NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 17 – African farmers are seeding prosperity. Just ask the woman they call “Marie Nerica” who is sowing a new breed of Nerica rice in Sierra Leone. She now produces enough to sell the surplus in local markets and to the government. Her success sprang from the government’s renewed commitment to agriculture, sealed when it recently signed a compact known as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, or CAADP, coordinated by the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Or ask Peter and Joanina Kibuti in Kenya’s Embu town. Using improved seed, fertilizer, government vouchers and the advice of extension officers, they more than tripled their maize yields. Their farmers’ coop shared the cost of transportation and opened a cereal bank to safely store their surplus, further boosting their incomes. Joanina is happy because, for the first time, she is able to pay her daughter’s school fees on time. Their success sprang from work supported by the Kenyan government and by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA. Its integrated programs in seeds, soil health, markets, policy and innovative finance are transforming smallholder farming and agricultural value chains in 14 African countries.
Now NEPAD and AGRA are poised to scale-up such successes in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, as they join forces to boost agricultural productivity. The two African-led initiatives both recognize that to achieve food security and spur economic development, African countries need to substantially raise the productivity, incomes and sustainability of millions of smallholder farmers.
Today, some 218 million Africans are hungry every day, and 38% of children under five suffer from malnutrition. Ironically, hunger and malnutrition is most acute among the families of rural farmers, who have struggled for decades without support of any kind. The partnership between AGRA and NEPAD – which both have deep African roots and broad global support — opens a new chapter in Africa’s agricultural development.
NEPAD has mobilized political support among African governments to prioritize and invest in agriculture. It works through CAADP, which was endorsed by the African Union Assembly in 2003. Critically, CAADP pledges African governments to devote at least 10% of their national budgets to agriculture, in pursuit of 6% annual agricultural growth. Progress has been meaningful: 12 countries have now signed CAADP compacts, and some countries, including Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Mali, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria have met the 10% goal. But much more remains to be done, and quickly, as the mounting pressures of population growth, climate change and global food price volatility continue to work against African food security.
AGRA’s integrated programs have already benefited hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers through increasing their access to sustainable technologies; promoting polices of comprehensive support for smallholder farmers; nurturing the growth of a dynamic African agricultural private sector and increasing the availability of affordable loans for small-scale agriculture. These programs will help implement CAADP on the ground, starting with high-potential breadbasket areas with relatively good soil, rainfall, infrastructure and large numbers of smallholder farmers.
The new partnership, launched on 9 November 2009 in Abuja, Nigeria, pledges the two organizations to work together through CAADP country roundtable processes which plan strategic investments in agriculture. The roundtables allow all partners, from farmers’ organizations to government Ministries, to identify targeted investments which can galvanize the whole agricultural value chain and accelerate the production of food surpluses to feed Africa.
The two partners join hands to advocate for policies that support smallholder farmers; build countries’ parliamentary and institutional policy-making capacity; build the capacity of Africa’s public and private institutions involved in Africa, and partner with other stakeholders to co-convene an annual African Green Revolution Conference.
Helping Africa to feed itself and transform its agriculture into a more productive, competitive and environmentally sustainable system is the greatest challenge of our time. African leaders have called for a uniquely African green revolution – one that is unique to Africa’s needs and ecologies and which raises the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers.
It is our hope and intention that by combining the strengths of these two organizations and our unshakeable commitment to improving the lives of African farmers, we can help usher in a new era of food security and prosperity for Africa.
( Prof. Richard Mkandawire, Agriculture Adviser, New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Head of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, and Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President, Policy and Partnerships, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa)