The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) has unveiled a catalytic fund of $550 million for the next five years to boost efforts to improve food security on the continent that continues to struggle to feed itself.
Under the new policy, Agra targets 28 million farmers in 15 countries to boost agricultural productivity and incomes.
The focus in the next five years, from 2023 to 2027, will be on improving seed systems, government engagement, agricultural supply chains and mitigating climate change.
Experts say smallholder farmers across the region remain vulnerable to shocks and bear the brunt of the current external pressures, including climate change and rising prices of farming inputs such as fertilisers.
“Hard-won gains are now under threat from external shocks, particularly the impact of climate change. The multi-season droughts in East Africa and extreme weather events like cyclones in Southern Africa have already changed everything,” said Agra chairman Hailemariam Desalegn.
The fund was unveiled on Thursday during Agra’s annual summit (AGRF) in Kigali.
Mr Hailemariam, a former Ethiopian Prime Minister, added, “Covid-19 put supply chains under intolerable pressure. The commodity price crisis, exacerbated by the Russia Ukraine crisis, is undermining food security and agriculture everywhere”.
“We want farmers to be able to gain and retain the access to the right seed, at the right price and at the right time,” he said.
The challenge facing most African countries is how to raise productivity and reduce food imports.
While figures by Agra show agricultural productivity increased by an average of 13 percent each year between 2015 and 2020, it is still the lowest in the world. Worse yet, one in five people in Africa were still malnourished in 2020, and the current fertiliser shortage creates further vulnerability.
According to Agra’s president, Dr Agnes Kalibata, empowering farmers to produce and earn more necessitates access to choices of inputs, and when those inputs give a clear yield differential, farmers adopt, and their lives change.
“Rwanda launched the bean challenge, sending the Rwandan bean to the rest of the world, encouraging people in other parts of the world to eat and grow the Rwandan bean.
“That bean is iron-fortified, and you can harvest up to 4.5 metric tonnes per hectare of that bean. That bean has real value for a farmer that grows it. It’s technologies like that that can change farmers’ lives and move them to mainstream economies,” Dr Kalibata said.
Agra estimates that Africa today imports at least $50 billion worth of food that can be locally produced, and by 2030 this could increase to $110 billion. It calls for a radical transformation of Africa’s food systems to achieve food security and provide diverse, nutritious choices for their populations.