The Continental Briefing brought together some 50 farmers and representatives of farmer organisations from across Africa to craft PAFO's 5-year strategic plan and to share ideas on opportunities to develop African agriculture through enhancing agribusiness.
"We are trying to graft a commercial approach onto the strong roots of smallholder farmers," Dr de Jager told the audience. This was a theme that also came out of the PAFO strategic planning sessions before the Briefing.
Participants at the Briefing heard numerous success stories of farmer-led innovation from across Africa: coffee in Ethiopia, maize in Burkina Faso, rice in Niger, and livestock on the Central African Republic.
Sessions on 'New opportunities for agribusiness development' highlighted some thought-provoking data. "By 2030, agribusiness in sub-Saharan Africa [excluding South Africa] will be worth as much as the entire GDP of SSA today," said Mmatlou Kalaba, an international trade economist from Pretoria University. Daniel Gad, Managing Director of Omega Farms & Ethiopian Horticulture Cooperative, focused on Africa's food imports: "Africa imports US$35 billion worth of food – this is a business opportunity for Africa's farmers." Cooperatives, he said, are a key to tapping into this. "Finance for agriculture is there," he said, "we just have not learned how to get it. We have to build bankable business cases."
The final session on big data and open data raised a lot of discussion about how farmers can benefit from the emerging data revolution. "Data could be a major source of income for farmers' organisations," noted de Jager. "Big data could change agriculture, but farmers must retain ownership of their data."
Farmers' organisations have a major role in developing the data agenda, noted Summer Allen of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). They are the ones who need to bridge between the data specialists and the farmers themselves, noted Chris Addison from CTA.
Lively discussion among the participants reiterated the need for PAFO to take a lead in raising the cause of agriculture in the African policy arena. "We are missing a single, continental-level agribusiness association," noted Isolina Boto, who helped bring about the PAFO Continental Briefing. Maybe there is a role for PAFO in this?
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See the Briefing's photos
Download the continental briefing's background note and programme
Learn more about the meeting on the GFIA Africa website
See presentations and comments before, during and after the meetings on the Briefings website
Download the Working Paper Open Data and Smallholder Food and Nutrition Security (CTA, Wageningen University and GODAN, 2015).
Read what the PAFO President has to say
Read about accelerating agricultural transformation in Central Africa
Read about Generating better outcomes for food and nutrition with open data
Previous PAFO Continental Briefings focused on agricultural Value Chains Finance (Nairobi, 13-14 July 2014) and the Future of African Agriculture (Yaoundé, 3-5 December 2013).