Harvesting session: Key insights from the learning journey
A group of Food Security Advisors and Agricultural Counselors from 12 Dutch embassies across Africa, Asia and the Netherlands visited Kenya from June 12 to 15, 2017. This “learning journey” was meant to jointly learn and reflect on results, successes and failures from implementing the Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) policy in the context of the aid and trade agenda. It included field visits to selected projects implemented with support from the Dutch government, and also included individual and group reflections, and key respondent sessions.
This article summarizes the key insights from the learning journey identified by participants during a final plenary session, which also included some key note reflections from three experts. Some of the points below were also developed during the reflection session on the second day of the learning journey. Thereafter, the article also lists the ideas for immediate action that participants developed.
- Further conceptualization and contextualization is needed for “inclusive business” models in order to better understand how to design and support them. There is a need to develop robust business models. Creating opportunities for entrepreneurial smallholder farmers in the market is a complex challenge, for which there are several approaches. There is no silver bullet. How out-grower models could work best, for example, is a relevant knowledge question. Flexibility is needed in (embassy’s) interventions that include SMEs into a business initiative.
- To work towards inclusiveness, there is a need to differentiate between farmer groups. Some farmers (have potential to) develop farming as a business, but for others it is not feasible, and other forms of support need to be found in working with households to realize their potential.
- Gender still needs to be addressed and strengthened in the EKN funded programs.
- For sustainability of programs of EKN, local partners and stakeholders need to be included therein (i.e. not INGOs). If you want to hand over the responsibility to local partners, you need to do that.
Access to Finance
- Access to finance is a key condition for success of any business model.
Capacity Development and Knowledge Exchange
- Capacity is the engine of development.
- Scaling of the basics is a key condition for success in regards to capacity development of farmers, both in business skills and in technical areas. Appropriate professional quality extension services need to be available for farmers.
- Enable and empower actors within the chain.
- Organize exchange to learn from each other. Opportunities for joint learning at several levels are needed with sufficient continuity.
- Innovate technology in the local context is needed.
Trade and Aid Policy and Program Development
- It is important to get the analysis right of the context and the problems needed to be addressed. Clarify where Dutch intervention can have an added value, and set the indicators to measure effect from the start. For example, 2Scale and horticultural programs may have an effect on nutrition but this is not currently measured.
- While taking the context into account is very important, it may be not too important. Principles can be the same everywhere.
- Quality is important of inputs, produce, and of cooperation and partnerships.
- There is potential for complementarity of both aid and trade objectives. Even if it is hard to find one way of integrating the goals of e.g. production increase, nutrition, climate and sustainability, inclusiveness and trade; it is necessary to do so. Every intervention needs to choose a clear objective while trying to develop an approach that works both for economic and for social development (“and … and” approach). Dialogue between staff of EKN with economic respectively food security responsibilities is important to search in this complementarity. Also including result areas in both domains in all programs would enable making the connections more easily. In the Kenya program for example, complementarity is gradually being found, which has been a learning journey for EKN.
- There is still not one answer to the question of where to start. Do we start where there is a potential for growth, or where there is the highest need (poverty)? Some learning journey participants proposed to start from a sector, for example, EKN is often approached by the private sector. Others thought that this is one potential angle, while there could be other entry points.
- There is an interest to develop more nutrition-sensitive agribusiness models within the EKN portfolio. “In each farming system, there is potential”, said a participant. Though not necessarily all interventions should be oriented on and monitored on this aspect, some may be delivering on other objectives of the Food Security policy (e.g. opportunity for smallholder farmers). Also, the pathways of delivering on FNS objectives may be diverse (Note: KIT and F&BKP research on these ongoing pathways). Supportive policies to enhance nutrition always need to be in place as well.
- Regarding conflict sensitivity, there are opportunities to work on private sector development in fragile states.
- The Netherlands needs to be strategic when selecting priority sectors or investment areas in each country. This may depend on factors discussed in the “sector paper” of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and also the factors related to the national or regional political situation.
- In partnerships, these can be successful if they create shared value. For example, in the private-public partnership in the canola value chain, there was satisfaction by all the partners involved (NGOs, government, private sector).
- A range of instruments can be used for the central ambition of contributing to market development, and their complementarity needs to be sought for optimal results.
- Mechanisms need to be developed for scalability of project successes. This also links to creating a proper enabling environment for impact.
- Exit strategy was listed as important, though not extensively discussed.
Ideas for Direct Action at Country Level and at the Ministry Level
Participants of the learning journey, both from visiting Embassies in 12 countries, and from The Netherlands, were invited by the facilitation team to also formulate specific ideas for action at country level. The first ideas are presented here.
- Bangladesh – The soil fertility scanner of Soil Cares will be tried in programs of EKN Dhaka.
- Benin – EKN Cotonou will strengthen inclusiveness aspects during the conception phase and implementation of their (new) agri-food program. Based on a good understanding of the context and in discussion with others, EKN will try to find innovative ways to fund agribusiness development.
- Burundi – Adopt and introduce the business case model in sub-sectors in Burundi to support value chain functioning.
- Ethiopia – In an upcoming discussion with Unilever, EKN Addis will address the canola case lessons from Kenya.
- Ghana – Further exchanges about aquaculture will continue between EKN Ghana and EKN Kenya, and about innovative financial solutions between EKN Ghana and EKN Juba.
- Kenya – Foster clarity of project objectives linked to results and strategic partnerships for sustainability and scalability. Work demand-driven with Dutch diamond. Attention for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA).
- Palestine territories – EKN Ramallah will try to involve Dutch expertise in development of potato sector program with FAO to address existing bottlenecks.
- South Sudan – EKN Juba will embark on a co-creation approach with partners in agribusiness, and try to develop solutions to foster realistic sharing of benefits between large scale farmers and small scale (contracted) farmers.
- Tanzania – Promote partnerships in the potato sub-sector. Promote innovations available from the Netherlands to the local agribusinesses in Tanzania.
- MFA staff – In the results framework, sector development indicators may be integrated, as well as indicators reflecting transformation and innovation resulting from Dutch trade collaboration.
- MFA staff – Promote synergy between central and embassy programs.
- MFA staff – Advocate for sequencing of EKN and The Hague in multi-annual planning process.
- MFA staff – Connect Dutch expertise to country programs for knowledge exchange, and foster work connections between Dutch youth and local youth.