How can we use evidence to translate awareness into new agricultural practice?

More than 20 African countries were represented at a rural and agricultural finance conference held in Harare, Zimbabwe from 10 to 12 June 2015. A fundamental question that grabbed all participants is: How can we use existing knowledge to improve rural and agricultural financing? Tons of publications and suggestions have been produced and continue to be produced on issues affecting African agriculture. Everyone knows that agriculture is central to African economies yet the sector receives less finance from banks. About 500 million smallholder farming families (more than 2 billion people) rely on agricultural production. About 75% of the population in Africa reside in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. In the SADC region, agriculture contributes between 4% and 27% of GDP and approximately 13% of overall export earnings in the member countries. It is estimated that the continent’s agricultural output could more than triple from USD 280 billion to USD 880 billion by 2030 if farmers were able to access finance they need to expand both the quality and quantity of their produce. Yet even in countries where non – performing loans are below 10%, financial institutions are reluctant to finance agriculture. In the face of existing evidence, why can’t we find solutions to obvious challenges?

Fighting perceptions with evidence

Since there seems to be a perception problem around rural and agricultural financing, how do we use evidence to correct all these perceptions? It looks like all the knowledge in Africa is not helping us in solving some of these key challenges. While social media is supposed to make the invisible more visible, at individual level we seem to be drowning in too much information such that we can’t assist each other. Building awareness has to be complemented with exploration of alternatives. For how long are we going to continue answering research questions with more research?

One of the myths uncovered during the Harare conference is the perception that rural communities do not save money. The power of rural communities to save is revealed by how they continue participating in agriculture markets. Participants concurred that fixing the market is an alternative route to ensuring rural and agricultural financing in African countries. While formal banks tend to move money from communities or markets to the stock market, community savings groups have smart ways of locking money in the communities leading to growth.



Evidence from the market

All participants in the conference concurred about the supreme role of agriculture markets in stimulating and sustaining rural and agriculture finance. The analysis below is a solid testimony to the power of agriculture markets:

Mbare, Harare wholesale market analysis – April 2015

A total of twelve agricultural commodities were supplied to Mbare wholesale market during the month of April 2015 generating an estimated revenue (ER) of $ 1,475,657.00 an increase from March’s figure of $ 987,460.00 by 49.43%.

Table 1: E R by Produce type, tonnage and percentage share of total ER


Graph 1: produce supplied in tons.


Table 2: E R by province


Chart 1: E R share by province


Table 3: Estimated Revenue (E R) by district


All the districts mentioned above would not have received such respective incomes if there was no market. More farmers and rural people can benefit if markets are improved.


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16 thoughts on “How can we use evidence to translate awareness into new agricultural practice?

  1. rural savings are contiously stolen through the financial system .Increasing rural savings in the curent framework beenefits the urban sector. The milion dollar question- how do we retain rural savings for the benefit of the rural economy. There is income deficiency in rural areas and yet rural income migrates- isnt that a contradiction. Monry put in rural banks ends up loaned to people that invest in urban areas. Ifwe are serious, this financial flight has to be stoped. Growth=savings + investment. If rural savings flee, rural investment follows suit, never mind the operation of genderised cooperatives. Lets put ourheads around this puzzle lest we follow the footsteps of those before us, who have unfortunatrly avoided fundamentsl issues that constraint effective rural development. Remenber the rural economy posseses all productive resources (soil, water, wildlife, soils, forest, ), urban are a dont, and yet rural poverty dominates the poverty map in Zimbsbwe, Sadc snd Africa.


    • Dear Vimbai,

      Thanks for excellent insights! We certainly have to grab the bull by the horns. The migration of people from rural to urban areas exacerbates the flight of ideas and money from rural to urban areas. Perhaps the increasing urbanisation phenomenon will eventually address some of these challenges since most rural areas will become urbanised.




  2. Thank you Charles for your research but I would have been more happy if you had specified the ratio of gender because as much as financing is concerned women are more sidelined.


    • Dear Effatah,

      I totally agree with you about women being sidelined on financing. There is also overwhelming evidence that agriculture markets are not women-friendly and we are trying to address this issue through a market governance initiative. We have already started crafting gender-mainstreamed business models. Perhaps my next article will be on that topic. If you are doing any work around gender in agriculture financing & marketing, I will be very happy to receive insights.




  3. Mary your observations are so valid as far as the rural and agriculture finance is concerned. In order to rethink on what are we doing and what is happening we need to answer the following, i could call simple questions; 1. Why the NGO mentality came in especially in later seventies from the developed economies???? 2. Why our Governments never invest in the banking industry???? 3. what development mean to us and the governments in African countries particular SSA? 4. What is the place of Universities development and innovations?????? 5. What are the causes of backwardness in our communities it’s only money and market for our produce???.
    We will discuss this as we challenge ourselves but building an agenda …food for thought and changing our orientations toward development concepts and theories.
    When the first elites of this land, particularly fueled by the unlearned cosmopolitans black people coming back from the 1st world war, giving victory to the Queen of England, learning how the white fail in battle, they started demanding for freedom of their countries. The growing pressure led to the masters to surrender powers to the Africans to rule their land in the pieces ..called countries and they said ” let us give them parliament but but we remain with the banks” you have the country without money, what are going to do if not turned into a beggar!!!!???? continue tomorrow


  4. Micro Finance Synergy in Agriculture production has worked very well for improving practice as well as market linkages, it has been easy for Farmers in their micro finance groups to access knowledge and skills, it has been easy for farmers to access small affordable loans for farm inputs and it has been easier for farmers to form farmer marketing groups, however most of these efforts have been time bound projects (2 – 3 years) hoping that someone will take it further/ scale the approach and that ends there. Another challenge for the Community Managed Micro Finance groups is the need for bigger loans at a certain time of their saving rounds with the intention of changing their farming to agribusiness, the small loans are mostly targeted to improve household food security and very few have surplus for sell, that is why the formed Farmer marketing groups become dormant and that is the end of them.


    • Dear Mary,

      Thanks for your correct observations. Perhaps there is need for a financial transition mechanisms that enables borrowers to graduate from MFIs to big banks. So far that doesn’t seem to be the case in most African countries.


  5. The observation above is the reality of most African countries. Rural contribution to urban development is amazing in terms of; all types of foods found brought to cities and important the human resources (most of the elite and business men came from rural areas and the forget where they cam from). How much are being invested in towns in terms of infrastructures and social services. Rural areas are paid less concern by the elite until when the western Samaritans comes to think for the rural citizens of Africa (this might not be palatable). Africa need a comprehensive rural development strategies which will focus on improving, promoting farming and markets. Most African smallholder farmers are disaggregated and cannot stand the vast capitalist growing production and markets hence forth the need to aggregated them into the proven development approach/methodology that is cooperatives with slight orientations for the requirements of the markets in the cities not only in abroad. Strong cooperatives will attract banks to lend to the agriculture sector, product which are responsive to the needs of farming, livestock, horticulture, aquaculture, fishing, processing etc will be discussed for, and the current investment will increase in agriculture.
    Improvement and organization of the internal markets for the rural produce had never been serious thought within and even outside African countries. Learning institutions need to reorient themselves and focus on the real challenge facing Africa especially the small holder farmers. We are position better to understand the challenges facing us, but why wait for the NGO, WB, IFAD,FAO, USAID, SIDA etc experts to come and tell us what to do in small areas called interventions, that why professionals questions if Africa is a “guinea pig” because those who come with development concepts and theorizes of development had never been tested nowhere, they grew up in the already established economy, how they know the process of development????

    Well phrased Mkambo “How can we use evidence to translate awareness into new agricultural practice”?
    I am confidence to say if we go back and learn from what had been happening before and after independent of most African countries on cooperatives, if find no doubt of pulling our communities out of poverty to decent life. The important thing here is deliberate efforts and advocacy by region integrations like AFRACA and others. The late popular president on Tanzania once said after failing of the development approaches attempt after independence ..”if i were to repeat into leadership, i could not do the following; not interfering with cooperatives, because these are the people economic powers and not abolishing the local governments because these are the peoples political powers”…JK Nyerere, 1984 in one of his out going speeches. Call let us rethink on what we had been doing and reorganize ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Dhewa!
        Thanks very much for this innovation and the motto …”together we can build Africa” sure it is our home it belongs to and the generations. Let us go…first by changing the way we had been taught to think, and face the reality to know…Great!


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