Key United Nations agencies have announced a new partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to boost food production in Africa’s breadbasket regions and to support smallholder farmers.
The agreement was signed today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and AGRA in Rome at the High-Level Conference on World Food Security.
“Unlocking the potential of agriculture in Africa is a huge challenge, but it can be done,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said today in a statement. “This initiative is an important contribution to reduce the number of more than 200 million hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa by boosting food production and productivity, and improving the livelihoods of millions of people in rural areas.”
The new partnership will focus on increasing food production in “breadbasket areas” – regions in Africa with relatively good rainfall, soils, infrastructure and markets. The agreement calls for the sharing of agricultural development innovations along with careful environmental monitoring.
“We must implement immediate solutions for today’s crisis and do so in the context of a long-term concerted effort to transform smallholder agriculture, to increase productivity and sustainability, and to end poverty and hunger,” Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Board of AGRA and former UN Secretary-General, said today.
Per capita food production has declined in Africa for the past 30 years and farm productivity in Africa is just one-quarter of the global average. Today, more than 200 million people are chronically hungry in the region, and 33 million children under the age of five are malnourished.
The FAO called today for bold pro-poor policies to help transform smallholder agriculture, more investment to improve soil and water management, more adaptable new crop varieties, improved access to seeds and fertilizers, and better roads and communications in rural areas.
“Smallholder producers constitute the largest group of economic actors but are often the poorest segment of the population in sub-Saharan Africa,” IFAD President Lennart Båge said. He added that his organization would “help lift the rural poor from poverty by expanding their production capacity, strengthening their institutions and voice, and improving their access to critical markets.”
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said the new partnership would use its purchasing power to contribute to a green revolution in Africa and to the development of markets.
“WFP is delighted to work with AGRA, a critical player who will help stimulate agriculture production,” she said. “Together with FAO and IFAD, we can bring major improvements to the lives of small-scale producers and food-insecure farmers all across Africa, and help reduce hunger and vulnerability.”
In a related development, the FAO announced today that it has committed $17 million in start-up funds to provide small farmers in some of the poorest African countries with seeds, fertilizers and other support to help them increase production for the upcoming planting seasons.
Long-term, the FAO said that a total of $1.7 billion is needed in the countries most affected by the global food crisis, to revive agricultural systems that have been neglected for several decades.