Private sector can help move subsistence farming to profit

Self Help AfricaFeatured, News

The private sector cannot be ignored if we are to move subsistence agriculture into profit, a presentation to the Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD) heard, last week.

Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre spoke about public-private partnerships in front of NGO representatives, academics and representatives of the Irish agri-food sector in a seminar hosted by Gorta-Self Help Africa for the Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD).

Speaking on the topic “Better engaging smallholders with the private sector: blended finance or blended development”, Mr Simons pointed to the need to connect overseas development aid with new and innovative financial sources.

Developing relationships with the private sector offers many benefits, including access to expert knowledge and networks, cost sharing, the development of new approaches for complex challenges, as well as a better understanding of the context in which private companies are working. “When you’re invited to the table, you get to understand better the motivations of private business, and to express yours. As a result, both can be much more powerful in their action,” he said. Risk can be reduced through better regulation and due diligence, he added.

“There are funds for development in government aid, in the financial sector, in the private sector, in research and development. But the question is: how do you leverage that?” he asked. “Blended finance, through a combination of different financial instruments, such as loans, grants and others, offer new strategic opportunities to leverage commercial funding in support of development activities.”

According to Tony Simons, public-private partnerships have the potential to significantly scale up agricultural innovation and to provide lasting change for the communities involved. “Public-private partnerships are currently poorly understood. Everyone has to step up their game. I believe that the likes of Irish Aid can play a important part by facilitating that dialogue,” he concluded.

The Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD) is a consortium of Irish farming expertise, academics and NGOs who are focussed on harnessing Irish farming experience to address the challenges affecting communities in poorer regions of the world.