The Bakker Brothers case

'We are Bakker Brothers, an authentic seed company and very market-oriented. We are rooted in the seed business since 1928 and ready to meet your present and future needs!' So reads the welcoming message on the Bakker Brothers . Why would a company like this receive more than a million euros of Dutch development money?

UNICEF, FAO, UNDP and Dutch development organisations Cordaid, DIFD and Hivos: among the top beneficiary organisations of official development aid from the Netherlands to Zimbabwe, we find a lot of the usual suspects. But ranked according to received budget, the number 8 on the list stands out: 'Gebroeders Bakker zaadteelt en zaadhandel BV', or 'Bakker Brothers' seed company in English. They receive 1.18 million euros of official Dutch development money.

From North Holland to the world

Bakker Brothers is now a 4th generation family business of seed producers. They grew from the little town of Langedijk in North Holland to become a multinational company, with testing stations in the Netherlands, South Africa, Jordan and Zimbabwe. In 2015 Bakker Brothers had a revenue of 16 million euros and produced 3000 tons of seeds.

So how did this international company end up as a beneficiary of official development aid for Zimbabwe? A quick look on the project data compiled by YourDataStories learns that Bakker Brothers is the Beneficiary of the project ''. Goal of the project 'is to increase production, sales and consumption of dry beans in Zimbabwe, to reduce poverty and malnutrition of smallholder farmers and improve their food security and farm sustainability'.

With a total budget of 2,35 million, of which 1,18 million comes from the Dutch government, the project aims to develop high yielding bean varieties, to introduce a model for seed development and marketing and to improve agricultural practices and knowledge among a group of 5.000 smallholders.


Funding for this project is provided through the Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security, the part of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that since 2012 supports Public-Private Partnerships for development in the field of food security and private sector development. The program aims 'to sell, disseminate, or apply Dutch expertise, innovative technology, and relations in developing markets'.

Because the project is still ongoing, no evaluation can be made of the results and effectiveness. It has been proven that reaching the poorest with this kind of public-private partnership projects, in this case with a 'very market-oriented' company, is far from obvious. Guarantees on any result in a country as Zimbabwe, which is lacking a company friendly climate to say the least, are also lacking.

Bringing foreign know-how and technology can of course be very beneficial. But this could also be done in an endogenous, panafrican manner, as the  (PABRA) network, of which Zimbabwe is also a member, proves. Which approach will prove to be the most effective can only be assessed by good monitoring and evaluation of both projects.



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