I read an interesting article in the Financial Times today on Kofi Annan’s campaign promoting a new Green Revolution for Africa. There is a pervasive spectre of [highly damaging] climate change. The article is only available to registered users I am afraid, though the FT provides free access to a limited number of articles per month for registered users.
The article largely concerns the work of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA aims to improve yields through seed development, soil health betterment and market improvements. Their website describes the main program areas thus:
“We focus on a set of programs that constitute a comprehensive and integrated approach to the transformation of African agriculture for smallholder farmers:
- Policy Program engages national governments and donors to establish an enabling environment for achieving a Green /revolution in Africa.
- The Seeds Programme (Programme on African Seed Systems- PASS) addresses capacity development, agro-ecology based crop breeding, the development of a vibrant, competitive African seed sector, and the widespread commercialization of appropriate and well adapted improved crop varieties through village-level agro-dealers.
- The Soil Health Program focuses on a rapid dissemination of locally adapted and environmentally sound integrated soil fertility management technologies.
- The Markets Access Program promotes efficient and profitable output markets to assure higher returns to technology investments by farmers. This will be achieved by lowering transaction costs, reducing risks, improving market information systems, and enhancing value addition through processing.
- New efforts on Extension, Water, and Youth Program are being developed.
AGRA currently supports nearly 100 programs and partnerships in 13 African countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. We are exploring program possibilities in Sierra Leone, Liberia, South Sudan, and Madagascar”.
It will be really interesting to follow the progress of AGRA. AGRA it appears differs from other programs by promoting both grass roots engagement and policy support from governments. Furthermore, the integrated, almost systems approach, address a range of issues rather than focussing solely on one issue. What is the good of improved irrigation for example, if excess produce cannot be delivered to markets or storage/distribution centres?
Related reading can be found here:
The issue of whether [African] nations should produce food crops to provide self sufficiency is interesting and complex, and should be saved for another day. At the moment AGRA is trying to elevate populations from starvation and then poverty. The next step may be commercialisaton, who knows?