For Africa’s Yellow-Billed Oxpecker, its sustained survival relies on the partnership it has with African mammals, such as giraffes and water buffalos. The relationship is mutually beneficial as the mammals’ skin does not become ridden with parasites and the birds have a steady source of food, the parasites.
One of my favorite things about international development is that it brings people together for a common goal. As development practitioners, it is next to impossible to bring about change on one’s own.
MEDA’s BEST Cassava project is a fine example of this. The project contributes much of its success to the various stakeholders involved in the Tanzanian project.
The BEST Cassava project is establishing a commercialized cassava seed system that ensures consistent supply of quality cassava seed that is drought tolerant and disease resistant. The seed system provides superior seed varieties, quality assurance of the varieties produced and deployment of the varieties to producers (a.k.a. farmers). But the success of the system relies on a variety of these producers and stakeholders along the value chain for implementation.
I was able to witness the strength of some of these partnerships in February when the project’s annual meeting brought together stakeholders from across the globe:
- The Tanzanian government agency for agricultural research (Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute),
- Nigerian and Tanzanian NGO for agricultural innovations (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture),
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donor representative from the United States,
- MEDA HQ staff from Canada, and
- Other project enablers from across Tanzania (e.g. Tanzania Official Seed Certification).
However, these essential partnerships are only one aspect of the project. The importance and strength of partnerships extends to the cassava seed producers who the project was designed to impact. They have been a key element to the project’s success. Each level of producer relies on the other within the value chain to buy and sell planting material—a mutually benefiting partnership.
While each seed producer has benefited from connecting to other seed producer within the value chain, they have also benefited from the project’s partnership. I observed this when I went into the field to collect ‘stories of change’ from farmers involved in the project.
Grace Mvula is one of the beneficiaries of the BEST project. She is a QDS level producer who, through the project, has gained proper agricultural training to increase her cassava seed yields and annual income. Grace has passed along agronomy practices and crop harvesting knowledge to her husband and three labourers. She has become an enabler in her community by partnering with other farmers in her village, not involved in the project. They too have indirectly benefited from the commercialized cassava seed system while directly impacting Grace through expanding her market for sales.
This is only an exert from Grace’s story of change, but it shows how partnerships have been mutually beneficial in passing along and returning positive impacts. Although my contributions during my MEDA internship may be minimal, I am part of this team who collaborates with other individuals to inspire changes that are making country-wide impacts and can scale up to continent-wide impacts.