E-debates

Picture 137Future Agricultures Consortium recognises the importance of debates in shaping the future of livelihoods in Africa. In order to raise the profile of important topics surrounding agriculture, the Consortium and its’ partners are increasingly promoting these electronic discussions.

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Shellemiah O. Keya
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

During this last contribution we bear in mind the important recommendations emanating from the conference. Let us also be cognizant of the fact that to realize the green revolution actions on the recommendations can only take place at the national level. This means that effective partnerships must have the national players at the center. In this regard I would like to offer you the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) partnership model that has served the center well.

This partnership brings together the Directors Generals of NARS and they operate under an umbrella called National Experts Committee (NEC). They meet on alternate years to review the research agenda, comment on priorities and the impact being achieved. In turn NEC makes recommendations for better implementation of jointly proposed programs including, monitoring and delivery of products and services appropriate at the geopolitical level.

The NEC plays a major in advising the Council of Ministers (COM) constituted by the 22 member countries. In this way the recommendations made by NEC receives direct attention of the ministers of each country. This linkage brings together a Center, NARS DG and the Ministers of agriculture. It cultivates confidence and trust with national governments. It also ensures the proposed policies are articulated at the appropriate and highest level. Through task force and network mechanisms a wider partnership with universities, foster processes that equip those in the uptake chain with the necessary skills to bring about development impacts, reward capacity-strengthening activities by its scientists, and incorporate capacity strengthening activities that are within approved programs and projects. The goal of WARDA’s partnership is to improve livelihoods in rural and urban populations through strengthened partnerships and capacity, for dissemination of improved technologies. 

In WARDA’s view ppartnerships and coherence can be attained only when all actors in the R&D process are fully engaged in the research planning, priority setting and a transparent joint implementation of programs where the partners enjoy equal mutual respect. Methods of coordination and accountability should be discussed and periodically adjusted to suit local situations. CAADP and FAAP are beginning to provide suitable platforms for coordinating the actors at the national, regional and continental level. However, due to Africa’s heterogeneity,  actions among the key processes and initiatives going on to promote a Green Revolution requires innovative and flexible approaches. To ensure that these processes are transparent and coherent there is a need to involve law makers especially parliamentarians, nationally and across the region. Similarly new alliances are being formed and it is crucial to ensure that these too are rooted in the community where collective actions are taken.

Michael Mortimore
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

What is meant by ‘coherence’?  I take it to mean achieving a greater convergence between the following: policies affecting agriculture (including livestock production); crop and livestock producers’ livelihood goals; and supporting research and development efforts. Within this trinity, there is a widespread agreement that producers (and especially small-scale, poor producers) have too often been relegated to third place. The Salzburg report lays a proper emphasis on their full participation, notably in  

  • the Institutions and Innovations Working Group’s first recommendation to set up a farmer-owned, farmer-driven fund to direct research, innovation and development towards farmers’ needs;
  • the Markets, Trade and Investments Working Group’s third recommendation that smallholders and pastoralists should participate more in policy formation on value chains;
  • the Governance and Policy Processes Working Group’s first recommendation for non-state actors to become involved in the policy process;
  • the Equity, Rights and Empowerment Working Group’s first recommendation for collaborative partnerships between producers’ organisations, governments, NGOs, banks microfinance and international organisations.

Often repeated is the familiar expression ‘capacity building’

Achieving coherence must go beyond rhetoric. At the project level, communities and research/development agents can and do achieve coherent partnerships but bridging the gap to policy is more difficult. Policy is formulated at a different scale and the policy process (though not necessarily particular policies) has greater continuity than projects. Bridging research/ development and policy calls for continuity, financial resources, a common language, local ownership of the process, enlightened national leadership and stakeholder-based frameworks for negotiation and advocacy. In particular, scale differentiation between local interests (which may or may not achieve consensus) and national policy processes (which have to take account of interests outside agriculture or the rural sector) is a major challenge in trying to bring rural people into policy formation. The new democratic institutions associated with decentralization policies are addressing natural resource management issues (e.g., community forest management). They need to extend their remit into such areas as market regulation, price policies, and input supply. These and other policies determine the incentive structures for producers to invest in increasing output. 

Agricultural development literature has been understandably sectoral in scope, but it should not be assumed that new technologies or management systems can find their way into use without paying proportionate attention to economic or political considerations. In development practice, outside interventionists cannot directly influence policy. This must be attempted by newly-empowered communities within the existing political framework. But the local community will be listened to less, the ‘higher’ up the ladder they aim. However, the research/ development community is no longer necessarily external in personnel (though in funding, it often is). This creates a new opportunity for co-ownership of development initiatives by national or local research or advocacy institutions. 

Depending on specific conditions, mechanisms, frameworks or protocols are needed to link research, development and policy with communities in ways that avoid condescension or patronage towards local communities while at the same time recognising national versus local interests and longer versus shorter time perspectives. It seems less than ideal for this to be undertaken as a specialism rather than fully integrated with the research and development – but such integration calls for an interdisciplinary approach.

In seeking to create mechanisms for policy dialogue, two strategies suggest themselves:

  • Forums for dialogue can be convened at district or province level  – this being the ‘highest’ level  where contact between the administration and communities is still immediate, based on touring officers’ itineraries, election campaigns, government programmes and service provision, and cultural affinity between the rulers and the ruled.  Advocacy by community organizations may stand a chance of success at this level, and can be supported by indigenous research/ development organizations. Appropriate signals must, however, be passed to the national policy process. What fine-tuning of governmental procedures is necessary for such an exchange to be effective?.
  • Community organizations can combine or aggregate in a hierarchical structure whose top functionaries can press the case for policy priorities directly with the national government. This replicates lobbying by other vested interests, must be resourced and calls for political commitment. To some extent this potential depends on the size and diversity of the country in question. Senegal (for example) is small and well-integrated; Nigeria (for example) is vast and diverse.

Discussions on green revolution seem reluctant to embark on such issues, but both research and developmental experimentation is needed, country by country, to evaluate options for planting structural and institutional frameworks whose continuity can be guaranteed after externally funded projects and researchers withdraw.  The ‘capacity building’ so much favoured in the Salzburg report needs to accomplish a revolution in attitudes among indigenous disciplinary specialists (often trained abroad) who need to assume facilitative or advocacy roles alongside the communities they research or ‘develop’ in the long term.

The case for such institutional frameworks centred on agriculture rests basically in the lack of an alternative, because new democratic processes have not yet proved competence in agricultural issues – more pressing, perhaps, are political negotiations between opposed interests that have hijacked party systems. Rural people still say they feel marginalised; young adults prefer to abandon the village in favour of an insecure but perhaps better rewarded urban life. Agriculture sits uncomfortably on shifting sands of social change. The future performance of the sector, I suggest, is inevitably bound up with political realities and cannot be wholly encapsulated in a world of soil fertility, crop genetics, agronomic technologies, etc. – important though these are;

Much valuable action research has been conducted on new or adapted institutional structures in a context of natural resource management (a significant part of it supported by the Natural Resources Systems Programme of the UK Department for International Development, 1995-2006). A worthwhile objective would be to carry out a synthesis and evaluation of such work, in terms of its applicability to an African Green Revolution.

Kwesi Atta-Krah
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

I agree with all the points that Monica has raised. Additionally however, I would wish to make some generic points which in my opinion have great relevance for the process of partnerships and coherence building.

Before we can adequately address the issue of partnership mechanisms and processes, we need to be absolutely clear about the “nature of the beast” that we are eager to tame or to raise. Unless we do that, it will be a case of everything goes, and all forms of partnerships could be generated. The core essence of what constitutes the Green Revolution for Africa (GRA) needs to be adequately postulated and owned by the stakeholders. It needs to be clear what is unique about what an African Green revolution is about. Once that is known, it will be possible to clearly define the elements of what constitutes an activity in this revolution. Different kinds of activities that support the development of this revolution can then be identified and connected as part of the family of GRA initiatives.

I will argue that one of the key elements of the GRA is that it will have multiple dimensions, and will require multiple approaches and the involvement of multiple and diverse partners. It will also have elements of increased productivity and production within a framework of sustainability, resilience, and community involvement and partnerships. The GRA must not be seen as a PROJECT (in other words, it must not be seen as the AGRA project or program) – it is much bigger than a project. The GRA must be seen as a ‘revolution’ driven by a ‘movement’. As a revolution, it needs to have broad appeal and broad involvement of a range of stakeholders. It is in this context that the partnerships and coherence building needs to be seen.

Every revolution also needs a base for the purpose of coordination and consolidation. This is the role that I would see jointly played by AGRA, working in partnership with FARA. The FARA connection would help to link this revolution with the objectives and targets of CAADP and NEPAD. Partnerships within GRA must be seen both at the horizontal level (i.e. partnership among a set kind of stakeholders; for example community groups and farmers; agricultural input suppliers and dealers; researchers; etc), and at the vertical level. Vertical partnerships will involve multi-stakeholder parties, such as along a value chain for a particular commodity, or stakeholders within a targeted production system. Whatever partnerships are designed, they should not be seen as ends in themselves; there needs to be clear goal and expected outputs for any kind of partnership. The emphasis should not be on establishing ‘networks’ but rather on utilizing networking as a concept for achieving set goals. Some organ needs to drive these, and as already suggested, I would mention AGRA and FARA as best placed, along with a vibrant Farmers’ Organization.

In terms of process, I would suggest that we need to begin by having a data base of existing initiatives addressing the Green Revolution goals for each of the sub-regions of the continent. Each of these initiatives could be analysed in relation to their partnerships and functioning. Value-adding dimensions and further partnership links could be explored for each of them in order to strengthen their ability to deliver impact, according to the terms of the GRA. In this context targeted efforts must be made to get support and visibility for locally driven initiatives involving farmers and communities working with researchers and other parties in addressing the productivity and sustainability dimensions of the green revolution.

Best practices in partnerships and impact generation should also be identified and rewarded, and efforts made at up-scaling and out-scaling such success stories. I do hope these few preliminary thoughts are helpful.

Monica Kapiriri
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

Multi-stakeholder group composed of knowledgeable as well as open minded individuals, able to objectively assess, give advice, as well as represent the views of stakeholder groups they represent.  These representatives should be selected by their constituencies, and must be facilitated to ensure that they are linked and regularly informed of initiatives, challenges, issues etc, and link these to the evolution process of the GRA.

The best method to incorporate locally driven initiatives into larger alliances:

1) First there is need for a clear understanding of the local innovators and the alliance what the value addition of the initiative is to the overall alliance.

2) Issues of Intellectual property rights and compensation or award system for the local initiatives if it involves sharing their knowledge with other who may turn it into commercial enterprises…  All these need to be threshed out.

3) Linking will be easy, maintaining the rigour and sustaining the good values or products is often the challenge.  Very many seemingly successful local initiatives have been used to tap international resources by those above, promises to the local people that are not followed through, frustration and disintegration of initiatives. Therefore it is important to build the capacity of local initiators to represent themselves in the alliances, avoid middle-agents and ensure equitable distribution of benefits.

4) So if the other multi-stakeholder overseer group is formed, their role will be to foster and ensure equitable access to resources, as well as distribution to beneficiaries.  The group will also ensure that the local initiative do not lose direction as a result of being integrated in a larger alliance. As such the conditions of the alliances must be the kind that allow initiatives to retain their uniqueness, while at the same time learn and improve.

Toyin Kolawole
February 1, 2010 / Small Farm / Big Farm

The current discussion on ‘Making science and technology work for small-scale farmers’ is closely linked with the earlier debate on the appropriateness of farmers’ voices in the African Green Revolution [AGR] initiative. Essentially, the thinking of agricultural scientists and technologists will be more effectively put to use if they align with those of the smallholder farmer. As I had earlier indicated, there is the need to revisit and strengthen Research-Extension-Farmer linkage if the dream of realising a sustainable AGR is to be achieved. There are a lot of lessons to learn [either way] in the process of a 2-way information sharing within the linkage system.

Technologies that are patterned in line with the taste and capability [in terms of finance and usability] of small farmers will undoubtedly work for the purpose for which they are designed. Sincere and thorough farmer consultations by the researcher/technologist will, therefore, be needed in the design and development of any technologies aimed at bringing about an agrarian change amidst the small-holders. Aside some field experience acquired over the years, Everett M. Rogers diffusion studies have shown that innovations that are: feasible; compatible [with farmer’s socio-cultural milieu]; cost effective; socially and economically advantageous; divisible; simple [to use]; and ‘triable'[in bits] are always popular amongst the end-users, all things being equal. Previous investigations conducted by us have also shown that technologies or innovations that are [environmentally and farmer] user-friendly and result effective are an answer to farmers’ yearnings and aspirations.Considering all the above innovation characteristics in the process of technology development for the small farmer will be worth the effort of the researcher after all.

Pedro Sanchez
February 1, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

The Millennium Villages Project (MVP) is a community-based approach to achieving the MDGs. Many rural development programs have hindered their potential for success because local stakeholders did not participate adequately in the development process. A community-based approach is therefore essential for the success and sustainability of the MVP. A community-based approach is embodied in the established and known principles of participation, social and gender inclusion, equity, and local stakeholders’ ownership of the decision-making and development process.

The MVP also undertakes extensive programs to build capacity of farmers and local farmer organization. Capacity of both is strengthened by, among other things, working with farmer-based organizations and providing training to farmers, extension officers, and farmer-based organizations. MVP has also created many agriculture committees in the various clusters, and at least one at least one committee per settlement or community has been formed.

Farmers receive training in improved production and crop management techniques, post-harvest handling, construction of storage facilities, and conflict management prior to receiving agricultural inputs. In addition, learning plots are established to demonstrate agricultural techniques and practices. These plots also serve as place where farmers can engage in innovation and testing. For instance, in Bonsaaso, Ghana, Farmer Field Schools (FFS) were established to facilitate training. FFS is a participatory extension and training approach that focuses on building farmers’ capacity to make well-informed crop management decisions through increased knowledge and understanding of the agro-ecosystem. It encourages farmers to experiment on their own farms and make their own decisions based on their observations and knowledge through regular field visits and observations.

Case Study: Tiby, Mali
The Tiby Millennium Village cluster, which includes 11 villages and approximately 55,000 residents, is located in the southern region of Segou, one of the poorest areas in Mali. Food insecurity is prevalent because of sporadic, unreliable rainfall. The naturally poor soils have been further impoverished through nutrient extraction. The vegetative cover has seriously declined since the early 1970s, resulting in a loss of soil fertility and agricultural productivity.

In Tiby, a fertilizer and seed program was implemented through a program utilizing participative and transparent farmer based management. Relying on local committees composed of elected community members, farmers were given access to microfinance to purchase these inputs. The program, which utilized strong community leadership, had very successful results.

• 1,700 tons of fertilizer distributed to nearly 5,000 households feeding approximately 68,000 people
• Greater than 95% reimbursement rate managed by the community
• USD 445,000 generated and used to procure half of the rice farming fertilizer needs (750 tons)
• Significant political impact through the Government’s Rice Initiative

Steven Were Omamo
February 1, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

Question: Which of the recommendations and actions set forth in the Conference Report best achieve the goal of amplifying farmers’ voices in policy debates and decision-making processes?

While most of the recommendations and actions set forth could promote farmers’ voices in policy debate, the following recommendations are especially relevant:

  • Making policy relevant and responsive to smallholder farmers’ needs;
  • Enhancing accountability of state and non-state actors;
  • Improving access to financial resources, especially micro-finance;
  • Building capacity of farmer organizations; and
  • Taking the message to Africa,” with a focus on micro-finance organizations and extension service providers.

Question: How can we ensure that measurable targets are set for gender and equity?

Organizational culture, project and program design are the crucial entry points. The following investments have proven very effective in institutionalizing WFP’s highly successful “Enhanced Commitment to Women” policy:·

  • Ensuring that women benefit at least equally from assets created through program interventions;·
  • Enhancing women’s control of program resources;·
  • Ensuring that women are equally involved in program-related local bodies;·
  • Ensuring that gender is mainstreamed in programming activities;·
  • Conducting baseline studies in order to set realistic targets and establish a benchmark against which to measure results;·
  • Generating and disseminating gender-disaggregated data and information for monitoring and evaluation;·
  • Contributing to an environment that acknowledges the important role women play in rural economies and that encourages both men and women to participate in closing the gender gap; and·
  • Making progress towards gender equality in staffing, opportunities and duties, and ensuring that human resources policies are gender-sensitive and provide possibilities for staff members to combine their personal and professional priorities.

Question: How can we build capacity of grassroots organisations for basic skills (e.g., organisations and business skills) and leadership (to influence policy and negotiations)?

Basic skills and leadership in grassroots organizations can be most effectively enhanced if these organizations have a strong voice in all stages of project and program design and implementation. Their ownership of these processes should be explicitly enshrined in project implementations workplans, for which they should be jointly responsible and accountable. Organizations with deep field presence are well-placed to support such processes.

Question: How do we strengthen horizontal and vertical linkages and partnerships/networks with other organisations?

From WFP’s experience, local needs and constraints are the main drivers of effective horizontal and vertical linkages, partnerships and networks. Areas in which linkages should be enhanced include a range of services and support functions including: raising start-up funds, institution building, business networking and marketing, innovation and knowledge transfer, technical training, research, legal support, infrastructure development and maintenance, and community health and social services. A diverse variety of partners is needed to help satisfy this range of needs.

Question: How can we increase access to resources and services for small-scale farmers and marginalized groups?

It is crucial to integrate provision of supply-side and demand-side (or market) services and investments. Especially crucial is creation of platforms of substantial and stable demand for the crops grown by smallholder farmers, thereby reducing risks and improving incentives they face when investing in productivity-enhancing technologies and practices. WFP’s recently launched Purchase for Progress initiative is an example of the nature of such investments, which have been lacking thus far.

Question: What investments are needed in governance systems and accountability mechanisms to help farmers’ organisations become more effective in informing and influencing public and private policy processes?

WFP has found the following governance principles to be relevant and useful in its work with local organizations:·

  • Personal commitment to accountability and transparency at the head-of-agency and executive-staff levels, which creates a supportive organizational environment;·
  • A corporate policy that outlines how the organization will contribute to major equity-enhancing goals (such as the MDGs to cut poverty and promote gender equality) through standards and commitments that relate to the mission of the organization and that are commonly understood;·
  • Contractual agreements with partner agencies that further specify and concretize the standards and commitments, and the consequences of non-adherence;·
  • Guidelines that specify how to interpret and effectively operationalize the standards and commitments; and· Systematic monitoring-and-evaluation mechanisms of standards and commitments.

Toyin Kolawole
February 1, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

Clearly, development is about people. All efforts geared towards realising the potential of human personality are, therefore, encapsulated in one word: Development. Not until knowledge producers/researchers begin to reflect upon what their intentions are, it might be difficult to achieve any meaningful human progress. The African Green Revolution initiative could prove to be a significant platform for this after all. Perhaps, we need to probe ourselves and ask what on earth has become of the sub-Saharan African smallholder farmer in spite of all the scientific breakthroughs [in agricultural production] that have been achieved in the past by both international and national research centres. Perhaps, we need to ask what has been happening to agricultural productivity in Africa for the past decades. Perhaps, we need to find out where we have missed the point in bringing about food security in sub-Saharan Africa despite all the relatively huge investments in agricultural research over the years.

Perhaps, we need to gauge the feelings of small farmers on how scientists and policy makers still go about doing development business in Africa. Perhaps, academics in agriculture and other cognate disciplines [in spite of their various research findings and publications] need to sit down and think of where they have failed humanity in this respect.

That said, I think we need to revisit the modality for Research- Extension-Farmer linkage. Ralph von Kaufmann, in a way, did allude to this all important aspect in his earlier contribution. To make farmers voice heard would entail strengthening the linkage system between research and grassroots farmers. It would entail a complete overhaul of the entire system. It would entail proper funding for extension to enable it reach all the nooks and crannies of farming communities. As earlier noticed by Kwesi Atta-Kra, farmer representation may not be the ideal after all. Experience has shown that representatives have not represented well enough in time past. Majority of them have continued to defend their own interests. What then is the solution?

First, give all farmers the privilege to give feedbacks on research endeavours at all levels. And give legitimacy to this, too. This can only be achieved where the extension agency [both governmental and non-governmental] provides the necessary innovation, goodwill and leadership for this goal. By and large, strengthening farmers’ voices and acknowledging same will, thus, require some degree of humility from the knowledge producer and decision maker.

Second, Universities and colleges would need some re-structuring in the knowledge production process and also in their teaching curricula. It all about democratising knowledge production by incorporating farmers’ views and ‘research’ into formal teaching and mainstream research. This may be a challenge. But some are already starting to reform particularly so in South Africa [where indigenous knowledge is now being emphasised in schools and colleges]. To advance agricultural production and productivity in Africa, farmers and their knowledge systems need to form part of the building blocks for research and teaching in colleges and Universities. Systematising this in teaching and research will, in a way, and automatically become part of the policy processes. This won’t happen immediately but it will surely enhance the entire process in the long-run. In all, not allowing farmers voice to be heard on our path to realising a sustainable African agriculture, nay Green Revolution, is like a frog orchestra without a lead singer!

Ricardo Ramirez
February 1, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

Only the well organized, powerful farmers with good market linkages have thus far been able to make their voices heard to the extent that policies and programs are adapted to their needs. For the rest, intermediary individuals or organizations often provide the platform to enable their concerns to be heard.

If these “mediating” organizations have status in policy or research circles, then the voices may have an impact in the form of redirected programs or policies.

As others have already underlined, the active listening phase needs to be followed with action that is tangible in the eyes of farmers – not an easy task.

A recent dissertation by Sarah Parkinson on the progress of the Uganda NAADS program emphasized how farmers perceive the new program offerings on the basis of deep rooted perspectives (archetypes) that respond to their life experiences. No matter what NAADS officials say, it is the farmers’ heritage of experience that shapes what they believe will happen that is concrete and meaningful.

To move forward I can think of (at least) three key conditions that are necessary:

1. organizational culture;
2. duration of engagement, and
3. methodology.

Organizational culture means having individuals and organizations with a commitment to the principles behind “making farmers’ voices heard”. This means engaging those who will enable farmers’ voices at the local level, all the way to the regional and national audiences in research, marketing and policy circles. Identifying a network of dedicated individuals within these organizations (the champions) is a must. Second, the effort cannot be short term as both research, policy or market linkages will take time to respond. The conventional, 2-3 year duration project tradition is not conducive to these conditions – hence funding over the long term is a significant challenge. To keep all parties on track with progress over the longer terms, M&E procedures needs to respond to an adaptive learning approach (Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change are examples).

Last, but not least is methodology. There is an established track record in the field of participatory communication with a focus on “active listening” (see: for example: http://www.fao.org/sd/dim_kn1/kn1_040602_en.htm ). The methods and media opportunities exist but they do not thrive without conditions 1 and 2 in place. IDRC had developed one such relevant experience that is worth building on or supporting: http://www.allincbnrm.org/

Shellemiah O. Keya
February 1, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

Here we are as scientists and others speaking on behalf of farmers – not an ideal situation. The range of these farmers includes fishers, rangers, foresters as well as full time to part time professionals who derive a proportion of income from farming. With urbanization the nature of small holder farmers is changing continuously.

Understanding the typology of an African farmer in the context of the Green revolution is crucial in framing the discussion. This is the farmer with limited access to inputs, technical information, markets and weather data. He/she depend heavily on rain fed agriculture, the social capital of the community for advocacy, representation and on security of tenure from the village to the Central Government. The small holder farmer is vulnerable to variable weather, heterogeneity of the agro ecosystem and multiple and inconsistent policies as he fights against constrained resource base.

The survival basis of the farmer is innovation and diversification. His/her responsiveness to production is influenced by the community, incentives, level of education and the family structure. We often consider them as not organized but paradoxically the small African farmer is resilient and has not disappeared despite their apparent lack of organization, a message to us that we ought to know them better as we argue for more space on their behalf.