MAGRETH Simon is the current chairperson of Homari AMCOS (Agriculture Marketing Cooperative Society) - a farmers group in Hanang, Manyara region in northern Tanzania.
Under her leadership, the rapidly growing Homari group has recorded the highest incomes among their peers in the region. This has been attributed to the group’s adoption of simple technologies to support better post-harvest management.
Magreth and her Homari colleagues provide a model for all farmers, who were top of mind last week in Abidjan at the 2017 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Cote D’Ivoire. With the theme of Accelerating Africa’s Path to Prosperity: Growing Inclusive and Economies and Jobs through Agriculture.
With the inclusive agenda, the conference provided an opportunity for government actors and private sector players to share, learn and interrogate potential areas for increased investment and effective policy across Africa’s food system.
One thing that is clear is the critical role of technology in changing the fortunes of Africa’s farmers. This is being witnessed amongst producers and processors in Nigeria’s tomato value chain, which has an estimated demand of 2.5 million metric tonnes per annum, and annual production of 1.5 million metric tonnes.
Yet almost 50% of the country’s tomato yields are lost after harvest, an economic loss which exacerbates an already undersupplied market. Addressing this discordance head–on has been instrumental in driving an inclusive market agenda.
Since 2016,the Rockefeller Foundation’s YieldWise initiative has funded its implementing partner PYXERA Global to train 6,000 smallholder tomato producers. PYXERA Global has alsoconnected them to the Dangote tomato processing factory in Northern Nigeria.
Furthermore, as part of this support, PYXERA Global has equipped the farmers with simple technology in the form of plastic crates, an improved transportation method from raffia baskets, allowing more produce to reach buyers, and enabling farmers to earn more.
Additionally, through a partnership between PYXERA Global and Cold Hubs in Kano State, farmers can lease crates and cold storage space, maximising their profits by selling well-preserved tomato product during optimal market seasons.
In Tanzania,YieldWise has funded the Alliance for Africa’s Green Revolution (AGRA) to train over 20,000farmers on the use of hermetic bags which can reduce grains loss by over 90%.
Additionally,over 4,000 agro dealers have become distributors and resellers of other technological harvest tools such as metal silos, plastic silos, and hermetic cocoons. Accelerator loans for these game changing technologies have been provided through a revolving fund,while some manufacturers are providing easy payment terms for new distributors.
Cold storage facilities, charcoal coolers, cool chambers, traceability mechanisms and appropriate packaging represent a range of technologies that are instrumental in increasing the amount of produce that gets to market.
They also increase the incomes of the farmers who adopt these technologies.Evidence has pointed to farmers increasing their output and incomes tenfold.Technology can be a game changer if designed for the realities of the environment it is to be used in, when priced to fit the market, and when it has the concerted support of multiple players.
Partners such as AGRA in Tanzania and PYXERA Globalin Nigeria have been instrumental in brokering accessible finances which has accelerated uptake, and widened the financial capacity of agro dealers to become active players in the food system.
Yet, the system is not always farmer-friendly. In 2015,all hermetic bags in Tanzania were subjected to 18% VAT, and cocoons a 25% import duty in addition to the VAT levy. Regrettably, 47% of the price of several of these tools is now made up of taxes, and these rising costs are already having a negative effect on farmer uptake and investment by dealers.
Fiscal policies such as these can strangle economic growth opportunities for smallholders and their suppliers in the agribusiness sector. Our work shows the continued need for smart partnerships that create opportunities for Africa’s smallholder farmers.
One such initiative launched last week during AGRF is the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA), a collaboration of the Rockefeller Foundation, the USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and AGRA. PIATA leverages the resources, expertise and influence of multiple partners to promote a stronger combina tion of investments and more focused support for nationally developed priorities.
In addition, the partnership brings together several players with the same agricultural agenda, thus easing the manner and cost of business. Platforms such as PIATA will be integral in accelerating opportunities for farmers to access appropriate agritech tools in the drive towards inclusive economic transformation.
With an estimated 41 million smallholder farmers across the continent, an inclusive agricultural transformation can only come about where small-scale food system actors are central to the change agenda.
Investment in technology that widens opportunity and actively pulls smallholders and their partners into the value chain, is the key to the inclusive economic prosperity Africa so ardently seeks.
● Mamadou Biteye, OBE is the Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office.