We need commonfood policies to build sustainable foodsystems in Africa

24Jun 2020
The Guardian
We need commonfood policies to build sustainable foodsystems in Africa

More than 50 years after independence, despite apparent commitment to policies and strategies to transform the agriculture sector, performance in agricultural output and productivity has been disappointing. Policies and plans, such as ‘agriculture is the mainstay of the economy’and-

-Kilimo Kwanza(agriculture first), have remained slogans to the public as there is so little experience of reforms that have improved livelihoods and millions in the agriculture sector remain in poverty. Tanzania is endowed with considerable fertile agricultural land and inland fresh water resources that can be utilised for irrigation, but much of the land is underutilized and what is utilised often exhibits very low productivity. In this sense Tanzania has yet to achieve the traditional ‘structural transformation’whereby increasing agricultural production provides a platform for manufacturing and economic growth.

Understanding the factors that can expand production and enhance agricultural productivity in Tanzania is critical for ensuring ‘structural transformation’andeconomic growth, boosting development and reducing poverty(given that the majority of the poor are in rural areasand in agricultural activities).

Food production in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda has to increase significantly to feed the population that is growing at an average of three per cent in Tanzania and Uganda and 2.5 per cent in Kenya.

Adoption of climate smart production, harvesting and processing methodologies is key to improving productivity and efficiencies of the existing food crop production and supply systems. Achieving an increase in food production however requires concerted efforts and joint investments by supply chain actors, service providers and public sector partners, working in the different targeted value chains to support effective adaptation and mitigation strategies.

A five-year multi–country project for Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda is investing two million euros in grants to 14 agri-businesses in the three countries. The investment from the Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) project is specifically targeting companies and farmers working in the sunflower, soybean, sesame, common beans, potato and sorghum value chains in the three countries.

The private sector is one of the key strategies identified by the project to achieve sustainable results and increase availability and accessibility of climate-resilient food.

Through its Climate Innovation and Investment Facility the project will support performance-based investments so as to build the resilience of private sector agribusinesses and service providers in the targeted value chains.

So far four Tanzanian companies (Nondo Investors Co.Ltd, Rogimwa Agro Co. Ltd, Jack Ma Enterprises Ltd and Mwenge Sunflower Oil Mills) have signed partnership agreements worth 567,135 euro.

The companies have demonstrated from their own internally generated funds as well as from third party providers (i.e. financiers and beneficiaries) that their businesses are viable. 

The project will thus work with and through the private sector to promote climate smart agriculture related innovations at farm and value chain level and support public sector partners in creating the institutional environment for wide-scale adoption of practices. 

The project contribution is not an end in itself but rather a means for attracting commercial funding for follow-on investments and scaling. The agri-businesses invest their own funds and then leverage off the CRAFT grant to attract additional investment from commercial financial institutions. This not only boosts their credit worthiness and relationship with the financial institutions but ensures businesses continuity beyond the life of the project. 

The CRAFT investment facility will be able to reduce the financial risks of new business initiatives including those of small-medium scale (women and youth-led) agri businesses and of cooperatives, thereby contributing to an increase in the level of investment and private sector engagement in climate resilient food systems in East Africa. 

Medium sized companies in the mentioned value chains (sorghum, potato, common beans and sunflower for Tanzania) can find more information and apply for investment support.