Incubating Agricultural Innovations | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • In the early 1980s scientists from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) discovered that treating the acidic cerrado soils with lime and special fertilizer unleashed the potential of the entire region to be used for agriculture.
  • With an initial grant of $1.5M from the Development Grant Facility, the World Bank collaborated with Embrapa and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) to launch the Africa-Brazil Agricultural Innovation Marketplace.
  • Since 2010, the Marketplace approved a total of 30 projects in 12 African countries and 21 Embrapa research centers in Brazil.
(c) World Bank, Brazilian farmer

May 15, 2013—For centuries, much of Brazil’s territory was covered by a vast tropical savannah known as the cerrado –  with acidic soils that were poor in nutrients, and made the cultivation of any crops virtually impossible. Even the best of efforts to make use of this land throughout the years failed, as planted crops quickly died leaving the locals with no food, and the country heavily burdened by a struggling economy.

In the early 1980s scientists from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) discovered that treating the acidic cerrado soils with lime and special fertilizer unleashed the potential of the entire region to be used for agriculture.

30 years later, Brazil is one of the biggest agricultural exporters in the world—certainly on commodities like soybeans, corn, oranges, and sugar. Thanks to the development of advanced technologies by Brazilian laboratories, agricultural yields now far exceed the world average. While in developing and developed countries the averageagricultural annual productivity is 1.9% and 0.8% respectively, Brazil’s rate of growth is an astonishing 3.5%. The country’s agricultural growth is a success story for the developing world, and is eager to share its wisdom.

Brazil’s Lessons for Others

On the other side of the Atlantic, Africa is in an agricultural position similar to that of Brazil 30 years ago. A similar climate, vast amounts of land, cultural practices and ancestral roots made for a perfect partnership between the country and the continent.

With an initial grant of $1.5M from the Development Grant Facility, the World Bank collaborated with Embrapa and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) to launch the Africa-Brazil Agricultural Innovation Marketplace. The initiative is making it possible for Brazil to share technology with Africa, and to disseminate knowledge in the tropical agriculture accumulated over the past 30 years.  This South-South knowledge exchange takes the form of joint research for development projects between Embrapa and organizations; in African countries, carried out with the support of national and international institutions.

African countries have often looked for support from experts in the United States and Western Europe, but in Brazil they found a special partner. “The people at Embrapa were used to things not working the way they were supposed to, such as electricity constantly being turned off, or the bus being late. They are used to developing country conditions, whereas Westerners expect most things to run smoothly,” said Willem Janssen, Lead Agriculturalist for the Latin America and Caribbean Region at the World Bank. 

Agricultural Innovation Marketplace

To facilitate knowledge exchange, the marketplace uses an online platform that matches project proposals and business plans from Africa to partners in Brazil. Once united, they work together to improve the proposals before meeting in person in Brasilia, where the best projects are awarded an average of $80,000 for implementation. Innovations funded in the 2011 cycle included projects such as developing bee diversity to produce honey for food security, and improving natural resource management in agricultural landscapes.

Currently, 25 carefully selected agricultural projects are underway. Since 2010, the Marketplace approved a total of 30 projects in 12 African countries and 21 Embrapa research centers in Brazil. And this is just the beginning.

The chance for practitioners from different countries to meet and exchange lessons of experience provides unmatched learning opportunities. The Innovation Marketplace moves beyond individual lessons being shared on a one to one basis, to a more structured platform of exchange between Africa and Brazil. It takes knowledge exchange from a retail to a wholesale approach.This practice was so fruitful that a similar Marketplace was created between Brazil and other Latin American countries, where agriculture often provides an important platform for economic and social improvements.

open-quotesThe people at Embrapa were used to things not working the way they were supposed to, such as electricity constantly being turned off, or the bus being late. They are used to developing country conditions, whereas Westerners expect most things to run smoothly.close-quotesWillem Janssen, Lead Agriculturalist for the Latin America and Caribbean Region at the World Bank
Capturing the spirit of the partnership, Marco Farani, former Director of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency asserted that “this initiative goes beyond formal cooperation, it is part of the Brazilian commitment to a better world—a world with more social justice and development for all.”

View the full story here.

Comments (1)

Congratulation

Congratulations upon this achievement but i would like to know if the established Africa-Brazil Agricultural Innovation Market places include Uganda

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