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‘Best practice’ is not even a mouthful but what it means in practice remains unclear to many people who use the phrase. In African agriculture, it takes a lot for a farmer or trader to become a best practitioner.  Most value chain actors face challenges in identifying sufficient quality evidence that can be translated into best practice.  In the absence of consensus, they either rely on what is effective locally or depend on external extension agents, most of who lack contextual knowledge. While look and learn visits have become prominent ways through which farmers are expected to acquire best practices, there is lack of empiricalRead More →

As containers of knowledge, African agricultural markets continue to inspire, clarify and reorient our awareness. Latest evidence gathered by eMKambo shows how and why the movement of food from farming communities to urban markets is based mostly on relationships as opposed to money. Agricultural markets are not just an endless parade of stories and examples but enlightening ideas that spark immense possibilities. Energizing and empowering agricultural transformation cannot be achieved without seeing and sharing the whole picture. It is through making sense of things together that value chain actors can see the whole ecosystem and start honoring their collaborations. The role of relationships in marketRead More →

Background Climate change-induced food insecurity and global socio-economic instability compels us to continuously revisit   food demand and supply models, especially in developing countries. Conventional approaches like the notion of formal value chains are no longer enough to fully understand food systems. In many African countries, it seems invisible Communities of Practice (CoPs) such as informal markets offer new pathways of forging new relationships and interpreting realities around food. Rather than present food as a mere market commodity, these CoPs demonstrate the extent to which food is linked to people’s identities. On the other hand, modern value chain approaches seem limited to the economic sense andRead More →

A keen interest by African farmers to know the price of commodities on the market is understandable. However, tracking activities in informal agricultural markets by eMKambo over the past few years has proved that price is not a major determinant of profit-making in agribusiness. Profit-making is a result of creatively managing production costs, quality, losses and aggregating commodities.  The market is always available, usually with set prices.  It is about how a farmer’s commodity becomes competitive per given price. As an ecosystem, the market is a collection of many factors including ideas and experiences. Converting resources into dollars and cents Profitability is about converting water,Read More →

Like many well-intentioned phrases, ‘value addition’ is not just an expression. It is a practice whose dynamics are yet to be fully understood and embedded, especially in African agriculture. More than 80 percent of agricultural commodities in developing countries are consumed in a raw state. Lack of modern value addition technology makes it difficult to convince people that processing agricultural commodities can create more employment than raw commodities. Informal food markets continue to employ more people than processing plants. While a lot of resources are being directed at adding value to agricultural commodities, there is insufficient evidence-based analysis of the inherent benefits, challenges and opportunities.Read More →

The failure of donor-funded programmes to transform African agriculture is resulting in more attention turning to the private sector as a potential source of better agricultural outcomes. Several multi-million dollar donor programmes have been launched with pomp and media saturation but the end has often not been as loud as the beginning.  At the end of three or five years, most donor programmes quietly disappear or assume a new name.   Limitations of challenge funds In the past few decades, donors have begun to promote challenge funds as a way of luring innovative private actors into the agriculture sector. While this approach sounds noble, challenge fundsRead More →

In a rapidly changing knowledge economy, it no longer makes sense to continue characterizing farmers in developing countries by the size of land on which they produce agricultural commodities. Informal agriculture markets provide various ways through which African farmers can be characterized beyond the smallholder, communal, commercial and other forms which are becoming inadequate. For instance, a farmer’s participation in the market can better suggest the extent to which s/he is business-oriented than can be expressed through the size of land s/he owns. A smallholder farmer who consistently participates in the market is more commercial than one who owns a large commercial farm but doesRead More →

Many African developing countries have a deliberate bias towards exports in the hope that this can bring foreign currency that is expected to stimulate economic development. However, it seems foreign currency is a preserve of the elite who have developed a taste for foreign toys like large vehicles, expensive furniture, clothes, wine and other expressions of privilege. Smallholder farmers and ordinary people don’t give a damn about foreign currency. All they need is an ability to sell their commodities at a value that can enable them to meet household needs and pay school fees for their children. That does not require foreign currency but credibleRead More →

That most African smallholder farmers can produce enough commodities for household consumption and surplus for the market is now beyond question. The majority of committed farmers have mastered the art of producing almost any commodity.  What remains outside their control are market dynamics such as prices as well as supply and demand trends. The situation is worse in informal agricultural markets through which more than 70 percent of agricultural commodities pass en route to diverse consumers. While African insurance companies have started getting excited about insuring agriculture against weather-related parameters like hail, frost or drought, they are still to craft uniquely market-related insurance products. ForRead More →

In addition absence of appropriate information at the right time, lack of knowledge retention mechanisms is a big challenge for African farming and rural communities. Unfortunately most resources continue to be directed at the dissemination of ideas from policy makers and development actors.  As a result many development interventions remain projects at the end of which communities go back to their usual practices. This situation would be addressed by clear pathways through which communities can integrate knowledge from outside with their local knowledge in ways that foster reliable knowledge retention. With increasing urbanization, many African youths are migrating to cities and this means elders haveRead More →

Measuring the authentic impact of development interventions remains a big challenge for many development organizations and governments, mainly in developing countries. Terms like Value for Money (VfM) and Social Return on Investment (SROI) are being mentioned repeatedly as organizations try to ascertain the value of millions of dollars that continue to go towards development. While these efforts focus mostly on the monetary value, there is not much excitement towards assessing changes in knowledge and people’s capacity to make sense of their own development. Building community confidence and culture African agrarian communities may not attach particular names or abbreviations to most of their best practice modelsRead More →