Stories tagged: african union

Three Ways the African Union Can Fight Corruption in Agriculture, and Win

As African heads of State gather in Addis Ababa this week to discuss winning the fight against corruption, Nachilala Nkombo, Country Director of WWF, Zambia and member of the Malabo Montpellier Panel outlines three steps to beat corruption in the agriculture sector – the lifeline for many of the continent’s most vulnerable people.

This week, at a meeting of the African Union, heads of state have an opportunity to make progress in the fight against corruption. Corruption cheats the continent’s people and governments out of approximately $50bn each year, money that could be spent on realising the African Union’s Agenda 2063 vision of an ‘integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’. The agricultural sector is a key part of this puzzle and of the solution.

Corruption hinders the ability of a country to transform socially and economically, be governed democratically, and reduces the chances that its people will live in peace. Along with inequality, it forms part of a vicious cycle; as corruption grows so does unequal distribution of power and therefore unequal distribution of wealth. The agricultural sector has long been identified as fundamental to transforming livelihoods and opportunities on the African continent and has the potential to do a lot to address this imbalance.

Currently 80 percent of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are smallholders, typically with less than two hectares of land. Poverty is pervasive amongst them, with millions living below the poverty line. Farmers have little power to fight corrupt institutions. However, transparent management of the agricultural sector that empowers farmers could be one of the best tools the continent has to fight poverty at scale.

A healthy and prosperous agricultural sector could be the engine for economic growth on the continent. The World Bank projects that agriculture and agribusiness in Africa have the potential to make up a $1 trillion industry by 2030, but this will only happen if embezzlement, fraud and bribery are addressed. How can we do this?

Promote transparent systems

Transparency is a potent weapon in fighting corruption. The public sector should prioritise efforts to create and enforce legal frameworks that promote transparency and root out corruption. It is often said, ‘it starts at the top’ and, if so, it must also be fought at the top. Independent and well-functioning media, independent of special interests, is one way to achieve transparency, as well as actively disclosing ownership structures of companies to regulators.

Last year saw the end of President Mugabe’s 30-year reign in Zimbabwe which bought hope to the continent, and South Africa, Ghana and Sierra Leone were among countries reported to be taking a stronger stance against corruption. But, an Afrobarometer survey found that in 23 out of 36 countries the majority view was that corruption had increased. For the agricultural sector, a lack of transparency can have negative effects on land tenure, credit availability, quality of supplies, water allocation, and the development of agribusinesses.

Harness the power of new technologies

Over four decades, the Nigerian Government spent $5bn dollars on farm input subsidies but only 11 percent of farmers received fertiliser, resulting in low yields and low profits. Middle-men siphoned large amounts of money out of the system. In 2012, when the then Minister of Agriculture Dr. Akinwumi Adesina discovered this problem, he introduced an Electric Wallet through which he could send farmers digital vouchers directly to their mobile phones to buy fertilisers and seeds.

Within two years the Electronic Wallet had reached more than 14 million Nigerian farmers and spread to poor regions in the North. The scheme served as a catalyst for private sector confidence and investment. This approach to better support farmers has since been adopted in many countries including my own, Zambia. With the boom in mobile use across Africa there are more and more opportunities to limit the stages money travels through to reach beneficiaries.

Support farmers’ institutions to operate effectively and hold Government to account

Many African countries have sound agricultural policies. It is in the implementation of these where corruption seeps in. Farmers that are organised into unions or institutions, and are armed with information, are better able to hold governments to account for poor service provision.

In a previous position, as Zambian Country Director for ActionAid Denmark, I saw first-hand the benefit of strengthening leadership and technical capacity of farmers’ institutions. In the Eastern, Luapula and Lusaka provinces of Zambia we supported farmers to organise their collective voice and equipped them to track agriculture budgets and services at the local level so they could demand improvements and accountability. Today, these district farmers’ organisations remain formidable local institutions.

For anti-corruption campaigns to be credible they need to be led by legitimate and independent bodies answerable to legislative institutions and not simply to the President or Prime Minister. Too often they are publicly seen as delivering no real accountability for citizens.

The summit this week is an opportunity for African leaders to turn this trend on its head. The African Union has a responsibility to set continental norms and uphold shared values. It has powerful instruments to fight corruption including a Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, ratified by 38 countries. We eagerly anticipate the initiatives announced by this influential group, especially those that will improve the lives of Africa’s farmers.


Richard Mkandawire: Closing Africa’s Yield Gap

In this guest post, Richard Mkandawire, Vice President of the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) calls on African leaders to fulfil the 2006 Abuja Declaration that pledged to raise fertilizer use in Africa to 50 kg/ha by 2015. AFAP works with private businesses to establish more competitive and sustainable fertilizer markets in Africa and to contribute to an African Green Revolution. Continue reading

Video: The African Union’s Vision for an Agricultural Transformation

“Africa is ripe for agricultural change,” H.E. Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union tells Farming First in the latest interview filmed exclusively for Farming First TV.

She highlights, however, that the lack of capital to acquire technology remains a major barrier. Another key challenge for Africa is deficient infrastructure. The African Union believes this continental problem requires a continental solution.

“The vision of the African Union is to have an integrated continent. Intra-Africa trade is so important,” H.E. Tumusiime explains.

The African Union Commission (AUC) is one of the developers of the Programme for Infrastructure Development for Africa (PIDA), which promotes regional economic integration. The aim is to build “a robust system for intra-Africa trade, it will be a foundation for intra-Africa trade,” H.E. Tumusiime believes.

She also highlights the need for developing countries to work together and points to the United Nations’ South-South Cooperation programme. “Countries like Brazil have done well, countries like India have done better than we have.”

Watch our video for the full interview with H.E. Tumusiime Rhoda Peace

The Rise of Home Grown School Feeding: Five Ways to Make it Work

This week, Farming First attended a panel event hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development at the Houses of Parliament. The event explored recent developments in research, policy and programming for Home Grown School Feeding projects in the developing world.

“When the drumbeat changes, the dance must also change”. This opening remark from Ms. Boitshepo Bibi Giyose, Senior Food & Nutrition Security Advisor for the African Union set the scene for discussion on Home Grown School Feeding – a programme that has been adapted and revitalised to meet a new demand.

In recent years, traditional school feeding programmes that rely on food aid to provide meals for children in schools, have been replaced by programmes that source their food from local smallholder farmers. Dubbed a “virtuous circle”, this new approach has been described as a win-win for children and farmers alike as it improves nutrition and educational outcomes for children whilst at the same time securing farmer livelihoods and access to markets.

According to panellist Professor Donald Bundy, a health and education specialist for The World Bank, this renaissance in school feeding programmes occurred after a crisis response report written by The World Bank in 2008 discovered that school feeding programmes were one of the highest priority areas for people living in low income countries. Citizens were calling for a system that would not only act as a social safety net, but was self-sufficient and long term, that relied on local food producers for food and not donors. “School feeding can provide a structured demand for local agriculture”, Professor Bundy commented.

As an example of the impact that a robust Home Grown School Feeding can have on a community, panel member H.E. Engr. Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of the Osun State of Nigeria, spoke of his first hand experience implementing the “O-Meals” programme, that provides free, healthy meals for primary school children. Within 15 months of implementation, school enrolment in Osun jumped 40%. 3,000 women have been employed as food vendors to serve meals in the school and 1,000 farmers have been trained to improve their production of cocoyam.

Peter Rodriguez, Senior Programme Advisor for the World Food Programme commented on the economic sense that Home Grown School Feeding projects make. “We estimate that for every $1 spent by governments and donors, WFP estimates at least $3 is gained in economic returns.”

Five ways to make Home Grown School Feeding work

1.     Legislate

The panel attributed the success of Brazil’s school feeding programme to legislation that was written, to ensure 30% of all food served at schools must be locally sourced. If it is written in the law, it must be abided by.

2.     Be transparent

To ensure government and donor funds are indeed transformed into food in children’s bellies, eliminating corruption was a key priority for the panel. The computerised transfer of money that bypasses a human intervention was suggested as the best way to address this issue.

3.     Consider nutrition

Panellist Dr. Josephine Kiamba of the Partnership for Child Development highlighted the importance of nutrition in school meals, to combat stunting and illness in young children caused by micronutrient deficiencies. A meal planning tool has been piloted in Ghana, which visualises the nutrients available in a set meal, and will highlight missing food groups or vitamins.

4.     Integrate other health interventions

Nutritious food will not serve children who suffer from diseases caused by poor sanitation or worms. Coupling a school feeding programme with hygiene workshops and de-worming programmes will ensure an integrated and holistic approach to child health.

5.     Partner up

Governments and donors must partner with private sector and NGO partners who can bring a range of expertise to the table, and will also ensure mutual accountability for the success of a school feeding programme.

Photo credit: GOV. AREGBESOLA’S O-MEALS School Feeding Programme