Rethinking funding

Peasant farmers tend to fail due to bank credit limits. But investment could help them generate a sustainable income. This has given rise to an intense discussion about potential digital solutions.

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Berlin: Global Forum for Food and Agriculture GFFA 2019. Photo: Thomas Trutscheln/BMEL/photothek

Anna Sophia Rainer

Anna Sophia Rainer has been Africa Advisor for the German Agribusiness Alliance, an initiative of leading associations and companies in the agricultural and food industries, since 2018. In this function she is seconded to the Afrika-Verein der deutschen Wirtschaft where she is responsible for all topics relating to agriculture and the food industry. Previously, she worked for the Afrika-Verein as a project officer for northern and western Africa. Ms. Rainer studied African Science in Leipzig, Naples and Dar Es Saalam and spent some time in Uganda and China during her studies.
 

German-African Business Association

GIZ

The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture is an international conference for political food and agricultural issues that takes place every year in Berlin with one main focus being discussed over three days and about 2,000 international visitors from the worlds of politics, business, science and civil society. The banner of this year's conference was "Agriculture digital – Intelligent solutions for the agriculture of tomorrow". Against this backdrop, the Africa association of German commerce realised, together with the German Agribusiness Alliance, an expert panel on "Digitalising and financing: new possibilities for African farmers".

 

Agriculture employs 65% of the workforce in Africa and contributes towards a third of the gross domestic product of the continent. So far however, the achievements of the sector have been lagging behind what is possible. Grain yields in Africa for example are far behind the global average. There is no access to agricultural supplies such as high-quality seeds, machinery and irrigation systems.

 

Modernisation is too expensive for many subsistence farmers, and the younger generation in particular is moving to the cities to find work. Investment in the agricultural sector is deemed to be one of the most efficient and effective methods of combating poverty and safeguarding food. A modern agricultural sector also represents a profitable business opportunity. It is estimated that the demand for food is set to rise by 70% by 2050 (((in which region?))). To meet this demand, investments totalling at least USD200 bn per year are required. Access to credit and appropriate financial resources remain the biggest hurdles for small-scale farmers however. Depending on the statistics used, less than 1% - 4% of bank credit in Africa finds its way into agriculture, and less than 15% of lenders in Africa offer services for agricultural companies and smallholders.

 

Intelligent, digital solutions can help to provide access to financial services for smallholders in rural areas.

 

But the need for financing is huge. Just in the part of Africa south of the Sahara, investments totalling approximately USD 11 bn are required every year to attain the required expansion of agricultural production in the region.

 

Intelligent, digital solutions can help to provide access to financial services for smallholders in rural areas. Large global corporates and local start-ups are driving forward the digitisation of African agriculture by introducing payment services, credit platforms and digital insurance by means of mobile phones and drones.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Global Forum for Food and Agriculture GFFA 2019 in Berlin. Photo: Thomas Trutschel/BMEL/photothek

The following issues were discussed together with a panel of experts, made up of Martin Fregene, Director for Agriculture and Agroindustry at the African Development Bank, Peris Bosire, CEO of Farm Drive, Sanjeev Kumar Asthana, Chair of the Agriculture Skill Council of India, and Moses Acquah, Technology Company Builder from GreenTec Capital:

  • How can digital financing solutions contribute towards making the agricultural sector more attractive to young people?
  • How can intelligent financing improve the risk awareness that is associated with the sector through attractive returns?
  • How can Big Data contribute towards tailored financing products for agricultural companies?
  • How can digitisation represent a precise and cost-effective method for assessing the agricultural credit risk?
  • How can digital transactions increase the capacities of farmers and returns on investments?

 

The discussion showed that it is virtually impossible for smallholders to satisfy the creditworthiness conditions. On the one hand, banks have difficulties in assessing properly the credit risk of smallholders. On the other, the checking overhead for the small amounts of credit requested is normally too high for the banks.

 

Digital solutions are helpful here, as shown by the example of Farm Drive in Kenya. Peris Bosire and Rita Kimani started the company after studying IT. Because they both come from farmer families, they often experienced their parents' lack of money when they were in need of seeds or fertiliser. Their solution: Farmers can apply for credit using their mobiles. Farm Drive uses the details entered to check the creditworthiness, and a farmer receives credit to the value of 5 to 500 Dollars from mpesa (a digital mobile bank) that can be used to purchase seeds or fertiliser for example. By 2024, the two Kenyan women want to reach out this way to three million smallholders in Kenya.

 

Digital micro-credit is also available from Farmcrowdy in Nigeria. Using Farmcrowdy, smartphone owners across the world can invest in Nigerian smallholders. FarmCrowdy offers various sponsoring packages, for example an investor can, for about €225, help a Nigerian farmer to acquire 5,000 acres of cropland for maize. The amount also includes insurance, inputs such as seeds and fertiliser, and enough money left for workers and a profit. Of the profit made, the farmer and sponsor receive 40% each and 20% goes to Farmcrowdy. Even if the charges seem a lot, the conditions are better than offers from regular banks. Farmcrowdy is also backed by Hessian investment firm GreenTec Capital. The company assists African businesspeople in building up a strong and sustainable exposure by providing an approach tailored to developing countries. As an investor, GreenTec Capital creates the financial prerequisites for successful market entry, and offers inexperienced companies technical support in active company organisation. As an "impact investor", GreenTec Capital takes into account when selecting start-ups to support their impact and as well as their potential to become market leader in their specialist sectors.

 

Better utilisation of agriculture potential could offer work to some of the 350 million young people who are to come onto the job market by 2035 in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

 

The economic potential of the agricultural sector is also a key issue for the African Development Bank (AfDB). As part of their Feed Africa strategy, the bank is looking to invest 24 billion Dollars in agriculture and agribusiness over the next 10 years. The flagship "Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation" program, valued at 700 million Dollars, will assume a key role here. This should mean agricultural technologies become scalable, from which millions of farmers in Africa will profit; the ICT sector will also assume a key role here. First and foremost, the agricultural sector must be made attractive to disillusioned youths, whose numbers continue to grow and who are often unemployed, by offering modern jobs with good training. Better utilisation of agriculture potential could offer work to some of the 350 million young people who are to come onto the job market by 2035 in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

 

Sanjeev Asthana, Chair of the Agriculture Skill Council of India, was also able to agree with the previous speaker. As one of the world's leading producers of livestock, cereals, cotton and sugar cane, India has specialist expertise that can be transferred to similar climatic conditions in Africa. This pertains to mechanisation, insurance and seeds for example. June 2018 saw India present a national strategy paper on artificial intelligence. One main focus here is agriculture. The aim is to increase agricultural production using artificial intelligence. Of India's 120 million farmers, over 30 million are already using a smartphone and are active on digital markets. India is training many Africans by holding technical and practical instruction in India, with the focuses lying on agriculture and ICT.

 

In conclusion, all presenters agreed that digital applications can simplify access to financing for African smallholders.

 

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Interview with Marvin Antonio Garcia Otero

In Eastern El Salvador, campesinos are cultivating a self-image to encourage rural youth to remain in rural areas. With help from Caritas, they have adjusted the cultivation methods to their soils and traditions - Marvin Antonio Garcia Otero,the deputy director of Caritas of the Diocese of San Miguel believes this is the best way to prevent rural exodus and criminality.

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Good health is impossible without healthy food

By Heino von Meyer

Corona makes it even more difficult to achieve a world without hunger by 2030. So that this perspective does not get out of sight, Germany must play a stronger role internationally - a summary of the Strategic Advisory Group of SEWOH.

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© GIZ

Actual Analysis: The locusts came with the crises

By Bettina Rudloff and Annette Weber (SWP)

The Corona-Virus exacerbates existing crises through conflict, climate, hunger and locusts in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. What needs to be done in these regions? To face these challenges for many countries, all of these crises need to be captured in their regional context.

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© GIZ

One Health – What we are learning from the Corona crisis

Dr. May Hokan and Dr. Arnulf Köhncke (WWF)

Due to the coronavirus crisis, the connection between human and animal health has gained new attention. Politicians and scientists are joining forces to propagate the solution: One Health. But what is behind the concept? And can it also guarantee food security for all people worldwide?

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Resilient small-scale agriculture: A key in global crises

By Kerstin Weber and Brit Reichelt-Zolho (WWF)

Biodiversity and sustainable agriculture ensure the nutrition of whole societies. But there is more: These two factors also provide better protection against the outbreak of dangerous pandemics. Hence, the question of preserving ecosystems is becoming a global survival issue.

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Ideas on the ground: Local solutions for global challenges

Interview with Sebastian Lesch (BMZ)

A world without hunger and with sufficient healthy food as well as climate-friendly agriculture can only be achieved if ideas are transformed into innovations and ultimately also applied - a conversation with BMZ Head of Division Sebastian Lesch on the Innovation Challenge programme of the new Agricultural Innovation Fund.

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Developing countries hit doubly hard by coronavirus

By Gunter Beger (BMZ)

In most African countries, the infection COVID-19 is likely to trigger a combined health and food crisis. This means: In order to cope with this unprecedented crisis, consistently aligning our policies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is more important than ever, our author maintains.

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“Corona exposes the weaknesses of our nutritional systems"

Interview with Arif Husain (WFP)

The United Nations plan a Food Systems Summit - and now the Corona-Virus is dictating the agenda. The Chief Economist of the UN World Food Programme takes stock of the current situation: a conversation with Jan Rübel about pandemics, about the chromosomes of development - and about the conflicts that inhibit them.

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“Healthy ground brings good and many fruits”

Interview with Ben Sekamatte and Boaz Ogola

Africa's cotton production plays a key role in the fight against poverty. The "Cotton Made in Africa" initiative promotes sustainable cultivation - one element of which is the use of organic pesticides. Entomologist Ben Sekamatte and cotton company manager Boaz Ogola talked with Jan Rübel about soil and yields.

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Hier steht eine Bildbeschreibung

Statement from GAFSP Co-Chairs: GAFSP and COVID-19 Pandemic

By GAFSP

COVID-19 has unprecedented effects on the world. As always, the most vulnerable are the hardest hit, both at home and - especially - abroad. A joint appeal by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and the Department for International Development (DFID).

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(c) Welthungerhilfe

5 questions to F. Patterson: Why is there more hunger?

Interview with Fraser Patterson

Every year in October, the "Welthungerhilfe" aid organisation, with the Irish "Concern Worldwide" NGO, publishes the Global Hunger Index, a tool with which the hunger situation is recorded. What are the trends - and what needs to be done?

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(c) Joerg Boethling/GIZ

What it takes now

By Heike Baumüller

Artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain are the hottest topics of our time. The digital transformation of the African agricultural sector is ready for take-off. What will it take for the future of technology to hit the ground running?

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(c) Katapult/GIZ

The digitised farmyard

By Jan Rübel

Lots of apps are entering the market, but what really makes sense? For African agriculture, some of it seems like a gimmick, some like a real step forward. So this is what a smallholder farm in Africa could look like today - with the help of smartphones, internet and electricity. 

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

Can this end world hunger?

By Stig Tanzmann

Time to dig deeper: We can only benefit from technical progress if we have a solid legal framework for everybody. But so far, none is in sight - in many countries. Instead, international corporations grow ever more powerful.

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

From start to finish: a vision of interconnectivity

By Tanja Reith

At the moment, the agricultural industries of African countries exist in relative isolation. Imagine peasant farmers digitally connected to the value chains of the global food industry. How could this happen? A guidebook.

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"Pandemic increases violence against women"

Interview with Léa Rouanet

African countries still face huge gender gaps in terms of access to work and capital. What are the consequences of Corona for women in Africa? Jan Rübel interviewed Léa Rouanet on lockdowns and gender-based violence. The economist works at the Africa Gender Innovation Lab of the World Bank.

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Gender equality: Essential for food and nutrition security

By Carsta Neuenroth (BfdW)

The majority of producers in developing countries are women. Although they contribute significantly to the food security of their families, they remain chronically disadvantaged in male-dominated agriculture in terms of access to land, credit, technology and education.

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Building our food systems back better

By Jes Weigelt and Alexander Müller

What is required to make food systems provide sufficient, healthy food while not harming the planet? How should food security be maintained given the threat posed by climate change? Our authors look at some aspects of tomorrow’s food systems against the backdrop of the corona crisis.

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"We must mobilise all available resources"

By Ismahane Elouafi (ICBA)

Freshwater deficits are affecting more and more people throughout the world. In order to counter this, our global food system will have to change, our author maintains. A case for more research on alternative crops and smart water solutions.

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Do we have to dare a new food system?

By Dr. Felix zu Löwenstein (BÖLW)

Lack of seasonal workers and virus explosion in slaughterhouses, rising vegetable prices, climate crisis – all this demonstrates: Our food system is highly productive and (at least for the rich inhabitants of planet earth) guarantees an unprecedented rich and steady food supply - but it is not resilient.

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Video diaries in the days of Corona: Voices from the ground

By Sarah D´haen & Alexander Müller, Louisa Nelle, Bruno St. Jaques, Sarah Kirangu-Wissler and Matteo Lattanzi (TMG)

Young farmers’ insights on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa @CovidFoodFuture and video diaries from Nairobi’s informal settlements.

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"The virus does not need visa"

Interview by Dr. Ahmed Ouma (CDC)

Countries across Africa coordinate their efforts in the fight against corona by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) of the African Union in Addis Abeba. Until now, the curve of new infections has been successfully flattened – why? Dr. Ahmed Ouma, Deputy Director, explains the work of CDC in an interview with Tilman Wörtz.

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Double interview: The Forest Maker and his director

By Jan Rübel

Tony Rinaudo uses conventional reforestation methods to plant millions and millions of trees – and Volker Schlöndorff is filming a cinema documentary about the Australian. The outcome so far: An educational film on behalf of the BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development).

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Ms Rudloff, what are the benefits of a supply chain law?

By Jan Rübel

The Federal Government is fine-tuning a law that would require companies to ensure human rights – a supply chain law. What are the consequences for the agricultural sector? Dr Bettina Rudloff from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) discusses linking policy fields with added value.

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School Feeding: A unique platform to address gender inequalities

By Carmen Burbano de Lara (WFP)

Besides the well known impacts of Covid19 lockdowns for the adult population, the associated school closures led to 90 percent of the world’s children with no access to schools. However, school meals are in often the only daily meal for children. Without access to this safety net, issues like hunger, poverty and malnutrition are exacerbated for hundreds of millions of children.

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Africa's rapid economic transformation

By T. S. Jayne, A. Adelaja and R. Mkandawire

Thirty years ago, Africa was synonymous with war, famine and poverty. That narrative is clearly outdated. African living standards are rising remarkably fast. Our authors are convinced that improving education and entrepreneurship will ensure irreversible progress in the region even as it confronts COVID-19.

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From Berlin to Yen Bai: 10,000 trees for Vietnam

By GIZ and BMZ

It began with clicks at a trade fair and ends with concrete reforestation: a campaign at the Green Week in Berlin is now enriching the forests of the Yen Bai Province in Vietnam. A chronicle of an education about climatic relevance to concrete action - and about the short distances on our planet.

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