8 september 2013

Two approaches to agricultural development in Africa

The African Green Revolution Forum was held last week in Maputo, Mozambique.

Sponsored by various international (FAO, IFAD) and regional organisations (The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), The African Development Bank, NEPAD, The African Union), the Rockefeller Foundation, The Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) and several multinational companies (Yara and OCP - fertilisers, Syngenta - seeds), the forum aimed at gathering leaders of all stakeholders of the development of African Agriculture in order to take stock of the current status and reflect on three main themes:

  1. Review of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) concerns in the next 10 years in relation to public-private partnerships for agriculture development.

  2. Inclusive business models and possible scalable models of smallholder inclusion into commercial agricultural value chains or that provide effective market access?

  3. Innovative financing models and scalable models to stimulate growth and value chain partnership expansion in Africa.

The Forum sponsors, and particularly AGRA which is supported by US Foundations (Gates and Rockefeller), continue to promote the Green Revolution model in Africa, which, even though it has lead to a remarkable growth of agricultural production in Asia, has had dramatic negative effects on the environment and on Asian peasant farmers. This promotion continues despite the fact that three decades of attempts to implement the Green Revolution in Africa have met with dismal failures, even from the point of view of production.

Behind the apparently unified points of view that refer to the CAADP framework, very different approaches are in competition:

  1. One more «traditional» approach which gives a prime role to the state in development and is based mostly on the development of family farms. This approach is illustrated by the new interest in favour of the creation of agricultural development banks to finance the purchase of farm equipment. For example Tanzania has recently created the Tanzania Agriculture Development Bank (TADB) and this creation has been hailed at the Forum. Farmer organisations such as ROPPA, who first of all defend family farms as the base-unit for African agriculture in the future against the growing interest for Africa of multinationals and the land grabbing movement, are also favourable to this approach.

  2. An «innovative» approach that is based on private operators and which seeks to promote investment by multinationals - whether as joint ventures or public-private partnerships -, foreign banks and investment funds, and wants to simplify modalities for opening of an account and develop cellphone-based financial operations so as to increase the proportion of the population becoming clients of  financial organisations. One of the emblematic examples of this approach is the Tanzania-based Export Trading Group (ETG), active in 29 countries most of which in Africa, and which has recently benefited from a capital injection from the  Carlyle Group, one of the largest private investment funds. This approach is strongly supported by the World Bank [read here]

It is not quite clear yet on which side the pendulum will go and which of these approaches will dominate the future.

Read more:

  1. -The case of Tanzania: Brian Cooksey, The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and agricultural policies in Tanzania: Going with or against the grain, Future Agricultures March 2013

  2. -Hunger, markets and good feelings: how hunger feeds profits of multinationals,


Last update:    September 2013

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