22 May 2012
Although average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) across the African continent has improved slightly in the last five years, yet poverty and hunger continues to blight communities.
The impact of the global economic downturn on the ability of Africa to become not only food sufficient, but a major exporter of foods is damaging the very foundation upon which such potential may be harnessed.
Whilst erratic weather conditions, poor seeds quality, poor soil conditions, lack of modern technology – expertise and investment capital, continue to hamper progress in achieving food security in Africa, there are serious questions as to the political commitment of governments and the agenda of international investors.
World leaders meeting at the G8 Summit in the USA, have heard it all before and the script is no different this time either.
But according to the Africa Press Organisation (APO), the ‘Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)’ (http://www.agra-alliance.org) has been given a key role in the G8’s next phase of a shared commitment to achieve global food security.
What hope does this initiative bring to Africa’s desperate need to become food sufficient?
The Scaling Seeds and Other Technologies Partnership, part of the new initiative focused on increasing agricultural food production in Africa, will be housed at AGRA and will focus on strengthening Africa’s seed sector.
“The approach being put forward by the G8 is modelled on some of AGRA’s on-going work on behalf of Africa’s smallholder farmers and we are pleased to play a major role in this global initiative.”
The Scaling Seeds and Other Technologies Partnership will strengthen the seed sector and promote the commercialization, distribution and adoption of key technologies, improved seed varieties, and other technologies to meet concrete targets in partner countries.
“AGRA is working with its main partners to create breadbaskets in Africa through support to smallholder farmers,” said Jane Karuku, AGRA President.
“We are now seeing smallholder farmers prospering due to bigger crop yields and entire communities benefiting from the growth of small agribusinesses.”
Particularly impressive are results in significantly boosting staple crop production.
Through the support of AGRA and its partners, an additional 40,000 metric tons per annum of hybrid seeds, representing one-third of the commercially produced seeds in Africa, are now reaching smallholder farmers.
These seeds have been produced by 60 small, African-owned seed companies that have been launched with capital and strengthened by AGRA – a 100 percent increase in the number of such companies.
In terms of food production, this means an additional four million metric tons of staple crops per annum.
AGRA’s experts believe that the tipping point to food security with respect to improved seeds is 500,000 metric tons per annum of high yielding, improved crop varieties.
AGRA has invested in training African scientists who will develop research capacity, and strengthen the capacity of seed companies, both technically and in terms of management capability.
It has established MSc and PhD programs at 13 key African universities – more than 400 post- graduate students have been enrolled, a hundred of whom have graduated.
This represents a quarter of the scientists known to be working in this field today.
AGRA’s experts believe that 1,000 new scientists in this field are required to sustain the Green Revolution.
To date, these and other AGRA-supported scientists have produced 342 new crop varieties – a 100 percent increase in available improved varieties.
AGRA has developed almost 15,000 agro-dealer businesses, which are an integral part of the value chain in sustaining a private sector-led, market oriented agriculture sector.
In partnership with African governments and their central banks, as well as domestic and international banks, AGRA has pioneered innovative, risk sharing, finance schemes that have already allowed millions of smallholder farmers in 6 countries to access nearly $1 Billion in credit from their own banking systems for the first time.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) (http://www.agra-alliance.org) is a dynamic partnership, working across the African continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.
AGRA programs develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor, while safeguarding the environment.
AGRA advocates for policies that support its work across all key aspects of the African agricultural value chain – from seeds, soil health and water to finance; markets research and agricultural education.
AGRA works across 16 Sub-sahara African countries and maintains offices in Nairobi, Kenya, and Accra – Ghana.
For more information, please visit http://www.agra-alliance.org.