I am just back from the GTZ conference “Investing in Agriculture – Implications for Equity, Growth and Environment”, that took place in Königstein, Germany 19-20 August.
The conference was a perfect place to debate the daunting challenges the world is facing with reference to poverty eradication, climate change and equity.
A key reflection was put forward by Laura Snook from Bioversity International when explaining that the climate change effects and current trends: reduced water, fuels and pesticides availability, increased non-predictability of climate,….all of it with stronger effects for small farmers. In order to cope with this, she urged the following measures:
- Use agricultural biodiversity to adapt to the climate change
- Use technology to the advantage of agricultural biodiversity
- Use policy frameworks that promote the exchange of seeds and breeds more widely
She argued that the previous Green Revolution based on making the fields homogeneous, should now be replaced by a newer green revolution making the fields more heterogeneous, thus relying in biodiversity.
Open questions remained, as while at the theoretical level biodiverse agriculture benefits are clear, in practice there’s the need to test them and determine what best approaches need to be put in place. Another one, what is /should be the role of multinationals and intensive farming companies in all this; what is the role of biogenetics;….and as Georg Jaksch – senior director CSR from Chiquita – put it,…”the solutions proposed to tackle climate change seem totally insufficient to handle what is about to come”, summing up the generalised feeling that we were having band-aid approaches to deal with a virus of unknown effects, and highlighting the need to get the private initiative involved if significant changes are to be made.
Following this approach, clear advances are being made by the Agricultural Development Program in Africa lead by the BMGF and implemented by GTZ committed to support millions of people living on less than 2$/day lift themselves out of poverty through productivity improvements and increased market access. A remarkable part of the program is the African Cashew Initiative that focuses in the increased world demand of cashews and the opportunity there’s for Africa to seize it while increasing its processing capacity to retain more added value – now literally being shipped to India, Brazil & Vietnam. Here, the private initiative is crucial to increase the amount of cashews processed in Africa, and that is the reason why companies such as Costco, Ahold and Cashew International among others play a key role.
The project counterparts in Niger are the REFAO (West Africa Women’s Entrepreneurs Network) and the Niger Chamber of Commerce CCAIAN, counting also with the support of MECREFF (Mutuelle d’Epargne et de Crédit des Femmes).
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world with the position 174 in the Human Development Index. As in most African countries, gender inequalities are strikingly high, being in the position number 154 of the Gender Equality Index. Inequalities show in girl’s access to education, health inequalities, access to employment, working hours and a large etcetera.
Within this context, the project NEF has the objective to foster women’s entrepreneurship in Niger through several actions. One of them is the creation of a Women’s Business Support Office, already in place, having supported and trained more than 100 women entrepreneurs up to date. Secondly the project offers professional coaching to women that have already created their business, and finally the project will select communitarian initiatives to be supported. All of that capitalising the experience in women’s business support of FIDEM.