Help Shape VSO's Work on Livelihoods

By Will Tucker, Campaigns and Policy Manager, VSO UK

Caption: Barclays employee Anuradha Banerjee on placement in Zanzibar, Tanzania, supporting Nassor Salim Al-Miskiry , the Managing Director of Rans Building Company, one of the local SMEs she helped to maximise local benefits from the recent oil and gas investments in the country. Credit, Tim Maynard, 2014, © VSO

Through programmes in 22 countries VSO volunteers work in partnership with businesses, governments and civil society to improve incomes and income security. However all too often domestic and international policies put a ceiling on what it is possible to achieve, particularly in terms of increasing the amount of processing taking place in developing countries. According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in high income countries 98% of agricultural production undergoes industrial processing, in African countries less than 30% is processed. What’s more the value that is added in processing is vastly different with processing adding US$180 to each tonne of agricultural produce in high income countries while African countries only add US$40.

VSO is considering advocating for policies which enable shared-value business models and empower more people in developing countries to engage in more and higher value adding processing. VSO has identified three broad themes which we are likely to focus our advocacy upon and we need your help. If you are an SME or a multi-national company trading in agricultural goods in developing or lower middle income countries, tell us about that experience; your survey responses will help us drill down to the real experience of the policies and structures which are currently in place.

What are the problems we’ve identified? Local contents regulations have long been used in the extractives industries to ensure that a minimum number of local jobs are created, commodities utilised and skills and technology transferred as a result of foreign direct investment. These initiatives are also gaining prominence in agri-business. VSO is keen to understand how local contents initiatives have worked and failed in the past so that we might propose policies to make them work as often as possible.

We believe that policies which ensure that education provides the necessary skills and experience which make investments flourish and enable the poorest people in a country to benefit from foreign direct investments are often under prioritised. Tell us about your opinion on what aspects of the business enabling environment inhibit the levels of value we see being added in developing countries.

Finally we are concerned that policies and political factors in wealthy economies inhibit the growth of agri-processing in poorer economies. Examples of such policies include the continuing experience of tariff escalation, when import tariffs increase in line with the degree of processing undertaken prior to import, and policies which continue to permit dumping of processed goods.

We’re on a journey developing our policy response to these problems , and we’re looking for as wide a pool of inputs as is possible so if you are involved at any stage in the agricultural supply chain, from commodity production to the consumer facing retailer we are keen for you to share your experiences in this 10 question survey.

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