While AGRA has an impactful presence across several countries, it is faced with challenges such as limited government capabilities and capacity to define a vision and set strategy, coordinate key actors, implement plans, and create accountability and learning systems
AGRA has made significant steps by working with governments to strengthen state capability, improve the policy environment, and boost regional market systems. This is done in full realization that strengthening state capabilities and policies will incent private businesses to invest, which will lead to better-functioning systems that serve smallholder farmers.
For the longest time, Africa has dramatically suffered from various circumstances surrounding food systems, and it constantly needs implementable solutions to deal with food insecurity. Challenges ranging from climate change, poverty, insecurity, and pests and insects have affected farmers and hampered agricultural productivity.
But while the continent is yet to achieve SDG Goal 2 – end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 – it is well on the course to ensuring that its populations have sufficient and nutritious food all year. This involves promoting sustainable agriculture, supporting small-scale farmers and equal access to land, technology and markets – and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is at the heart of this progress.
AGRA, alongside various stakeholders in the agricultural sector, have rubbed minds together to find ways to bring lasting solutions to food insecurity in Africa.
Since its inception in 2006, AGRA’s investments across the continent have been directed at increasing food and nutrition security and incomes for smallholder farming households. Since 2017, for instance, the organization has directly reached 10.1 million farmers, serving them with an integrated suite of services to improve how they farm.
The intervention focused on bettering farmers’ livelihoods, addressing food insecurity, and achieving greater resilience to shocks and adversity. Impressively, over 60 percent of the farmers reached by AGRA have adopted new farming practices. For instance, many of these farmers have transitioned to making more efficient use of their seeds.
Before AGRA intervention, no farmers in Kiambu, Kenya, used the recommended row and hole spacing or the correct number of seeds per hole. This usually led to significant waste. However, after being trained by AGRA, all farmers shifted to best practices, and these changes reflect more capable farmers applying best practice techniques.
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As a result of improved farming practices, farmers are experiencing better yields across different countries and crops. In Tanzanian, farmers realized dramatic gains in beans and rice yields, while Ghanaian farmers also saw increases in soya and cassava. On the other hand, Ethiopia reported gains of 5 to 14 percent for teff, wheat, and haricot beans.
Through AGRA’s support, farmers have reported growing incomes due to increased productivity –income increase was substantial, ranging from 20 to over 80 percent for the majority, as stated by the AGRA 2020 Annual Report.
Far from the increased productivity, AGRA has been working on integrating regenerative practices into agriculture systems and landscapes to build long-term systemic resilience against climate, environmental and some extent, market shocks. In the face of shocks such as COVID-19, the organization worked with governments to strengthen input and output supply chains and early warning systems that ensure farmer resilience and continued production and supply of food to urban and rural markets.
By partnering with organizations, the AGRA has ensured that farmers get climate information as part of the resilience-building program for smallholder farmers. By extension, this ensures that farmers increase the adoption of climate resilient crop varieties – and to actualize this promise, in 2020, 54,946 tons of resilient seed varieties were distributed to farmers through the agro-dealer network. Adopting these practices led to an average of 87 percent of the farmers having surplus produce at harvest.
AGRA has invested in close to 3,900 off-takers serving smallholder farmers to increase farmer credit, purchases, post-harvest storage, and crop processing capacity to give farmers a market for their surplus. All these interventions and impacts are geared toward strengthening food systems in Africa – but it also has its fair share of challenges.
While AGRA has an impactful presence across several countries, several challenges need to be ironed out first to support long-term commitments and better the outcomes in the agricultural sector. Some of these challenges include limited government capabilities and capacity to define a vision and set strategy, coordinate key actors, implement plans, and create accountability and learning systems
There is also the problem of weak or outdated policies that hinder the development of critical agricultural systems and discourage private sector investment. This is not to mention the inadequate regional trade and market systems that deter agricultural trading and increase the likelihood of food insecurity.
Unfortunately, in instances where inputs are available, the geographic coverage of the agro-dealer distribution network may be poor and too far away from a large share of farmers. Also, many African countries have limited capacity to develop and produce improved seeds, and farmers may still rely on old, open-pollinated seed varieties. Similarly, fertilizer blends may not be suitable for local conditions, and production may be insufficient to meet the market. These and other systemic limitations leave smallholders ill-equipped to change their agronomic practices, increase output, and operate more profitable farms.
To address these challenges, AGRA invests at multiple levels of the agricultural ecosystem, strengthening the key elements necessary for transformation. Moreover, the organization has taken a strategic, integrated approach to identifying the most impactful interventions for the local context, coordinating among the actors that can fill the gap, and selectively de-risking growth opportunities
AGRA has also made significant steps by working with governments to strengthen state capability, improve the policy environment, and boost regional market systems. This is done in full realization that strengthening state capabilities and policies will incent private businesses to invest, which will lead to better-functioning systems that serve smallholder farmers.