Food Security: less about technology more about access

Photo Credit: Patrick Meinhardt

There are a number of sectors where investments should rarely go bust underpinned by the near constant unwavering demand presented by the market. Agriculture is one such sector that holds this promise yet in my opinion we have failed to build a robust ecosystem that can ensure sustainable growth outside adhoc, often politically flavored interventions to farmers and a farmer groups. Sustainable here means profitable and scalable enterprise that equitably benefits all the players in the supply chain.

While a handful of local technology companies are taking a swipe at the sector, most are focused on the last mile: creating farm gate to marketplace linkages; some all the way to retail, finding better ways to finance farmers or preventing post-harvest losses et cetra. All very laudable efforts including those by various non-governmental and foreign aid organizations.

Our local universities have done a commendable job in agricultural biotechnology across both crop and animal science. A recce to the institutions will have you better appreciate the research minds that apply themselves locally when you look at the valuations and also possible stranglehold that multinational agtech companies have, hinged on intellectual property.

A look at census data reveals that we have a huge youth dividend. While it is great that we are pushing the information and services agenda, with many jumping onto the digital jobs bandwagon, we cannot escape the fact that even with mechanization and automation we can still mop up unemployment in the thousands annually in the field, centers of value addition and the larger supply chain.

So we have three things going for us, the science, the labor and the tech, but one key asset remains locked. Land is a critical factor of production whether tilled or built upon. In a country where emotions are staked on soil, perhaps the silver bullet is to figure out access of government land based on models that would ensure maximization of both resources and return.

The gaffes and perceived under performance of government led programs would be minimized as the research and due diligence by private sector that would drive resource maximization will normalize things and attract requisite capital where and when needed.

In this light, the clamor for title deeds seems misplaced and government is well positioned to shift our collective mindset.

Land is after all in the larger scheme of things more about access than ownership.

An Africa based entrepreneur in the pursuit of opportunities without regard to resources currently controlled striving to build services that have real-world value for my beloved continent and beyond while having fun along the way.

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