In the run up to the AgriBusiness Forum 2013, EMRC put forward some questions to the Managing Director of Rabobank Foundation, Pierre van Hedel, a trusted partner and the major force behind the EMRC-Rabobank Project Incubator Award.
EMRC: The Forum will take place in Rwanda, East Africa. How significant is Rwanda and more so the region in terms of setting a precedent in agricultural growth?
Pierre Van Hedel:
Countries such as Rwanda, which experienced extreme turmoil, have today managed to set standards and they are clearly focused in what they want to achieve in terms of agriculture. They know what they are doing and are able to make sure that they work/collaborate with countries which have resources. The case is how to combine and turn this turmoil into an advantage compared to their competitors in the region and how to involve rural communities in this overall policy. That is why Rabobank Foundation is very interested in dealing with cooperatives run by the people and their chosen representatives. It is our belief that it should always be a bottom up instead of top down approach.
EMRC: This year’s title is “The Agri-Food Sector: A Catalyst for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth in Africa”. On a practical level, how do you see the growth occurring?
PvH:On a practical level individual farmers and agricultural producers should combine their products and by that combination form an asset. Rabobank Foundation strongly believes that one farmer should combine with other farmers to form producer organisations based on cooperative principles and have access to local, regional or international markets.
EMRC:Once again this year you are partnering with EMRC to promote the Project Incubator Award. Why is this award so significant and what would you suggest to forum participants interested in applying?
PvH: We are very interested as we are one of the biggest food and agriculture banks and therefore we strongly believe that farmers, especially regarding the global food challenge, can contribute together to overcome this global issue. Therefore, in collaboration with EMRC, we are determined to work with scaled up famer producer organisations and support them regarding this challenge. We know that if they are well organised they can play a significant role in addition to enhancing the number of cooperatives. We always want to support good initiatives regarding the food security challenge.
EMRC: What are your goals/expected outcomes for this year’s AgriBusiness Forum?
PvH: At the practical level, I want to learn about and get to know agricultural producers from across Africa, especially in the countries we are working in such as Rwanda and Kenya. I am interested in seeing good initiatives. And every year we see more and more projects for the EMRC-Rabobank Project Incubator Award competition, which makes it even more exciting and makes our commitment to the forum even more valuable.