Hopewell Zheke

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Hopewell Zheke is the Head of Sustainable Agriculture at Practical Action based in Zimbabwe C: +263772286796, Skype hzheke-practicalactionzw, Twitter @hzheke

Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org

Posts by Hopewell

  • MasterCard Young Africa Works Summit

    May 26th, 2017

    Earlier this year I attended the second annual Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali, Rwanda hosted by MasterCard Foundation. The theme of the summit was built around shifting discussion from how to engage youth in agriculture, to youth as drivers of agricultural transformation. The summit explored three sub-themes that contribute to agricultural transformation, gender, technology and climate-smart agriculture.

    Almost a third of participants were young people from across the continent of Africa.  They shared their experiences, successes, challenges and innovations in agriculture related businesses. First of all, I was impressed by the confidence displayed by the young people presenting  in front of an international audience and how they challenged some of the ‘norms’.

    Key from all the presentations was how technology can act as a huge incentive to attract youth to take up agriculture as a business. Rita Kimani, Co-founder and CEO, FarmDrive uses new data­ driven technology to increase the availability of capital. Her work focuses on leveraging technology to enable smallholder farmers in Africa to achieve sustainable livelihoods.

    Alloysius Attah, CEO and Co-founder of Farmerline from Ghana, founded Alloyworld, a photography and video production company, and iCottage Networks, a Web and Mobile startup. Brian Bosire, Founder of UjuziKilimo, an agricultural technology company that brings affordable precision farming to smallholder farmers in Kenya, enabling them to produce more from their farm, curbing hunger and food insecurity. UjuziKilimo uses sensors to analyse soil and farm conditions to provide real-time, precise, actionable recommendations over mobile phones to rural farmers who lack access to extension services and information on weather and markets.

    On gender Pilirani Khoza is the Founder of Bunda Female Students Organisation (BUFESO), an organisation that supports disadvantaged university students at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in Malawi. Concerned with the lack of women participating in higher education, she empowers young girls to pursue studies in science and agriculture by helping to fund their tuition and other fees.

    My key takeaways from this summit were;

    • Let youth lead development of agri-business by creating an enabling business environment for them to exercise their innovativeness and experimentation
    • Technology plays a very important part in providing incentives for youth to participate in agriculture
    • Government is key to creating an enabling environment for youth-led agri-business to grow (very few African governments are doing this)

    Here are some inspiring quotes from the event.

    “We are all leaders and the role of leaders is to connect the problem to solutions.”

    “Technology is our mother tongue.”

    “If you are not in love with a farmer, raise your standards.”

    “If you can’t fly you can run, if you can’t run you can walk, if you can’t walk you can crawl, if you can’t crawl whatever you do keep moving!!”

    Learn more about the event on the Young Africa Works website http://youngafricaworks.org/resources/

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  • What I took home from the 2016 SEEP Conference

    November 17th, 2016

    The 2016 SEEP conference was my second.  At my first. in 2012 I was one of the presenters on Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD)  this time I was a full participant. Thus I had time to follow proceedings as well as network.  I would like to share with you the learning I took home with me.

    Small business in MozambiqueThe theme of this year’s conference was ‘Expanding market frontiers’ and indeed we expanded the boundaries.

    As I prepared for the conference two tracks caught my mind ‘Enhancing Food Security through Market-oriented Interventions’ and ‘Getting and Using the Right Kinds of Evidence’. I liked these two tracks mainly because at Practical Action we have several projects on livelihoods and food security where we are using a participatory markets systems development approach to transform markets to become more inclusive and to benefit all market actors including the small-scale farmers. The second reason is that I have been working in the sector for some time now and one area I need to explore further is getting and using the ‘right evidence’. How do we measure, report and share systemic changes in the market system?

    However my most interesting learning was about how to integrate gender into market systems work. This is not a totally new concept, we have tried doing this for many years. But, quite honestly,we have not been getting the results we want.  This probably won’t happen overnight as some of the factors are so dynamic and cultural so much that they are difficult to change.

    One session was on Using ex-ante evidence to promote gender responsive market system change’. Ex-ante means ‘before the event’ so this focussed on using evidence that we collect to inform our program design. More often we rush to do a quick feasibility study and go on to design a program,  racing against deadlines. In such circumstances our design misses some of the critical data that we might need and we sometimes end up disaggregating data to men and women to tick the box on gender mainstreaming.

    Significantly this session focused on the need to centre attention on the skills women have and to come up with business models that either take advantage of these skills or build on them. That way, women take part meaningfully and are integral to the project design.

    Common business cases we discussed included women as an important market segment, capturing underutilised female skills/talent, improved reliability, improved productivity, improved quality, improved reputation, social impact and diversified distribution channels.

    In our recent projects we have had women taking negotiating roles with buyers and other market actors because they are regarded as the best negotiators. Have you ever wondered why most women are involved at the fresh vegetable markets? It is simple.Women  have the best negotiating skills. They are also involved in grading not because of their ‘patience’ but because they have the skill and eye for good quality. So a program built around women’s skills and capacities is better placed to address gender issues and enhance women empowerment.

    Moving forward we are going to use such thinking when designing our programs and also see how we can incorporate such lessons in our existing projects.

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