In our livestock fish proposal, we highlight our intention to “foster partnerships that harness the respective strengths of research and development partners, including the private sector” (p. iv).
This is because, as we note, “increasingly, opportunities are being created to partner with the private sector, tapping into their research and business expertise to benefit the target value chains, while at the same time providing a means to create market pull or ensure commercial provision of appropriately designed pro-poor gender responsive inputs and services that promote and support uptake of productivity-enhancing technologies by the target groups” (p. 9).
The Consortium Board has challenged us “for a better explanation of how this sector will contribute to value chain development and scaling out the outcomes.”
One of the reviewers was more critical, saying: “Where somewhat unrealistic expectations are raised throughout the document is where numerous suggestions for private sector involvement are made. It appears not justified to assume major private sector investment in the context of the value chains targeted by the Programme given that they are somewhat marginal to the large market dynamics preferred by the private sector.”
To address these comments, we propose to describe in more detail how we envisage involving the private sector as partners along the following lines.
The private sector is targeted as a key partner because its commercial orientation will improve the viability, appropriateness and ultimate sustainability of the value chain development strategies. It will be engaged at a range of levels.
As an international science partner
Large international companies have impressive capacity in R&D and can leverage patented technologies that can accelerate the discovery process. ILRI has partnered in the past with pharmaceutical companies for vaccine development. More recently, ILRI and WorldFish Centre have similarly engaged with international feed companies in developing feed products tailored to small-scale systems. ILRI is currently partnered, for example, with one company in field testing prototype feed products appropriate for beginner dairy farmers in Kenya and Uganda. CIAT collaborates with multinational seed companies for the dissemination of bred grass cultivars mainly, but not only, targeted at the Latin American market.
The motivations for an international company may partly be to meet corporate social responsibility objectives, but clearly remains largely commercial. Such collaboration provide opportunities to develop appropriately designed products aimed at emerging markets that have been ignored to date, as well as facilitating testing of new products. For our proposed research program, once a new technology has proven its viability, such companies can immediately scale it up for subsequent widespread dissemination from a healthy profit motive.
As a national business partner
Within specific value chains, we will seek to identify opportunities where existing companies could contribute to developing the value chain in a pro-poor manner while expanding their own business. A current example is the East Africa Dairy Development project, a large-scale intervention being implemented by Heifer Project International and other partners, with ILRI supporting as the knowledge partner. A Kenyan genetics company, African Breeders Services Total Cattle Management Limited (ABS TCM LTD), is one of the core partners in the project; not only does it benefit from the immediate business gained from working with project, but it also is keen to test strategies for creating new markets among lower-income dairy farmers who they have failed to reach previously. Similarly, the WorldFish Center has partnered with the commercial feed industry in Egypt to help develop fishmeal and fish oil free nutritionally complete tilapia feeds. In pork value chains, an opportunity may be to replicate smallholder outgrower schemes with the small meat processing enterprises that have appeared in Uganda, and so on.
As a local small-scale business partner
At local level, we are finding it increasingly critical to help develop—and often create—small-scale business services to support emerging production and marketing systems. This approach will be central to value chain development efforts. In post-tsunami Aceh, for example, the WorldFish Center has fostered thousands of small-scale, enterprise-oriented aquaculture businesses, improving food security and helping create resilient livelihoods. Under the dairy development project mentioned above, ILRI has been instrumental in responding to feed demand by introducing and promoting small-scale feed processing services. On the output side, training and certification schemes for informal milk traders have been developed for upgrading these important market services. Similar experiences exist from the work of CIAT and partners in Latin America with milk collection centers and small-scale cheese factories, and in SE Asia working with livestock traders and national institutions to connect consumer demand to producers.
The key is to create a vibrant network of local business actors who each have it in their interest to sustain the development of the value chain.
Our questions for your comment:
- Is this description of our strategy to partner with the private sector clear and sufficient?
- What is missing?
- Are there other examples that we can cite to demonstrate how the private sector can be actively engaged in pro-poor value chain development?