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Leveraging innovation and actionable knowledge for next-generation ACP agriculture

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Digital as well as other technical and institutional innovations underpin the success of agriculture in developing-country countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). Such innovations are encouraging a new generation of young ‘agripreneurs’ to tackle agri-food challenges, explore ways to build resilience to climate change, and improve the incomes and livelihoods of people in agriculture.

This issue of ICT Update brings together selected experiences of agricultural practitioners working close to the ‘front line’, bringing innovation and next-generation ideas to agriculture for development projects, helping them reach, benefit and empower smallholder producers and leading to sustainable change.

The individual stories were produced through four CTA-led ‘experience capitalisation’ processes designed to identify and document actionable knowledge on practices that work for ACP agriculture. The heart of each process was a workshop with CTA staff, partners and collaborators, focusing on insights and lessons around each of CTA’s four strategic intervention areas:

Participants in the first workshop on digital agribusiness identified five drivers that help explain what farmer-oriented agribusiness expect to achieve by investing in digitalisation: reducing risk, raising productivity, increasing efficiency, improving decisions, and enhancing market access. A critical factor underpinning what works in all these areas is the economic sustainability of the business models used to deliver value and services.

In his interview, CTA director Michael Hailu makes the case for digitalisation to help transform agriculture by enabling farmers to increase their production and incomes. He argues that partnerships and multi-sectoral investment are key to scale out successful interventions that benefit farmers.

Three further articles explore some specific challenges faced by African initiatives and start-ups seeking to make agribusiness work for farmers and producers.

The article by Pierre Ricau, Hermann Tossou, Osseni Senou and Marc Bappa Se shows how an agricultural market information system in Senegal is empowering farmers – improving their decisions and raising their incomes. This business model benefits customers and non-customers as the negotiating positions of all farmers are reinforced by accessible market information.

Finding appropriate business models for digital agribusiness start-ups is the main focus of the article by Hamza Rkha Chaham, Brian Bosire and Pierre Ricau. Drawing on their own experience, they argue that agribusiness start-ups in Africa must develop different ‘diversified’ business models suited to the varying needs of their customers and investors.

The importance of the ‘user’ in successful digital business models is also highlighted by Samwel Rutto. He argues that online agricultural marketing platforms can substantially improve the performance of agribusinesses, but the key to such a business model is understanding target customers and users – farmers and their representatives – so the services meet their actual requirements, capabilities, financial possibilities and production systems.

Participants in the youth entrepreneurship workshop identified seven critical success factors for successful rural entrepreneurship and job creation: access by youth to investment and finance, scalable approaches and models that can be taken up, enabling policy environments for youth, agriculture that is attractive to youth, access by youth to markets, business models that work, and access to a pool of appropriate skills, capacities and knowledge and ways to grow these.

Drawing on the ‘start-up’ focus of the articles from the first workshop, the article by Clare Pedrick explains the important roles that mentoring plays to help build up the essential business knowledge and skills of agripreneurs. She introduces lessons from individual entrepreneurs who have been mentored and how they benefit from such efforts.

Participants in the workshop on women in agriculture also identified seven critical success factors to enable women to truly benefit from agriculture: access by women to investment and finance, access to markets, skills support, networking and capacity development, access to information, knowledge and technology, access to land, overcoming socio-cultural factors, and appropriate recognition of women (in society, in policies, through targeted delivery of services).

Several cases from the workshop zoomed in on ways women can maximise the ‘niche’ characteristics of agri-food products to develop sustainable businesses that really benefit and empower women. The article by Busani Bafana and Nawsheen Hosenally introduce two organic projects from Samoa and Jamaica whose products are attracting global markets while empowering women agripreneurs to change local practices so they benefit livelihoods and the environment.

Participants to the workshop on delivering climate-smart agriculture (CSA) solutions identified four fundamental challenges: to increase uptake and adoption of interventions and solutions; make more convincing cases for climate-smart interventions to farmers; promote appropriate policy frameworks and processes; and, improve information, communication and feedback flows that enhance awareness and better connect actors and interventions.

Ensuring the uptake and sustained adoption of solutions and practices that already work was a recurring theme in the CSA discussions. In Southern Africa, smart partnerships among like-minded organisations, as well as innovative product marketing and delivery, were identified as approaches that work.

In the same vein, the article by Jemima Afari-Kwarteng and Oluwaseun Adedeji argues that implementing CSA requires farmers to be able to access ’bundles’ of products suited to their different requirements. Examples from different CTA projects show this approach in action.

Innovative bundles often involve different organisations joining together to sell complementary products and services. Increasingly, access to finance is part of this approach. The second article by Busani Bafana and Nawsheen Hosenally in this issue introduces a novel investment approach that mobilises private-sector funds for CSA. Such ‘impact investing’ aims to produce positive financial and societal results, including for farmers seeking to enhance their resilience to climate change.

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by and

Digital as well as other technical and institutional innovations underpin the success of agriculture in developing-country countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). Such innovations are encouraging a new generation of young ‘agripreneurs’ to tackle agri-food challenges, explore ways to build resilience to climate change, and improve the incomes and livelihoods of people in agriculture.

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Three young entrepreneurs working in the digitalisation for agriculture sector have learned the hard way that delivering technology-driven solutions for smallholder farmers in Africa can present special challenges. Here, they share some of their insights, including a survival strategy that they claim is critical to success – diversify or die.

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For online agricultural trading platforms to be scaled and sustained, they need to overcome an array of challenges relating to system design, revenue traction and uptake. Here, Samwel Rutto, regional manager for Structured Trading Systems at the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC), highlights the common pitfalls and key considerations for agribusiness when trying to grow their online client base.

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Organic agriculture in ACP regions is improving the livelihoods of women farmers, who are selling high value products to global niche markets. Two examples, from Jamaica and Samoa, illustrate the scope for organic agriculture to empower women agripreneurs to change local practices to benefit livelihoods and the environment.

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Experience with climate-smart agriculture (CSA) initiatives increasingly shows that delivering green services in isolation is an ineffective approach that produces disappointing outcomes. The provision of ‘bundled’ of products which are suited to farmers requirements is far more likely to promote CSA uptake, increasing sustainability and resilience to climate change as a result. Examples from different CTA projects show this approach in action.

Past issues

ICT Update N. 91

Next-generation ACP agriculture - innovations that work

ICT Update N. 90

Women and Digitalisation in Agriculture

ICT Update N. 89

Data4Ag: New opportunities for organised smallholder farmers

ICT Update N. 88

Unlocking the potential of blockchain for agriculture

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