John Deere driving Africa's green revolution

Placing Africa at the heart of tomorrow's global economy


John Deere is committed to driving Africa’s green revolution by supporting those linked to the land with the technology and insight to increase yield, building a sustainable, inclusive and globally-competitive agricultural sector across the value chain on the continent.

Agriculture is the foundation of most developing economies, providing shelter and independent livelihoods to large populations of otherwise economically marginalised people. Africa has millions of rural people who currently struggle to subsist on the land. Very few of these make any meaningful contribution to marketable agricultural production. To increase yield and secure a sustainable future, Africa needs to build a more inclusive agricultural sector, structured in a way that also ensures the flow of capital and expertise to the continent’s small-scale farmers while providing much-needed market access..

Only through broadening inclusion in productive farming will Africa build a healthy agricultural sector capable of including millions more in contributing to the continent’s GDP, building food security, deepening beneficiation, reducing the social welfare burden and driving job creation.

Fortunately, new technologies and insights mean that the continent is finally at the point where Africa’s vast, as-yet-unrealised, agricultural opportunity can be made relevant to capital, mechanisation and new global markets

Enabling Africa’s green revolution is the first step in a broader transformation process aimed at securing the investment, growth and economic inclusion of all Africans by placing the continent at the heart of tomorrow’s global food production and consumption chains.

As the global leader in agricultural technology, practice and insight, John Deere is equipping Africa with the tools to increase the yields and drive the exports that will secure Africa’s future.

One of the initiatives realising the potential of Africa’s small-scale farmers is the John Deere S.M.A.R.T programme. Standing for;Solutions for farmers, Mechanisation for yield, Access to finance, Reliability for lower costs, and Technology and Training , the programme has been successfully piloted across the continent. S.M.A.R.T provides a proven route for small-scale farmers to mechanise, improve yields and achieve long-term sustainability.

Various studies have proved the effectiveness of mechanisation schemes in Africa. Most findings report that the “tractor service provider” or “contractor” model is the most effective method of empowering small-scale farmers with the mechanisation to improve yields and achieve long-term sustainability.

The John Deere C120 combine harvester, for example, is a mechanised harvesting solution specifically developed for the continent’s smaller farmers. The C120 allows farmers to harvest quickly and on time for market while reducing the volume and quality loss that traditionally compromises the value and availability small-scale yields.

The S.M.A.R.T. programme provides Africa’s small-scale farmers access to flexible and affordable financial solutions for the purchase of relevant John Deere equipment through John Deere Financial. John Deere Financial (JDF) is Deere & Company’s financial services business, supporting John Deere customers to access flexible and affordable finance for the purchase of John Deere equipment. In Africa, JDF has successfully developed best-in-class financial solutions that meet the varied needs of customers in several sub-Saharan countries.

The S.M.A.R.T programme also ensures that farmers reap the full productivity benefits of John Deere finance, machines, technology and insight – by directly supporting farmers via a network of 144 John Deere dealers across Africa. These dealers provide individual farmers on the ground with the necessary technical, operational and after-market support for every piece of John Deere equipment sold.

Finally, the S.M.A.R.T. programme also provides governments and agricultural and economic development agencies the insight and tools to increase productivity and profitability in a sustainable way. John Deere uses S.M.A.R.T. to collaborate with governments and other key stakeholders across Africa, building food security, alleviating poverty and boosting economic growth for all.

The Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and artificial intelligence are, today, integral to modern agriculture. As a technology-first organisation, John Deere believes that digital technology has the potential to leap-frog African agriculture to a higher level of productivity and greater integration into global agricultural value chains. To this end, the John Deere S.M.A.R.T. programme also supplies tractors with telematic devices, equipping African farmers to track the activities of tractors, prevent fraud and manage service quality, improve maintenance, manage services remotely, improve fleet management and finance fleet growth.

Collectively, all these elements position S.M.A.R.T to revolutionise Africa’s agrarian sector and wider value chain. The strategic deployment of technology through S.M.A.R.T is proven to create jobs while driving the broader investment and growth key to addressing poverty and placing economies on higher productivity and growth paths.

In South Africa, the vibrant and growing emerging farmer segment is a critical market for John Deere, especially for basic mechanisation and other new yield-enhancing technologies and insights.

Guided by the John Deere brand strategy focused on the value of the collective, John Deere has identified a range of successful small-scale farmer development projects across South Africa that provide compelling blueprints for the successful transformation of South Africa’s agricultural economy.

The big learning for the current conversation on land is that if South Africa’s existing commercial agricultural sector can partner with government to empower individual emerging farmers on a case-by-case basis, South Africa can build a winning agricultural economy relevant to global investment. This has the potential to include millions more South Africans in the supply of agricultural produce key global growth markets.

John Deere’s own experience in successful transformation in South Africa began in 2017, supporting four emerging grain farmers in Taung in North West to place 80 hectares of their government-granted land under irrigation. Working with Anglo American, who co-opted retired commercial farmers as advisors on the project, John Deere Sub-Saharan Africa provided two combine harvesters while John Deere Financial structured a grant of, originally, R 100 000. The programme was also supported, on the ground, by the local John Deere dealership, Senwes. In addition, Senwes assisted with silo and storage infrastructure while Farmwize came on board with marketing and sales. Today, after just three years, the project covers 700 hectares and includes 57 emerging farmers, all producing profitably for the commercial market.

This project demonstrates that genuinely empowering emerging farmers in South Africa requires the private sector and the broad agricultural value chain to come together to make transformation commercially sustainable.

Given agriculture’s much lower barriers to entry, farming also offers Africa far greater potential to broaden economic inclusion compared with, say, hard-currency-intensive mines, which only employ a small percentage of the population for a short time.

Since agriculture, properly managed and scientifically conducted, is more sustainable, the sector has the potential to produce food indefinitely. This offers Africa’s mineral export-dependent economies the opportunity to diversify into much more sustainable exports with a far higher potential for beneficiation, industrialisation and economic inclusion.

This is all taking place in a global context in which, over time, the value of agricultural goods, especially food, is likely to increase relative to industrial products.

African policy-makers struggling to replicate the industrially-driven growth successes of many post-World War II developing economies would do well to re-consider the vast export and development potential presented by agriculture in a food-scare and largely already industrialised world.

John Deere believes that collectively we can unlock Africa’s agriculture potential, achieve food security, beat poverty and place the entire continent on a higher growth path, ensuring the future of all.

Believe in Greater!

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Issue 46


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