Sunday, November 11, 2012

Agriculture as Part of An Eco-System, and not a Sector & Using PPPP’s

I have previously discussed new and innovative approaches to both agriculture and public-private partnerships (PPP) - arguing actually to expand the matrix of PPP's to include public-to-public sector partnerships or adding a fourth P (The Africa Post - ). There is a need for more public sector entities to come together to share both resources and expertise to get development accomplished.  Public sector entities that have responsibilities for improving agriculture, housing, water and sewage management, the environment, and spuring manufacturing should move out of their stove piped bureaucracies and develop PPPP vehicles that cut across their sectors. This type of innovative thinking needs to be done particularly in agriculture in order to address food security -- especially in Africa -- since land, water, and environmental management are not separate from agriculture or long term food security. 

In essence the PPPP approach (meaning adding public-to-public sector projects and policies) views agriculture as part of an eco-system, and not a stand-alone sector, which of course it is not.  These public sector-to-public sector approaches can be linked with getting expertise from non-profit and for profit organizations, companies, and international donors with the flexibility to work in a synergistic manner across sectors.  Very few large international donors have this flexibility, but the British development agency DFID probably comes closest. Country donors like the Japanese and south-south nations like Vietnman are closer than others to appreciating the seminal point that agriculture is part of an eco-system.

One such model that is pioneering this new thought is - Songhai Integrative Farms Systems in the Republic of Benin. It presents the answer to changing the age old paradigm of vertical agricultural development. Although this old paradigm served as the model for decades, it did not worked; was ineffective; and in the end, was detrimental to the overall GDP of nearly all African countries pursuing this standard historical approach to agriculture after their independence in the 1960s. Historically, donors equally have been guilty of  not thinking out of the box, or even next to the box on agriculture, although that is changing with more value chain focused agriculture projects like USAID’s Markets Initiative ).

 Songhai sees the importance of a systems approach to agricultural development adding training and technology as well as an incubator framework to help farming entrepreneurs, and build linkages with academic and research institutions around the world in support.  There are more and more new thinkers coming on board and seeing agricultural as part of a system as opposed to a sector.  But they are far and few in between. Efforts to really have food security spur agricultural self-sufficiency and truly have a workable, sustainable value chain to support commodities, advance regional trade, and combat the cycles of drought and famine that we have seen in both East and West Africa, and the world are not being wholistically addressed or viewed by many development entities as connected issues. 

The Eco-System, rather than the Sectoral approach to agriculture needs to be pursued by a lot more countries, donors, and agriculturally focused non-government organizations and companies with this CRS manadate for their truly to be a paradigm shift and success in agricultural development.