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How can we promote an inclusive policy agenda for Africa’s agricultural transformation?

By: INCLUDE Secretariat | 19-05-2016 | News

On 23 May, INCLUDE will co-host a side-panel at the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) annual conference in Lusaka, Zambia. This panel, entitled ‘Jobs for women and young people – the transformative potential of agribusiness’, builds on the concept of agribusiness, which lies at the heart of the AfDB’s strategy for transforming Africa’s agriculture sector. The panel will discuss how employment for women and youth can be promoted within agribusiness.

The panel discussion will touch on two of the main themes of INCLUDE: productive employment and social protection. The challenge is to make agribusiness not only create more jobs, but create decent jobs that stimulate inclusive development. Moreover, social protection, when integrated in agricultural development policies, can serve as a catalyst for the employment of women and youth.

Yet, several questions remain: What is the potential of agribusiness for employment in Africa? How can jobs for women and youth be best created through agribusiness? How does social protection relate to agricultural productivity? And how can investments in social protection become beneficial?

To answer these questions, INCLUDE has published a series of ‘one pagers’ that provide evidence on a wide range of issues:

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Jur Schuurman

2016-05-19 16:05

It is discouraging to have to observe that the definition of ‘inclusive development’ used throughout this dossier is quite a limited one. For instance, in the one-pager on the role of inclusive value chains, these are defined as ‘as including vulnerable groups such as women and youth in all stages of production’. This phrasing reduces ‘vulnerable groups’ to passive beneficiaries, who just have to sit and hope that some institution or programme will include them.

But, as I wrote a year ago in my INCLUDE policy consultation contribution ‘Nothing about them without them’ (, that is not the whole story. At the risk of being accused of too facile self-quotation: “Real inclusiveness starts by consultation of the not-yet-included.” Inclusion of people in, for instance, ‘production stages’ without asking them, or their legitimate representers, about their problems, wishes and ambitions, runs the risk of missing the mark. Not only because fundamental information would be lacking, but also because there has been no participation in the design of the plan or programme, and therefore little or no ownership is achieved.

Time and again policy-makers and side-panel organisers tend to forget that people and their organisations can come up with analysis and solutions – not to be followed blindly, but to be taken seriously. This is particularly true in the rural sphere: farmers’ organisations can (and want to) participate in policy dialogue AND they realise solutions of their own, for instance creating cooperatives that add value.

In other words, a profound debate about inclusiveness in Lusaka does not make that debate itself inclusive: the main stakeholders (the farmers) are absent – just look at the list of speakers. They are from IITA, Dalberg, Agrolay Ventures, Acumen and AWARD. None of these organisations represent farmers. It is sad that, in a side panel on inclusive agricultural transformation, those that are to be included in development are not included in the debate about development.

And it would not have been difficult. In recent years, the Pan-African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO, has grown and consolidated considerably. They have a consistent and eloquent vision on farmers, agriculture and inclusiveness, and they want to be there when these topics are discussed. As the PAFO president said in a recent event in the Netherlands: ‘don’t invite us to dinner afterwards, call us to the kitchen’.

This time, it seems they were not called to the kitchen. A missed opportunity.


2016-05-21 09:05

Dear Mr. Schuurman,

Thank you for your clear and provocative comment on our one pager series. First, let’s clarify that we share in your view that inclusive development does not mean imposing top-down blueprints of development upon beneficiaries. Inclusion of marginalized and vulnerable groups in all stages of the design of policies lies at the core of the difference between development and inclusive development.

Hence, we have attempted to incorporate this in the one pager series. We particularly focused on the role of cooperatives you mentioned. For instance, an overarching recommendation in the inclusive value chains one pager is the focus on new or improved cooperatives for women and youth, as the advantages of cooperative organizations are manifold: their results may be tangible in the form of obtained credit or land, but can also lead to an improved dialogue with peers, employers or political decision-making bodies. Yet, cooperatives are no magic charm in themselves yet, as invitations to the social and political dialogue do not empower youth and women in themselves yet. Therefore, our one pagers have also adopted a macro-economic focus amongst other things. In our aim to provide the most relevant evidence we welcome any valuable contribution, for instance on ways to assist cooperatives in their self-organization.

Perhaps the one pager ‘A policy agenda for inclusive agricultural transformation in Africa’ provides more clarity on the issue outlined above. By distinguishing between investments, policy strategies and mainstreaming techniques we stress the equality of importance of for instance a focus on vulnerable and excluded groups and engagement in a balanced social and political dialogue of actors, including the private sector. Making the interventions demand-driven is an explicit recommendation of these, and earlier, one pagers.

Regarding the panel, this is not a matter of not being ‘called to the kitchen’. Although I cannot dive into the process of invitation of speakers here explicitly, I can stress that we have attempted to include the actors mentioned by you in this panel. We have indeed focused on farmer’s organizations, but not always successfully. Yet, focusing on the organizations themselves, rather than the people representing them, can be misleading. For instance, Ada Osakwe (Agrolay) is foremost an entrepreneurs and job-creator.

It is a key issue for INCLUDE to focus on the inclusion of all stakeholders in the policy agenda discussed by the panel. Therefore, we once again would like to thank you for drawing our attention to this issue. We hope you will follow our live reporting on the panel through Twitter (@INCLUDEplatform) and we welcome any additional valuable comment both during and after the panel discussion.

On behalf of the INCLUDE secretariat,
Frank van Kesteren


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