BRASILIA, November 2, 2010 - Brazil and Africa are sowing the seeds of a groundbreaking partnership to boost sub-Saharan agriculture using Brazil's own farming revolution as a model.
Envisioned as a broad transatlantic partnership supported by the World Bank and others, the Africa-Brazil Innovation Marketplace aims to spur agricultural innovation and development in Africa drawing on Brazil's vast expertise and knowledge -which, experts say, has quickly turned the South American country into one of the world's great breadbaskets.
Hailed as a model for South-South cooperation, the Marketplace will match African and Brazilian researchers to work jointly on projects to improve Africa's agriculture, including rehabilitation of pastures, natural resource management and production of clean energy, where Brazil has a proven edge.
Projects are chosen following a competitive selection of the best proposals. Out of 61 proposals submitted to the Marketplace first edition, the following 6 projects were selected for funding:
Africa-Brazil 2010 Winning Projects
- Burkina Faso: Study of the Ecology and Nutritional Potential of Native Food Tree Species used by local communities in Burkina Faso and the Brazilian Amazon: A food security and conservation strategy in the context of climate change.
- Kenya: Rehabilitation of degraded rangeland using planned grazing and animal impact in the arid and semi arid lands of Kenya.
- Kenya: Sweet Sorghum varietal adaptation for ethanol production.
- Mozambique: Fostering knowledge sharing for integrated natural resource management in agricultural landscapes of Southern Africa.
- Tanzania: Cotton varieties and pest management in Tanzania.
- Togo: Pesticide leaching and loss to groundwater in coastal vegetable growers in Togo.
“This is a simple, effective mechanism that will result in enormous benefits not only for Africa, but also for Brazil, which will learn much from the continent’s experience,” said Pedro Arraes Pereira, President of the Brazilian Agriculture Research Company (Embrapa).
Farming World Leader
Arraes noted that at the time it was created in the early1970s, Brazil’s agriculture was at a similar stage of development as Africa’s is today. Thanks to Embrapa, Brazil’s farming industry has caught up with the world’s top-five grain exporters -the U.S, Canada, Australia, Argentina and the European Union. A relatively modest fit at first, state-owned Embrapa currently ranks as the world’s leading tropical-research institution and can be largely credited with turning Brazil’s cerrado or tropical savanna into farmland.
“Brazil and Africa share many soil and climate conditions and have strong historic and cultural affinity. Our experience in tropical agriculture will be very helpful for the continent to bridge the gap much more quickly,” said Arraes.
FARA's Deputy Executive Director, Dr. Ramadjita Tabo, hands prize cheque to winning researchers.
The Wold Bank has said that agriculture and agri-business offfer the biggest transformational potential for Africa, with a greater positive impact on people's lives than the mobile phone boom.
“If you ask me what the next ‘big thing’ in Africa will be, I’d say without hesitation agriculture and agri-business,” the World Bank Vice President for Africa, Ms. Obiageli K. Ezekwesili, recently told investors at a meeting in Washington, DC. Agriculture accounts for about 40 percent of the region’s GDP and is a source of jobs and livelihoods for 70 percent of Africans.
By adopting a continent-wide rather than a single-country approach, the Africa-Brazil Innovation Marketplace is also breaking new ground in terms of South-South exchanges.
“For many reasons, mainly practical, most of these partnerships have been between individual countries up to now. Much can and has been accomplished that way, but development knowledge is all about scale -and Africa and Brazil are about as large and akin as it gets. Initiatives such as this will multiply results and impacts enormously,” said World Bank Director for Brazil, Makhtar Diop.
According to Diop, Senegal’s former finance minister, agriculture is central to the social and economic development of Africa, and Brazil's support in areas such as bio fuels, agricultural cooperatives, land management, national research systems and commercial and family farming can help African nations in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Demand for Brazil’s Knowledge
The partnership was born out of discussions led by FARA (Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa), Embrapa, the World Bank Group and DFID, in the context of the May 2010 Brazil-Africa Summit. It also has the support of IFAD (International Fund for Agriculture and Development) and ABC (Brazilian Cooperation Agency).
“It is a great achievement to be here,” said FARA’s Deputy Executive Director, Ramadjita Tabo, while stressing that Africa needs high-level operational and strategic partnerships. He added that training African researchers through the Marketplace will contribute to develop the continent’s agriculture.
Africa has the potential to be the world’s food basket, said Tabo, but poor technology and innovation adoption remain a constraint. This would be greatly improved with better exchange of science and technology knowledge, he said.
Agriculture researchers from 14 African countries and Brazil exchange experiences during the Innovation Marketplace event in Brasília, Brazil.
The continent already seems to be moving in the right direction, say Brazilian officials.
“In any country, agriculture is the basis for further economic and social improvements. This is especially true in African countries, which are in a quick modernization process and organizing themselves to excel in the sector,” noted Brazil’s agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi.
The Innovation Marketplace supplied the much needed platform for participants (researchers in agricultural innovation) and institutional partners to consolidate and build on the current dialogue between Africa and Brazil.
It is also proving to be an opportunity for the World Bank Group to sharpen its role as a knowledge match-maker - an institution uniquely positioned to match a country’s (or continent’s) demand with another country’s supply of expertise.
“The World Bank has a clear role to play as a match-maker and a facilitator, but also as a repository of knowledge and exchanges such as this, to preserve and disseminate innovations and lessons learned,” said World Bank lead agriculturalist Willem Janssen, who is also responsible for the partnership with FARA and Embrapa.
This is the first major initiative coming out of the May 2010 Brazil-Africa Summit that brought more than 20 African Agriculture Ministers to Brazil.