By Alberto Leny
Agricultural transformation and food security continue to feature prominently in Africa’s development agenda. African governments, researchers and international agencies recognise the importance of science, technology and innovation (STI) in driving this agenda, as was evident during the2015 AgriBusiness Forum held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo early this year (22-25 March).
The forum, with the theme Towards an inclusive growth: a new vision for Africa’s agricultural transformation, placed emphasis on the promotion of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the integration of smallholder farmers into agricultural value chains and encouraging innovation in Africa.
More than 300 participants from Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States including entrepreneurs, financiers, policymakers, donors, non-governmental organisations, foundations and farmer organisations attended.
“The agricultural sector in Africa has the most potential to locally produce a substantial share of global food production.”
Ami Lustig, LR Group
The forum was supported by many organisations, including the United Nations Development Programme, the FAO and the LR Group, a private, international project development company headquartered in Israel.
Ami Lustig, CEO of LR Group, explains to SciDev.Net about his organisation’s involvement in African countries to promote economic opportunities linked to the agricultural sector.
What is the rationale for LR Group’s engagement in developing countries, especially those in Africa?
For over three decades, LR Group has operated worldwide in initiating, developing, financing, and managing medium- and large-scale projects in emerging economies. LR Group has completed numerous sustainable impact projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and South America in the fields of agriculture and rural development, agroindustry, housing, energy, water, communication and capacity building.
We bring together field-proven practices, innovative technologies, professional expertise, transfer of know-how and financial facilitation. The projects are developed from inception to completion on a tailor-made basis meeting international standards and environmental considerations. Our agriculture division develops and operates profitable commercial agroenterprises, integrating smallholder family farms to accelerate national and regional agriculture and rural development. Our core activity is to integrate government policies, private sector initiatives and rural communities for long-lasting sustainability.
We operate in over ten African countries and we realised the growth potential of the agriculture sector on this continent three decades ago. We have built over 21 agrovillages in Angola, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Nigeria and Uganda, all of them based on our strong belief in the agricultural sector.
Why have you devoted special attention to agriculture, rural development and the agroindustry?
Bringing fresh and affordable food to Africa’s growing middle class is one of the main objectives of our company and we strongly trust in this growing market and, therefore, invest side by side with our local partners by attracting foreign investors.
“The LR Group develops and operates profitable commercial agroenterprises integrating local family farm holdings to accelerate national and regional agriculture and rural development.”
Ami Lustig, LR Group
We see the African market as a great opportunity and a major player in the global efforts to overcome hunger and poverty. Agricultural projects offer some of the solutions to the global hunger problem and the agricultural sector in Africa has the most potential to locally produce a substantial share of global food production. With the appropriate management methods, training and innovative technologies we have the opportunity to build sustainable agribusinesses that will generate high yield and quality food and therefore generate long-lasting economic betterment.
What are some of your company’s salient features in revolutionising Africa’s agriculture?
We believe that one of the key success factors in boosting the agriculture sector is by using an inclusive business model, incorporating all stakeholders, creating the market and environment to support greater direct involvement of local farmers in the agriculture value chain.
The LR Group develops and operates profitable commercial agro-enterprises integrating local family farm holdings to accelerate national and regional agriculture and rural development. Our projects are based on the philosophy of maximising economies of scale, capitalising and incorporating government policies, private sector initiatives and rural communities.
How do science, technology and innovation feature in your African undertakings?
LR Group uses in its project state-of-the-art technologies which are adapted to each region and type of project. Using innovative agrotechnologies ensures high yield and quality produce, which promote the company’s paramount objective of initiating, developing and ultimately maintaining sustainable projects relying on the high tried and tested standards in science, technology and innovation.
It is this strict adherence to professionalism and quality that we have adopted in helping African countries find solutions to their development issues in a cost-effective way.
How has research and development (R&D) impacted agricultural projects in Africa?
LR Group works with and has many collaborations with agroresearch institutes in Israel and overseas, supports many technology companies in agriculture.
In our projects we are constantly looking for ways to improve yield, quality and reduce costs through R&D which is developed by our partners or on site. R&D is important in agriculture but very few know how to implement the findings in real-time projects and tailor them to the needs of the region and the community.
We believe that our organisation has achieved this important objective in the projects that we have been involved in various African countries.
How does LR Group manage to effectively champion field-proven practices, innovative technologies, transfer of know-how and projects financing?
LR Group’s three decades of experience as an integration company with a track record enable us to develop professional and structured mechanisms to execute and manage projects from inception to completion and comply with all the key success factors of the projects.
Our different divisions were developed over the years according to necessity. For instance, our finance department was established only in the last decade due to the increasing need for alternative finance solutions for agricultural projects.
LR Group recognises the key role and importance of the community in people’s livelihood and economic achievements. Each project contains special socio-economic activities focusing on empowering the family and the social matrix of the entire community through leveraging of the project facilities and its managerial human resources.
These activities create a ripple effect that spreads and interacts with neighbouring communities, thus enhancing regional development.
Q&As are edited for length and clarity.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa desk.