The Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) on Thursday unveiled a new five-year strategy that seeks to address global shocks resulting from crises including the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change as well as conflicts which affect food production.
Established in 2006, the African-led alliance with an objective of transforming smallholder agriculture into a modern, high yield sector says the new strategy is informed by the current global situation and is expected to make the institution more transformative in its work.
Speaking at the launch of the strategy, Hailemariam Desalegn, the former Prime Minster of Ethiopia and chair of AGRA board said that while the continental institution has registered considerable achievements over the past years, it was time to revamp its approach to make it more proactive in addressing challenges the continent faces.
“We have seen tremendous progress in the ability of farmers to access improved inputs and the development of a supportive policy environment for small agricultural enterprises,”
“There is a political willingness to move towards building food systems. And many, especially young people, are advocating passionately for changes in diets. And changes in how we produce and consume food sustainably,” Desalegn said.
Despite the gains, Desalegn said that the world has evolved over the past couple of years with several new challenges threatening to reverse what has been achieved over the years, particular shocks from elsewhere.
“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,”
“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,” the former Ethiopian PM said.
Faced with these challenges, Desalegn said that the only solution for Africa is to transform its food systems – to put the continent onto a sustainable development pathway.
“Our experience on the continent, and the UN Food Systems Summit, showed us how this must be done. It is this thinking that has informed the development of AGRA’s new strategy,”
“We have also been deeply informed by the need to learn – to pick the best approaches, to what the emerging evidence tells us,” Desalegn said.
What the new strategy means
According to Desalegn, under the new strategy, AGRA will be concentrating on two areas of work unlike the old strategy, this time focusing on two key areas, particularly seeds, which are so crucial for farmers.
“We want to help the countries we work with to develop functioning seed systems. 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 pointed out
“We have also learnt over the years that for maximum impact, we have to rally behind governments, which have the best opportunity to lead the food system transformation,” he pointed out.
Under the new strategy, AGRA will focus on promoting sustainable farming which will help farmers and communities to build the sustainability of their businesses and lives, through the land, water, and farming that they need.
AGRA also noted that markets and trade are critical components of the transformation of the agriculture sector and more efforts need to be directed towards to expand them.
Farmers, youth to play central role
“We are now sharpening our focus, knowing farmers and SMEs depend heavily on markets to sell their produce,”
“Our new strategy will focus on three critical areas of change, with climate change at the centre. We are becoming more deliberate on our gender, youth and inclusion work,”
“We are keen on transforming African diets to make sure that everyone has access to affordable and nutritiously-diverse diets,” Desalegn said.
AGRA president, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, the new strategy seeks to empower the farmer, particulalry at the grassroots, to produce and earn more from their land and this has to be a deliberate effort which begins with improving access to a variety of affordable, high yield seeds.
She pointed out that the new strategy recognises the importance of improving access to seeds, which in itself is not enough, but also backed with good agronomical practices, access to water and good use of fertilizers to increase yields and in turn change the lives of farmers.
Dr. Kalibata said that until now, Africa still relies on rain-fed agriculture, which leaves many parts of the world wondering why Africa is so behind.
She observed that at the global level, many blame it on the continent being technologically behind, yet most people forget to look at the opportunities on the continent and examples of what some countries like Rwanda have been able to do.
“They said that there are so many mistakes that have been made around technologies and that it is possible that we think about it as a uniquely African green revolution that is not looking to make the same mistakes that other people have made,”
“We really want to focus on a green revolution that starts with looking at the opportunities Africa has to offer,” Dr. Kalibata said, citing the bean challenge that
“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 tons per hectare of that bean. That bean has real value for a farmer that grows it. It’s technologies like that, that can change farmer’s lives and move them to mainstream economies,” she said.
She pointed out that that’s the kind of impact that AGRA wants to achieve with the new strategy, when the lives of farmers are transformed in a tangible manner.