One of the issues concerning agriculture in Africa is the use of non-mechanized, low-technology practices and techniques, which are, not rarely, damaging for the environment. The population of Botswana – in some places as high as 90 per cent – is engaged in subsistence agriculture despite the difficulties related to food relief and climate change. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, there arose a general need to organize cooperatives, which would enable the exchange of experiences and the development of agricultural activities between local farmers and rural communities.
Towards a Solution
In 2010, the Governments of Brazil and Botswana formalized a cooperation scheme that was to be carried out by ABC and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) and that focused on agriculture. Brazil, as a reference country in terms of agriculture, opted for a South-South cooperation scheme, based on education and technical training, for sharing with Botswana the know-how and experience acquired in over 50 years of advancements in the field. The ultimate goal was to use agriculture and its associated activities as the engines for the economic growth of Botswana, with job creation, poverty reduction and overall improvements in the quality of life of both urban and rural communities; as a consequence, crop management and food security would be enhanced, with professionals being trained in business strategies for optimized results.
In terms of methodology, the cooperation activities were led by ABC, which sent a Brazilian team of officials and experts to Botswana in 2011 with the objective of identifying how a cooperation framework could contribute to the strengthening of rural cooperatives and stimulate community engagement. Until 2011, there had been no legislation on cooperativism in that African country. Following the design of the cooperation initiative, Brazil assigned EMBRAPA to conduct a programme of technical training, taking officials, farmers and workers from Botswana to Brazil for capacity-building in institutions, shared economy, productivity enhancement, climate-change resilience and market-based practices. Strengthening food production and creating food surpluses within the country would enhance sustainability in production, since the Government sought to feed the population itself without resorting to imports, which was the standard practice until the beginning of the bilateral cooperation.
In terms of results, Brazil and Botswana had a twofold outcome: through ABC, in 2011, the project produced a comprehensive, deep diagnosis of Botswana’s structural gaps with respect to agricultural production and cooperatives, which served as an input for policymakers and businesspeople to adapt their strategies on local action; through EMBRAPA, in 2014, Brazil trained 20 people from Botswana in the aforementioned skills, generating a scaling up with a massive spillover effect in rural communities, especially the most vulnerable ones with no access to digital platforms and Internet connection. In 2015, Brazilian experts from the Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives began to teach courses and workshops in Botswana, with classes that had more than 50 participants from that country. After the initial phases, the Government of Brazil created a cooperative training centre, and both governments and local producers agreed on the establishment of a pilot plan for a model horticultural cooperative, which resulted in the North Kweneng Horticultural Cooperative, currently in operation based on an eight-year strategic plan and formed by 10 members (6 men and 4 women).
A part of the Brazilian foreign policy and international development agendas, the initiative Institutional Strengthening of Rural Development and Cooperatives in Botswana has a clear mandate, using government agencies for the achievement of sustainable goals. This good practice is aligned with Agenda 2063 of the African Union, especially with key transformational outcomes such as “the volume of intra-African trade especially in agricultural value added products would increase three fold by 2023” and “labour intensive manufacturing, underpinned by value addition to commodities and doubling of the total agricultural factor productivity will be attained by 2023”, which indicates a long-term political commitment. In terms of sustainability, Brazil focuses not on financial assistance but rather on the exchange of good practices and technical cooperation, with no imposition of specific models for development.
 The African Union Commission, Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want – First Ten-Year Implementation Plan 2014–2023, p. 22. Available at https://www.un.org/en/africa/osaa/pdf/au/agenda2063-first10yearimplementation.pdf.