Monthly Archives: February 2011

Not to be confused with corporate social responsibility; “For Pepsi, a business decision with social benefit”

A New York Times article entitled, “For Pepsi, a business decision with social benefit” told the story of a new venture involving Mexican farmers selling their crops to PepsiCo. 

 “PepsiCo’s work with the corn farmers reflects a relatively new approach by corporations trying to maintain a business edge while helping out small communities and farmers… The social benefits of the corn program are obvious in higher incomes that have improved nutritional and educational standards among the participating farmers, … but PepsiCo insists those benefits are ancillary to the business rationale for the program”

The article then goes on to list some other examples of creative business models that are able to satisfy the “triple bottom line” – interestingly even with products that are “profit-neutral” but that provide valuable intelligence about new and emerging markets.

The article made me smile quoting a spokesman from Dalberg Global Development Advisors who talked about corporate social responsibility (CSR) being “largely nonsense”.  Agreed — business models need to be a lot cleverer than relying on corporate consciousness to satisfy the complex goals of development.  This article highlighted another example of out-to-box thinking in ag development.

I sent the post to Peter Bloch to see what he thought and he said:

“Renowned economist Michael Porter participated in one of the main panel discussions at the World Economic Forum along with the CEOs of PepsiCo and Nestle.  Porter spoke out against Fair Trade.  His rationale was that Fair Trade is/was driven by a perceived need to pay small holder farmers a living wage irrespective of their efficiency.  This approach appealed to corporate CSR managers.  Porter described Nestle’s approach: Why is the small farmer poor?  Because he cannot grow enough (poor inputs, no mechanization) and the quality is poor.  So we will help him to grow more, higher quality food which we will buy at market prices.

This takes developing country poverty alleviation out of the Corporate Social Responsibility department into the business mainstream, and the approach – developing market-driven value chains – is consistent with the latest thinking at USAID and other donors.

(Thanks to Victoria Henson-Apollonio for sending me the original NYT link)

AGRA seedco grantee featured on BBC TV news

The Faso Kabo Seed Company, Bamako, Mali, has aggressively promoted improved seed provided by the West Africa Seed Alliance to farmers in Mali and beyond.  The innovative nature of the venture scored an AGRA grant for the owner, Maimouna Coulibaly in 2009.

You can watch Komla Dumor’s interview, which focuses on an improved, disease-resistant tomato variety, with Madame Coulibaly at “Planting seeds of success in Mali” and read a “success story” featuring the seed company “Finding Hope in Farming (Mali)

Access to improved seed – or the lack thereof – continues to be a major factor in low agricultural ouput across Sub-Saharan Africa.  In this case, however, the fruits of agricultural research are reaching small-holder farmers.

Post written by Peter Bloch 

US patents can’t be enforced on Indian Reservations located within the US!

A very short posting from me today from an item entitled “History Lesson” which appeared on the General Patent Corporation site last week.

They document the case of:

“…a U.S. patent which is not being enforced in an Indian reservation, in Oklahoma, because the reservation is a separate nation and, in that respect, not part of the United States. (Specialty House Of Creation, Incorporated v. Quapaw Tribe Of Oklahoma, a federally recognized Indian nation)”

Interesting huh? For those who would like to read more of the legal nitty gritty visit these pages on

Thanks to Victoria Henson-Apollonio for sending me the link.

Seed Business Development Officer; post open at AFSTA in Nairobi

I thought this announcement I received via email today might be of interest to some of our readers.

The African Seed Trade Association, based in Nairobi, are looking for a Seed Business Development Officer who will:

  • Engineer and manage activities related to seed demand creation and productivity improvements;
  • Promote the emergence of new seed businesses;
  • Foster existing seed companies through technical backstopping and business management consulting at national and regional levels;
  • Map out all key organizations with complementary roles with AFSTA and liaise with them;
  • Work closely with AFSTA projects’ partners such as COMESA, ECOWAS, USAID, ASARECA, among others;
  • Help AFSTA stakeholders with their seed business development project proposals;
  • Develop AFSTA’s position on issues related to seed business development in Africa;
  • Develop and implement AFSTA seed business development strategic plan;
  • Provide tools that will empower African seed companies to take advantage of opportunities for seed business development;
  • Manage the seed business development revolving funds in liaison with the National Seed Trade Associations’ Seed Business Development officers.

The deadline is 28th Feb 2011, full details are available in a document posted on their website HERE.


Online copyright infringement

I’ve been reading an informative post on the IPWatchdog blog “How to stop online copyright infringement“.  Whilst in our line of work we think more often about issues that arise from plagiarism or lack of attribution there are certainly principles worth noting about avoiding copyright infringement.

The IPWatchdog article says:

“Copyright infringement is rampant on the Internet…”

and goes on to explain:

“Copyright infringement has nothing to do with citation or linking back.  A copyright owners rights have been infringed if another reproduces the work without their permission with or without citation.  In the minds of some copyright infringement is synonymous with plagiarism.  Plagiarism, however, is the passing off of the work of another as your own without citation.  Legally, however, copyright infringement is merely copying, with or without appreciation of the wrong.  So those who cite and link back are not absolved from copyright infringement.  They are misappropriating an original work and free-riding.”

The author goes on to explain what practical steps can be taken to try to prevent online copyright infringement (in the US).

Scanning other sites dealing with this topic I noticed again the use a tool that inserts an automatic citation if you cut and then paste their text.  For example, visit the post “How to Handle Plagiarism, Content Theft Online“, then cut and paste something from the body of the post.  You will see following your pasted text their citation and invite to read the full item.

Of course this isn’t going to stop plagiarism or copyright infringement, but it is a great tool to act as a reminder to attribute, and could also help ensure the correct citation is included!  I’d like to find out how to set it up.  Does anyone know?

Cameron calls for Europe-wide patent (again!), Obama for more basic research

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, UK Prime Minister David Cameron presented an address entitled “A Confident Future for Europe” in which he discussed innovation:

“… we’ve introduced a patent box offering a ten per cent tax rate on patent income. But action like this will be worth little if we can’t break the deadlock on a Europe-wide patent system. Do you know how long we’ve been discussing this? Almost forty years. The truth is we can talk all we like about making this continent the capital for innovation…but while it can cost up to thirty five thousand euros to get patents in just thirteen member states, it’s never going to happen.”

You can read his entire speech at:

Cameron’s plans to boost innovation came hot on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union address in which he proposed to increase government funded basic research. You can listen to Obama’s speech, or read a transcript at:  He said:

“We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the worl…The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation…

…Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need.”

So what is the impact of all this on developing countries? In the majority of SSA countries, electricity reaches less than 3% of the rural population.  Various studies (e.g., show that rural electrification affects poverty, education, drinking water, farm mechanization and post-harvest processing.

We have already seen positive impact on rural farming communities where NGOs have introduced simple, inexpensive solar stoves.  Competition between China, the USA and the EU to research and develop new sustainable energy technologies could have real impact in the South.  These innovation programs could result in inexpensive and more efficient solar energy collection and storage technologies which, over time, could dramatically increase access to electricity by the rural poor.

But increased innovation will not necessarily produce ecologically sustainable technologies for developing countries. In order to direct the innovation process towards sustainable technologies additional measures – like green taxes – might be necessary.

Another problem for developing countries is to access such technologies that are developed by European and American companies. Patent pools and public private partnerships could make such innovations available for developing countries. This highlights the role for the CGIAR: to engage in PPP´s to facilitate the transfer of agricultural technologies.

Post written by: Peter Bloch, Sebastian Derwisch

New global Eco Brand launched at World Economic Forum

Most US consumers recognize the Energy Star name and logo – it’s a seal of approval issued by the US government that is used to identify electrical efficiency in appliances ranging from computers and TVs to refrigerators and stoves.

NPR said:

The new WindMade eco-label, unveiled by business leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum, introduces a new standard for renewable products.  Manufacturers can label their products with information on the percentage of energy used to create the product that is derived from wind power.  This will enable energy conscious consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.

Read (or listen to) NPR’s coverage at:

And you can visit the WindMade web site at: which informs us that:

The WindMade™ label will provide qualifying companies the ability to effectively communicate to consumers a commitment to wind energy that differentiates their brand, and signals a strong commitment to renewable energy.

Good idea?  Yes.  But are we going to see a spate of brands indicating “commitment to”  other renewable energy sources (e.g., SolarMade, WaveMade)?  Needless to say, the list of “partners” launching the WindMade brand includes several wind turbine manufacturers such as Vestas Wind Systems.  Lining up 1,000 manufacturers to buy into a new brand is no small task, but from the point of view of the consumer it would make far more sense to launch a generic brand to identify commitment to any renewable energy source.  Products qualifying to use this brand would indicate that a certain percentage of energy used to manufacture the product was derived from wind, solar, wave, geothermal, etc., or even some combination of these.

The WindMade PR is confusing:  note how “renewable” is interchangeable with “wind power”.  I suspect that we will witness changes in this strategy over time; perhaps WindMade will be integrated into an über-brand that will meet consumer need to support companies that are committed to using any source of green energy.  In the meantime, Vestas should be lauded for its marketing savvy.

Post written by Peter Bloch