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FAO Director-General and Rabobank Foundation Managing Director review progress made in joint projects in Africa

Rabobank Foundation chief: “Inputs, seeds and fertilizers cost money, but you also have to know how to use them and that is what makes this partnership so interesting”
©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti
FAO Director-General with the Rabobank Foundation Managing Director.

4 July 2014, Rome - FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, met today with the Rabobank Foundation Managing Director, Pierre van Hedel, to discuss progress made in three joint projects in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

“FAO’s research and technical expertise and Rabobank’s business orientation combined are bringing great results in the field,” the Rabobank Foundation Managing Director said in remarks after the meeting. “Our mutual competences have been brought together and put into action,” he added.

A partnership agreement between FAO and Rabobank Foundation was signed in September 2013 with the aim of sharing knowledge, experience, networks and financial resources in order to improve the lives of small-holder farmers in Africa.

Technical expertise and business orientation combined

The cooperation is based on the complementarity of the two organizations. Where FAO has extensive knowledge and experience in agricultural development, the Foundation can provide loans to help small-scale farmers access finances from existing financial institutions in their countries. It can also provide a track record for potential future financing by financial institutions. In addition, both FAO and the Rabobank Foundation have experience in providing capacity building in areas related to their activities.

“Inputs, seeds and fertilizers cost money, but you also have to know how to use them and that is what makes this partnership so interesting,” van Hedel stressed.

“I saw practical dedicated people full of positive energy who know what they are doing and understand each other’s expertise and want to bring it together to help farmers,” he said describing a visit to a project in Tanzania. The Rabobank Foundation Managing Director explained that the project already benefits 500 small-scale farmers. “They have done training, brought finance, made agreements about warehouses, so the project is really taking off now”. 

“We are not talking about very large or complicated financial instruments. We have to keep in mind that sometimes it is very straight-forward lending to small-holders and their families so that they can produce more, educate their children or maybe even buy a small tractor. As long as we keep that in mind, we are on the right path,” van Hedel said.

As an example, he described the project in Kenya, which is “designed along the value chain to bring in agricultural producers together with financial instruments and on how to link small-holder farmers to buyers.”There are about 20,000  small farmer beneficiaries and we are already talking about scaling it up to 80,000,” he said.

Graziano da Silva and van Hedel also discussed ways to replicate the experience in other countries.  “If we can do this, we can scale it up in the countries where we are already present with more farms in rice and more farms in cassava but why not talk also about maybe other commodities and other areas of cooperation? ,” van Hedel said.

“This was a formal wrap up for the three projects and although numbers involved are small and to medium-sized, we now have some lessons learned and we can maybe scale it up to more people and explore other areas of cooperation and new financial instruments in these countries,” the Rabobank Managing Director added.

He noted how joint projects benefit from FAO’s “involvement and ability to handle formalities and relationships” with the national agriculture ministries and governments. “We need this to solve problems and constraints. The FAO people are doing a great job in this field,” he said.