Stimulating the Links between Agriculture and the Private Sector

In this new series we ask farmers, project leaders, NGO’s, journalists, policy makers, funders and others we’ve met during our research, where they would like to see more agriculture funding directed. In this post, Jan Nijhoff, who works with the Common Market for Eastern and South Africa (COMESA) and Michigan State University in Lusaka, Zambia, explains why reaching the MDG #1—the goal of halving both the number of people who earn less than a dollar a day and the number of hungry people worldwide by 2015—will require African governments to spend 10 percent of their annual budgets on agricultural development.

MSU has been working in Africa with government research institutes and regional economic groups for the past 30 years, “dissecting the agriculture sector” and advising how to improve trade and identify the best investment opportunities, explains Jan  Nijhoff, program coordinator of Michigan State University’s COMESA program

Through its Guiding Investments for Sustainable Agriculture Markets in Africa (GISAMA) project, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, COMESA/MSU is helping funders determine where their money should go. They’re looking at things like the structure of commodity markets, as well as dissecting agricultural value chains to identify investment opportunities and needs. Through research done by both MSU and African researchers, COMESA/MSU will provide a “more evidence-based foundation for grants,” says Jan.

Ultimately, COMESA’s goals around agriculture are to increase productivity and stimulate the links between agriculture and the private sector. There’s a need, according to Jan, for more public-private partnerships that give fair prices to farmers and consumers—and this, according to COMESA, will require financial support from governments, as well as the opening of borders and encouragement of trade between countries.

To read more about COMESA and their work to improve markets for small scale farmers to alleviate hunger and poverty, see: In Easter and Southern Africa, Improving Trade and Identifying Investment Opportunities, Creating Game Plans for Investment and Policy to Improve Food Security, and Working to Connect Farmers, Researchers, and Policy Makers in Africa.

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