Monday, June 10, 2013

African farm development via Fazilka - Daily Post

By Daily Post India,
6/9/2013Inline image 1
DP Correspondent, Chandigarh

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is initiating development in Africa through various ways. One of those ways goes via Fazilka, the border city of Punjab.
The Fazilka connection is happening through Africa Lead, the three-year USAID programme. The purpose of Africa Lead is to support the capacity building programme of the 'Feed the Future (FTF)' Initiative of the US government. 
To achieve this, Africa Lead is building a cadre of African agricultural specialists trained in all aspects in the development and commercialisation of the agricultural industry.
This is where Fazilka comes into the picture. Top-of-the-line resource persons from sub-Saharan nations like Liberia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and more are being hand-picked for training at a farm solutions firm in Fazilka. 
A team of Africa Lead came for training to Fazilka in December last year. The second team has just wrapped up its 20-day training.
The Africa Lead team leader David Tardif-Douglin, who is coordinating the Fazilka programme, highlighted that the agriculture industry in Africa is based on small holdings. "Farmers lack access to agricultural mechanisation to improve productivity and expand their production base," said David, stating that their story is similar to that of the Indian farmers. 
The average African farms are small in size, and farmers lack sufficient resources to purchase the necessary agricultural equipment.
What caught the attention of USAID was the unique business model of Fazilka firm, which works as an all-needs agricultural equipment company. 
It sells new equipment, provides maintenance and parts, leases equipment with trained operators, establishes satellite enterprise village centres, and also provides mechanised agricultural services on contract. 
In addition, the firm runs a training centre on agronomic best practices, equipment use, their maintenance, and also farm economics. It links farmers to extension services and training capsules through video conferencing with university and research facilities.
David Tardif-Douglin noted that the Fazilka model of renting out a wide range of equipment to small farmers to meet any need is very applicable to Africa. 
In the last few decades, Punjab farmers had been building up huge debts buying tractors and other farming equipment as a 'matter of prestige.'
Now, realisation is dawning even among Punjab farmers that the relatively short durations of the wheat and rice crop cycles make the purchase of agricultural equipment redundant. 
Africa Lead is trying to replicate the same 'Sustainable Farm Mechanisation' model in Africa by training its resource persons here.
The Africa Lead group, which finished its training in Fazilka on Saturday, includes Nicholas Nabende from Uganda, Sam Rubagumya from Rwanda and Felix Temu from Tanzania. 
The first group that came to Fazilka for training, included Gus Roberts from Liberia, Titus Gakwaya from Rwanda and Aaron Ngobi from Uganda.
Africa Lead calls such groups their 'Champions for Change'.

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