Capacity Development / Capacity Strengthening / CapDev / Ethiopia / Food Security / ILRI / LIVESTOCK-FISH / Partnership / Tanzania / Value Chains

Capacity development for sustainable food security: Role of public private partnerships

Dairy farmer girl in Punjab, India

Capacity development and public private partnership are hailed as global policy priorities in the draft sustainable development goals outcome document and the UN secretary general’s synthesis report provides guidance on what sustainable development should look like and what world leaders must do over the next 15 years to achieve it. After two years of crafting the ‘what’, the year ahead must focus on how to get it done.

Feeding the world’s growing population in a sustainable and inclusive way with good quality food is one of the main goals of the value chains approach-based CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

Malnutrition affects one in two people globally including 162 million children under the age of five who are stunted (i.e. have low height for age) and two billion people who are deficient in one or more micronutrients. The task of securing food and nutrition worldwide is multidisciplinary and access to food, food distribution and food production are equally important and cannot succeed independently.

In much of the world, investments in food security are mainly channeled through national policies and centralized negotiations, but priorities could be better set, and decisions made, within a more participatory democratic approach of public private dialogue between elected representatives, grassroots civil society, youth, women, farmers, herders and traders and other players.

Experiences from the corporate sector reveal that 50-70% of partnerships fail prematurely. While partners often have goals in common, they also have individual objectives that do not necessarily complement one another. In addition, partners may have a variety of capacity-related differences, conflicting priorities and interests that present obstacles to effective collaboration (The Broker Online, 2014).  This can result in ineffective or even failed interventions, which can be avoided and addressed by first carrying out pro-poor public private partnership assessments such as those being developed and tested by the Livestock and Fish program in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Integrating multiple perspectives early in the process of identifying context and priorities is essential for successful collaborative arrangements and interventions. Also, to extend services to the poor, governments and partners need to adopt pro-poor policies and put in place regulatory regimes to effectively and consistently coordinate and oversee the achievement of poverty alleviation targets, whether delivery is by the public or the private sector.

Governments, in close consultations with stakeholders should define these targets, make necessary regulatory changes and build them into contracts with appropriate incentives for private operators and other non-state providers to meet service delivery targets to improve value chains and enforce penalties for failure (UNDP/PPPSD, Visser and Brandes, 2011).

Another area for government engagement is in providing an enabling business environment for creating business incubators and networks. Governments should not only be a source of regulation and policy formation, but also encourage judicial reform and procedural justice in administrative processes (such as property rights).Where private institutions are weak, governments should encourage and assist businesses in preparing for complying with global accreditation standards. Investments should be geared towards improving financial literacy of entrepreneurs, their ability to draft business plans should complement business training and specific technical support to engineer growth in value chains and unreliable supply chains should be firstly assessed and supported.

Governments cannot deliver a sustainable future alone. The (corporate) private sector has an important role to play in accelerating innovation and diffusing technologies.

Private sector involvement should not focus exclusively on the big agribusinesses, but should also invest in smaller-scale, less sophisticated methods of delivering added value that suit small agricultural and women-led businesses (SMEs) such as storage, transport, tools, processing equipment, ICT services, micro-finance and knowledge transfers, and which focus on geographical integration processes to stimulate efficient food distribution.

According to the African Development Bank, the majority of SMEs in Africa operate informally, with nine out of 10 rural and urban workers in Africa engaged in informal businesses. While formalization can help weed out businesses with little growth prospects and the small firms that have the potential to raise their productivity and number of employees, the reality is complex. SMEs often face the choice between complying with high regulations and incurring costs,which threaten their viability or remaining informal, which in turn, prevents them from being eligible for credit and makes them vulnerable to corrupt public authorities.

Access to finance remains one of the biggest challenges for SME growth. More flexible finance models such as private equity, credit lines and collateral registries allow entrepreneurs to take risks and tap into new funding opportunities, in addition to traditional bank lending. Pairing business management capacity development interventions with designing investment plans is key to foster local enterprise growth. Investing in SMEs could lead to a giant leap for economies but much remains unclear about where to invest and how investments in SMEs (and to those with innovative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit) could be more effective in triggering increased productivity, better employment opportunities and higher skilled work. Linked to this also is data and information management to support decision-making for value chain sustainability and accountability that includes the citizenry and which clearly identifies commitments, roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders.

Improving value chains performance is high on the agenda of Livestock and Fish country value chain programs. public-private partnerships, as a collaborative interface, are (formalized) multi stakeholder approaches that identify stakeholders with a significant interest in value chain programing, allowing for mutual trust building and understanding to accommodate different roles, responsibilities, interests, joint design and co-delivery of research for development work.

Partnerships are not ends in themselves; they are parts of a chain leading to development of sustained capacity to deliver in and across five flagship projects of Livestock and Fish. In the longer term their success builds on the engagement and (capacity) strengthening of organizations and actors in education, training, consultancy and research who have a crucial role in sustainable development. This systemic, long-term perspective ensures focus not only on strengthening the transformational capacity today, but incorporates actions that seek to endow a capacity to continue to adapt, grow and innovate for tomorrow’s challenges.

Insufficient technical capacities to engineer growth in value chains and unreliable supply chains have been two key reasons for limited successes in SME promotion by (African) governments. Especially in the start-up phase of SMEs, public organizations can assist public private partnership arrangements in facilitating knowledge for the design of complementary production systems, adaptation and innovation of technologies and regulation of supply chains. Incorporating SMEs into large businesses, completely or in parts of their value and supply chains offers opportunities for them to benefit from corporate training by the parent company.

Business and capacity development services facilitate SMEs growth by:

  • Pairing of financial support, advice in drafting business plans, assessing market access and business operations is crucial to ensure that business growth is not hampered by a lack of expertise or resources;
  • Supporting cooperation between the private sector, research organizations and higher educational and training institutions in curriculum design and delivery and labour market placement to counteract mismatch of skills required.
  • Establishing cooperation with local institutions for technical vocational and educational training to stimulate more direct private sector engagement. Successful entrepreneurs can provide inputs to curricula, hold guest lecturer positions and offer internship opportunities to students;
  • Co-designing innovative educational practices, such as automated education services via mobile technology or massive open online courses (MOOCs) can bridge gaps in access to education and quality teaching. But MOOCs in particular have high entry barriers, ranging from insufficient internet access to language barriers and lack of prior knowledge. A shift from broad-based training to targeted support for talented individuals (champions) with entrepreneurial spirit may be more useful (The Broker Online, 2014).
  • Innovative and cost-effective alternatives for SME learning and training can be barter systems or workers’ associations that provide trainings for informal businesses. Digital business networks can provide another low-cost option for SMEs to increase their capacities and establish relations with other businesses.

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