Ottawa Conference 2012 - Conference background

Implementing Public-Private Partnerships in Agriculture 
March 26-27

Public-private partnerships are a vital aspect of the way forward in agriculture and the pursuit of sustainable food security for all.
Among its many goals, the public sector seeks solutions to reduce poverty and improve farm productivity and the sustainability of natural resource use. The private sector, meanwhile, is frustrated by underdeveloped or absent markets that prevent firms from reaching customers and clients.
Combining public goods with innovation and marketing expertise from the private sector, public-private partnerships (PPPs) engage the complementary strengths of diverse organizations to bridge the gaps that each faces alone. More than ever before, we are looking to PPPs in agriculture as a way to pursue key goals.
Many organizations currently advocate the creation of PPPs, and some can contribute expertise and experience to that end, but the potential for greater scale and reach of PPPs in addressing agricultural supply chain challenges and food security remains largely untapped.
Supporting more and better PPPs requires us to roll up our sleeves and understand, practically, what is needed, for example, to deliver technology and services to farmers (particularly smallholder farmers) on a large scale and link them to markets that cater to modern processing industries and retail.

  • What are the incentives for public and private sector organizations to collaborate?
  • What mechanisms can be used to engage private capital and
  • What is the role of public sector funding?
  • Which key constraints to catalyzing and managing PPPs can we solve – and how?

The conference brought together business leaders, governmental representatives, academic experts, and others (including impact investors, donors, foundations and international organizations). Their joint aim, at the event and in the follow-up, is to push forward a new agenda on the promotion and implementation of PPPs in agriculture and the food value chain with benefits for all, from farmers to consumers.

The goals of the conference and follow-up are to:

(a) understand incentives, enablers, and constraints in this space
(b) learn about the impact and needs of current initiatives and examples from different countries and sectors, and
(c) inform future action.
Participants also discussed the partnership implementation aspects of key global initiatives, in particular the Agricultural Pull Mechanism Initiative and the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture. 

A shift of paradigm

Potential future action will include consideration of a PPP innovation platform to support the development of partnerships in agriculture. With both knowledge-sharing and operational functions, the platform would be designed to:
(i) promote networking among prospective partners and carry out due diligence,
(ii) facilitate access to expertise in relevant areas from finance to the management of intellectual property rights,
(iii) identify barriers to the development of PPPs in specific settings and the means to overcome the barriers,
(iv) work with governments and donors to achieve more fluid patterns of engagement with the private sector, and
(v) support the brokering of PPP deals.
A resource of this kind could enable a shift of paradigm from one in which organizations attempting to build partnerships in agriculture work in isolation, to a new era where interested parties cooperate to harness experience, develop projects and business plans for submission to funders, and foster implementation.

The invitation-only conference was hosted jointly by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. 
A key part of Canada’s aid program since 1970, IDRC supports research in developing countries to promote growth and development. It also encourages sharing this knowledge with policymakers, other researchers, and communities around the world. The result is innovative, lasting local solutions that aim to bring choice and change to those who need it most.
The Syngenta Foundation has a core mission to create value for resource-poor small farmers in developing countries through innovation in sustainable agriculture and the activation of value chains.