A SYSTEMS THINKING APPROACH TO ADDRESS THE COMPLEXITY OF AGRIBUSINESS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA
Keywords:systems thinking, agriculture, Africa, sustainable development, causal loop modelling, leverage points
African countries have comparative advantages in terms of land and relatively cheap labour cost compared to western countries in the production and export of primary commodities. However, there are many challenges such as sustainability issues, and the danger of “silo mentality” (in which fixing one problem “here” simply shifts the problem “there”) and “organizational myopia” (in which a short term fix “now” gives rise to a much bigger problem to fix “later”) facing the agriculture sector. Since the democratic progresses of many African countries, there have been a number of interventions to overcome the challenges facing the agriculture industry but with little success. The problem still persists and many budgeted billions of dollars for the agriculture sector have already been spent. The agriculture industry is a complex system economically, socially, and environmentally thus dealing with problems in isolation fails to produce lasting results. A survey and literature reviews was conducted to gather the mental models of all stakeholders involved in addition to the challenges of the agricultural sectors within Africa. Their opinion concerning how the system works, barriers to success and the system drivers, and possible strategies (solutions) to overcome these problems was analysed. These results developed four system models for agribusiness sustainability using a “systems thinking” or integrated approach and tools such as casual loop diagrams and Bayesian Belief Network models. Casual loop modeling were used to determine the components and interactions between the policy, social, environmental and economic dimensions to provide insights into potential systems behavior and to facilitate leverage points and systemic intervention strategies that are required for sustainable development of the agriculture industry. The Bayesian Belief Network models reveal that farmer education, access to both seasonal production, access to information, quality seeds and cold storage facilities will help drive overall export performance by 8.2%, increasing market share by 11.7%, raising export volume by 22% and enhance farmer’s profit by 13.1%. This approach will enable and assist farmers, policymakers, researchers and donors to successfully manage the agriculture and food systems so as to strengthen food security, enhance rural livelihoods, and improve environmental sustainability in the context of the challenges arising from agriculture production in Africa. These will also help stakeholders and governments to anticipate the long-term consequences of their decisions and actions, as well as the unintended consequences of policies and strategies and avoid “silo mentality” and “organizational myopia”. This will further induce innovative agribusiness with an entrepreneurial approach and empower the youth to be successful agribusiness entrepreneurs through an innovative and systemic approach.