This year’s European Development Days (EDD), organized by the European Commission, were held virtually on June 15 and 16. Under the overarching topic of “The Green Deal for a Sustainable Future,” the worldwide development community came together to share ideas and present innovative solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges. Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) participated in this spirited conversation through a session organized by GIZ and Energypedia entitled, It’s a match?! Linking Water, Energy and Food to the Private and Financial Sectors.
Session moderator Lucie Pluschke, the East Africa Regional Innovation Hub Manager, shared how around 33 million smallholder farmers in Africa do not have access to water-energy-food (WEF) innovations, like solar-powered irrigation systems. Local businesses and finance institutions are crucial for empowering farmers to access WEF solutions. Accessing these solutions not only increases agricultural productivity, but it also promotes gender equality, enables climate resilience, and reduces rural poverty.
Thanks to EDD, over 10.000 participants worldwide watched the sessions during the two days. WE4F leveraged this audience to emphasize the importance of the private and finance sectors’ engagement in the water-energy-food nexus. Representatives from WE4F, as well as the two inspiring speakers Denis Karema and Boniface Muthusi from the private and finance sectors in Kenya, took the virtual stage to highlight the crucial importance of smallholder farmers having better access to finance and its effects on access to water- and energy-efficient innovations.
WE4F Donors Team Up for EDD
Carla Montesi, the Director at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships at the European Union, introduced WE4F by highlighting the alignment between the session and the European Green Deal, which aims for a climate neutral future and sustainable economic growth in face of global climate change. In addition, Mrs. Montesi shared the importance of a Team Europe approach in the WEF nexus, which is perfectly reflected by WE4F’s structure as a joint international initiative that includes European donors from Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany, as well as in cooperation with the United States.
The integrated and innovative WE4F approach was further distinguished by Mr. Sebastian Lesch, Head of Division 122 in the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). His opening remarks focused on WE4F’s strength in uniting stakeholders and scaling innovations in Africa and Asia for better and more sustainable food production, with the particular goal of ending hunger. In order to achieve BMZ’s special initiative “One world – No Hunger” and the Agenda 2030, private and finance sectors’ engagement is essential for promoting sustainable food production and rural development in Africa and Asia The BMZ especially focusses on ending hunger in Africa, while stating that Africa can feed itself.
“Agriculture is the biggest private sector in the world and we need to bring that power to the table. With WE4F, we want to democratize the access to technological solutions and to finance for the end–users, meaning for smallholder farmers. Solutions in access to financing could be a breakthrough in rural development.”
Sebastian Lesch, Head of Division 122, BMZ
Two Pioneers of the Private and Finance Sectors in Kenya
The first speaker to take the stage was Denis Karema, CEO of Soko Fresh. Soko Fresh is a Kenyan company that provides access to cold storage for smallholder farmers with the aim of minimizing post-harvest losses. The company offers a pay-as-you-go solar cooling service to the farmers, which minimizes the financial burden as they don’t have to purchase an entire cooling storage system. It also enables smallholders farmers’ access to climate and farmer-friendly innovations and can simultaneously generate 20-30% more income. The results for smallholder farmers include empowering their communities and producing food in a more sustainable, energy-efficient way.
Aside from Soko Fresh’s pay-as-you-go service, access to innovative technologies will not be acquired without financial institutions, such as the one of Boniface Muthusi, Chief Credit & Risk Officer of Juhudi Kilimo and the second speaker during WE4F’s session. Juhudi Kilimo is a micro-finance institution for smallholder farmers in East Africa.
In Africa, only 4% of total bank loans go to the agricultural sector, even though it provides 37% of the GDP, 60% of the export value and 76% of the total employment. With agriculture being the under-financed backbone of the African economy, Juhudi Kilimo provides financing for agricultural assets that offer immediate and sustainable income for smallholder farmers. These assets can be trainings, new innovations, or proven technologies like water tanks for irrigation.
“As an institution we are very keen on how we could transform the lives of the farmers. Yes, we are in business and we have to be sustainable, but at the end of the day we want to see to what extent are the farmers progressing from the poverty level, getting better, being able to put food on the table. This is why we want to create market linkages for the farmers and why we are embracing technologies like Soko Fresh’s for post-harvest challenges. This way we understand the farmers much better and can attend their needs.”
Boniface Muthusi, Chief Credit & Risk Officer at Juhudi Kilimo
An inspiring session sets the beginning for a worldwide dialogue
WE4F’s successful session at the European Development Days drew attention to the most important stakeholders within the WEF nexus while highlighting best practices and learnings from businesses like Soko Fresh and Juhudi Kilimo. The session stressed the need for new approaches, as well as the successes of already existing multi sectoral approaches. Businesses like Soko Fresh and Juhudi Kilimo are important for providing a path forward for more accessible private and finance sectors and for dissemination of climate-friendly innovations for smallholder farmers. One thing is sure: the dialogue on linking the private and finance sectors with the WEF nexus has to and will be continued beyond this event!
You’ve missed WE4F’s session at the EDD 2021? No problem, you can still watch it online here.