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farmer sunsetThinking through the direction of our conversation here on the Seed-Africa platform, it occurred to me that I should dedicate a post to making some very important connections between the agricultural histories of the many countries that make up the African continent. A late-evening conversation last Friday, with one of my partners; Jumoke Balogun (co-founder – Compare Afrique), led to the conclusion that development discourse that does not restrict itself to conversation about one country or region in Africa, opens the door to a more robust interaction not only with other interested African development wonks, but with the wider development community.

Click map for detailed NatGeo Image.

Click map for detailed NatGeo Image.

However, taking that thought a little further over the days that followed, it occured to me that it is awfully difficult to write about Africa not just for the simple fact that it is boiling stew of experiences and contexts as varied as each of its many countries, but because it is just as easy to fall into the trap of not drawing clear distinctions when making conclusions and value judgments about the Continent especially in the context of development. This is a trap that a lot of development discourse falls into and one which is particularly irksome to me as a reader, a practitioner and most especially as an African. That being said, it is important to note that while no two African nations will ever perfectly align regardless of whether they are considered from a geographical, political economy or any other standpoint for that matter, there are quite often, a few shared experiences that tie each of these bad boys together.

farmer_plowingThe even more interesting thing is that close examination and documentation of frequently occurring patterns can potentially serve as a sort of agric development manual for African nations looking to catch up to some of their more developed sister states within the immediate region and across the continent.

With these thoughts in mind, I decided that it would be useful to do a series of short stories on of some these shared development experiences specifically in the context of agricultural development strategy. Over the next few posts, I will tell a story with a narrative that weaves in one or two agricultural development paradigms reflected in the agric development strategy of the day. This is by no means an exhaustive account of broader agricultural development history in Africa as that will be a narration that can scarcely be contained in a few posts. What this series will be, is a look at some of the similar (key) agricultural development strategies across African countries, culled from my somewhat extensive research efforts, with the goal of providing an overview of the general consensus of what worked and what didn’t.

african independenceMost African  countries achieved independence in the 1960s and each one of the paradigms I will incorporate into my stories is relevant to most of these countries in the 3 to 4 decades that immediately followed.

My hope at the end of this set is to provide a clear perspective on what has been tried and rejected, thereby setting the stage for our future discussion of how strategy today and tomorrow can learn from yesterday’s failures. The really nice thing about a discussion like this is that we will be able to see how some of these major issues while fundamentally the same, occurred in different ways in the different country contexts; further illustrating the uniqueness of each nation. One end will however remain the same as you will see; and that is that regardless of what country these stories take us to, people in each context were thoroughly and commonly affected within a relatively short period of time.

storytellingI hope you will follow along and hopefully join, via comments and contributions, what I think will be a fun next few weeks. For my African readers, I look forward to having you walk with me inside the great African art of storytelling and for my non-African audience, take a seat on the mat, put your feet up, pour yourself a cup of palm wine and join in; we are an exceedingly hospitable people.

First up; “Money does grow on trees! (the farmers exclaimed incredulously…)”.