The benefits of ICTs are yet to be shared in African Agriculture

Although ICTs have been in many African countries for more than decade, for many people including farmers, the benefits are still on the social communication side than strategic knowledge generation.  At least 60% of ICTs usage is still mainly for social purposes such as relaying messages around emergencies such as funerals, notices about weddings, birthday parties, weather information, outbreak of crop and livestock diseases, etc.  In some cases ICTs have challenged traditional customs where some elders still insist on someone bringing a word about a funeral rather than calling on their mobile phones. In most African communities, respect and dignity is still associated with physical delivery of an important message such as the death of a special person in the clan.  If you send a message or the message is delivered by a third party, the elders may pretend they have not heard about it.

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African countries have not done much in integrating ICTs in agribusiness models

While urban areas are awash with ICTs-related services such as access to internet, smart phones and WIFI hot spots, rural areas still lack these – presenting challenges in linking rural areas with urban markets. Both the supply-side and demand-side of agricultural knowledge are still to be strengthened using ICT solutions. Where infrastructure is available there is a glaring absence of appropriate content.  For instance, there are limited mechanisms for rural youths to use smart phones and internet connectivity in sharing knowledge. While community newspapers and community radio stations tend to have local content, the same cannot be said about internet cafes and rural information centres.

Where knowledge is shared, there is need for a relationship between Communities of Practice (CoPs) such as farmers, financial institutions, rural artisans, traditional leaders, processors, buyers, schools, universities and consumers.  A key question is: who organizes these groups to share knowledge?  Mobile service providers focus mainly on providing communication services but are not able to link up business nodes with CoPs.  Without knowledge brokers, ICTs will continue to be associated with gadgets such as smart phones, ipads and laptops. Unless farmers, traders and other actors see the content value of ICTs they will not be enticed to buy smart phones, ipads and other gadgets.

ICTs are useful where organized CoPs exist – organized farmers, organized markets, organized transporters and business clusters as well as knowledge centres.  Unless we organize agricultural and knowledge markets, ICTs will remain a supplement rather than become part of mainstream knowledge sharing pathways in Africa where an oral culture is still the default.  African geeks have failed to tailor-make ICTs to meet the needs of farmers, traders, transporters and other value chain actors.  May be its too early to judge. By now we should be building content and tailor-making local specific agricultural dictionaries for each context and linking it to global knowledge systems.

Local people continue downloading general information that is floating on the internet.  As if to confirm that technology is an extension of a particular culture, most ICT gadgets come with foreign games and business plans from where these gadgets have been conceived and developed.  You can’t get a local specific business plan for a farmer in Mazowe, Nyeri, Umguza or Makhatini Flats developed with insights like soils, climate and production practices suitable for these areas.  We need a team of content developers whose role is tailor-making solutions for African contexts. Ministries of ICTs and local universities should be developing and experimenting with content for the local ICTs industry rather than churning out ICT graduates who cannot address basic needs of farmers. This is happening at a time African economies are desperate to replace intellectuals with entrepreneurs.

We can’t be caught in a culture of forwarding information through Whatsapp rather than creating content. When you create content you are forced to embrace demand-driven requirements.  Developed countries did not achieve their development status by putting ICTs on the forefront.  Rather it was due to critical thinking and use of brain power (cognition) to develop content. Yet developing countries are being sold the myth that development will come through addressing the digital divide when the cognitive divide is the biggest threat. It doesn’t help to be digitally-connected when you don’t have appropriate content or game-changing knowledge to share.  Localization of ICTs through content development and improving the cognitive diversity will carry the day.

The hype around mobile money

Contrary to the hype, mobile money is currently not contextualized within the agriculture sector towards a win-win scenario. In Zimbabwe, traders have since discovered that, depending on amount of money and distance between production zones and the market, it is very expensive to send money to a farmer through mobile money such as eco-cash.  For instance, it costs only a dollar for farmers in Masomera to bring their commodities to Marondera market.  If a trader was to send $500 to a farmer in Masomera through eco-cash, he would be charged $4 while the farmer will be charged $5 to get the cash from an eco-cash agent.  This will bring the total cost of the transaction to $9 – close to 2% of the total money sent. In this case it is way cheaper for a farmer to get onto a Kombi and come to collect the money from the trader in the market than resort to eco-cash.

The above scenario shows that mobile money has not been designed taking into account distance, type of commodity and the motivations of farmers to travel to the market where they see, touch, smell and hear more from fellow farmers and other actors. A mobile money facility for the agriculture sector may not be a bad idea for agro-based African economies. This has to be less costly enough and take into account the nature of different commodities in the market.  The facility can be sectorised and tailor made for different commodities because the market has fast moving and slow moving commodities.  You can’t have a one-size-fits-all mobile money facility.

How a knowledge exchange platform comes in

During the era where everyone wants to benefit and it’s difficult to achieve equitable benefit sharing, there is need for a knowledge exchange platform facilitated by an honest knowledge broker.  A trader often wants to know what the farmer has for the market before divulging information and reaching an agreement with the farmers first. In this situation, trust and relationship building should precede the introduction of ICTs.  You can’t start and end an agribusiness transaction with ICTs alone without human interference.  It is important to build interest.  Development organisations and governments should introduce ICTs as a shared asset through knowledge centres.  From these centres, farmers can share information with the market, extension services, consumers and the outside world.  This will drive farmers’ interest to buy their own smart phones.  The initiative will also entice youth into agriculture as they realize that they can actually access the market while in one place.  Market-related costs will be reduced drastically resulting in increased production. Farmers will quickly get information from the knowledge centre and make quick decisions. Some of the information to be gathered and shared through a market knowledge centre includes the following examples from Mbare agriculture market in Harare:

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At the moment, Zimbabwean farmers waste more than 70% of their time in the marketing process. The situation could be worse in other countries.  Farmers are often seen hanging around tobacco auction floors and other markets where they try to push their commodities aggressively. ICTs are yet to address most of these challenges due to failure by farmers to understand the principles of marketing, among other issues.  By providing more information beyond mobile calling and short message services, mobile applications may enable farmers and traders to track, manage and improve their agribusinesses activities – creating a compelling user experience.  If this does not happen soon enough, ICTs will continue strengthening the already powerful urban dwellers and traders.

The market as the difference between subsistence and commercial

African agriculture cannot improve or function without information about what is working and what is not working. The information can come from many sources such as farmers, traders, input providers, consumers and even whistle-blowers. Agriculture cannot reform current flawed production and marketing processes if extension officers, NGOs and farmers do not communicate their failures and successes. It does not help to continue covering up data or evidence that reveal weaknesses in existing practices. Farmers and other value chain actors need to seek out new connections in order to get new insights.  They need access to evidence that shows where they are going wrong.

Markets are not free to share information. That is why it is often difficult for financial institutions to extract reliable information from traders without articulating benefits or going via a knowledge broker.  The knowledge broker’s roles include brokering relationships between one market and the other and between a particular market and financial institutions. While millions of African smallholder farmers are ready to become commercial producers, the market is the difference between subsistence and commercial agriculture. On the other hand, you can’t talk market without mentioning information.  Most smallholder farmers produce proficiently but expert the buyer to set the price.   They also need skills in manipulating funding sources and processes.

Access to knowledge and information will continue making a difference between rich and poor in developing countries.  Timely access to information drives accurate decision making.  It is also about understanding the long term not just instant information. Farmers have to know that a decision to move from cotton to maize production has far reaching impacts because it affects institutions, systems and structures that had been put in place to support cotton production.  Although many people, particularly Zimbabweans may deny it, the tobacco market has begun its slow but painful death. With the remaining heavy smokers being the Chinese and East Europeans, it is important to rethink all the investment going into tobacco at the expense of natural resources.

While social media is the biggest breakthrough more than computers, African smallholder agriculture is failing to take off due to lack of evidence or data.  Traditionally smallholder farmers have not cared  about understanding the market because they have relied too much on parastatals like the Grain Marketing Boards and Cold Storage Commission.  That is why they still speak in terms of tons per hectare.  The collapse of these institutions has exposed farmers who must now rely on new institutions. To compound farmers’ challenges, marketing processes have become a game played by middlemen who have filled the vacuum left by the demise of formal institutions.

Major questions in this mix are: What is the capacity of farmers associations to process market information?  How can farmers respond to markets when they rely on inputs handed to them by government and donors?  Inputs have to converge with outputs.  The output market should justify investment in the inputs market.  Where agricultural institutions exist, what tools are they using?  How is social media being used to leverage agriculture knowledge?   Understanding market dynamics could be a sensible starting point in answering these questions!

Contacts 

Emails : charles@knowledgetransafrica.com / charles@emkambo.co.zwinfo@knowledgetransafrica.com

Website: www.emkambo.co.zw / www.knowledgetransafrica.com

eMkambo Call Centre: 0771 859000-5/ 0716 331140-5 / 0739 866 343-6

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What developing countries and India can learn from each other

One of the unique selling points for India is its affordable agricultural innovations and technology.  On the other hand, abundant land and natural resources constitute a significant selling proposition for many African countries. However, African countries can learn a lot from how India has been able to domesticate technologies from developed countries. While Africans who go to London or New York dream of converting African cities into London or New York, India has shown that it’s not just about one way transfer of technology but intelligent testing and adapting. You can’t just adapt agricultural equipment from the West through downloading manuals.

Indian companies have been very good at adapting technologies in ways that can empower African entrepreneurs to do the same. What makes India an ideal learning companion for most African countries is that they can see adaptation processes in practice. It is difficult to learn from developed countries most of whom have forgotten pathways through which they became what they are. They can’t even remember the pain of learning from your own mistakes.  For developing countries, India is more like a learning partner still in the processing of testing and re-purposing technologies from other parts of the world. Learning from developed countries is like trying to learn soccer skills from Lionel Messi. Because Messi is way too good for you, you quickly get frustrated. Rather you can learn better from someone who is still struggling with mastering the game. India is that partner for Africa.

However, India can also learn a lot from African land use patterns that can prevent soil and water contamination. One of the negative effects of India’s Green Revolution has been soil and water pollution caused by excessive use of fertilizers, chemicals and mechanisation.  In Punjab province of India, some Indian researchers told eMKambo that water is contaminated at 500 feet and the soil is literally dead. Developing countries have many choices towards achieving their Green Revolutions without destroying the soil and natural environment. India is currently working hard to rehabilitate its soils.

The role of deliberate practice in adapting technology

Another important lesson from India is that developing technological expertise is a deliberate and conscious effort which cannot be learnt in the classroom. It is only through deliberate practice that new agribusiness mental models are developed. African farmers and processors badly need appealing alternative models. Unfortunately, the majority of farmers associations and chambers of commerce which should act as Communities of Practice do not have the capacity to process all the information required by their members. They are still to harness the global kinship being enabled by ICTs towards stronger agribusiness networks.

Information as the oil of agribusiness

While there is still confusion between news and information, African farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs are discovering that not all news is useful information and not all information has to be newsworthy in order to be used for decision making.  In fact, some of the most useful information for day to day decision making does not find its way to mainstream news agencies.  In addition, most farmers and agribusinesses cannot find the knowledge they need. While many agricultural NGOs have collected case studies, finding a relevant study is a night mare for farmers and entrepreneurs.

In order to partner with India from a strong position, African farmers and agribusinesses should be capacitated to keep their valuable knowledge in shared knowledge resources.  Knowledge is of no use unless it can be found and re-used.  While learning from experience is over-emphasized, there is an assumption that all experiences are valuable yet some are completely useless. Some experiences are more valuable than others for achieving agricultural goals. How can we help create the right experiences so that farmers, traders and agribusiness entrepreneurs can skilfully partner with Indian entrepreneurs?

It is important to build the capacity of farmers and agribusinesses so that they are able to challenge their current performance and seek feedback from their environment. This deliberate approach to learning from experience is what currently separates Indian entrepreneurs and those from African developing countries.  Without continuously challenging current skills, African entrepreneurs will not exploit their full potential, resulting in arrested development. Performance does not improve simply through cumulative everyday experience gained face to face, using social media or otherwise. It requires targeted effortful practice and an environment rich in accurate and timely feedback.

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African farmer associations and chambers of commerce should use supermarket principles in arranging their information and knowledge. Supermarkets rely on people finding the content they need, so they can buy it. They also give a lot of thought to pointing the customers towards other products, which they might not have known they needed. Flowers, fruit and vegetables at the entrance make the store smell and look good.  Products are grouped by type – beef, vegetables, tins, cheese, etc.  – to make them easier to find. Cool colours inside encourage more contemplation and higher sales.  If knowledge bases are presented like supermarkets, many people will be attracted to find knowledge that they didn’t even know they needed.

What developing countries should watch out for

 

Contacts

 

charles@knowledgetransafrica.com / charles@emkambo.co.zw / info@knowledgetransafrica.com

Website: www.emkambo.co.zw / www.knowledgetransafrica.com

eMKambo Call Centre: 0771 859000-5/ 0716 331140-5 / 0739 866 343-6

Narrowing the gap between knowing and doing agriculture

Closing the gap between what is known and what is done in agriculture and rural development remains a challenge for many developing countries. Although it is known that agricultural and rural development practices should be based on solid evidence, many people continue to rely on their gut feelings for important decisions and judgement.  One of the reasons is that ICTs are churning out far too much information than can be absorbed and converted into useful decisions.   As a result, many agricultural and rural development interventions have achieved modest success.  On the other hand, the African formal education system assumes if good research is available and well communicated, farmers, traders, consumers and policy makers will act on it. The fact that this is not happening calls for the need to re-examine existing agricultural evidence and current knowledge sharing methods.  Designing effective ways of moving knowledge into action is becoming one of the most important activities.

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Researchers trying to move from knowledge to action in agro-processing

Beyond translation from English or French to vernacular languages

It is important to look at knowledge translation as a process that goes beyond translating information from English to Shona, Sotho, Swahili, Herero, Ndebele and other vernacular languages across Africa. The form of knowledge translation being presented here is about surmounting disciplinary boundaries. For instance, agricultural economists should be enabled to speak to nutritionists.  Agriculture and public health should speak to each other eloquently.  This can happen through dynamic processes of synthesizing and promoting the exchange of knowledge. These processes should take into account complex interactions between researchers, farmers, traders, consumers, policy makers and ordinary people, depending on the needs of each group.

 

A knowledge translation budget should not just focus on translating information from English or French to vernacular languages but enhancing knowledge exchange between various knowledge producers and users. While the United Nations system seems to focus on translating information into six or so colonial languages, authentic knowledge sharing in developing countries goes beyond these languages.  Unfortunately policy makers and development partners are yet to dedicate funds for knowledge co-production between researchers and communities. Moving from guidelines, publications and dissemination workshops to principles remains another grey area.

 

Competing sources of knowledge

Although formal knowledge systems emphasize evidence gathered through formal scientific research processes, farmers, traders and many communities are exposed to diverse competing sources of data and evidence. Some of the relevant evidence includes local data such as administrative information, evaluation findings on the use of natural resources like forests in a particular ward as well as the culture and priorities of a particular community.  Farmers and communities also seem to be now aware that formal crop and livestock research happens independent of each other.  As a result, the majority of farmers who engage in both crop and livestock production do not get satisfactory answers.  Both formal and informal research reveal pros and cons of many agricultural practices such as contract farming, conservation agriculture and industrial agriculture.  Lack of a firm concrete answer in terms of what works better than the other shows contradictions which farmers often reflect about and combine with their practical wisdom.

 

The frustrating disconnect between knowledge production and its implementation

Research questions cannot continue to be driven solely by the curiosity of researchers but consider the capacity of users to take up the new knowledge. Failure to address the most important problems facing farmers and other agricultural actors is the main reason why some research results are never demanded and used.  There is need for engaged scholarship where researchers, practitioners and communities leverage on their different perspectives to generate useful knowledge. Simply disseminating knowledge to potential users of that knowledge after the research has been completed is likely to be of limited effectiveness even if multiple and creative methods are used.  Dissemination is too late if the questions that have been asked are not of interest to users such as farmers, traders and consumers.

 

There is a strong view among farmers and traders that knowledge must not only be scientifically valid but also socially robust.  Research has to be driven by issues of concern to the larger society rather than focusing on single issues of interest to academics and their silos.  The disconnect between production of knowledge and its implementation has resulted in many agricultural value chain actors being frustrated with the limitations of academic approaches to knowledge generation and the focus on one -way dissemination of research findings. Since many farmers and agricultural actors have not been empowered to speak back to scientists, very few can demand relevant knowledge from formal researchers.

 

One of the reasons there is little progress in agriculture and rural development is that researchers continue to treat all problems as linear.  Yet most agricultural challenges do not have a clear cause-effect relationship. Small things like wildfires can have a big impact on the environment and agriculture production. All these complex problems cannot be solved by researchers working in discipline-specific silos or without the insight and expertise of famers and other actors. Most of the time farmers and rural people are treated either simply as data sources during the research process or passive and obedient recipients of information that is disseminated to them.  Both researchers and knowledge users should collaborate in identifying pressing research questions and conducting research that is integrated with contextual evidence.

 

 

Charles@knowledgetransafrica.com / charles@emkambo.co.zw / info@knowledgetransafrica.com

Website: www.emkambo.co.zw / www.knowledgetransafrica.com

eMkambo Call Centre: 0771 859000-5/ 0716 331140-5 / 0739 866 343-6

Combining conversations and data into important agricultural decisions

Farmers and other agricultural actors in developing countries are now realizing that data as in agricultural information is more important than data bundles that are related to mobile airtime usage. While mobile and internet services are being sold as enablers of frictionless technological solutions, it is becoming clear that the most useful service is providing space for farmers and other agricultural actors to talk to each other and use all their senses to set their norms and standards.  It is no longer about spreading innovations quickly but slowing down a bit and allowing agricultural actors to reflect on what they are learning.  The unknown future of ICTs is being questioned through reflective learning.

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The people factor is becoming more important. Farmers and other actors have learned to deal with countless problems including poor germination, livestock diseases and high post-harvest losses. Therefore, an infatuation with technological solutions to agricultural problems is useless without  meaningful content that speaks to various contexts.  As with most difficulties in developing countries, lack of adequate technology is not the biggest problem. Rather it is absence of authentic business models based on real time data.

Learning from market data collection and analysis

eMKambo has set out to build the capacity of communities to collect their own data. Unless you get involved in collecting soil samples to be tested for soil pH, results will not make sense to you as a farmer. Farmers and rural youth should be exposed to the basic building blocks of effective data collection and analysis. In the process they will learn a lot about what it takes to collect high quality data to drive decision making.   Unless they understand the data collection and analysis process, they will struggle to make sense of how farming becomes a business.  Below is some of the information we collected and analysed in 2015 for Mbare Agriculture market of Harare, Zimbabwe

Revenue generated per produce class in 2015 – Mbare Farmers Market

Produce Class Revenue (USD)
VEGETABLES $ 10,090,527.02
FRUITS $ 3,778,289.68
FIELD CROPS $ 2,796,604.45
GOURDS $ 1,323,010.27
INDIGENOUS FRUITS $ 314,783.53
OTHER $ 3,275.29
TOTAL $ 20,134,278.69

 

This analysis is for the farmers market excluding the wholesale and retail markets which are equally as big.  Getting to figures and information in the above table is a painstaking process based on recording daily deliveries into the market and monitoring prices of various commodities daily.  As shown in the graphic below which focuses on tomato supply in Mbare market in 2015, daily information is then condensed into monthly analysis – providing a picture of the situation per month.
Tomato supplies into Mbare Market (tons) 2015

Tomatoes are the most significant horticulture commodities used by almost every household daily.  It is involved in the cooking of almost every relish except milk.

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Capture me

Capture me too

From the above graphic, comparing 2014 with 2015, the former year had more income, mainly because the buying power was still relatively strong.  One of the reasons for reduced activity in 2015 is due to the fact that other markets such as Lusaka-Highfield have become active as efforts to de-congest Mbare market gather momentum.

How does the informal agriculture market thrive without advertising?

Technology will only complement rather than replace human agricultural effort. People’s agriculture markets show that coaxing people to make solutions with their own hands and explain the messages in their own words, can achieve far more than any advertisements or instructional video.  While most formal advertisements tend to try and be more persuasive than informative, for farmers and traders, being informative is about presenting the benefits of a product to the customer; its characteristics and uniqueness.  On the contrary, most formal advertisements try to portray products as performing wonders.  There is an element of exaggeration which consumers can see through.

In the people’s markets, advertising is more of knowledge sharing and learning based on farmers and traders exchanging knowledge or notes  (why should I buy this potato?). Consumers provide feedback on how the potato tasted when cooked and this information is relayed back to the farmer by the trader.  Unfortunately, most of this information is un-documented.  Unless it is documented most agricultural initiatives will continue mismatching competitive advantages of various commodities.

Charles@knowledgetransafrica.com / charles@emkambo.co.zw / info@knowledgetransafrica.com

Website: www.emkambo.co.zw / www.knowledgetransafrica.com

eMkambo Call Centre: 0771 859000-5/ 0716 331140-5 / 0739 866 343-6

 

 

How agriculture markets can help in addressing drought

The current drought in Southern Africa has seen governments, development organisations and the private sector over-emphasizing the role of maize in addressing hunger and malnutrition.  This in spite of people’s agriculture markets providing evidence of the existence of a food basket comprising diverse agriculture commodities. Rather than focusing on a single commodity like maize, if properly conceived and implemented, a food basket approach will result in marked reduction in hunger, healthier populations, improved environmental conservation as well as safer and more secure food systems. Building food systems that work with nature while continuing to be productive and profitable means moving away from promoting single commodities such as maize.

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Moving away from piecemeal and contradictory approaches

The main challenge in many developing countries is that food issues are addressed through piecemeal and often contradictory approaches.  Yet a food systems approach will result in coordinated production and consumption patterns which show linkages between farming, diets, public health and the environment.  Policy makers, development organisations and the private sector should repurpose existing resources and institutions towards building healthier food systems. The interest of agriculture production should be subordinated to the goals of nutrition and health. We need studies showing the number of lives and amount of money that would be saved by increasing national consumption of fruits, tubers and vegetables rather than just consuming maize.  Embracing a holistic food system is therefore not simply about food.  It is about health, rural landscapes, markets, the environment and sustainable agribusinesses.

Elements of a market driven drought mitigation strategy

People’s agriculture markets can be useful in providing insights on drought through mapping sources of commodities along agricultural value chains.  For instance, the market can show what is coming from where, in what quantities and going where?  An agricultural commodity push and pull factor can be seen through the convening power of the market.  If you select 20 commodities in the people’s market comprising tubers, small grains, vegetables, fish, eggs and maize, among others, it is possible to immediately see how much of each commodity is available in source areas and where it is demanded most.   You can also see the status of less perishable commodities.

Mapping and tracking agricultural commodities in the market can inform solid strategies for facilitating bulk procurement and movement of these commodities from glut to deficit areas.  You can also see the existence of a much larger food basket that does not necessary comprise maize.  A lot of commodities like butternuts, potatoes, cabbages and beans are always available on the market.  These are already going a long way in supplementing household food baskets. Experience has shown that promoting a mono-crop like maize results in households selling part of the maize to get relish.  This shows the importance of a food basket approach rather than stick with one commodity. 

How the market can be used to map and track commodities

Key informants like farmers, traders and transporters can be identified in people’s markets.  These can provide a quick snap survey in terms of what is available along value chains.  Order financing can then come in as part of facilitative financial inclusion. Commodities that are needed at one community or growth point from, for instance Murewa, can be supplied and payment made to Murewa farmers.  If 5000 cabbages are supplied to Chivi growth point for local households, farmers who provide the cabbages can be paid through order financing.  Usually within three to five days all the commodities will have been sold out, creating room for more commodities to be pulled into the market.

 

The role of agro-dealers and other actors can be revisited in this model so that, rather than just selling inputs they become holding centres for collection and delivery of food items.  As local distributors, these actors can distribute other commodities like fish and soya products.  When fully functional, this model can show how the market can be a quick fix in redistributing food resources from one regional economy to the other for comparative advantage.  Mapping and regular information flows can show the scale of drought challenge before the government decides how much potatoes, maize or fruits to import. Without organised distribution this pattern is very difficult to see.

 

This strategy should see much support going to irrigation schemes because with properly organized marketing channels, irrigation schemes will be enticed to grow commodities on demand.  This can be a lucrative business model on its own right, resulting in good return on investment for irrigation schemes.  Results of internal food distribution can easily be made visible through mapping and tracking. This model is basically scaling up what is happening at household levels where, instead of an employee in Harare sending remittances to his or her relatives in Chivi in the form of cash,  s/he buys and sends home a basketful of simple commodities like butternuts, cabbages, matemba and a 20kg bag of maize meal.  All this can be worth $50 and enough to last a month for a family of six.  People always buy what is not available in their home areas. On the livestock side, the same model can still work where fodder can be moved from areas of glut to drier areas for livestock feed.  This is a business waiting for enterprising young people who may even be paid in the form of livestock when there is no cash on the other end.

 

Reducing strain on local resources

The distribution of food through people’s markets will also reduce strain on local reservoirs such as dams, weirs, rivers and underground water.  Rather than engage in market gardening, people in dry areas will leave that water for livestock since vegetables and other commodities will come from areas where they are in abundance. This will save the remaining water for fewer uses like household consumption and livestock drinking. Development organisations focusing on school feeding programmes should support local producers rather than continue importing food.  Commodities like butternuts, beans and groundnuts can be supplied locally.

 

Food policies should stop putting maize at the centre of our food but look at the whole issue as a food basket whose other items are on the market.  Commodities like cabbages, butternuts and potatoes are less perishable and can last for two weeks up to a month. If this food distribution model can take 10% of the maize import bill, it will have saved a useful purpose.  It can be a revolving fund since  commodities will actually be traded commercially.  The idea is basically to establish trade centres for other food items rather than just considering maize and maize meal.  Where there are maize depots, complementary food items like potatoes, cabbages and butternuts can be provided.  Drought periods should see support moving from production to markets.  A lot of lessons in the market can inform the whole strategy.

 

Contacts 

Charles@knowledgetransafrica.com / charles@emkambo.co.zw / info@knowledgetransafrica.com

Website: www.emkambo.co.zw / www.knowledgetransafrica.com

eMkambo Call Centre:

0771 859000-5/ 0716 331140-5 / 0739 866 343-6