To assist smallholder maize farmers in Limpopo in improving productivity, which will, in turn, improve sustain- ability, a R20-million project has been launched by market-driven innovation and science solutions company DuPont.
The project was launched as a result of the food security challenge that emerged after the global economic slowdown, DuPont tells Engineering News.
“Sustainability can become the defining feature of Africa’s growth in the decades ahead, which will help the continent overcome the growth-at-all-costs trap that has afflicted other countries in the past, whose economic growth has sometimes been accompanied by high social and environmental costs,” says DuPont sustainable solutions regional director Antoinette du Randt.
She notes that for Africa to truly realise its economic growth potential, it will need to diversify its economy, encourage movement to high-value manufacturing and facilitate the beneficiation of its vast minerals.
“Putting in place robust sustainable develop- ment strategies will help the continent achieve inclusive growth without damaging the environment or harming the long-term use of freshwater resources and agricultural output,” Du Randt adds.
She regards sustainability as part of the evolution of the business model and that this is a goal that companies have to pursue in collaboration with government, labour and communities.
Sustainability is no longer a function of corporate responsibility or compliance, but rather a key growth opportunity that differen- tiates a company from its competition, Du Randt says. Therefore, for companies to thrive, the communities they operate in must thrive as well.
“A key element of sustainability is the creation of social value. Companies are under pressure to deliver not only profits for shareholders but also higher value to government, as well as to the communities in the areas in which they operate, as they are looking for employment opportunities and improved facilities,” she explains.
DuPont executive VP Jim Borel points out that there are promising examples of collaboration to help smallholder farmers. As a result, DuPont Pioneer and the Limpopo Department of Agriculture have signed an agreement to help educate farmers in plant breeding, variety selection, agronomic practices and plant biotechnology techniques to improve their farms’ productivity, household food security and income.
Borel emphasises that there must be an increase in the productivity and sustainability of the farming system, which includes intensifying production, diversifying and bolstering system resilience.
“By looking at the whole value chain and collaborating with all stakeholders, we can develop concrete solutions that generate real improvements in food production, quality and the livelihoods of all farmers, especially smallholder farmers in resource-scarce rural areas,” he adds.
Sustainability can deliver commercial bene- fits, as DuPont estimates that from 1990 to 2004, it reduced its greenhouse-gas emissions by 72% and has generated $10-billion in revenue from products based on nondepletable resources.
The company points out that it is focused on two solutions that will guarantee sustainable growth – innovation and collaboration. The company believes that, with regard to innovation, it is important to create science-based solutions that are suited to local conditions, grower preferences and practices.
DuPont Pioneer introduced the Right Product, Right Acre/Hectare model in Africa, which recognises that every plot of land faces unique challenges around soil quality and type, insect and disease pressures and climate and hydrological change. Pioneer works closely with farmers to place the right hybrids or varieties on each hectare to increase their productivity.
In the case of collaboration, solutions must be reached in concert with farmers, communities, local businesses, governments, nongovernmental organisations and global corporations that have the expertise to help solve specific problems, explains Du Randt.
She notes that African companies realise the importance of sustainability as a strategic imperative, although many still battle with implementing a comprehensive solution.
“Stakeholders need to have realistic expectations of sustainability and also understand the importance of stakeholder education and inclusion in achieving the desired growth,” highlights Du Randt.