14 June 2007
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been appointed as the first chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an organisation that aims to help small-scale farmers across the continent.
Speaking ahead of delivering a keynote address on African agriculture at the World Economic Forum on Africa, taking place in Cape Town this Thursday, Annan said he hoped to use his new position to tackle the challenges that hold back most small-scale farmers in Africa.
“Africa is the only region where overall food security and livelihoods are deteriorating,” he said.
“We will reverse this trend by working to create an environmentally sustainable, uniquely African Green Revolution. When our poorest farmers finally prosper, all of Africa will benefit.”
AGRA was established in 2006 with an initial grant of US$150-million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, it aims to help small-scale farmers and their families on the continent through sustainable increases in farm productivity and incomes.
AGRA intends to improve agricultural development in Africa by addressing both farming and relevant economic issues, including soil fertility and irrigation, farmer management practices, and farmer access to markets and financing.
It will also support the development of new seed systems that are better suited to produce higher yields despite the harsh African climate.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation states that in order for the green revolution in Africa to be as successful as similar efforts in Asia or Latin America, scientists will need to develop improved varieties for at least 10 different staple crops, including maize, cassava, sorghum, and millet.
“The end goal is that within 20 years, farmers will double or even triple their yields and sell the surplus at market for the income they need to invest in health, education, housing, and other needs,” the foundation states.
AGRA also strongly endorses the African Union’s comprehensive Africa agriculture development programme, which seeks to increase food production on the continent by 6% per annum by 2015.
“No country or region of significant size has been able to lift itself out of poverty without raising productivity in its agricultural sector,” Annan said.
“This is our challenge. It is a long-term effort, but one that, with our partners, is within reach.”