Driving International Development Through Agriculture

Driving International Development Through Agriculture

In most developing countries, the agricultural sector is critical to drive both economic growth and human development outcomes for rapid poverty reduction. As a world-leader the UK has a moral obligation to use its global influence to integrate best-practice in developing countries, driving greater all-round progression of the industry. This practice also maintains agriculture’s position as a priority industry for the UK.

Agriculture as a means for international development falls within the remit of the Department for International Development and we, at the Agriculture Conference, are lucky enough to have Iris Krebber, Head of Agriculture and Land, discussing the importance of UK agriculture contributing to the ‘common good’ whilst remaining profitable. This nod to the concept of the ‘common good’ is often forgotten when discussing matters of industry, but DFID have done exceptionally well in maintaining the ethical direction of the department, ensuring that all projects and partnerships are based on transparency, integrity and mutually beneficial outcomes. In short, the humanistic capital of DFID’s work is as equally as important as the financial outcomes: a project is only as viable as much as it serves the people and communities involved. What is truly excellent about the work currently being undertaken is that it achieves the above but also delivers a profit, cementing the UK as a global agriculture and development champion.

One such case study can be seen in the work conducted by DFID and the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) in Tanzania. It may or may not come as a surprise, but the topic of this case study is the humble avocado. In recent times this fruit may have become synonymous with the rise in brunch-loving hipsters, symbolising the changing attitudes of millennials but it’s important to note that the demand for avocado is quickly starting to eclipse the supply. When you pair this with the fact that horticulture is the fastest growing subsector within agriculture in Tanzania (with an average annual growth of around 9-12%), the opportunity for development in this region seems like a no-brainer. This led to Africado Ltd. being established in the Kilimajaro Region of Northern Tanzania in 2007, acting as a pilot of initial growers of Hass avocados: the most commercially popular avocado in the world. In the 12 years since its inception the group has increased household income for participants ranging from 40-50% – a sizeable increase. Africado also work in partnership with approximately 2000 local growers and enterprises aptly demonstrating how agriculture has bettered the lives of Tanzanian farmers in this district and created an amenable ecosystem for industry.

Africa certainly provides ample opportunity for organisations such as AECF to flourish, with such excellent conditions, twinned with a need for greater aid and support from developed countries such as the UK. Today, almost half of the world’s extreme poor live in sub-Saharan Africa, of which the vast majority work in agriculture. This has seen the emergency of great charity organisations aiming to alleviate such poverty, through sustainable agricultural practices. One such organisation is Farm Africa. They work across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia empowering local communities, cultivating enterprising behaviours and, most importantly, improving the living standards and incomes of some of the poorest people on the planet. An interesting case study of theirs once again harks back to the attitudes of many living in the UK. Aside from avocados, coffee is considered a staple fixture of the daily routines of millions across the country. Whether it’s catching-up with friends and family or grabbing a cup on-the-wing whilst travelling to work, the need for coffee is extremely high across the world. Using this knowledge, Farm Africa have successfully developed forest coffee value-chains benefitting 10,000 coffee producers across Ethiopia. What’s more, they focussed on specifically empowering women in this area, who had traditionally been excluded from certain areas of the value-chain. This led to just over 30% of beneficiaries of this particular project being women.

Obviously, the issue of poverty extends well beyond Africa and agriculture is playing its part all over the world. The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) has established many case studies similar to Farm Africa, but on a global scale. For example, they have recently undertaken an extensive project to assist Afghanistan in regaining its status as a world-class raisin exporter. Afghanistan’s raisin farmers used to supply snacks for people around the world. For many decades through the 1970s, the country claimed about 20 percent of the global market for raisins. But years of conflict and political instability contributed to a decline in production volumes and quality, and farmers lost market share, as well as income. The local Rikweda Fruit Processing Company is working with support from GAFSP and IFC, to build a greenfield raisin processing plant with a production capacity of 15,000 tons per annum in the Shomali Plain of Afghanistan, north of Kabul. The company’s modern processing technology and food safety practices will produce raisins of high export quality and meet international buyers’ standards. The project is expected to create a total of 50 full time jobs, of which 35 will likely be held by women, including one facility management position.

These case studies represent just three examples of a myriad of work being undertaken by DFID and their associated organisations to help alleviate world poverty, using agriculture as a key tool in doing so. Agriculture is such a great conduit to achieve a better standard of living for those experiencing poverty and shows how the UK is working towards the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals. Moreover, it is emblematic of the agricultural spirit to provide for one another and thrive under challenging circumstances. Agriculture is a lifeblood for the UK and the work it undertakes overseas channels some of that energy towards those most in need. Now more than ever we cannot undervalue the importance of agriculture as a driver for social mobility and common good.