free Trade agreement and then then they can negotiate with you as a group.” The Europeans are saying, no, we have to finish by this given date. We asked for a WTO weaver, we got it, they never asked for a WTO weaver.

Part of the tactical approaches that you’re looking at to further the Trans-Atlantic South Partnership is reconstructing the market access provisions, promotion of U.S investment in Africa and Regional integration. Can you tell us a little bit more about those approaches?

One idea I would like to put on the table is that we should renew AGOA; renew the preferences permanently but indicate that after a ten year period, if they are to continue, there has to be some kind of Reciprocity when you negotiate with Africa as a whole. I said when we began, that some things you can say are AGOA measures and some things you could say are beyond AGOA. I always like to say you need a coordinator, I don’t care if it’s with AGOA or not, that’s just wording. [They have various committees]. I don’t care if we have separate legislation or not, you may need it, it’s the requirement of the system, every committee has legislation, every committee has its jurisdiction. But what I do care (about) is that you coordinate this on the top. Maybe by the speaker himself, maybe by ranking leader of the majority, I don’t know. Maybe you do it with the Committees themselves, with the Chairman and the Ranking Member, the ranking member means the person from the other party that has the leadership role. Republicans control the House so every single chairman is Republican, and the Ranking Member would someone the Democrats have chosen to kind of be the alter-ego, so that’s what I mean by Ranking Members. So, again, what we have basically argued is even though there are different pieces of legislation they should be coordinated; either by the Committee Chairmen as a group or by the Speaker of the House, open issue and so on.

The U.S doesn’t have much money, but we do have off budget funds which we call Export/Import Bank. OPIC- Overseas Private Investment Corporation, we have these funds and the U.S Trade Development Agency. OPIC is the most exposed to Africa. What we are basically saying is what can we do in our program to increase the amount of money that can be loaned and the effectiveness of that money. So that is one important ingredient. Another agreement I mentioned is that we don’t want the Europeans to keep pushing their Free Trade agreement because they will get a Free Trade agreement other countries will be piling on. I mean, you’ll never have to have an independent African trade agreement anymore. So part of our proposal is that you work within the T-TIP framework and you try to develop agreements like I said earlier.

We have a big emphasis on working with equity funds, because we think that that is where the investment is coming in from for Africa. That is what now collects money from small to medium sized investors, so we have that possibility as well. We have been arguing very specifically for agriculture. There are three products that Africa produces in great number which are currently subject to Tariff Rate Quotas. Which means that if your traditional supplier, within the traditional amounts, you can chip inside the Tariff Rate Quota. However, with your new supplier you have to chip outside the Tariff Rate Quota. The problem is, and I will use tobacco as an example, that in tobacco if you are an AGOA beneficiary you ship for nothing under the Tariff Rate Quota. If you have to pay a duty it is about 6%, meaning for people that don’t have AGOA benefits but they get it. But if you’re an importer, like an African importer that doesn’t have a tradition of being in the market, they don’t a market share of the Tariff Rate Quota, they have to pay a duty of 350%. So, that is a very specific example, the same is true for sugar, the same is true for ground nuts or peanuts. What we would like to see happen, is that we would like these products of interest to Africa to be granted duty free treatment just as if they were an LDC. 

Would you like to make any comments about Regional integration?

We touched a little bit on it earlier because we did mention the need for the Europeans to give up on reciprocity, to try to push the Europeans, and to try to energize the Africans to finish these agreements. One thing people have to realize is that there are two things involved when it comes to Regional integration, one is easier than the other: The first thing is the absence of obstructions –you can’t have tariffs every ten minutes along the way- you can’t have arbitrary import charges you’re not expecting to be levied on you. So we have been pushing for negotiations that eliminate the tariff barriers between countries and addresses the non-tariff measures. We include this as an AGOA approach. The challenge is the EU is asking for Reciprocity. We have argued, and we are suggesting, is that the way you solve the problem is like I said that under my task you negotiate under the context of the T-TIP a common approach to Reciprocity in Africa with the Europeans.  And that is how you begin to solve the problems; that is what we are recommending.

We have spoken a little bit about the shortcomings of AGOA and the tactical approaches that Manchester Trade plans to implement; I was wondering if you could comment about any foreseeable challenges?

Well, we have got a lot of challenges: number one is the Congressional agenda which is always full, so it is very hard to include these ideas. Number two is the fact that some people who have current benefits are nervous they are going to lose them even though there are only four or five countries who export apparel under AGOA. South Africa is the only country that is in many different product groups which is representative of its development level. On the whole, countries are not benefiting from AGOA. It’s not bad, it delivers a message to the importance of the private sector, it delivers messages for good governance (you have to have them in order to be eligible), but it’s not generally as effective as Chinese program. So we are trying to convince people that they should push it.

I don’t know how the AU is going to come out, but I think what is very important is that President Obama, on two occasions, while he was in Africa, talked about the need to improve AGOA. So, that is already on the agenda. The question is what ideas do you need to improve it, and I think that is what will be researched and available well before. When President Obama was speaking to the Africa press or the African young businessmen, he looked at Froman, his USTR (United States Trade Representative), and said “Mike over there is going to begin this process of the AGOA forum.” The AGOA forum begins in August 2013 in Addis, and that is why it is so important that the Africans get together a position and they propose it in that particular meeting.

In your opinion, do you see a bright future for the African Union playing a positive role in this?

Yeah, because the movement, the evolution is from small to larger groups, that is what we saw happen in Europe. A lot of resistance was in the beginning when they had six members. Now, it has 28 members and growing and certainly with power. There are always all kinds of fringe issues but there is no question that the AU will increasingly become more enhanced.

You mentioned that you are particularly interested in agriculture; why that sector more than any other?

Well, I have two answers for you: first, even though by 2023 the actual population in the rural areas will is going to be less than the population in urban areas, there is this movement going on and it does call for increased productivity in the agricultural section because we have less people working there and yet there will be more demand. That is why I think we need to keep on focusing on agriculture. Two, you have these three strange items which because of the Trans operation of the TRQ system Africans are denied benefits. That does not make sense. Obviously AGOA is designed to modify, during a period when something happened domestically, but there is no right to just say I can permanently give it to you. So that is what are arguing for. The U.S hasn’t said “no, they won’t do it.” We are just arguing and we will see what happens.

ebrahim-rasoolAmbassador Ebrahim Rasool is South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States of America.  Some of the positions he has held are Member of Parliament in the National Assembly, Special Advisor to the State President of the Republic of South Africa and Premier. He has also received several leadership awards including; the Visionary Leadership and Public Good Award from the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, and the Award for Commitment and Leadership in Fight Against Crime from Business Against Crime, the Foreign Direct Investment Africa Personality of the Year Award, and the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. Africa Agribusiness was able to catch up with him and ask him a few questions.

What impact do you think that AGOA has had on South African Trade relations?

I think that trade relations between the US and South Africa is largely driven by AGOA at this point. We have exports from the US to South Africa that is worth 7 billion dollars. We export 8.7 billion dollars’ worth of goods largely through AGOA so we actually have a trade surplus with the Unites States. If we were to look at the 2010 figures, we have seen an 11% growth in jobs in South Africa because we export to AGOA  and in manufacturing GDP we have seen a 2.78% increase. I think that AGOA is the main instrument of trade between South Africa and the United States.

South Africa sends about 2000 products to the Unites States via AGOA; some of them raw materials, some of them agriculture, some of them manufacturing, and so on. But I think that the impact on jobs, the impact on the GDP from the 2010 figures is the enormous one and the fact that we have a trade surplus with the United States.

 

Do you have any suggestions to AGOA to better serve its purpose?

Look, I think that a country like South Africa has obviously taken good advantage of AGOA because you get many countries that only export oil or only export some raw materials or just two or three products; South Africa exports 2000 products. We think there is still some protectionism by the US. For example, we’re not allowed to export canned peaches to the United States because I think the farmer in Georgia won’t be happy with the competition. I think that we export lots of agricultural goods but we face many non-tariff barriers; so the goods can come in but, for example, sanitary barriers are still there. So, for example, the US makes some of our fruit wait for 24 days when they could qualify for 22 days, so the shelf life diminishes. I think those are the kind of issues we would raise. And the last one is that we really need certainty with AGOA. We can’t wait until the last moment before it is reauthorized otherwise we will really lose orders. For example, if AGOA is to be reauthorized in 2015 it would be really good if in the middle of 2014 we had a sense of how AGOA would continue.

 

What other improvements do you think can be made to better support the South African environment?

I think that we want the range of products to be increased. Like I said, we export 2000 of a possible 6000 products. South Africa can increase the number of products except that the US sanitary regulations keep quite a few products out, so it is through non-tariff barriers, in tariff barriers it’s allowed in but in terms of non-tariff barriers it’s kept out. I think an example of such a product would be sugar; the sugar market in the US is being protected by keeping sugar from South Africa out of it. We can understand some of those restrictions, we have tried to be very sensitive to the US market. And so, for example, our largest agricultural product that we export to the US under AGOA would be citrus- oranges and we send that only when California and Florida in off-season. We are very sensitive to the US market. We are not here to squeeze out Florida or Californian’s oranges, we just want to be in the gap period so that the US market can have access to oranges all year around.

We would also want to improve AGOA by increasing the range manufactured goods, beneficiated goods, to the USA. And so we are working on a very important project; say, for example, Boeing. Boeing is helping South Africa turning Titanium ore into powder, then we export that. So that creates more jobs in South Africa. So, I think we really need to increase our product range, we need to overcome some barriers here and we need to increase the proportion of manufactured goods within that product range. But I think overall we are very proud of our achievements in AGOA. I mean, every C-Class Mercedes Benz and every 3 series BMW you see driving around in the US is made in South Africa and it comes to the USA via AGOA. We of course also have our wines.

 

A lot of people believe that regional integration is crucial in achieving the goals of AGOA and various national needs. In your opinion what is the importance of regional integration?

I think that Africa and the African Union has understood the critical importance of regional integration. I mean, we often do more trade with Europe than we do with Africa. So, intra-Africa trade is very low, it is only 12% of the total continent trade. The reason is not that we don’t want to talk to each other, that we don’t want to trade with each other, the reason is that the infrastructure doesn’t speak to each other. We don’t have railway lines and road networks that connect Africa. We have railway lines and road networks from the mine to the harbor. That is only designed to take goods out. So, even if sometimes a country wants to send a product to another African country it will probably have to go via a European country to reach another African country.

So, with regional integration, the political will is there now; three regions East Africa, Central Africa and Southern Africa have all signed an agreement to integrate. Now, we need to build the infrastructure to assist that integration. I think that offers the US enormous benefits because it will not have to negotiate market prices with 54 countries, it can now begin to negotiate market access with Africa and have cheaper rates. I think that is very important but part of the things we are trying to persuade the US of is that even with South Africa’s success under AGOA we should still have a role to play after 2015. To exclude South Africa would be a big mistake because, while for example a country like Congo may send a few products to the USA such as rubber, it would first have to send it to South Africa to turn into tires, these tires would be put on the Mercedes or BMW and then they would be sent to the USA. The same goes for leather seats; the hid may come from Botswana but it must be sent to South Africa to be turned into leather and then made into car seats. You can look at South Africa as the factory of the continent. If you eliminate South Africa you will hurt the continent because then what do the other counties do with their raw materials.

 

One of the problems you mentioned was infrastructure, what do you think can be done about, not just infrastructure, but also any other problems that may hinder integration?

President Obama was in South Africa recently, one of the calls that was made was for him to support integration efforts in Africa. He is willing to do that. And we have all heard this announcement about Power Africa; how the US wants to make sure that one component of infrastructure, namely the supply of energy can be taken care of. We want the US to play a more active role in the overall infrastructure campaign; building roads, building railway lines, building harbors,  building airports, etc,etc. Also in the soft logistics: How do goods pass over borders? Trucks should not have to wait for two days at the border post because the products lose shelf life. So I think there is a major role for counties like the US to come in and help build our infrastructure. And companies in the Unites States, we just got a major contract with our locomotives that is being supplied by General Electric. The deal we made with General Electric is that we need 100 locomotives, we need 10 urgently so build them in the US and send them over, the [other] 90 we can set up a plant in South Africa and our people can assemble them. So, I think we are beginning to find creative ways of helping out.

 

Which other areas in South African sectors do you think could do with further improvement?

Other than the infrastructure as a location for investment there should be, across Africa, but in South Africa as well, manufacturing capacity. We have got the gold, we have got the diamonds someone needs to get into jewelry making. We have got agricultural products; how do we increase our juice-making capacity? How do we improve our canning? How do we add value to our different raw materials because Africa will not create significant jobs and skills unless we go to a higher level of operations and it takes a certain number of workers to mine, it takes a few workers to harvest, it will take a whole lot more workers to add value to the agricultural products. I also think that we also need assistance in the knowledge economies. We need counties like the US to help us set up astronomy schools and to bring the ICP companies into Africa to assist us with the technological revolution. Another example is the cellphone revolution people are doing their transactions on their phones, they are not even going into banks anymore. So I think that investing in infrastructure, manufacturing and technology would greatly assist help.

Most importantly, Africa will have 50% of the world’s population under the age of 35 in two decades. We need the world to come and invest in our human resources, to come and give skills to those young people, otherwise they will be guns for hire for any fundamentalist or extremist cause in the world. We need people to get scholarships, we need people to come and set up universities on the African continent, we need the highest form of skills to be developed. Those are the four main areas of investment that not only South Africa, but the rest of Africa, require.

 

Can you please discuss how South Africa benefits from its frequent association in the media with the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China)?

We live in a globalized world so globalization doesn’t respect national boundaries. Goods move at the push of the button, capital moves at a flick of a button, crime is transnational, trade, investment, everything is transnational. So the only way you can get protection in the world is to be associated with other similar countries, we see that if we are too dependent on Europe and America when they go into a recession we lose jobs in Africa. Not because our economy is bad or our banks are weak, we have the strongest banks in the world in South Africa, but we lost a million jobs because we are too dependent on Europe and the United States as our export markets. So need to find other trading partners and investment sources. We also have to find other developing economies in a similar situation to us and that is where Brazil comes in, where Russia, India and China come in, together with South Africa and other countries like Turkey, Indonesia, Mexico and others, we are the emerging economies/ markets in the world. I think that because we have similar conditions, we have similar problems and similar dependencies we now know we can’t put all our eggs into the Euro-US basket. Now we are trying to shift our eggs a bit into Africa and other emerging markets. That really is the major reason for South Africa’s association with BRICs. The second reason is that at the time when the US for example doesn’t have disposable investment income and is scared of Africa and their media only tells negative stories about Africa no US investor is bold enough to go and see for themselves or invest in Africa.

China has seen the opportunity in Africa and I always tell the US that China is there in Africa because the US isn’t. If the US was there, we would want the competition, we would want to have choices, we don’t want to make another mistake and put all our eggs into the Chinese basket. When the US deals with Africa they have all these preconditions; democracy, human rights, etc. The problem is they still trade with the Middle East and none of those conditions are insisted upon. So, why insist on it with Africa? And then you also complain when the Chinese come and invest in Africa? So the point that I’m making is that China has been a wonderful source of capital for the continent which bought our resources, although we would prefer to sell them manufactured goods. Africa has growing needs and beggars can’t be choosers.

 

In your opinion, how do you think South Africa could better attract US investment?

I think that there are so many studies that show that Africa is the next frontier and so we just need the US to pause for a bit and to look at Africa with different eyes; to see it as a continent of opportunity and not a country of problems. I think that is what President Obama was trying to signal when he went to Africa in June. The second point I think that we need to make is that the rate of return of investment in Africa is more than anywhere else in the world. If you invest there you get 8% returns. The global return is 3%, the US return is less than 2% so business sense would say you have got to be in Africa. I think we will even make it easy for the US to come into Africa by suggesting that they should come in via South Africa because South Africa has the second best banking system in the world. South Africa has the rule of law firmly entrenched, it’s got an internationally recognized legal system; if you transact in South Africa you can be pursued anywhere in the world. It’s got great ease of doing business, its good a comparably good lifestyle; any of your managers would love to live there. So, come to South Africa; we also have good companies who can hold your hand and take you to other opportunities on the African continent. That is why South Africa is referred to as the “gateway” into Africa. We are trying to make it as easy as possible.

 

How is South Africa received in other African countries?

I think that South African farmers are leading the agricultural revolution on the continent. We are going in there, helping to bring tracts of land into agricultural production. I think in much the same way, our retail sector is expanding into the rest of Africa. The converse is also true, we have some middle class Africans who come to South Africa to do their shopping. So, I think that South Africa is fairly well received; I think the fact that Africa voted for a South African to head the African Union is a major vote of confidence in the role that South Africa plays and people recognize that NEPAD (New Economic Plan for Africa’s Development), the AU have been worked on very hard by South Africans. And, South Africa has enormous credibility in Africa because we are the ones facilitating peace talks, keeping peace and conflict resolution as well as post peace reconstruction in Africa. So I think South Africa has a good reputation on the African continent. However, we are aware that we must remain humble, that we must not be the Big Brother that I think people fear. South Africa can be regional super power.

Lastly, the role that South Africa plays in Africa, and the role that Africa plays in the world has been brought to the fore a lot in the last few weeks when Nelson Mandela was in hospital. We have seen the whole world unite in thought and prayer around Nelson Mandela and think that we see him not only as a South African but as an African and I think that if Africa could produce and person of that stature, then I certainly believe that the world should now be ready to embrace Africa as a whole, especially its economic opportunity.

 

This has been very informative, thank you very much for your time.

Questions for South Africa’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, The Honorable Tina Joemat-Peterson

In November 2011, Africa Investor (AI), an international investment and Communications group, named you the recipient of the Africa Agriculture Minister of the year award as part of their annual AI Agribusiness awards. In your opinion, what have been some of your ministry’s most notable accomplishments since you took office in 2009?

00023467_0Our administration invested a lot of work towards the establishment and maintenance of domestic and international markets. Moreover, we sought to open new markets in regions like the South and Central America and the rest of Africa. The benefits of these engagements have been astounding.  We have seen trade with countries like Mexico, Argentina and Brazil increasing significantly. Our membership of BRICS is also expected to lead to further gains in terms of trade and investment with countries that share the same philosophies and vision.  BRICS represents a block of countries that are destined to occupy a higher ground on economic growth and development terms going forward and we intend to maximize the benefits of being part of that collective.

 

Another notable achievement is the success we have had in halting job losses in agriculture. In fact, Statistics South Africa, the national statistics agency of the Republic, recorded a 87 000 growth in jobs between the second quarter of 2011 and the fourth quarter of 2012.  This is a remarkable achievement, especially at a time when global demand was still fragile due to the economic meltdown in many parts of the world.  It is through our efforts to open up new markets in other developing countries and our commitment to supporting growth of the smallholder farmers in the country that we have managed to achieve these results.

Shortly before commencing my term of office, our country had drifted to becoming a net importer of food.  This of course was a major cause of concern for the current administration as it would leave us vulnerable to unfavorable movements in global food markets and in so doing threaten our food security situation.  Today, however, we are proud to say that we have managed to reverse that situation and have become, once more, a net food exporting nation.

Although I do not have the exact statistics at this point, allow me to also mention that we have gradually increased the number of black smallholder farmers in the country.  This we have done through ensuring that they have access to technical support and finance.  Access to finance has always been the smallholder farmer’s biggest constraint but, working with the Land Bank, a state owned development finance institution, we have ensured that financial products tailor made for the needs of these farmers were developed and made available.

In some instances we have worked with the private sector to foster partnerships that will further develop smallholder farmers into prosperous entrepreneurs. A case in point is the partnership with Walmart/Massmart, which has seen to the development of smallholder farmers in Limpopo. The farmers were equipped with skills, training, finance and access to markets.  Similar projects are in the pipeline for other parts of the country where the retailing giant has operations.

Since 2009, we have signed memoranda of understanding with several countries in the African continent. This is in line with our objective of increasing trade and engaging in mutually beneficial development programs with other African countries. We signed the following:

Centre for Coordination of Agriculture, Research and Development of Southern Africa (CCARDESA).The Memorandum of Understanding, the CCARDESA Charter, was signed in Pretoria on August 2011 and launched in Gaborone, Botswana July 2011. The purpose of this Charter was to provide Member States with a framework for the establishment of a sub-regional organization that will coordinate agricultural research and development (R&D) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Seed Harmonisation Regulatory System was signed in Windhoek, Namibia during the Council of Ministers meeting in November 2010: The purpose of the MoU was to regulate the movement of seeds in the region, seed certification and phytosanitary measures for seeds. It is aimed at providing member states with a legal framework to cooperate in the implementation of the system.

The Minister hosted, in Johannesburg, the African Ministers’ Climate-Smart Conference in preparation for the COP17 Conference that was to be held in Durban, South Africa. The Minister was also instrumental in the development of the African position on agriculture for COP17 .

Bilateral engagements include the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville): Heads of State Summit for the Three Rain Forests Basin held in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) on 31 May to 3 June 2011.An agreement in the field of agriculture was signed in October 2010, the purpose of the agreement was to maintain and strengthen their bilateral relations in the field of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Abuja, Nigeria from 8 to 10 March 2010: High level Conference on the Development of Agri-Business and Agro- Industries in Africa. The Minister met with her Nigerian counterpart and discussed the potentials of the two countries’ agriculture sectors, with Nigeria interested expressing keen interest in developing her agro-industries and agro-processing. South African agro-processing and agro-Industries are encouraged to invest in Nigeria.

South Africa is among the 26 nations to be signatory to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP). The primary goal of CAADP is to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture. In order to achieve this goal, the CAADP agenda aligns itself with the Maputo Declaration that called for African nations to increase public investment in agriculture by a minimum of 10% of their national budgets and to raise agricultural productivity by at least six percent.  Has South Africa achieved this commitment? What would a 10% increase in public agricultural investment mean for the average South African farmer?  What programs has this initiative funded?  Can you briefly describe some of its successes?

The Department is currently undertaking a budget tracking exercise to determine allocations to agriculture and rural development across the three spheres of government. I am confident that this will reveal that South Africa is investing heavily in these areas, although the national budget of the Department does not constitute the 10% target.

While not contesting the target set through the Maputo Declaration, it should be noted that in the case of South Africa, the primary agriculture sector contributes between 2.5% to 3% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and it may therefore be difficult to justify an allocation of at least 10% of the national budget to the sector.  The situation is made even more complex in a country that is still burdened by the legacy of apartheid that manifests itself in high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

The CAADP agenda outlines certain strategies that should be employed in order to actualize its goal of reducing rural poverty. Strengthening the capacities among the agribusiness community is listed as one of these strategies. How has your Ministry improved the agribusiness community’s ability to operate in South Africa?

Agribusinesses in South Africa are doing relatively well, although like all the other industries, they have also in some ways suffered the consequences of the global economic meltdowns of recent years. Within the CAADP processes, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries consulted with agricultural industry stakeholders to make inputs on how the CAADP agenda should be shaped in South Africa. There have been two consultation meetings with civil society organisations. The agribusiness community in South Africa is a vibrant one which adds significantly to the country’s economy. Various departments, such as the Department of Trade and Industry, have established incentive schemes to promote agribusinesses as part of building rural economies. We also strive to maintain acceptable turnaround times in our regulatory services to keep the costs of doing business as low as possible for agribusinesses in the country.

South Africa helped lead the way to the establishment of the Centre for the Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa (CCARDESA). The stated goal of the CCARDESA is to secure regional food security through research and innovation. The Centre intends to focus primarily on improving the agricultural practices of smallholder and small commercial farms. What has been the impact of the CCARDESA on smallholder and commercial farmers, thus far? How does your Ministry ensure that the research findings and suggestions of the CCARDESA reach the average South African Farmer and the agribusiness community as a whole? 

CCARDESA was only launched and implemented less than a year ago. So, it is too early for us to assess its impact. South Africa has been invited to serve on the board of CCARDESA through the leadership of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).  A regional planning workshop is being conducted by the new board of CCARDESA to identify and agree on priorities for the year as well as to ensure clear alignment to CAADP multi-country productivity programmes through research.

While giving a speech marking the establishment of CCARDESA, Botswana’s Minister of Agriculture remarked, “the issue of food security is particularly challenging to our region because despite the various challenges we have, the region is endowed with reasonable resources, that if put to good use, can change the situation.” How far is South Africa from achieving food security? What role do you see for South Africa and its neighbors in achieving food security?  Could increasing trade within the region assist all parties involved in reaching their agricultural needs?  Do you believe increased regional agribusiness related trade and investment could provide more jobs to South Africans? 

We are on the verge of taking a Food Security Policy to Cabinet, which will respond to both national and regional concerns about food security.

South Africa is food secure as a country, however up to 13% of citizens experience food insecurity for a number of reasons, including lack of income due to the high levels of unemployment, inadequate storage facilities and distribution networks.  It is with this realisation in mind that we have embarked on programs aimed at increasing household food security in the country.  In this regard, we are actively assisting smallholder and subsistence farmers, particularly in the former homeland areas with potential for production.  Our target is to put one million hectares of land with potential for agricultural production, into production within the next few years. This year farmers will be harvesting the first crops from this programme, which has proven to be successful and well received.

Agriculture and agribusiness have been identified in the New Growth Path as key jobs drivers, and the National Development Plan envisions up to 1 million new jobs in these sectors by 2030. Regional trade development is part of this, as is expanding trade especially with Brazil, Russia, India and China in the context of BRICS.

Leading up to last September’s global climate-change meeting in Durban, your Ministry fought hard to ensure that agricultural issues occupied a main part of the meeting’s agenda. The Mail & Guardian, a South African newspaper, quoted you as stating, “Feeding our people at a time of climate change is the real challenge. As long as agriculture is the sector that is most vulnerable to climate change, we will always have a responsibility to mobilize the rest of the continent.” How has your Ministry promoted sustainable agricultural practices in South Africa and on the continent? How has your Ministry acted to prepare for climate change events in terms of food security? 

We are currently conducting research which installs bio-digesters on farms owned by small-scale and subsistence farmers in the rural areas of one district in the country.  The project enhances household food security and job creation and promotes rural development by providing alternative sources of energy. The project has training and capacity building components to it that are aimed at improving its sustainability in the long run.

We have legislation and policies that are aimed at addressing the sustainability of agriculture in the country. Chief among those is the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA) 43 of 1983, whose objective is to conserve agricultural resources.  A number of programmes focusing on the maintenance of the production potential of the land are implemented.  The LandCare programme is aimed at optimising productivity and sustainability of natural resources to enhance greater productivity, food security, job creation and better quality of life for all and identifying measures to address issues of LandCare including mitigation and adapting to climate change. Under this programme we are encouraging best farming practices such as diversification, selection of crops with shorter germination period and shorter growing season as well as developing new breeds for livestock and crops in order to adapt to the changed environment particularly in dry land farming areas.

We are currently conducting a climate change research project which analyses an ensemble of present day and future climate simulations with the aim of determining the crop suitability of selected crops for the South African region. This analysis has the potential to identify regions where temperature related events can negatively impact crop production.

Agricultural production is risky as it is very sensitive to the extreme weather and climate conditions. The sector continues to be affected by the impacts of natural hazards due to the frequency of extreme weather and climate events. The expected impacts of climate change make it even more vulnerable. It is in that light that among the Departmental programmes early warning system for natural hazards disseminates warnings and advisories in line with the expected weather and climate conditions for prevention and mitigation of disaster risks in accordance with the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002. The disseminated information includes the suggested strategies for day to day farming activities including sustainable agriculture.  We continue to raise awareness on the impact and benefits of climate change to minimize the impacts of climate change in agriculture, forestry and fisheries production and productivity due to unexpected climatic hazards. We are currently developing a climate change adaptation and mitigation plan which puts emphasis on adaptation and mitigation measures that can assist to adapt and reduce vulnerability to climate change and improve productivity.

How has your Ministry worked with potential private investors? Have you had any investors that you would like to mention and do you have any stories of their successes? 

The National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) works closely with private investors such as farmers, exporters, farmer organisations, retailers, and agro-processing firms, on a number of issues that call for collaboration. Mention has already been made of the partnerships that have been created with Walmart/Massmart.  There are other similar partnerships that we are actively pursuing with various private sector partners that we may not divulge for confidentiality purposes at this stage. The Walmart/Massmart project addresses everything that smallholder farmers require in order to be successful and have sustainable businesses.

The Department also participates in a public private partnership, which is led by the office of the President of the Republic of South Africa, President Jacob Zuma. This PPP promotes food production, especially in rural areas and on under-used communal land.

Can you recommend any agribusiness related activities in South Africa that would be open to private investors and that would be profitable and most beneficial to South Africa’s people?

 South Africa is full of opportunities. There are many agriculture related opportunities that one can think about. One that I can think of is increased capacity in the soybean value chain. This is in line with the fact that South Africa produces and exports soybeans while importing soybean oilcake. The second to consider, which is more long term, is increased capacity in the mohair and wool value chains considering the proportion of raw wool and mohair that this country exports. Increased production of products such as paprika, cotton provides good opportunities to investors.

There are many such opportunities, and the area of aquaculture already mentioned is just one of these. Other areas of development include bio-fuels industry.  The promulgation of a blending mandate will offer huge opportunities for the development of this industry.

On February 28th, 2013, you gave a speech on the occasion of BRICS provincial Road show in Kimberley, Northern Cape Province. In this speech you mentioned many of the international trade advancements and knowledge sharing South Africa is making with fellow BRICS members.  You mentioned taking inspiration from urban gardens in Brazil; how much of South Africa’s food needs do you think an initiative for urban farming could achieve?

There is great potential in this regard, although it will not, on its own, solve the problems of food insecurity. What it does do is provide fresh food, mostly vegetables, which are often the missing ingredients in a nutritional sense. It also serves to develop among children an interest in agriculture, which will help build the next generation of commercial farmers.

During the February 28th speech, you also mentioned South Africa’s work with China via the Understanding on Agriculture Cooperation and the Cooperation Exchange in Aquaculture Mechanization agreements.  Do you see South Africa’s growing relationship with China as a key to achieving food security and economic growth?  In the long run, how do you see this partnership growing?

In 2012 we hosted a delegation from China and among the issues that they were interested in, is agro-processing. Their visit was coordinated by my department. This year, our colleagues will reciprocate that visit by travelling to China. This is to make sure that we create a platform for forging a clear understanding of each other’s capacities and to learn as much as we can, where possible.

In your BRICS speech, you also noted South Africa’s strong brand recognition in fellow BRICS nations.  Do you see this brand awareness in other non-BRICS countries?  How has your Ministry worked to promote the South African brand abroad?

The Department has offices in non BRICS countries such as the USA, Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland as part of ensuring that South Africa is part of the global business network in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. Part of the mandate for these offices is to promote the SA brand whilst pursuing market access for our agricultural, forestry and fisheries products. We hope to open more foreign offices as part of our broader ambition to become active players in the global marketing chains.

What do you see as a role for Western-based agribusinesses in South Africa?  Is South Africa open to Foreign Direct Investment and partnerships between local and foreign companies in its agribusiness market?  Can you briefly describe any such current arrangements?

I suppose that a number of direct foreign investments in the food industry are viewed in perspective of their agricultural potential. The deal regarding Walmart/Massmart and its small scale grower scheme should be considered in this light. Foreign direct investment is always a good indication of the environment (country’s prosperity) and is accepted regardless of the country of origin as long as it will be customised to assist government deliver on its socio-economic commitment to the people of our country.  We always encourage joint ventures between local and foreign companies whenever such possibilities arise.

Thank you very much for your insights.

US-Africa-Business-Summit
Washington, D.C. (Aug. 13, 2013) – The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) will convene its 9th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, IL, Oct. 8-11, 2013. The Summit is the premier event for finding and building partnerships with as many as 1,500 government and business leaders from the U.S. and Africa, as well as from Europe, Canada and Asia. Since 1997, CCA’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit has been regarded as an essential conference for anyone looking to do business in Africa.

“As perhaps the last emerging market on the planet, the continent is full of countries with the chance to develop the future, as no country has, through renewable energy, new ways of developing crops and through new infrastructure,” says CCA President Stephen Hayes. “For the United States, the 2013 U.S.-Africa Business Summit is the place to begin to synthesize those ideas into our own thinking and our own future, as new relationships are built in Chicago, and new ideas for the future emerge.”

A packed three-day event, the Summit will include over 32 workshops and plenaries, a trade expo and numerous special round table sessions, highlighting Africa’s most promising sectors, including agribusiness, infrastructure, energy, health, ICT, finance, capacity building and security. The conference will also focus on building new partnerships through exclusive networking events, including a Welcome Reception at the Art Institute of Chicago on Tues., Oct. 8, and a Sunset Cruise on Lake Michigan, Thurs., Oct. 10.

Other unique offerings include country-sponsored Doing Business Forums, which delve into the trade and investment opportunities offered by specific countries. As many as ten countries will be featured, including Ghana, Ethiopia, Mozambique and The Democratic Republic of Congo.

The campaign to host the event in Chicago was championed by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. The location enables CCA to connect with hundreds of Midwestern companies that are ready for new markets, and are especially strong in the fields that favor American investment. “This region is where the strength of American investment and global agribusiness rests,” says Hayes.

Attendees will meet potential business partners and learn more about the Obama Administration’s new Africa-focused initiatives, as well as details on the continent’s important position in the global economy. Participants will have the opportunity to network with key African and U.S. private sector and government representatives, identify specific growth areas and hear detailed information about projects that are ripe for investment.

The Summit is sponsored by Chevron Corporation; Exxon Mobil Corporation; Dangote Industries Limited; Symbion Power; AllAfrica Global Media; The Boeing Company; General Electric Company; Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc.; Groupe Jeune Afrique; Heirs Holdings, Ltd.; South African Airways; Acrow Bridge; Black and Veatch; Development Finance International, Inc.; Novus International, Inc.; Philips; U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention; Wal-Mart; Business Books International; Covington & Burling LLP; Dentons; DLA Piper; EMEA Finance; SAP Africa; Africa Agribusiness Magazine; Afropop; Bloomberg Businessweek and FT’s This is Africa.

For more information about the U.S.-Africa Business Summit and to register, visit http://www.africacnc.org.

About The Corporate Council on Africa

The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) is a nonprofit, membership-based organization established in 1993 to promote business and investment between the United States and the nations of Africa. CCA is the premier American organization devoted to U.S.-Africa business relations and includes as members more than 180 companies, which represent nearly 85 percent of total U.S. private sector investments in Africa. CCA’s members range from America’s smallest to largest corporations. They represent a diverse pool of industries from more than 20 key sectors, including agribusiness, energy, infrastructure, security, power, healthcare, telecommunications and finance. Learn more at http://www.africacnc.org

The Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) in Ethiopia—the birthplace of coffee—is the largest organic coffee exporter in the world. The union collects six types of high-quality, organic Arabica coffee beans, all with distinctive and highly desirable flavor characteristics, from more than 250,000 farmers across the Oromia region.
In only 15 years OCFCU’s exports have grown nearly a hundredfold, with sales of $40 million, making it the largest coffee producer and exporter in Ethiopia. Key to the union’s success has been to link Ethiopia’s smallholder farmers directly to export markets. The prior central auction marketing process did not allow for quality distinctions.
Beginning in 2000, ACDI/VOCA, a nonprofit development organization, aided the young cooperative union under a USAID program, training cooperative members to improve coffee quality and productivity, and working with farmers, processors, exporters and others to strengthen the overall coffee value chain in Ethiopia. Improvements included creating a system of traceability to guarantee coffee quality from farm to cup.

The general manager of OCFCU, Tadesse Meskela, recently reflected on the pivotal capacity building by ACDI/VOCA and others that spurred OCFCU’s growth. As one of the four panelists at a learning event held in conjunction with ACDI/VOCA’s 50th anniversary in June, he discussed his experience as a former aid recipient and recounted OCFCU’s progress. AAM sat down with him after the learning event for his perspective on capitalizing on export markets, effective marketing and next steps in helping the Ethiopian coffee sector to flourish.

AAM: What led to your cooperative union’s success over the past 10 years?

Tadesse Meskela:

The key to success is promotion. As soon as Oromia was organized as a cooperative union, the challenge was getting the market. Tadesse at the learning event
With support from ACDI/VOCA, we came to San Francisco in 2000 [for a Specialty Coffee Association of America conference] with 146 kilograms of different coffees. Roasters took the coffee for free, cupped it and found that our coffee is the best.

It was eye-opening for us to learn how the coffee industry works in the West. Before that, we didn’t have any experience and did not know how coffee is consumed in the developed world. After coming to San Francisco we identified how people care for the product and what kind of certifications are required. In the first two years Oromia participated in the specialty coffee conferences with support from ACDI/VOCA. Since 2006 we have financed ourselves by renting a booth with fair trade coffee buyers.

The other thing is training—training to all the farmers. When we participated in the specialty coffee conferences we got feedback on the quality of the coffee. Based on this we trained our farmers so that the quality of the bean improves. In the 2012 Coffee of the Year competition, coffee from Oromia was the first out of 250 different coffees.
This is all because of the feedback we got from coffee roasters and the training we gave to our members to improve quality.

What are some of the current challenges for the cooperative?

Mainly finance.
We do have banks [OCFCU recently created its own bank, a great benefit to its members for much-needed preharvest financing] but still to capture the value chain, cooperatives have to receive all the product from their members, which would be facilitated by access to finance.
The other thing is capacity building. We have to train farmers from year to year. It’s not a one-time job, it has to be continuous. ACDI/VOCA supported us in the beginning. We have done a lot with ACDI/VOCA, but these trainings have to continue. It’s a dynamic process—training, awareness creation for farmers to get organized to come out of poverty—it’s very important. This is has to be accompanied by finance; they have to come together.

What are the techniques you’ve found most successful for training?

The way we communicated to members at the beginning of ACDI/VOCA’s intervention was through bringing in volunteers [ACDI/VOCA’s expert volunteers serve on short-term assignments that complement long-term projects] to talk to the farmers; so that has to be there.
We also use video classes on cooperatives to change the minds of farmers to enable them to come together, because we used to have bad cooperative experiences during the socialist regime, where farmers had no control over the product or pricing. So by the time we started with ACDI/VOCA, we had to educate farmers and show them how to change their lives through cooperatives by capturing the value chain, the comprehensive process of producing, processing and exporting.

You mentioned in ACDI/VOCA’s learning event that cooperatives receive 250 percent more by participating in OCFCU as opposed to selling to middlemen. Can you give an example of what the price difference would be for an individual coffee farmer operating alone?

Tadesse and an ACDIVOCA employee tasting coffee in Ethiopia

Especially during the time of the coffee crisis, 2000, when the price was at a three-year low, 4 cents a pound, [by participating in the Oromia Cooperative Union] farmers were getting more than double what they could get on the local market. Even now they are getting more than double because we certify the coffee organic fair trade and trace all of it to the cooperative. So the certification creates an additional price over the quality. We are also given a quality premium from our customers because our coffee is always top of the top. These together give our coffee a higher price and make us able to give back dividends to the unions. So this is how the lives of the farmers change.

And also through the fair trade premiums [an additional payment above the market price that must be spent on social and economic development in the producing communities], we build schools and other infrastructure. We’ve built 14 elementary schools, 10 high schools and more than 100 clean water supply programs. All in all, we have done about 226 different projects from the fair trade premium—success we got by creating quality and sustainability and supplying good quality coffee to our customers.
Our relationships with our coffee roasters and buyers, who started buying coffee from us in 2002, are now family-like. They visit us every year or every two years. We visit them. They give us feedback and based on the feedback, we train farmers. Our relationship is very strong.

What do members do with the extra money?

You can’t say the money the farmers are getting is beyond their expenses, because farmers are living hand to mouth. The price of coffee is going up and down, so with the extra money they get they send their kids to school, they buy good food for their families, they change their houses from thatch to corrugated iron.

A farmer sorting coffee cherries in Ethiopia

What do you think are the current constraints in the Ethiopian coffee sector?

The government needs to support characterizing the different coffees in the country. This has to be given a big emphasis, so that the country—and we—can win in delivering the high premium prices in the international market.
The biggest concern is agronomic. In most of the rural parts in the country the coffee is getting older, and there should be a stronger extension activity around agronomic practices. In the 1980s we had a coffee improvement project funded by the European Union for maybe eight years. That brought a drastic change to the Ethiopian coffee industry, with nurseries to raise coffee trees, training for farmers and stamping the old trees. This really has helped the industry. But since the culmination of the coffee improvement project, these programs are not there. So we have to work harder now.

Watch Tadesse Meskela and others discuss sustainable economic growth in developing countries at ACDI/VOCA’s learning event, “Moving Forward Together” here: http://www.acdivoca.org/site/ID/Video-50-Anniversary-Learning-Event

Photo by Fintrac- ICT Helps Farmers Increase Productivity
Approximately 870 million people in the world remain hungry. Moreover, 98 percent of them live in developing countries. The world’s population is projected to exceed nine billion by 2050, requiring at least a 60 percent increase in global food production. Under the aegis of Feed The Future, the US government’s global hunger and food security initiative, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) created a new program called Feed the Feed The Future: Parterning For Innovation and selected Fintrac, a woman owned and US-based consulting company that develops agricultural solutions to end hunger and poverty, to implement the program. Partnering for Innovation was launched in the fall of 2012 and will make approximately $50 million in grants to businesses, research institutes, universities, and other organizations by 2017. The program specifically looks for proven technologies that can be commercialized into new markets with a goal of helping smallholder farmers, especially women – who make up 43 percent of agricultural labor in developing countries – increase their efficiency and profitability in a commercially sustainable way. “Our grants program helps create incentives for companies by reducing the risk of entering into a new market,” said Brenna McKay, Grants Program Director for Feed the Future: Partnering for Innovation.

Partnering for Innovation funds technology grants through a process of two requests for concept papers a year, called “Expressions of Interest.” The program is currently accepting Expressions of Interest though July 31. Partnering for Innovation funds pilot testing and demonstration of proven technologies in new markets through one-year grants, as well as larger multi-year grants to bring a technology that has proven promising in a market to commercial scale.


Examples of technologies targeted include:
Photo by Fintrac-Drip Irrigation  Technology is a Solution for Many Smallholder Farmers
• New seed varieties
• Biological pest management products
• Animal genetics and vaccines
• Drip irrigation and water harvesting systems
• Production and postharvest mechanization
• Postharvest and value-added technologies
• Internet and cell phone technology


In addition to grantmaking, Partnering for Innovation is developing an online presence to share models and effective examples of agriculture technology innovations. Some examples
highlighted to date include:

Tractor brings banana plantlets to the field for transplant.

John Deere

John Deere started a tractor-equipment promotion program in Zambia in 2010 for maize farmers as a way to boost the output for smallholder farmers. Deere provided selected farmers with three-year loans to purchase tractors and equipment and gave them extensive training in how to provide services to other farmers. Of the 18 original participants, two have repaid their loans early and the remaining 16 are on schedule to pay off their loans. An unexpected outcome from this program has been more than a doubling of tractor units sold in the country outside of the program itself.

Blue Skies Holdings, Ltd.,

Blue Skies Holdings, Ltd., a fresh fruit processing and exporting company located in Ghana, is an outgrower scheme that has several unique features including: (1) locating its processing facilities close to its producers; (2) creating relationships with its outgrower farmers built providing reliable technical assistance and a market instead of producer contracts; (3) paying farmers within 14 days of receiving the product; and (4) monitoring and continually improving agronomic practices through training.Blue Skies employs 1,600 workers in its processing facility and works with several hundred smallholder farmers as commercial producers. It runs a state-of-the-art processing facility where hundreds of local employees clean, cut, process, and package fruit to meet the strict retail standards of the European Union (EU). The processing facility sources fruit from Ghana as well as from nine other West African countries to fill off-season production gaps and keep the plant running at capacity year round. An information and communications technologies system tracks seasonal planting, fertilization, pest management, and harvesting schedules. It also manages transport, airfreight, and departure and arrival schedules with its customers. “We didn’t start Blue Skies to be philanthropists. We give people work and pay them fairly,” said the founder of Blue Skies, Anthony Pile. The company accounted for more than 25 percent of Ghana pineapple exports in 2012. Blue Skies employs more than 2,000 seasonal workers, its management team, including the plant general manager, is 40 percent female, and on average Blue Skies’ smallholders earn the highest returns per hectare in Ghana.


Examples of Partnering for Innovation’s early grants that have been awarded in the past three months include:
Photo by Fintrac-Pest Managment Reduces Crop Loss
Supporting Purdue University to introduce its low-cost grain storage bag (known as“PICS” or The Purdue Improved Crops Storage) in Rwanda to improve smallholder storage practices and reduce postharvest storage losses. Purdue, which has successfully brought its hermetically sealed plastic bags to 10 countries in West Africa for cowpea storage, under this grant will work with Kigali-based EcoPlastics—a commercial producer, distributor, and recycler of plastic products—to provide production and marketing capacity-building services for EcoPlastics to introduce the PICS bags for new crops such as maize and bean.

Another grant supports Driptech, a US company with offices in Pune, India. Driptech produces affordable, high-quality irrigation systems designed for smallholder farmers. The company distributes its products through local input agriculture supply shops, commercial exporters, and nongovernmental organizations. Founded in 2010, Driptech’s innovations include a process to produce low-cost plastic tape that delivers uniform water flow using a patented laser hole-punching process, and an easy-to-install “dripkit in a box” that can be installed in as little as three hours. This system is specifically designed with the smallholder farmer in mind. Driptech has begun working with two distributors, Champion Agro and The Global Green Company, plus a network of 250 independent dealers to begin to reach some of the estimated 600 million smallholders in the Indian market. “Ninety percent of the world’s farmers are small plot, meaning they work on five acres or less. Drip irrigation, which already existed, is the best solution, but everything on the market was too expensive,” said Driptech founder Peter Frykman in a recent article in Forbes Magazine. “In designing for emerging markets, you have to be excruciatingly sparse,” he added. Thus, Driptech’s mantra is “radical affordability.”

Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, and Partnering for Innovation is funding the World Cocoa Foundation and its partners (including the Grameen Foundation and mobile phone company Orange) to provide farmers with the know how they need to increase their yields, quality, and income. In Cote d’Ivoire, a pilot for the new CocoaLink+ mobile platform will enable lead farmers called community knowledge workers to provide their neighbors with up-to-date agronomic information on pest and disease control, purchasing and using inputs, planting, postharvest handling, and other practices that improve yields and quality. CocoaLink+ goes beyond SMS mobile extension systems by allowing for multimedia access for demonstrations of plant care, geographically specific guidance on procuring quality inputs, access to pest management services, and tracking of farmer productivity from season to season. In addition to local delivery of extension information, cocoa farmers who subscribe to CocoaLink+ will receive and share practical information with industry experts via SMS text and voice messages in local languages.

Photo by Fintrac-Healthy Cows Increase Dairy Productivity• Working with PortaScience, Inc. to improve milk productivity and quality for smallholder dairy farmers in Rwanda with an inexpensive and easy-to-use udder infection detection technology called UdderCheck™. The dipstick allows farmers to more easily and inexpensively detect mastitis infection early on and reduces the extreme losses in milk that result from late-stage infection. When dipped into fresh milk, UdderCheck detects an enzyme, Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH), which is present when cells are damaged due to infection. In two minutes, the strip, which costs less than $1, will change colors to indicate moderate, high, and very high levels of LDH infection. In Rwanda, it is estimated that mastitis losses amount to more than $400 per cow per year, amounting to a total annual economic loss to the country of $3.5 million. With an increased number of smallholders owning dairy cows, early low-cost detection of udder infection is critical to the viability of the dairy industry.

According to Partnering for Innovation’s Director, Bob Rabatsky, “There have been many changes in agriculture in the past two decades, and in the next two decades Africa is going to be a good place to invest in agriculture. I have no doubt it is the sleeping giant.” Partnering for Innovation aims to help those who offer the base of the pyramid market with financing and other assistance to jumpstart their agriculture technology sales. For more information on Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation,
visit www.partneringforinnovation.org.

Written By Deborah B. Hamilton, Communications and Knowledge Management Lead, Feed the Future: Partnering for Innovation
All Photos by Fintrac, Inc.

WomanFarmerWithSeedsIt is a widely agreed and accepted fact that Africa is a continent positioned for growth as never before. As the second largest continent on earth, and home to more than a billion people, it boasts a vast and highly varied plethora of fertile ecosystems, including mountains, grasslands, lakes, savannahs, tropical rainforests and volcanic calderas. Africa now heralds itself as the newest beacon of explosive economic growth and prosperity.

Only last month, U.S. President Barack Obama met with leaders from four African countries: President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde. They met to discuss strengthening democratic relations, increased good governance, sound management of public funds, transparency and accountability from elected officials and much more. In general, the big picture was focused on promoting economic opportunity on both sides of the water and African leaders heartily supported doing so, not just in their own countries, but also across sub-Saharan Africa.

While it is also agreed that the continent presents a unique set of challenges, as Angelle Kwemo tells us in “Cameroon – the gateway into the Gulf of Guinea region,”  she also reminds us that “there are many policy challenges and institutional barriers to overcome.” There are, however, also many Africans now enjoying a certain degree of economic liberation and hopefully, these numbers will soon be increased. Yet, we also know, that there remain many who are not. With regard to agriculture, many famers could stand to win big and reap plentiful benefits by increasingly learning to better leverage their resources when entering this new market-driven economy—and especially women.

Africa is booming but in terms of agriculture, the noise seems to be getting a lot louder. Additional proof? The World Bank’s recently released “Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness.” This 120 page report predicts that Africa’s agricultural sector could command a US$ 1 trillion presence in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 if African farmers have increased access to financing, new technology, irrigation and fertilizers, and can upgrade their techniques and practices.

According to the report, “agriculture and agribusiness together account for nearly half of GDP in Africa. Agricultural production is the most important sector in most African countries, averaging 24 percent of GDP for the region.” They see a growing demand in both domestic and global markets, in spite of Africa losing out competitively against countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand.

Yet, realizing even the most basic benefits for Africans such as increased food security and health, (along with income and prosperity) also means realizing the importance and necessity of inclusion for all stakeholders in this vast sea of changes taking place today.

If Agriculture is taking center stage, who’s at the center? Smallerholder farmers. Who’s at the center of the center? Women. Women are the backbone of African agriculture (and of the world, in general). Women are major stakeholders and their voices should be included in the discussion forming the policies that will directly affect them.

A key challenge and recurring theme, and especially for women farmers, has been one of inclusiveness, after all, women farmers do make up 70% of the smallholder farmers in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda as recently reported in AAM by Katie Campbell, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA in “Farmers have their Say on Agricultural Investments.”  Ms. Campbell reports on the 2012 annual CAADP Africa Forum, the theme of which was “Farmer Organizations as the Vital Link to Equitable and Sustainable Agriculture Growth in Africa.” Attended by more than 300 participants, from 46 African countries (mostly farmers), it was the first to be hosted entirely by farmer organizations.

Recently CAADP, joined by women from Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda as part of a campaign, encouraged African governments to invest in women smallholder farmers. When referring to women farmers, Campbell reveals that smallholder farmers “usually…do not know how to ask the government for what they deserve, but that with this training they now will be able to advocate to their officials. As one female farmer reported, “We hear of seeds that the government gives out but we haven’t been able to get them. We are now preparing ourselves to be able to engage finally.” Women are reaching out, engaging and asking their elected officials the what, where and how of ways they can succeed.

This is where governments and investors can truly get involved in bringing about the changes they want to see, giving birth to ideas that can bring to fruition to the many initiatives surrounding food insecurity, improvements in health, decreases in poverty and the overall well being of the peoples and the continent. And there is also that extra-added benefit: There happens to be a lot of money to be made in the process.
Another organization working assiduously to help educate and engage women farmers is ACDI/VOCA, a U.S. development organization specializing in broad-based economic growth. As you’ll learn from their article in AAM, “Sell More For MoreTM: A Clear Path For Helping Farmers Access Better Markets and Earn More Income,” [Link to article] ACDI/VOCA shows how crafting this system of innovations engaged impoverished farmers by developing their farming skills and helping them access profitable markets.

Sell More For More™ shows how training 60,000 farmers in Rwanda in post-harvest handling and storage, resulted in quadrupled income for some: “Suddenly, for the first time in her life, Odetta had more money than she needed.”  Sell More For More™ was recently awarded a Best Practice and Innovation award by InterAction, a large alliance of U.S.-based NGOs.Opportunities Industrialization Centers International (OIC International), an organization founded in 1970 and headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, operates both in the U.S. and several African countries and also offers a number of programs which work closely to advance the prosperity of women farmers. Their goals include improving production and sustainability, helping provide women farmers with better seeds, improved livestock and in obtaining the much-needed skills needed to start their own small businesses. As ActionAid USA, OICI and many others firmly believe, African agriculture only stands to benefit through including farmers, farmer organizations, and especially women as true stakeholders into this unfolding dynamic. If investments are truly to succeed, for all involved, inclusion is key if not mission critical.

As Angelle Kwemo, President at A StrategiK Group LLC (and former Legislative Counsel for Congressman Bobby Rush), notes during a recent interview with African Connections, a U.S. Department of State podcast channel, “Ten years ago, nobody had the data to really determine the impact of the role of women in the economy, but it’s clear that if you empower women they have a direct impact on the community. Eighty-five percent of their income goes to the family compared to men, which is only 40 percent.”

Ms. Kwemo also offered the following advice toward further growing women’s roles: “You have to train them, educate them. Many people don’t know this, but 85% percent of the cocoa farmers in Ghana are women. Give them the tools and the technology and help them learn how to manage their farms, their accounts, their budgets and even the micro loans.” There are an abundance of organizations that have initiated and developed powerful and successful programs dedicated to advancing farmers and women. They are zoning in with a laser-like focus on forming new partnerships for future development opportunities with Africa that will help the country further harness its potential and empower the next generation of leaders. It may go without saying, but increased prosperity and well being for women means increased prosperity and well being for all.

How can and will you play a more integral part in this evolving process of increased economic prosperity—for the continent, for women and for all?