What’s next for rainfed agriculture?
Ninety-five percent of food production in Africa relies on rainfed agriculture. Yet only 5% of public agricultural water are invested in it. SIWI’s TIARA project is trying to change the course and scale up investments for rainfed agriculture.
Closing the deal
A central theme of the forum was how the private sector can engage with rainfed agriculture and how sustainable business models can work. Arleen Mitchell, Founder of MS Innovation Lab, and advisor at SIWI’s TIARA project mobilized actors from the private sector to join the forum. During the forum she facilitated discussions in a world café: “Many challenges I see are related to a lack of cooperation and coordination. To address these, I matched participants from NGOs, governments, and the private sector to have a high level of engagement across actors and sectors during the forum.”
A range of challenges exist for increased investment from the private sector. One of them is that NGOs and private sector models are at times not compatible. In such cases private funds might be available, but ultimately not reach a recipient.
According to Mitchell, having open and informal discussions was an important step forward: “At the start it was difficult to get people to share their experiences, but I am from New York, USA and perhaps because of that can be very up front.
Over time more and more people shared their organization’s needs. In the end, discussions carried on over lunch.” She remembers: “One participant outlined the low likelihood for farmers to get credit. We then discussed how the interest rate could be much lower if a government was involved. So eventually, we went from openly talking about challenges to discussing solutions.”
Mitchell explains that the matchmaking that began during the forum is still ongoing: “With some participants I am in contact twice a week and I enquire if we can somehow connect them with others to establish cooperation. The more I know about what they are looking for, the better I can suggest a private investor later.”
In January 2024, Mitchell will travel to Zambia to “meet the farmers and see a public-private partnership go through.” She firmly beliefs that “there is a lot of interest, because people see that at scale this is a great opportunity.”
The Zambezi Rainfed Agriculture Investment Forum took place on the 8 and 9 August 2023 at the Gaborone International Convention Centre, Botswana. Over 80 participants from diverse backgrounds and affiliations from 17 countries attended.Read the report