In Solidarity with Rockstars: What Bono Has to Do with Nourishing the Planet

Bono’s latest Africa-focused opinion piece in the New York Times made for some inspired reading. Not just because his writing is funny. (Who else can reference both the Edge and Madiba in the same piece?)

But because he trumpets a sentiment that we shine a light on in our recent Nourishing the Planet issues paper—that is, jumpstarting progress on hunger and poverty might depend on weeding out the political infighting that keeps well-meaning people from doing good.

Or, as Bono’s tells it, he heard a certain unexpected “melody” during his March listening and learning trip with a delegation of activists, entrepreneurs and policy wonks roaming western, southern and eastern Africa: “Despite the almost deafening roar of excitement about Africa’s hosting of soccer’s World Cup this summer, we managed to hear a surprising thing. Harmony… flowing from two sides that in the past have often been discordant: Africa’s emerging entrepreneurial class and its civil-society activists.”

We are proud to say we have seen the same. In Zambia, for example, farmers, USAID, and the World Food Programme are working with the cell phone company Mobile Transactions to make sure that not only are farmers connected to communication technology, but that they also have an electronic banking system to help them buy and sell crops.

Or, consider Community Markets for Conservation, an organization that connects rice farmers living near conservation areas to the growing market for organic and locally grown foods in Lusaka’s supermarkets.

During a meeting on rural infrastructure in Maputo, Mozambique, Bono heard a woman declare that those wanting to improve Africa’s roads shouldn’t ignore the roads that currently exist. “We women, we are the roads,” one woman told Bono, inspiring the following epiphany: “I had never thought of it that way but because women do most of the farming, they’re the ones who carry produce to market, collect the water and bring the sick to the clinics.”

So women farmers, like all African farmers must be at the table in these discussions. “It’s no secret,” Bono continues, “that lefty campaigners can be cranky about business elites. And the suspicion is mutual. Worldwide…But in Africa, at least from what I’ve just seen, this is starting to change. The energy of these opposing forces coming together is filling offices, boardrooms and bars.”

We look forward to learning about—and stumbling upon—more of these revolutionary coming togethers from Bono and others.

(Stay tuned for more on these sorts of collaborations. Several chapter of Nourishing the Planet will focus on examples and policies that help the market work for small farmers.)

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