Think local rather than global markets in agriculture programmes

In West Africa, the food economy has changed significantly in the past two decades and more and more local and regional markets are meeting local food needs. In fact, only6.5% of the total food demand was met by imports in 2015. This local trade is replacing the export of raw agricultural commodities. This shift has also seen an increased demand for local food processing and distribution enterprises, contributing to job creation in urban and rural areas. Instead of food production being the main source of incomes and trade for people, marketing and processing of agricultural products now make up 40% of the value of the total food economy in the region.

The West African agro-processing sector primarily consists of micro and small enterprises which are often family operated and informal. These enterprises are involved in the production of agricultural inputs, small-scale commercial farming, agro-processing including wood and textiles, manufacturing or trading machinery, and provision of support services such as packaging, transport and finance. Their production processes are frequently artisanal, involving limited mechanisation and standardisation.

The above example is drawn from our recent policy paper which considers the role that agricultural transformation could have in catalysing broader economic transformation and poverty alleviation.

One of 4 key findings in this paper is that for agriculture transformation programmes to be socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable, they need to focus on local, national and regional supply chains in the agri-food system instead of global supply chains. These have, by far, the greatest potential to create decent work and entrepreneurial opportunities for Africa’s growing rural and youth population.
Importantly, these have much higher potential than production for global export where the primary focus is on integrating local producers and industries into global value chains. It is, however, the latter which is often the focus of most government, donor and NGO initiatives. Continue reading “Think local rather than global markets in agriculture programmes”

Considering agriculture transformation in our livelihoods work

For practitioners implementing agricultural livelihoods programmes, the term agricultural transformation can appear of little relevance at first, belonging instead to the world of diplomats, technocrats and high-level policy negotiations or national development planning.

But could it hold value for us?

Our recent research process which culminated in this policy paper would suggest that yes, it could. Continue reading “Considering agriculture transformation in our livelihoods work”

New pathways out of poverty in Africa: the promise of sustainable and inclusive agricultural transformation

You may have heard buzz words like ‘economic transformation’ and ‘agricultural transformation’ in government speeches, the media or (if you’re a bit of a policy wonk) if you follow some of the discussions at the AU, UNECA or regional bodies like SADC.

These are two key priorities for many African governments (and donor organisations) who are desperate for the continent to get on a new development path with greater levels of industrialisation and more job opportunities. This  new discourse  is therefore important for civil society organisations  to understand when we are designing and seeking to fund agriculture programmes. Continue reading “New pathways out of poverty in Africa: the promise of sustainable and inclusive agricultural transformation”