A session focused on farmer-led irrigation opportunities was held during the recent 2030 WRG Africa Knowledge Exchange and Retreat at the end of May 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya. Key take-aways included need to integrate disruptive technologies to transform how agriculture is practiced, importance of market linkages beyond the existing formal export market structures which look at the local market as a viable business opportunity and need for creation of an enabling environment to promote more private sector engagement in farmer-led irrigation.
A presentation by the African Union (AU) provided a continental overview of the AU’s plans to develop Agriculture and Irrigation by adopting a farmer-led irrigation approach. The AU is doing so by designing a continental framework which will provide guidance to member states to develop policies in alignment with the framework to adapt to their local country needs. The speaker highlighted the importance of engaging with the private sector and empowering farmers and elaborated on how the framework aims to create an enabling policy environment for this to happen.
Access to finance and markets for farmers
A deep-dive discussion was held on financing mechanisms for supporting smallholder farmers to invest in water-efficient irrigation technologies. The Tanzania Horticulture Association (TAHA) is currently working with 2030 WRG, Private Agricultural Sector Support (PASS) and Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB) to incubate and develop a pipeline of 30 bankable projects linking these farmers to offtaker markets and equipment suppliers, leveraging financing from the Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank.
Integrating disruptive tech
A representative from the World Bank Agriculture Global Practice shared examples of various ways in which disruptive technologies are transforming how agriculture is practiced. He argued that most innovative companies are using disruptive technologies to bundle agricultural services including advisory, extension services, input supply, financial services, payment services and market access and the need to use this opportunity to be at the frontier of agricultural transformation. It will be key to build partnerships and leverage these technologies in order to transform how risks are managed, which financial products are offered, and how we can be resilient in the face of climate change. Technology solutions can support agriculture in improving productivity, data analytics, financial inclusion and market linkages. Such innovations need to be better integrated throughout the agriculture sector.
Formalizing the informal
Another speaker from Twiga Foods, a Kenya-based offtaker, is now looking to expand their market to Tanzania. Twiga’s uses an innovative model of formalizing the informal by linking local market traders with supply. Twiga provides offtake market linkages for non-traditional value chains that have previously focused on providing staple foods to the local market through informal street markets. Twiga’s model of providing long term contracts to small holder farmers with guaranteed market pricing has created a steady income for farmers making them able to invest in climate smart farming practices such as irrigation to meet the market demands.
Read more about the Ramthal project: “Connecting Bagalkote farmers to water supply and market opportunities for growth”
Photo (from left to right) Twiga Foods – Grant Brooke, Executive Director, Africa Union – Dr Mure Agbonlahor, Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank – Mzee Kilele, Agriculture GP – Parmesh Shah, Lead Rural Development Specialist