Cooperation with companies: business goals and development benefits

Gerd Fleischer, agricultural expert: companies can help increase the yields and incomes of smallholder farmers.

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The economic development of many countries depends on the productivity of the agricultural sector, particularly in developing countries. A third of all people in employment across the globe work in agriculture. As well as being an important source of income, agricultural production also supplies food. In some rural development projects, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH cooperates with private firms on behalf of the German Government. Gerd Fleischer, expert for agricultural innovations and sustainability standards at GIZ, talks about the company’s experience in this area.

Mr Fleischer, what is the goal of cooperation with the private sector?

The aim is to increase the yields and incomes of smallholder farmers and hence improve their living conditions and those of their families. We want to alleviate poverty and hunger. The only way to do that is to professionalise farming, particularly in small farms. But we cannot just implement standard solutions, because different regions in the world need different solutions. Drawing on the experience gained from decades of international cooperation, GIZ focuses on regionally adapted approaches. In addition to involving international and German firms, we also make a specific effort to include national companies. We consult local research institutes and of course the relevant ministries in the partner countries too.

What is the advantage of working with private companies?

Our projects have reached hundreds of thousands of people, increasing their productivity and hence their income. A lack of infrastructure and technologies, inadequate education and insufficient investment are the biggest challenges that smallholder farmers face throughout the world, above all in Africa. We can assist people in developing infrastructure and positioning themselves in the market more effectively. But we need the private sector for technologies and investment. This kind of cooperation brings advantages for all parties. It is important to ensure that the companies' business goals offer clear development benefits for the smallholder farmers. Cooperation is impossible without this common ground.

Where has this approach been particularly successful?

A project targeting smallholder potato farmers in Kenya has helped increase their yields significantly. This involved various measures, such as testing new varieties of potato, introducing modern farming methods and using compact agricultural machinery that is particularly suitable for smaller plots. In western and southern Africa, almost a million cotton farmers have managed to enhance their productivity by up to 40 per cent and increase their income by around a third. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ provided business management training and courses on sustainable farming methods for these farmers. More than 740,000 of them have been certified in accordance with the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) sustainability standard.