Ten-Year Testimonials: James Flock
As part of the Agrilinks 10-year anniversary, we are celebrating with testimonials from some of our top users. Read on to hear from James Flock, chief of party of Feed the Future Tanzania NAFAKA II Activity. The following is a transcript of a 10-year anniversary video series. The full video can be played at the bottom of the page.
Hello, my name is James Flock, and I have been working in the food security and agricultural development industry for the last fourteen years with ACDI/VOCA. I’ve been engaged with the Agrilinks program since its inception 10 years ago.
The way I would describe Agrilinks to someone who’s never heard of it is informative. Agrilinks does a very good job of identifying specialists within a wide variety of sectors covering a large amount of topics — ranging from arm farm productivity to data analytics to women empowerment and so much more. The program also does a good job of making sure that these specialists, these professors, development practitioners, present this information in a digestible manner that can be shared across cultures, languages and platforms so that people who would want to learn more, or people who are choosing to first see what this industry is about, have this platform and have these tools to use that.
Agrilinks helps me with my work for that exact same reason. It peaks my curiosity to jump on one of the webinars. If I’m looking at a topic that I’m unfamiliar with, Agrilinks is one of the first places I go as a resource to get a general base of knowledge. I look at people who have presented, I look at authors who have written blogs and I’ll choose to reach out to them to further understand if they used a methodology, what the challenges were, perhaps with their team, or their program, or a government, to further educate myself in how to do my job better.
I think in the last 10 years, what we’ve seen in the development industry, or specifically in the agricultural development industry, is the increase in using data to inform decision-making, specifically in real time.
If you look at the software technology, if you look at the tablets, the smartphones, the access to mobile money, all of those things have assisted teams in being able to collect data, to being better at doing survey and data analytics and to be able to inform activities in real time. So, as you go from one year to the next, and you look back at your achievements, you’re able to do a further analysis in terms of what can be done, what hasn't been working.
Instead, this appears to be a shift from when I came into the industry that used a lot of anecdotal data, they were still collecting data, they were still looking at it, but a lot of it was based on observational findings, a lot of it was based on word of mouth, but I think now, as the data is able to be accessed and to be analyzed in real time, that has been a transformative shift within the industry. And it's being embraced. It’s OK to be wrong, as long as you’ve acknowledged that and you explain what you can do better.
I think one of the other things, the achievements that we've seen, is the increased use of green tech within the industry. I think there is an acknowledgement coming from large-scale agricultural actors, such as Corteva and others, Wall Street itself, Silicon Valley, there’s blended finance, there's an initiative to do R&D in terms of green tech. So that the activities we are using to promote on-farm productivity, to increase efficiency while reducing land use, those are all initiatives I think will further benefit the agricultural sector for years to come. It will assist us in achieving food security, it will assist farmers in optimizing revenues while being able to diversify their risk over land ownership.
I think over the next 10-15 years, moving forward, two to three key things that can help the world get closer to achieving food security. I think one of the things is looking at something that’s been upcoming over the last few years, which is an increase in fortification and nutrition market facilitation initiatives. So, understanding the impacts of not only having a balanced diet, but how nutrition can impact not only a family but how also it can impact health budgets and government budgets in terms of having a population that is not only well fed, but is getting access to the nutrients that they need to feed their families and to maintain their health.
I think the other thing that we see is, again, as I've mentioned before, the R&D into green tech, the R&D to ensure that there is mechanization or technology access available. But not only that, working with the governments to ensure that there is infrastructure. I think one thing we’ve learned, specifically in the last year with the COVID-19 pandemic, is that we’re a globally-linked economy and so, where there’s disruptions in the supply chain, it has far-reaching effects and across all the countries and all the cultures and all the environments. And so I think that’s part of it. So to fully understand how we're all connected globally moving forward, and how each country and each entity can rely on each other, will be something that will be needed to help inform the industry’s journey to self-reliance.
If I could describe Agrilinks in one word, I would describe it as informative. And if I could describe the Agrilinks community in one word, I would describe it as smart.
There are a lot of smart people out there in the world, and this platform provides a gateway and a pathway to understand more about all the good work that is being done within the sector and it helps people be informed about the challenges that might lie ahead.
And so, with that, I say happy anniversary to Agrilinks, and I look forward to learning more from you over the next 10 years.