Mandla Nkomo is the firstborn in a Ndebele-speaking family from Bulawayo, southern Zimbabwe. ‘Mandla’ is short for Mandlenkosi: meaning strength and king. “As a firstborn, I guess my parents wanted to overload me with grace”; Mandla’s grin is contagious. Being with Mandla, in my experience, is always a guarantee for intellectual excitement. His motto: relentless innovation at the benefit of smallholder farmers.
“But,” he says, “my mission comes from the heart: it is about people, their place in society and the magic of transformation. In togetherness making a meaningful change.” Words, of course, to my heart as well.
Mandla is leaving our organization and moving to CGIAR in his new role as CGO: Chief Growth Officer at the Excellence of Agriculture Programme. Making business work for smallholders, but now on a global scale. Mandla highlights four components that are essential for the future of farming.
- resource efficiency. Can we optimize technology, soil, agricultural lands, human resources, nature and be sure we are efficient as the centerfold of genuine sustainability?
- climate sensitivity. Can we truly create a regenerative economy from an agroecological vision and practice, that matches efficiency to longevity within the planetary boundaries?
- the promise of digital. Can the data economy be the true equalizer for prosperity (get farmers to a better income), inclusivity (make women and youth shining leaders of healthy agri-farming, digital food, and including financial-business acumen), and in balance with nature (via smart data sets understand production zones, mixed sustainability zones, and protective zones)
- glocality. How can we scale local solutions to global challenges with speedy impact at scale?
I made it very clear to Mandla that after his four years with Solidaridad, there is no way to fully disconnect. One is because of a deeply shared mission and vision, but the other is because I have found a true friend.