‘’It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten’’ – a Ghanaian Proverb.
Introduction to Sankofa
In one of the early epochs of the former Gold Coast (now Republic of Ghana) in Sub-Saharan Africa, the illumine minds coined the word “Sankofa” which later became a compass to reach innovative ideas for economic growth. Sankofa is a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates as ‘’To reach back and get it done’’. The ideal of Sankofa is depicted by a bird that has its head turned backward carrying a precious egg in its mouth. The Sankofa bird is one of the most widely dispersed adinkra symbols that has appeared in modern jewellery, tattoos, and clothing; it has been adopted by various cultures to represent the need to reflect on the past to build a successful future. In other words, the Sankofa philosophy entails an inquiry into the past for what is good and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress through the benevolent use of knowledge.
A History of Social relations of production
The illumine minds have one thing in common, that is, they often show an unbiased recourse to history, especially when analyzing the present or attempting to peek into the future. In his historical materialism, a definitive work on the evolution of societies, Karl Marx, a German philosopher and founder of communism, postulated that as society advances its mode of production (infrastructure) it (correspondingly) adjusts its social relations of production (Superstructure) to fit in the subsisting economic reality. For instance, the movement of society from the agrarian economy to the industrial economy necessitates a corresponding movement from a labour-intensive work ethic and kinship system to a capital-intensive work ethic and social network system. Thus, the transition of Africa’s agricultural system from a collective labour system to a collective (crowd) funding system can be analyzed within the scope of the historical materialism.
In the pre-colonial epoch of Africa, the kinship system underpinned the wealth of nations which was largely from Agricultural activities. Among the Yoruba people of the western African region, the idea of Aro and Owe was adopted by farmers to embark on a large agricultural project that may be impossible for an individual or take him or her many years to complete. Owe is a system whereby kinsmen form a consolidated workforce to break into piecemeal a large farmland or farm project. The Egbas and the Owus which form a fragment of the modern Ogun state in Southwest Nigeria had an interesting culture of having a prospective bride’s groom to work on his in-laws’ farmland for several days before his marriage proposal can be considered. This practice was largely due to the mode of production that prevailed at that period.
However, in the wake of colonialism and economic expansion of Europe into Africa following the industrial revolution, the adoption of machines for mass production ushered in a new social relation of production. As machines substitute human labour for production, economic power became increasingly concentrated in the hands of few individuals who had the resources to buy and maintain the machines. The economy transitioned from a labour-intensive work ethic to a capital-intensive work ethic. And because the force of production became largely dependent on capital rather than personal affinity, the kinship system subsided for the emergence of capitalism.
The Rise of Agritech Companies and the coinage of Agricultural Real Estate
Since the economic transitioning (from labor-intensive to capital-intensive), Africa’s agricultural economy has suffered a huge setback due to a shortage of capital investment that can position the sector for increased commercial-scale practices. Commercial agriculture has been mainly within the purview of the government and few individuals who control huge financial resources. A lot of the local investors have been more attracted to other sectors like energy, fintech, education etc mainly due to the perceived differentiation in risks. In Nigeria for instance, despite accounting for about 25 percent of the nation’s GDP, agriculture received less than 4 percent of the total credit provided by commercial banks in 2018. Overall, farmers have always struggle to raise credit without government support.
In light of the above-stated problems, several Agritech companies have emerged in the last couple of years to provide digital solutions to smallholder farmers while accelerating the transition to commercial-scale Agriculture. The growing number of Agritech businesses across Sub-Saharan Africa has led to increase in agritech investment. In 2019 for instance, about 65 Million US Dollars was invested in Agritech in Africa with Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana topping the Agritech start-ups, having more than 60 percent of active start-ups in the continent. The increase in the number of Agrictech businesses to help African farmers to have access to funds, farm inputs
Among these growing Agritech companies in Africa is FarmKonnect Agribusiness Nigeria. FarmKonnect Nigeria aims to promote food security and nutrition through agricultural real estate of modern technology and methodology while making profiting from agriculture easier and more consistent to all and sundry without any limitation. FarmKonnect developed a unique agribusiness model it calls Agricultural Real Estate. Agricultural Real Estate (AgRE) is simply defined as a system of collective farming whereby several individuals with common interest in Agriculture pool resources together to sponsor a large-scale (commercial) agriculture for increased productivity and higher profit margin that otherwise may not be possible for each of the individuals alone.
FarmKonnect Agricultural Real Estate (AgRE) embraces four major stakeholders in the Agricultural value chain which include the following:
Sponsors/Investors. These are people with the funds, and they provide the capital to sponsor agricultural real estate business or a portion of a large agricultural project. Sponsors can include the government, NGOs, private individuals, corporate businesses, etc.
Farmers. The actual farmers engage in farming activities including processing and distribution.
Elite. They are the people providing inputs and extension services, IT, Agricultural finance, insurance, equipment supply, etc.
Consumers. They are the end-users of the produce from the farms.
Essentially when the investors provide capital to sponsor agricultural real estate with FarmKonnect, FarmKonnect aggregates all the skills and know-how, brings in the best technologies and methodologies that ensure that the level of food production and supply meets the level of food demands by the consumers and that the investors make their expected profit from the production cycle.
Historically, Agricultural Real Estate is not a new idea; it is an age-long practice that is just being recalled to our consciousness. Adapting a leaf from the historical Owe system, the Agricultural Real Estate is predicated on the collective sense of ownership that develops in the people when they come together to sponsor a large agricultural project. However, unlike the Owe system where labour exchange (driven by kinship) is the rule of thumb, Agricultural Real Estate of FarmKonnect is geared towards addressing the problem of low capital investment in Africa’s agribusiness sector through collective funding and agricultural inclusion of all and sundry. AgRE facilitates leverages in technologies and methodologies as well as cost-benefit maximization, resulting in better yield and profitability.
One of the ways to ignite innovations is to reflect about the past to bring forth what is good and replicate it in the present in a way that conforms to the subsisting economic reality. The Agricultural Real Estate, in principle, is the same collective system of farming of the traditional society which has simply taken a new form by adjusting to the new social relation of production.