Smallholder Agribusiness Development

Smallholder Agribusiness Development

24th March 2015Sourcing from smallholders: Models for poor rural communities to engage effectively, sustainably and at scale in African agribusiness. Organised by the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development. (APPG )

The APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development brings together Parliamentarians concerned with agriculture, nutrition and food security in the developing world. The APPG was established in October 2008 in response to growing concerns over the heightened Food Crisis and a chronic underfunding of agricultural development by bilateral and multilateral organisations and national governments. Chaired by Lord Cameron of Dillington, the APPG is a cross-party initiative drawing members from both Houses of the UK Parliament.

On 24/03/2015 members of the APPG met with Sylvia Banda from Zambia and Kola Masha from Nigeria – two inspirational African agribusiness entrepreneurs whose visit to Parliament coincided with the second roundtable in our Smallholder Agribusiness Development inquiry.

The afternoon roundtable, chaired by Jeremy Lefroy MP and Lord Boateng, included presentations from Sylvia and Kola as well as 2degrees, Diageo, Mars, Farm Africa, TechnoServe, Farm Africa, Self Help Africa and Agriculture for Impact., Partners for Food Solutions and the Ethical Tea Partnership.

A much more detailed write up of the event is available here and notes of the first roundtable on ‘Government support for smallholder agribusiness development’ are available here.

Consensus on the Basics
In both sessions, it was striking to hear how much consensus there seemed to be on the basic forms of support which smallholders needed to participate in the agricultural value chain. Many of the panel speakers discussed some combination of four items:

  • Credit, to buy farm supplies and invest in value-addition activities
  • Training, not only in the form of agronomic extension but also entrepreneurship skills and support in forming farmer cooperatives
  • Inputs, such as improved seeds and fertilizers, both to boost productivity and also to improve resilience
  • Market services, such as real-time pricing and weather information, micro-insurance, storage, transport and commodity exchanges

Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact calls this basic list “a modest proposal for feeding Africa” because these are all already well-known needs. What sparked more discussion in the sessions, however, was on how and by whom these basics could be delivered most efficiently and sustainably, and at scale.
This inquiry will continue in the next Parliament with roundtables focused on innovative finance and catalysing the business ecosystem in the summer of 2015.

  • Sylvia Banda is the Managing Director of Sylva Food Solutions in Zambia. Since 1986 Sylvia has created small businesses like Sylva Professional Catering Services Limited, which offers courses in hospitality and food processing and production and has trained over 16,000 students since its inception. Her businesses have successfully created markets for local farmers and emphasised local cooking methods. Her innovations include the ‘Sylva Solar Dryer’ for processing traditional vegetables, fruits and other food products, and the ‘Matebeto Mobile Kitchen’ – a kitchen on bicycle wheels. Sylvia founded Sylva University, the first and only university offering courses in catering south of the Sahara. Sylvia is an Ashoka Fellow and was awarded the Fellowship in recognition of innovation and intelligent methods of promoting nutrition in Zambia food through Post Harvest Training workshops. Earlier this year Sylvia was appointed as a Board Member of the Industrial Development Corporation by the President of the Republic of Zambia.
  • Kola Masha is the Managing Director of Doreo Partners in Nigeria, an impact-investing firm focused on the African agriculture sector. Doreo invests in early stage businesses that increase the profitability of smallholder agriculture, which in turn creates market forces that attract young people into agriculture, thereby unlocking millions of jobs. Doreo’s flagship investment, Babban Gona, is an innovative Agricultural Franchise model that works to de risk smallholder farmers. This de-risking enables Babban Gona to deliver sustainably priced, low-cost, and long tenure credit, with repayment rates of over 99.5% to finance a value chain traditionally considered too risky to finance. Formerly a Senior Advisor to the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, Kola has been recognised for his leadership in driving positive change on the African Continent, having been awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship and Rainer Fellowship.

2 February 2015. APPG hosted the launch of the Global Panel Biofortification Policy BriefAPPG joined forces with the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition and HarvestPlus to launch the Global Panel’s Biofortification Policy Brief. The event included presentations from a distringuished panel followed by a lively Q&A. The policy brief lays out the technical evidence and arguments for supporting biofortification as one element of a nutrient-sensitive national agricultural research and investment strategy.

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