“Commitment without intentions and actions is a fairytale.”
In COP26 (2021), 153 countries agreed to reach net-zero emissions, fight climate change, collaborate, and the list goes on.
They also committed to transferring hundreds of billions and trillions of USD to advance those goals.
They committed, promised, announced, declared, and gave unforgettable speeches with fabulous goals…
It was the best show in time while it lasted.
Then the UN asked and answered itself;
“Are we on track to reach net zero by 2050?
No, commitments made by governments to date fall far short of what is required.”
In the agro sector, things are not different; leaders, decision-makers, stakeholders, impact VC, companies, global organizations, and many others speak loudly of their intentions, constitute new laws, announce massive “game-changing” projects, etc., only to find out, years later, there is a minimal change. Too often, the change is not even a positive one.
GOOD INTENTIONS ARE INSUFFICIENT
Dear friends and colleagues in the agro sector, I truly and sincerely appreciate your good intentions, desire, and strenuous efforts. But to bring the change we wish to see, this is simply insufficient.
Farmers can’t buy food or send their children to school based on intentions, promises, and potential.
Poverty is the reality of 550 million farmers and 2.2 billion people whose livelihood depends on agriculture! Are you aware of something else?
It gets even more discouraging looking at our history and seeing that - Vision, Wishing, Thinking, Hoping, Statements, Budget, Services, Technologies, Turn Key Projects, and Training, each separately or combined, failed to bring the needed change to the agro sector.
If ALL those are insufficient, then what is?
Think of your children and their simple task of becoming car drivers.
They start by learning how to read and write, learn the theory of driving, and finally, practice driving. Finally, they do the Test and get a driving license if all goes well.
This simple process transforms them from people who don't know how to drive to those who know. But, does it make them professional or good drivers? Sure not.
Even after they receive their driving license, they are a danger to others and themselves. WHY?
Because at that stage, they are still inexperienced and need practice before becoming good drivers.
In many countries, new drivers can’t drive alone and need the escort of an experienced driver for several months before they are fully certified to drive alone.
Why drive with an adult?
This is a time when we are with them in real-life situations. While they practice, we have a chance to see their performance and, when needed to remark and correct mistakes in real-time.
We contribute our experience so they can immediately correct and get a chance to practice and improve instantly.
From experience, we know the high toll of life and injuries of inexperienced drivers.
Driving a car does not guarantee that you will know how to drive any vehicle, e.g., a truck or a bus, or your ability to fly a plane, sail a ship, or ride in a carriage.
Clearly, any such change is essential and requires dedicated study, knowledge, experience, and field training.
Yet, though farming is a thousand times more challenging than driving, we expect Traditional Farmers to somehow “convert” themselves into Professional Agro-Industry-Business Farmers WITHOUT any dedicated and structured help and support from real experts.
We expect farmers to "transfer" from chemical-based regimes to eco-friendly or regenerative regimes WITHOUT dedicated education, field help, and broad-spectrum support.
I grew up as a farmer, studied and researched for 15 years in one of the finest agricultural universities in the world, and I wouldn’t be able to do that change alone, and so do you.
So how on earth poor smallholders or any farmer could “transform” themselves without help and support!?
Are we like those leaders I mentioned earlier, who believe that simply by stating, saying, hoping, manifesting, lecturing, reality will "CHANGE” itself!?
For 15 years, AGRA's multi-billion $$$ projects and methods failed to bring the expected CHANGE.
They, like others, believed that all it takes to “convert” or “transform” farmers is to provide them with technology/funding and technical operation instructions.
They believed all the rest would happen by itself, a Cinderella miracle. But even Cinderella’s miracle was well-planned, with a sequence of events leading to the happy end.
In short, in the eyes of Bill Gates, the leading spirit behind AGRA, the transformation of farmers from poverty to prosperity is an entirely technical process that can be automated as if they were geniuses and can all alone frog-leap the gap of lost decades of neglection.
Unfortunately, Bill Gates is not alone in his perception of how to transform the agro sector.
As a result, smallholders and farmers globally are “paying the price” of that misconception failure, and the “price” is what we call Poverty, Hunger, and decades that will never return.
From a wider angle, we all pay the price, for agriculture could contribute to a healthier planet with negative (not-zero) gas emissions and healthier (high quality and quantity) food and environment, supporting prosperity and happiness.
Instead, today agriculture contributes “about 24% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.” (EPA)
Let's face it; we were wrong in our approach to implementing a fundamental change in the agro sector.
Next time you think of introducing a fundamental change to the agro sector, think of what it takes to “transform” a person into a driver, and then multiply it by a thousand times complexity per farmer.
INDICATORS FOR SUCCESS
Like in driving, if you want to teach and train someone driving, you are not supposed to take their place behind the wheel. Instead, consider positioning yourself in the passenger seat next to them or as a co-pilot, as it is on airplanes.
If learning basic driving skills takes weeks or months, we are talking about years and decades with agriculture. By the way, good farmers learn and improve every day until they die.
When I founded Dream Valley, I understood that if we wanted to transfer farmers and the agro sector from Agriculture to Agro-Industry-Business, from Poverty to Prosperity, and to do this based on eco-friendly regenerative principles, we would have to do things differently.
For one, we would have to start by being with the farmer, sitting in the passenger/co-pilot seat, instead of instructing them from the boss's office.
How do you know how good your child is driving?
When you ride with him while he is driving, you use several indicators, such as looking outside the window, seeing the terrain, the traffic, how other drivers react to his driving, and your own experience and feeling as a passenger.
How will we measure farming success, and what indicators should we use?
Instead of looking out of the window and feeling the movement of the car, in agriculture, we use quantitative and qualitative indicators, with the main ones being -
Yield per hectare; Product quality; Price per kg.
In driving, the ultimate indication of one's “success” is when repeatedly arriving unharmed at their destination. Insurance companies translate this to your "risk assessment" and the cost of your driving insurance.
In agriculture, the ultimate indicator of the rate of success is the income and profit per hectare.
The reason an Israeli mango grower can enjoy an income of $50K per hectare and his colleagues in Africa and Asia only $500 is the sum and the result of the ecosystem in which they are active, business models, and technologies/services available and in use.
If $50K per hectare represents “good and responsible driving," then 500$ per hectare represents “a car crash with injuries and a total loss of the vehicle.”
Which of the two reflects better the agro sector in your country?
OWN THE PROBLEMS
The task we face to bring change and transformation from poverty to prosperity to the agro sector in those 175 non-developed economies is one we have failed to reach for years. It is a task we have neglected, dismissed, and overlooked even after grand historical achievements of landing on the moon and reaching the depths of the oceans.
The challenge of changing Agriculture to Agro-Business-Industry and transforming 550 million farmers from poverty to prosperity is one we can't keep on ignoring and one which calls for national and international involvement.
In this decade, we can transform smallholders and other farmers from poverty to prosperity by using different novel approaches, models, methods, technologies, and services.
The "more-of-the-same" attitude is toxic, which brought enough suffering to earth and requires immediate quitting.
Using the mango industry as a model, we see the magnitude of the challenge of transferring farmers' income from $500 to $50K (x100) per hectare.
This is a challenging task, suitable for visionary leaders, yet, from my experience, it is possible, achievable, and above all, it is the most human thing to do.
Furthermore, the global impact would be immense even if we fail short and increase the income by 50 to “only” $25K.
To this end, we need to understand the current state thoroughly. Based on this, we can design and provide a tailor-made, detailed, and dedicated action plan with a roadmap to the defined goals on the way to prosperity.
We should base this roadmap on implementing the three pillars of the thriving and successful Israeli Agriculture Model – Ecosystem, Business Model, and Technologies/Services.
Note. Asking for a roadmap before knowing in detail the current state is a clear sign that you will receive a "One Size Fits All" plan, which is an assurance for failure. Please avoid this mistake.
With the roadmap in hand, it is time to implement the plan stringently.
A plane without quality execution is nothing!
KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE INDICATORS
Even the best plan can’t predict everything. Hence, we are bound to face unexpected problems and challenges (as in the driver parable, even when the road is the same other variables continuously changing).
We expect "surprises" and deal with those by continuously monitoring the vital parameters mentioned before and some secondary dedicated parameters per project.
These provide an early alert to any deviation, including a continuous quality control assurance we are heading in the planned direction according to schedule on the right path to success.
To collect this data in real-time and be in a position to fix it immediately, we must position ourselves next to the driver, i.e., the farmer, as a co-pilot, meaning we become part of the solution!
When Dream Valley faced the question of how to achieve that, we decided that instead of doing what we are expected to do, i.e., focus on decreasing the business risks; we would do the opposite and focus on creating and increasing the business opportunities for farmers and value chain partners.
Dream Valley does this by partnering with farmers, i.e., co-pilot, which enables us to direct farmers in the practical questions of WHEN, WHAT, and HOW while getting a real-time view on problems, so we can also fix them in real-time (instead of the following year).
In practice, Dream Valley created the most intimate alliance of interests with farmers.
It wishes to understand farmers' problems in real-time so it can immediately provide proper solutions that will eventually increase the value of the produce per hectare.
All this while farmers keep complete control, business freedom, and land ownership.
Thanks to this, Dream Valley gained a strategic advantage (unlike what most see as a disadvantage) of getting a first-hand "feeling" of farmers' business pain, joy, and the whole change process progress.
Finally, we can experience the world from the farmers' point of view. With our expertise, know-how, technologies, and services, we can help farmers rapidly grow their agro-businesses while we grow our own.
Promoting and advancing farmers’ business is not a zero-sum game but a win-win for all parties. And most importantly, it is an activity we must take for our country's economic and social future and can't afford to overlook.
Ø FARMERS TO AND NEED TO CHANGE.
Ø THE AGRO SECTOR transformation is possible.
Ø A ROADMAP FOLLOWED BY rigorous application of plans is mandatory.
Ø PRACTICING THE CHANGE, together with the farmers, ensures a rapid and successful transformation.
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If you missed it, here is a link to last week's blog, "What Is The Connection Between Israeli-African Collaboration And The African Agro Sector Prosperity?”
Link to recent columns.
Please look at the video series, “The Agricultural Gap." With short videos, mostly 2 to 4 minutes long, I explain the historical roots of the agricultural gap between Africa and Western countries.
I see this video series as "uncompleted," as I am waiting to gain more confidence before completing the chapters with The Solution, as I perceive it.
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Change Begins With A Decision
That The Existing Reality Is A Choice
And Not A Decree of Fate