The Doctrine That Drives Us: Agricultural Research and Development
It is no secret to scholars and institutes around Africa that agricultural research and development is not at the level it should be. This is a level in terms of the inevitable limitations of research, which can be addressed; as well as dissemination of research and development information resources to the intended agricultural communities for which the research was done. Simply put, we are researching to improve our production but it is not enough, we need more. And of that portion of research which has already been conducted, how much of it has reached the end user whose limitations were the research problem upon which the good research paper found its roots.
The youngest school-child who has been introduced to geography or watches a lot of television knows that our climate is changing. A great portion of our biodiversity is under a serious threat and food production systems are a delicate part of it. Our approach to food production requires us to be dynamically adapting in our practices; in such a way that we produce smartly, without serious compromising of the natural eco-and-bio-systems. Agri-YouthVest believes that this is one of the many fundamentals upon which climate-smart agriculture was born.
As such, we acknowledge and believe that climate-smart farming can only be improved with constant levels of dynamic agricultural research and development. The ordinary farmer needs to be smart in his farming, and there is no better way than to teach him smart-farming methods that will in the process increase his productivity without weighing down on other resource-banks. Evidently the link of our fundamentals can now be seen here, from capitalizing the youth and capacity development for his improved productivity to research and development parameters meant to improve both the former and the latter.
Research institutes, the internet and book libraries are filled with tons of research information which needs to be availed to those for whom it was intended. Many scholars have done their researching part, but the dissemination role seem to have limited parties, or the least to say, it is centralized with a bigger portion of the end-user clientele marginalized and having limited and close to none access to findings. I have a good example to show for this. http://file.scirp.org/Html/5-2601617_50787.htm directs to a friend’s research paper of distinction qualities. Despite these excellent qualities, it is possible that the many smallholder farmers for whom this research was done may never come across these interesting findings and will always adhere to their old fashion of production because it is of trickle-down generational knowledge and gives satisfactory harvests, yet access to the findings and efficient application of recommended ways guarantees even greater harvests from the same input resources.
We all have different developmental goals as nations throughout Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA). Amazingly most if not all of them fit into the Millennium Developmental Goals for which the first and seventh goals share a strong relationship with agriculture and can be found to be mutual between SSA countries for many reasons including the fact that a large portion of SSA is agrarian; a community so marginalized from research and development information which will drive efficiently towards these two goals. Marginalization is out of many excuses or reasons including lack of capital to pilot initiatives addressing the matter with the relevant capacity development programs tailored to suit the information and development needs of a specific community.
Interesting fact #1: Malnutrition
Too often, people visualize a skinny child at the hear of malnutrition. Africa should appreciate it is two-sided, lacking of and excess of food.
The Doctrine That Drives Us: Capacity Building
Ever heard the story of the will that never came to be because the willing was not capable? Of course you have not heard it because that phrase, I just made up. Made up or not, in one area or another we completely relate. Too often we see the need to improve or do better, but as much often we fail to reach an intended or standard level of efficiency in our endeavors. So what is it that should be done? Learn from the capable, and harvest that capacity which will elevate us to a whole high new level of efficiency and prowess in our work. This brings us to the second and sequel fundamental to capital, capacity building which we believe is a necessary part of a big developmental doctrine with which Africa will be taken to a whole new level in terms of food security.
In Zimbabwe, where the majority population is in agrarian communities like many other countries in Sub-Sahara Africa, the majority farmer involved in food production usually does it on a subsistence level. By that I mean to say the produce is solely for family consumption with a possibility of commercializing only the surplus, the surplus of which is rare to come by. If food production was at the least profit-oriented at this level, even with minimal inputs, productivity would be at a higher level. I imagine a lot other country-men outside my own will relate when it comes to this observation. Relating is a good start, a gateway to the mapping of a solution and path out of the problem.
Shocking as it is, many non-food agricultural enterprises are on a higher commercial level than food production in many agrarian communities around Africa, yet some of these are degenerative to natural landscapes and resources. A good example is tobacco, which with poor curing methods accounts for serious deforestation for wood fuel, this combined with coal fossil burning among other gasses intoxicates the atmosphere. Worrying! As much as it would seem to be a stray fundamental from the sustainable human development focus, agricultural research and development (ARD) will always be a need as shall be justified independently. In short, ARD will always take its high place in SHD through recommending new sustainable production and environmental regeneration practices under a threatening and dynamic climate.
It cannot be debated that most farming knowledge in most agrarian communities is in form of trickle-downs from grandfathers and fathers before. Sons will adhere to the same practices with which their fathers and grandfathers before them have barely sustained themselves, expecting different and better results in the process. Thanks to the commitment to education by African governments the situation seems to get better. All the formal education commitments aside, there is a gap that cannot seem to be easily filled in the agrarian communities across all Africa, the young farmer has limited knowledge, and the majority of it did not come under the supervision of pen and paper but experience. Constantly I tell myself that the young farmer does not want to live in the hopeless mire of the same unpleasant outcome after every production cycle. For him there seem to be no way out, but as usual there is always a way(s); equipping him to manage and understand better his enterprises.
So how does this fundamental relate to that of capital? Put it simple, investing in someone who is incapable is a waste of time, unless your investment interests are in the experimentation, to learn his weakness that you may later re-invest on developing the incapable; costly though. Capital resources to be sustainable should be invested into that individual with the relevant capacity of execution. Execution capacity in terms of knowledge to efficiently manage the production phases of a food cycle, with specific understanding and orientation of deriving high yields that sustainably account for every unit of input invested into the enterprise, that the harvest can be transformed into more inputs, and the production cycles become continuously expansive or sustainably replicated.
Through community subscriptions or needs to different management tools, capacity building or management development packages can be demand-tailored to the lowest level possible in a way that synergistic combinations in these trained agrarian communities will trigger field productivity to levels that will weigh on other fundamentals such as markets, which signalizes that capacity at field level is no longer a concern. In terms of capacity building, this is what the African food production sphere needs at the very foundation as a means to an end.
Typical morning for Agri-YouthVest
So this is how a typical day is at Agri-YouthVest. At 6am in the morning, team-leader wakes up and synthesizes contribution feedback received through mail, facebook, whatsapp you name it from team-mates in Zimbabwe and Nigeria. Basically little goes to paper, almost everything is electronic. After synthesis of contributions, a final draft of the work for the day is produced and resend to team-mates along with new assignments to work on for the day, which will be done over-night and our development cycle continues when the sun rises again. Pretty challenging but worth every mail, every text and every word shared. That is how it should be when creating something sound, it is not meant to be simple
The Forces That Drive Us: Capital
It’s a fact, we all have a doctrine-termed-belief that drives us into the faith that we adhere to and propel us towards a cause that moves us to do well, one greatest gift to humanity. The magnitude of our cause does not matter really, our commitment and dedication forces do, and after all we are all connected as a universe. A cause that drives one individual East of the globe can be mutually shared with another far in the North, without even knowing it. The impact gradient can only be a strong positive if from mutual realization of a cause, working synergies are developed to foster a stronger force to drive to the cause and fulfill the self-objected mission we believe is our duty to humanity. After all, we are stronger a force when combined than apart and separated, whoever first said that, bless them.
Our drive is Sustainable Human Development (SHD) itself and speaking for my team and myself, I do not know how many times I will say that food security is a prime determinant of life on Earth and everything else follows. I will not grow weary of spreading that gospel, the noisier and repeated, the better it will stick. But we ought to answer this question as Africans, “We are full of potential and passion to feed ourselves and a great other part of the world, yet we are not all secure on the prime determinant of life itself; what exactly are we missing?” Certainly I imagine this is the very same foundation question upon which the Thought For Food initiative was built on the global scale-view.
In our work as Agri-YouthVest, we carry on our backs six fundamentals under the banner of SHD that we believe are the best start in answering the issue of food security in Africa. While they are that many, I will dwell only on one today, capital, and prove how it fits into SHD stream. We all can confirm that in one way or another Africa is underdeveloped because we see to its potential to be better than it currently is. You will also agree to admit that many facets crucial to sustainable human development and sustainable economic growth are under-capitalized. What other proof beyond idle natural resources of production that cannot produce without different levels and degrees of capital injection is necessary to qualify this as a fact.
Put it the scholars’ fashion of saying it,
"Cumulative gross investment requirements for developing countries’ agriculture add up to a total of nearly US$9.2 trillion over the next 44 years (2005/07-2050). This amount would be necessary to remain consistent with FAO’s long-term outlook for global agriculture (World agriculture: towards 2030/5)" (FAO 2009).
Yes, the capital gap over the coming years is that big and which other agrarian community has a larger proportion of a farming population than Africa. Africa is second to none on that aspect and requires the biggest piece of that pie I imagine. It would be unkind as an African to be ungrateful and appreciating of capital investment injected in agriculture over the years by those who share a mutual vision that Africa has to first develop and feed itself before it embarks on a mission to feed the world. The generosity of donor and aid capital into the agricultural facet on the African continent should applauded.
A good look at the approach to the beneficent efforts is as much significant. Is their capital being invested in such a fashion that the benefiting recipients realize sustainably the aid put at their disposal. Sustainable in a sense that whatever agricultural enterprise embarked on using the funding, it is not a once-off object that will simply fizzle out, but out of it will be born sustainable fruits and grand-fruits. At the point of fail we will conclude that the donors fought a good fight, and this question should be answered, “Who didn’t?” It is a mistake of grave proportions to answer that the recipient did not put a good fight. We can only reach that conclusion after an investigation concludes that the donor did inject capital into an enterprise and a lazy recipient who has been well-equipped and taught the arts of sustainability. I have a vision of an Africa into which capital aid will not be injected on the fashion of, "Give the deprived communities, write a report about it and move on!"
So, where do we go from here you ask. Capitalize Africa, but not blindly. And capital alone is not enough. We must admit that be it a capitalist or beneficent investment in African agriculture, it is not enough on its own if the capacity of the recipient is not sufficient or irrelevant; which leads to the second fundamental Agri-YouthVest believes is a need that tallies on the back of capital, which is capacity building. What if there were many others out there, who have guts like ours to make it their vision to build community-based programs to teach the African folk, and mostly the youth and future of Africa to be capable of SHD, that when capitalized to realize their productivity potential in agriculture, they do it with the greatest of efficiency imaginable.
Words of the visionary, Sayid'Ali