Read in ICRISAT SatTrends Issue 100

Success of innovation platforms in southern Africa
Appropriate partnerships bring about change in southern Africa

Given the recent economic crisis, the expectation is that there isn’t much money changing hands in rural Zimbabwe. However, data from Gwanda district in Zimbabwe shows that this is definitely not the case. The first and only goat auction sales pen established with ICRISAT’s support generated US$ 53,000 during 2009.

Nhwali auction in Gwanda
Goats being auctioned at the Nhwali auction in Gwanda, Zimbabwe
.

These figures clearly indicate the potential of livestock to contribute to household incomes in rural Zimbabwe. The production and marketing of goats is a viable business opportunity and can generate a reasonable income for the smallholder farmer in southern Africa – given the right circumstances, or in many cases the right partnerships.

In Gwanda, the creation of a sales pen and the formalization of goat sales through regular auctions generated such circumstances. This facilitating environment fostered successful relationships between buyers and sellers and instilled confidence in markets.

In the case of Namibia, public-private partnerships generated the right conditions for boosting livestock production and marketing. AGRA, a national agricultural input supply cooperative, recently established an outlet in Hoachanas near the sales pen. Farmers are benefiting from the proximity to inputs and information. This will ultimately increase the productivity of their herds and result in higher incomes.

The key to these successes has been partnerships. The Livestock and Livelihoods project has been testing the use of innovation platforms as a tool to facilitate dialogue between the main players in the value chain to identify bottlenecks and opportunities in production, marketing, and the policy environment. One of the outcomes of engaging in this process is the creation of appropriate partnerships for change.

The innovation platform approach has shown that there are two critical elements for building successful partnerships:

  • Initial facilitation: Successful partnerships are not formed on their own. Someone, usually from the public sector, must take the onus upon themselves to establish the initial dialogue for partnership. They create the buy-in of potential partners, promote ownership of the process, and establish a basis for negotiations. Facilitators should also address the costs
    of creating partnerships.
  • Flexible and open collaboration: Flexibility in the structure of collaboration is required as are well-developed channels of communication, arbitration, monitoring and evaluation, and sound financial management.

Successful partnerships exploit the complementarities and comparative advantages of those involved. They can encourage local innovations and area-specific solutions to improve livestock production and marketing. Moreover, investments from the private sector can alleviate pressure from overburdened government support services and stimulate increased use of inputs, information flow and generate tangible benefits at the market place.

Advertisements