Millions of African farmers and their families are wallowing in poverty: they lack good seeds, their soil has been depleted and they farm without reliable water supplies.
They lack financing, crop insurance and government support.
In spite of these challenges, they produce majority of Africa’s food.
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has a strategy to transform today’s rural poverty into tomorrow’s prosperity by sustainably and significantly increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers. It starts from the understanding that African agriculture can be a powerful and transformative engine for sustainable economic growth.
It is grounded in Africa’s very diverse and largely rain-fed agriculture, prudent use of science and technology.
An African Green Revolution can apply the power of knowledge and technology with an environmental touch: disseminating many crop varieties that will thrive in diverse conditions, improving soil health through integrated soil fertility management and developing technologies that maximize the use of rainwater and deliver small-scale irrigation.
Affordable financing for farmers
AGRA’s Innovative Financing Programme is unlocking millions of dollars worth of credit for smallholder farmers and small agricultural businesses previously considered too risky for lending, giving them unprecedented opportunities to invest in growth.
AGRA and other partners assemble “loan guarantee funds” that leverage much larger loans from commercial banks. The loan guarantee funds are available to insure against a proportion of loan defaults. In pilot programmes, default rates have been less than two percent. The programmes have been launched in Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda
In March 2009, Standard Bank and AGRA signed an agreement under which Standard Bank will offer $100 million in loans to smallholder farmers and small agricultural business-$25 million each in Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana and Uganda.
AGRA and its partners agreed to put up a $10 million loan guarantee, which enabled Standard Bank to offer lower-interest loans.
The Millennium Challenge Account in Mozambique, Ghana’s Millennium Development Authority, and Kilimo Trust in Uganda and Tanzania are contributing partners for the loan guarantee fund. AGRA aims to work with additional partners to leverage up to $2 billion in low-interest loans for smallholder farmers and small-to-medium sized African agricultural businesses.
Gender and Agriculture
Female small-scale farmers dominate the agricultural landscape in most production environments in sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet they constitute the majority of rural actors locked in socio-cultural structures that limit their agricultural productivity, efficiency and effectiveness at all points across the value chain.
Key examples are entrenched inequities in access to productive land, limited access to credit, poor access to markets, extension services and agricultural technologies relevant to their needs.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) recognizes that to achieve food security and spur economic development, women food producers and rural entrepreneurs must be at the center of all efforts to substantially raise the productivity, incomes and sustainability of the millions of smallholder farmers who dominate Africa’s rural landscape.
Addressing the specific interests and issues of women farmers and male producers equally is crucial to the transformation of Africa’s agriculture and the well-being of the rural populace within the next decade.
AGRA has laid out a strategy that reflects these realities.
AGRA has begun to roll out the elements of a gender strategy that includes gender advocacy and awareness efforts, gender knowledge and technical capacity building, and stimulating institutional change to address the formidable obstacles women smallholders often encounter across the agriculture value chain
Jane Karuku, President Alliance for Green a Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is of the view that Global Food Security requires Public-Private Partnerships.
At the recent World Food Prize Symposium in the U.S., she commented: Africa’s farmers are not needy victims. They have something to offer the world – a vast and verdant supply of arable land. Like us, the rest of the world needs to eat. In order to ensure long-term food security, we need to invest in new public-private partnerships in Ghana and across the continent.
“We know the most successful partnerships are those in which everyone has made a tangible investment in the outcome. As conversations on how to feed the future gather momentum – at the recent meeting in the U.S., the African Green Revolution Forum in Tanzania and the Camp David G8 Summit – it has become clear we need to focus on combining government resources with private-sector expertise to rapidly expand African agricultural yields and improve global economic growth.”
AGRA is an Africa based organization working in partnership with governments, agricultural research organizations, farmers, private sector, civil society and other rural development stakeholders to significantly and sustainably improve the productivity and incomes of resource poor farmers in Africa.
AGRA works in conjunction with various partners to unleash the continent’s agricultural potential. Towards that end, AGRA’s strategy rests on the idea that AGRA’s resources and its efforts with partners should initially focus on where there will be the highest payoff – in Africa’s high-potential ‘breadbasket’ areas.
These are land areas of significant size with relatively good soil, reliable rainfall, basic infrastructure and active smallholder farmers.
These areas are also located in countries with commitment to agricultural development. The countries include: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia
By focusing our investments in these areas, we can reverse decades of rising hunger and achieve a ‘demonstration effect’ that will spur the scaling up of such investments in other countries. This strategy will also help us concentrate our resources and not spread too thinly hence failing to bring about the rapid change that is desperately needed.
To feed the continent’s 900 million people, Africa must achieve its own food security. To do that requires nothing less than a complete transformation of the agricultural sector.
AGRA’s vision is a food secure and prosperous Africa achieved through rapid, sustainable agricultural growth.
Agriculture is the backbone of Ghana’s economy, and smallholder farmers represent about 80 percent of total agricultural production. Yet despite overall economic growth over the past decade, the agricultural sector has declined from 51 percent to 36 percent of GDP.
The rural poor now account for almost three-quarters of all Ghanaians who live below the poverty line. Smallholder farmers, whose farms average just 1.2 hectares, currently have limited opportunities to prosper.
Major obstacles faced by Ghana’s smallholder farmers include farmers’ access to good seed, fertilizer and sustainable farming practices, credit, crop storage, markets and strong farmer-based organizations.
The government of Ghana recognizes the urgent need to boost smallholder productivity to combat poverty and spur economic growth.
By Emelia Ennin Abbey