Feeding off Another's Energy
Feeding off Another’s Energy: Regional Cooperation in the Agricultural Sector
I always refer to myself as une citoyenne du monde because of the many habits and ideas that I pick up while vacationing outside my country. I am such a fan of French language and I find that there are certain ideas which are best communicated in French. Each language has its peculiar sense, which not only shows the sensibilities of the people but also the things they prioritize. I prefer to tell a descriptive story in my mother tongue (Yoruba) because it is a very visual language. When aiming at sarcasm, I prefer to do it in English because it is a language of subtlety. In recent times, I have acquired some Dutch traits, like saying "hoi" and walking off briskly when I need to be relieved of an uncomfortable social situation. In total, my life is robust because I can borrow from other places outside mine for self expression and general day-to-day living. For now, I am fully Nigerian, partly British, partly French and partly Dutch who knows how many more parts I will acquire as I roam about this big, beautiful monde.
In the same vein, no man should be an island in the agricultural industry. There are many good reasons why practitioners in agriculture from different regions should exchange knowledge. To begin with, vegetation and, by extension, nutrition differs from one region to the other due to varying topography and climate. This presupposes that there are certain crops that grow naturally in an area and the farmers in that area are most likely experts in growing such crops and have some insights which farmers from other areas may lack. One may wonder why these insights are necessary for farmers who do not grow those crops. The answer is quite simple. The absence of some crops may be responsible for certain nutritional deficiencies in a given population.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Moroccan diet is Mediterranean and based on an important consumption of cereals, fruits and vegetables. Among young children in Morocco, vitamin A deficiency was a severe public health problem at the end of the ’90s, leading to implementation of long-term interventions to combat these deficiencies, in particular the fortification of oil with vitamins A and D. This deficiency in vitamin A could have been remedied cheaply and sustainably by the introduction of palm oil into Morocco from West African countries. Toxicological studies have shown that red palm oil contains highly bio-available β-carotene and vitamin A. Red palm oil contains 15 times more retinol (pro-vitamin A) equivalents than carrots, 300 times more than tomatoes and 44 times more than leafy vegetables.
In 2020, 10 out of the 15 countries in West Africa ranked within the top 30 producers of palm oil in the world, with Nigeria clinching the 5th position. This presupposes that out of the other 10 West African countries on this list, Nigeria may have a certain degree of expertise and insights in palm oil production that the others do not possess. Just as the famous small, sweet dwarf Cavendish bananas were introduced to Morocco as a crop in the early 1940s, and cultivated in the village of Aourir (banana village) north of Agadir, palm trees could also have been introduced by cooperation with Nigeria to tackle vitamin A deficiency. As an aside, the Cavendish banana, for example, has travelled far and wide — having been originally shipped from Mauritius to England by William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire. They came in handy in replacing the native banana species of Bogoya in Uganda and Kampala in Kenya, when the Panama disease devastated these native species.
In like manner, the World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) score sheet ranked Morocco at the 48th position and is the only African country in the top 50 high-ranking agricultural countries worldwide. It follows then that Morocco must have insights into agriculture that all other African countries do not possess. This makes Morocco the best place for an Agricultural Resource Center where farmers and other agricultural practitioners/enthusiasts can exchange ideas. Countries within North Africa, other African regions and non-African countries may glean a couple of ideas from the Moroccan model to boost their agricultural sector as well as share their own methods.
In conclusion, international and regional cooperation in agriculture is beneficial and should be encouraged, whether on a material level where there is an introduction of a foreign crop in order to meet the population’s nutritional needs or on a nonmaterial level where ideas and processes are exchanged in order to achieve improved results in the sector.
The author, Funmi Aiyegbusi, is an attorney with a passion for smallholder farmers and improving rural livelihoods.
 Radhika Loganathan et al., “Health-Promoting Effects of Red Palm Oil: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies,” Nutrition Reviews 75, no. 2 (February 1, 2017): 98–113, https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuw054.