Why did you decide to title this book ‘A Bucket of Water’?
There is a proverb where I come from when things don't seem to work out the way you expect, that life is like a stream. When you reach the stream and dip your bucket into the river, what you collect is your destiny because it is from the river of life. We all have a collective destiny and we are all walking towards achieving our dreams but like a river of water, some will get there and some will not.
You are passionate about the role of women in agriculture and farming as a business. What do you think are the key steps that need to be taken to really give them the support they need?
Smallholder agriculture today is very much feminised because young people and men tend to migrate from rural areas into urban areas looking for greener pastures. Women are engaged in the business of feeding their families and making money, but they are not looking for charity or handouts. When you consider smallholder farming as a business, you ask why these businesses are not successful. The answer is that the women running these businesses are rural, they are marginalised, and there are no investments. A business that wants to thrive has to have basic infrastructure and market connections. So if we are serious about rural development, feeding the world, and achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, we must invest in the rural populations and we must invest in women.
Youth are key to CTA as well as IFAD activities. How are the younger generation to have hope in agriculture, particularly in a changing and more challenging climate?
Young people have to be given the opportunity to see that agriculture is not just a back-breaking exercise for poor people and old people. Agriculture needs to be seen as a business and a dignified profession that not only feeds people but generates wealth. Technology advancements provide young people with tremendous opportunities to transform the agricultural sector, but financial instruments need to allow youths to finance their businesses and access land and land rights. Today there are about 200 million young people below the age of 25 in sub-Saharan Africa. Where else are they going to get the jobs?
Science, innovation and technology all have their role to play in agricultural development but you make the point in your book about the ingenuity of people. Do you think this is too often overlooked?
Smallholder farmers know their soil, they know their land, weather and the planting conditions. We need to listen to them first, learn from them and from that point, find out what they are doing that they could do better. They are always innovative, they have survived millennia. Innovation must begin from where the farmers are. When we talk about development, it is not something we can do for someone, development is something people do for themselves. Our role is to support and encourage them and to make sure they can get the help they need.
Do you ever have doubts about meeting future challenges and fulfilling the 2030 agenda?
I don't have doubts because I have seen the resilience of rural populations. When people are given opportunities, they bring about incredible changes. I do believe that change will come if we learn to share our buckets of water with others, and we will be able to overcome many challenges. But it takes time and development is a process. And whilst development assistance is positive, if people never learn to walk down to the stream with their own legs, they will never experience difficulties in life. Over reliance on development assistance deprives them of that experience. No nation was able to transform itself based on assistance. Development starts at home.
For more information see the full review of 'A bucket of water'