When Per Dæhlen was looking for an ideal purpose for a larger sum of money, he had many opportunities. He selected Norges Vel’s work with sustainable business development to reduce poverty and increase food security in Africa.
"I really do not need this money myself. Not that I have earned so much, I have worked in an ideal agricultural organization for many years. It is this experience that gives me great faith that business development in agriculture through cooperation and knowledge sharing is the right method to create sustainability. Cooperation and knowledge sharing through business development is what brought agriculture forward in Europe, the United States and parts of Asia, at the time, and it is the same that can contribute in Africa today," says Dæhlen.
Specifically, he has signed an agreement to support one of Norges Vel's projects in Tanzania where the focus is on the organization of small producers of rice. The project takes care of the whole value chain, from production to the table, and creates better crops and increased profitability for local rice farmers.
In this area 250 small producers have their rice fields. These fields were planted about four weeks before this photo was taken.
"If small producers are to succeed, they must have market power. This is achieved only jointly, but it is a neglected area after many of the cooperative organizations fell apart in Africa in the 1970s and 80s. All efforts to organize and strengthen small producers have been declining for many years," says Dæhlen.
Long experience from Africa and ideal work
"We are very excited to have Per Dæhlen on the team. The financial contribution is important for our work, but his professional knowledge and long experience from Africa and Tanzania make the collaboration exciting. He knows the continent and the challenges we encounter. Together, we will look at value chains, reduce middlemen and increase farmers profits by giving them greater market power," says Reinaart Pretorius, Director of International Development at Norges Vel.
Together, we will encrease farmers profits by giving them greater market power
After many years of work in Africa, Dæhlen speaks Swahili, or agricultural Swahili, as he calls it. At the University of Tanzania, he taught agricultural economics and cooperative economics in 1974-1976. Prior to Tanzania, he worked for two years in Botswana:
"In Botswana, I taught agriculture to refugees who fled from South Africa's apartheid regime. The students were building schools whilst they went schooling there, that was part of the education. The buildings are still there, and today the school is registered as a public school," says Dæhlen
He has also worked in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, between different positions in Norway. In 1994, Per Dæhlen came to Norges Vel, where he was CEO until 2005. His work has always been related to agriculture and cooperation, always with an ideal foundation.
Feeling fellowship with the farmers
Dæhlen feels fellowship with the farmers, he himself has been a farmer for many years. He has three children and now the eldest daughter has taken over the family farm Sørum Østre at Ringerike. Apropos children, what do they say to the news that he supports Norges Vel with a larger sum?
I'm burning for good solutions that contribute to self-help
"You may think that I'm in conflict with my children. But we have agreed on this and I must be allowed to do as I want with my own money. I have inherited from my parents. I have managed the inheritance, increased it significantly and passed it on to my children. I would like to give a part of my share to a project I experience has good solutions that contribute to self-help. I'm burning for this. It may be an unusual way of thinking," says Dæhlen and continues:
"I cannot increase the quality of life by spending more money on myself. More people should be thinking about this.”
On project visit to Tanzania
Prior to the conclusion of the agreement to support Norges Vel, Per Dæhlen went on a project visit to Tanzania, and met José Ramos, head of Norges Vel’s office in Dar es Salaam.
Per Dæhlen in a meeting with Norges Vel's local partner RUDI (Rural Urban Development Initiatives).
"What makes Norges Vel’s international work so special is our focus on development through business development and increased profit for smallholder farmers. These are important elements for creating viable businesses and communities as opposed to the developments we see where large multinational organizations take over food production. In addition, they often offer poor working conditions, while farmers are less paid for their raw materials. This creates a conflict between big companies and small farmers,” says Ramos.
"Norges Vel is a counteract to this. In their projects, profits are channeled back to farmers, while in the large system profits are channeled to business owners. These clashes of interests show the need for both better collaboration and and fairtrade perspectives, farmers must organize and cooperate to gain greater market power. I am therefore very pleased with the decision to enter into an agreement to support Norges Vel," says Dæhlen.