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SF Blog: DuPont Pioneer’s Investment in Africa
As part of the company’s goal to provide global food security, DuPont Pioneer is continuing to make large investments in Africa. This March, I had a chance to tour DuPont’s brand new technology hub in South Africa. More recently, I sat down with the regional director for DuPont’s agricultural business in Africa, Prabdeep Bajwa, to learn more about the center and how it could help provide answers for farmers across the continent and the globe.
Africa Regional Technology Hub
The Africa hub is one of DuPont’s five global technology centers, including the U.S. center in Johnston, Iowa, and hubs in Brazil, India, and China.
“As a technology hub, it will bring in the best science from the world and combine this with local seeds, knowledge, and man power to develop solutions for the Africa market,” says Bajwa.
Like the other hubs, South Africa includes a main technology center as well as a network of research facilities and testing locations. The main center in Delmas, South Africa, will focus on breeding programs for corn and sunflowers. In addition, a state-of-the-art insectary – the largest on the continent – will be critical in developing traits to combat pests. This includes insects that are found exclusively in Africa as well as global pests like fall armyworms that have been found on farms from the Americas to South Africa.
Another key part of the African network will be a multi-crop research center in Hoogekraal, South Africa, that will focus on drought tolerance. “The volatility of weather is a challenge for African farmers,” says Bajwa. “That’s why having local research is very helpful for us.”
The lessons learned in these research centers will be shared with scientists in Johnston as well as the other hubs. “As time progresses, I’m sure there will be cross learnings,” says Bajwa. “Our hope is that Africa starts providing some interesting solutions for the world.”
One of DuPont’s largest acquisitions to date, with the exception of Pioneer, was Pannar Seed in 2013. Pannar is a South Africa seed company with operations across Africa. “When we purchased Pannar, we doubled our size in Africa overnight,” says Bajwa. “Pannar has a great set of infrastructure and footprint and, most importantly, very good people.”
Today, Pioneer and Pannar operate in more than 40 of Africa’s 54 countries. In seven of those countries, the company has established management structures with production and research sites. “We’ve been in most countries for more than 20 years and in some for 30,” adds Bajwa.
Africa represents a major opportunity for DuPont as there are 86 million acres where farmer’s corn yields are less than 30 bushels per acre. To help improve yields, Pioneer has established Ag Development Programs in various African countries to show farmers how to use seed technology as well as teach them how to use inputs to maximize yields. “We hold their hands for a year or two, the farmers see the value, reap a good harvest, and become good clients and spokespersons for us,” says Bajwa. “Our goal is to make sure we can fund research, but also to make sure the entire grower base rises to use new technologies.”
The programs have been highly successful, he adds. In Ethiopia, Pioneer set a goal of reaching farmers across 247,000 acres and surpassed that to hit 741,000 acres.
“In my mind, Africa, and I’ve lived in a few places, is going to do tech leaps,” says Bajwa, who grew up in India; spent time in Iowa, Canada, and Singapore while working for DuPont; and now lives in South Africa. “If African farmers start seeing value in a technology, they will demand a lot more. They have a unique opportunity to feed themselves and the world, and I have no doubt that they can do it.”