In some areas, mobile phones and the internet are connecting urban farmers to their markets. Here we investigate plans for an 'e-procurement' project between Kigali and Rome.
Glocalization. ‘Glocalization’? Is that a typo? Don’t we mean ‘globalization’?.
Well, no. Glocalization, a portmanteau of ‘globalization’ and ‘localization’, is a form of decentralized cooperation and a new concept within development circles. Instead of government-to-government international relations, the proponents of glocalization aim to advance development through direct city-to-city collaboration. Glocalization works through bringing global alliances together to work at the local level.
The Glocal Forum is an international alliance of mayors, private sector partners such as Oracle and Microsoft, and the World Bank and other international organizations. It and FAO’s Decentralized Cooperation Programme (FAO DCP) are the leading coordinators of experiments in glocalization. Tackling poverty alleviation and food insecurity are among their primarily objectives. In May 2004, the Glocal Forum and FAO signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on the development of city-to-city urban and peri-urban agricultural projects. The Rome-Kigali Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture Project (PAPUK) was the first FAO DCP project to become operational.
In Rwanda, one of the continent’s most densely populated countries, small-scale urban agriculture makes a lot of sense. The ‘glocalizing’ aspect of PAPUK is that it shares urban agricultural knowledge and experience directly between the cities of Rome and Kigali. Local actors in both cities take the lead role, with the FAO implementing the project and the Glocal Forum acting as facilitator and catalyst. The project aims to establish at least 40 micro-gardens; 96 animal breeder associations and 26 forest worker associations. In addition, rainwater harvesting and water management will provide communities with access to clean water during the dry season.
eCities Network Programme
As part of the Glocal Forum’s new eCities Network Programme, PAPUK has also become the ‘baseline study’ of the cost-effectiveness and potential value of city-to-city cooperation (C2C), comparing glocalization to existing approaches to international cooperation.
The eCities Network Programme exploits the internet to develop interconnectivity between cities for knowledge sharing, joint municipal procurement, and trade at a much reduced cost.
With the eCities Network Programme, we will first set up a best practices database for PAPUK, and later on other initiatives focusing on urban planning and urban sanitation.
The second component, the Kigali eCities portal, allows the city to present the successes, failures and challenges of their programmes. Through this portal, Rome and Kigali will build capacity by having joint online training workshops, and interact with each other to promote PAPUK and other projects, with the aim of cutting the cost of providing capacity building exercises.
Finally, there is the eMarketplace, which allows cities to source municipal goods and services jointly, thus cutting the cost of procurement. Developed cities can increase the critical purchasing capacity of the marketplace, bringing down the average price of goods as a result of economies of scale, shaving off a good percentage of the cost of procuring items by buying together.
Farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing, business-to-business trade
Rome and Kigali are the first pair of cities that have signed up to the eCities Network Programme. The PAPUK memorandum of understanding between the two cities led to the signing of an agreement for a proof of concept of the aggregated procurement scheme. In this way, the e-procurement deal is a continuation of the urban agriculture project.
We hope to replicate the PAPUK project model and scale it up and diversify to other local actors, including private sector companies in Rome and Kigali. Thus eCities is not a single-point project, as is the case with traditional nation-to-nation activities, but is a multi-point project. We hope that Roman small and medium-sized businesses involved in urban agricultural activities (production, marketing, distribution and sales) will use the portal to share agricultural knowledge with urban agriculturalists in Kigali directly, from business to business. Currently, such exchanges only occur on a government-to-government basis, but the business-to-business, local-to-local relationship is our ultimate aim.
The PAPUK project is the very firm basis for everything else that will be done through the portal. We are setting up within the portal various thematic sectors, and urban agriculture will be one of these, with PAPUK as a model to see how much we can reduce overhead costs by going online.
The eMarketplace is powered by software from Tejari, a company of the government of Dubai. The eMarketplace offers a reserved section where municipal officials can interact, with video conferencing tools for mayors and other city officials, or whiteboards for brainstorming. We call this reserved electronic interaction between cities ‘e-diplomacy’.
Essentially, the ‘top’ layer of the eMarketplace allows government-to-business e-procurement, and the ‘bottom’ layer allows businesses to connect and trade with each other. It’s a long process, but eventually urban and peri-urban farmers themselves will be able to market and sell their produce via the eMarketplace as well. In theory, a buyer in Rome – a restaurant, hotel or wholesaler, for example – will be able to link up with an urban agricultural supplier in Kigali directly.
Ahead of all this, cities such as Kigali need to modernize their financial systems. This is because cities can hardly buy online if the financial management systems are not up to the task. So we have a preparatory phase to the eCites scheme, which works with Kigali, and subsequently other cities, to upgrade their financial systems and procurement processes so that they can more easily integrate the eMarketplace.
We will start implementing the project in late 2006, at which point the Glocal Forum studies in PAPUK will be linked into the eCities programme. A complete roll-out in Kigali, which translates into actual community ‘ownership’ of the system, should start in mid-2007.
Rome and Kigali were the first pair of cities involved in each of the Glocal Forum projects. For the urban agriculture project, they were the first; for proof of concept for e-procurement, they were the first. The two cities already had a long-standing offline working relationship, so establishing an online relationship has been far easier and faster than it may be elsewhere.
Thus as much as eCities is about exploiting the opportunities of advanced technology, at the end of the day, glocalization – city-to-city networks – is actually about old-fashioned human relationships.
Vasant-madhav Shenoy ( Vasant@glocalforum.org ) is the Glocal Forum’s director of technology.