Every year, the Andreas Hermes Academy (AHA) and AgrarKontakte International (AKI) e.V. organise a reciprocal study trip with youth representatives from across African farmers‘ organisations to broaden and deepen their understanding of the European agricultural sector and its political system.
On 22 August, Dr Michael Bruentrup, Dr Theodore Asimeng and Aiveen Donnelly from IDOS as well as Dr Eli Wortmann-Kolundžija, an IDOS associated researcher, welcomed the 19 participants from the Young Leaders Incubation Programme (YLIP) of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU). They were accompanied by Teklezghi Teklebrhan (AKI) and Jan Pusdrowski (AHA).
The day started with a get to know of all the participants. Afterwards, the IDOS research projects focusing on the agricultural sector and its political system, including currently the INTERFACES project, were introduced. A lively discussion ensued on the meaning of sustainability in agricultural development and agri-business. It appeared there are diametrically opposed understandings and experiences on a low-income African and European Union axes. For example, the young leaders experienced that there is a heavy reliance on indigenous knowledge for sustainable farming practices and that there is a large ecological conscience among smallholders, albeit often due to financial restraints. In contrast, the European farming sector is seen as having a powerful lobby, being heavily subsidised and relying on industrial means of farm production, producing a highly negative environmental footprint.
Settling on the lack of political representation in Africa, the discussion turned to thoughts on power relations of farmer organisations vis à vis political and economic arenas throughout the value chain. Dr Wortmann-Kolundžija gave insights into her research on stakeholders in agricultural value chains in Kenya, distinguishing between on the one hand public and private entities, on the other hand supply chain operators, supporters and enablers. The young leaders supplemented Dr Wortmann-Kolundžija’s schematic overview with their experiences in power relations from the view of farmers‘ organisations.
These insights included, for example, the hierarchy of farmers‘ organisations favouring the elderly male members whereby a redefinition of the term “farmer” as such is required taking the role of youth and women into account more. Also the processes of land certification not being reflected by changing structures of farmers‘ organisations or supply chains and political capture of elected officials with farmers‘ organisations as a result often being more interested in political impact as opposed to agricultural impact of policies for their farmer members.
The visit was not only highly useful for the INTERFACES project on “Sustainable Land Management in sub-Sahara Africa”, contributing to a better understanding of innovation systems in Africa and enhancing the project’s network, but also provided fruitful input for a forthcoming IDOS Policy Brief by Dr Eli Wortmann-Kolundžija and Dr Michael Bruentrup.
INTERFACES and its activities are funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the platform strategy Research for Sustainability (FONA). Further information on the projects can be found on our website, on our YouTube channel and on the FONA-Website.