MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala., USA – The new ‘Toward Sustainable Clusters in Agribusiness through Learning in Entrepreneurship’ project (2SCALE) will improve rural livelihoods, nutrition and food security in nine countries across Africa. 2SCALE’s strategic objective is to develop a portfolio of 500 robust and viable agribusiness clusters and value chains in these countries, supplying food to regional, national and local markets and the least fortunate, also known as base-of-the-pyramid (BoP) consumers.
“East West Seed International (EWIT) is interested in partnering with 2SCALE to offer African vegetable farmers access to quality tropical seeds and technical training and advice, which will allow them to better respond to local market requirements and improve food nutrition and security,” said Jan Arie Nugteren, EWIT advisor for West Africa. EWIT is a 30-year-old vegetable seed company that has become a market leader in Asia by breeding and selling premium quality hybrid and open pollinated seeds for all major tropical vegetable crops.
2SCALE, funded by the Netherlands’ Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS), began operations on July 1, 2012. The five-year project will be implemented by a consortium of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture (ICRA) and Base of the Pyramid Innovation Center (BoP Inc.). The project will leverage the impact of its activities through collaboration with the embassies of the Netherlands and Dutch and national agro-food companies in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Sudan and Uganda.
IFDC president and chief executive officer Dr. Amit Roy stated, “Africa imports 50 million metric tons (mmt) of food every year and yet the continent has the potential to produce its own food and to even become a major actor in the global food market.” He remarked further, “2SCALE will also help smallholder farmers move from subsistence farming to farming as a business. The private sector is the main driver for agricultural development, and if farmers can sell their products at a profit, they will be willing and able to invest in the fertilizers, seeds, mechanization and other good agricultural practices that increase their productivity.”
With the ‘market’ as the key driver for agricultural intensification, the project will maximize scarce development resources by leveraging private cooperation through public-private partnerships (PPPs) with national and Dutch multinational agro-enterprises. Collaborating with Dutch knowledge centers and other agribusiness projects, 2SCALE will increase impact and PPPs’ return on investment. The project also will include a specific focus on agro-food markets that are intended to improve food security for those at the BoP. “This program offers an opportunity to scale up efforts to engage private sector expertise and value chain participants and consequently make a significant contribution to agricultural production and food security in Africa,” explained Dr. André de Jager, director of IFDC’s North and West Africa Division. By the end of the project, 1.15 million smallholder families in the nine countries will have increased their productivity by 100 percent and their net incomes by 30 percent, while 4,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will have increased their sales volume by 50 percent. Also, the Dutch private sector and knowledge centers will have increased their roles in addressing food security in Africa. 2SCALE will increase agricultural productivity, generating a marketable surplus of 1.7 mmt of cereal equivalents, of which 550,000 metric tons will be channeled to BoP markets.
2SCALE is an expansion of earlier IFDC projects – particularly From Thousands to Millions (1000s+) – which emphasized IFDC’s Competitive Agricultural Systems and Enterprises (CASE) solution. CASE integrates participating smallholder farmers into local, national, regional and global value chains. CASE also improves the capacities of these farmers and nearby SMEs to compete in producing a certain commodity or product for a targeted market, and to overcome the risks and other barriers related to further market integration. CASE strengthens the individual and collective capacity of agribusiness cluster participants. In 1000s+, private sector-driven interventions significantly improved agricultural development in seven West African countries. Using CASE, more than 400,000 farmers and over 1,000 SMEs were effectively linked to markets. Farmers saw their agricultural productivity almost double, while incomes increased by 30 percent.
2SCALE will expand CASE across Africa. Dr. Arno Maatman, ICRA’s director, said that he was glad to see the expansion of the CASE approach, which was developed by Maatman and others when he was an IFDC employee. “2SCALE will specifically address the ‘going to scale’ aspect of agribusiness clusters and value chains, which will require new and innovative solutions, not just in terms of business-to-business relationships and support services but also with regard to the institutional environments that enable businesses to grow,” Maatman said.
Located in Wageningen, the Netherlands, ICRA is an independent nonprofit organization, founded in 1981 by European members of the Consultative Group on International Research, a consortium of donor agencies and other institutions committed to ending world hunger, poverty and environmental decline. ICRA strengthens innovative capacity by providing training and coaching to professionals and to inter-organizational and multidisciplinary teams of staff from education, research and development organizations.
The BoP Innovation Center is an independent foundation also located in Wageningen. The Center’s name comes from the concept introduced by “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid,” the 2002 groundbreaking article by C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart. ‘Base of the pyramid’ refers to the nearly four billion people that earn less than US $4 per day and live primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America. BoP Inc. believes in the development of business models targeted at providing goods and services to the poorest people in the world, those at the base of the pyramid.
Myrtille Danse, director of BoP Inc., stated that “Interventions by the private sector in the food value chain can increase the income of those in the chain, improve the nutritional quality and local availability and affordability of food products. But in most cases, the business models used do not generate impact at scale. Transformational partnerships are required between the private sector, public sector, knowledge institutes and developing agencies. 2SCALE will create new insights on the successful development of such partnerships.”
IFDC, headquartered in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, USA, is a public international organization, governed by an international board of directors with representation from developed and developing countries. The nonprofit Center, with over 700 employees in more than 35 countries in Africa and Eurasia, is supported by various bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, private foundations and national governments. IFDC focuses on increasing and sustaining food security and agricultural productivity in developing countries through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound crop nutrient technology and agribusiness expertise.
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