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Opinion and comment from Future Agricultures researchers on agricultural politics, science and society in Africa.

Brazil, China and Africa: options for adaptive cooperation in agriculture

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May 31 in Hot topic 0 Comments

By Prof Qi Gubo, College of Humanities and Development Studies, China Agricultural University

Novel partnership structures in agriculture were discussed in the May 2012 workshop in on South-South cooperation for agricultural development in Africa, though much further exploration and analysis is needed. A good starting point for guiding multiple actors to work together is to compare the experiences from China-Africa and Brazil-Africa cooperation in agriculture.  Meanwhile, existing cooperation between countries should be assessed from the various perspectives of institutions, beneficiaries and participants.

A variety of learning approaches and cooperation methods should be up for discussion, including mutually beneficial partnerships which go beyond traditional top-down development aid.

Experiences from China and Brazil are also to be shared more with African countries as an alternative to standard bilateral cooperation.

For example, following the success of its own food purchasing programme, Brazil will provide 2.37 million dollars for a food purchasing programme to benefit small farmers and vulnerable populations in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Senegal, to be carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme.

Following China’s own development experiences, the country has sent agricultural experts to African countries to provide training and work with others to solve problems identified by local people. The Chinese government has trained 874 agricultural technicians since 2009, and with multilateral cooperation, it has dispatched over 700 agricultural experts to eight African countries under the UNFAO ‘SPFS’ framework.

These are just a couple of examples of providing support to African countries through Brazilian and Chinese experiences.

China’s own experiences of smallholder-led agricultural development could also be used as a reference, but this still needs to be adapted to apply to the different conditions of African agriculture, with large areas of arid arable land, poor production and low-level agricultural infrastructure, and limited access to a stable and sustainable market. Existing African regional agricultural development programmes such as CAADP and FARA could be appropriate platforms for extending horizontal South-South cooperation and adopting useful experiences from other countries.

If this new approach could be labeled as adaptive cooperation (based on experience sharing and the construction of new partnerships), this implies a wide range of choices for different countries. Whatever these alternatives may be, mutual respect is essential - as is a demand for cooperation from within African countries themselves. The considerable impact of market forces is unavoidable - but it should also be possible to integrate the views of government and civil society into the process.

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