Washington, D.C. (June 11, 2008)Two of the worlds largest grant-making organizations in African agricultural development today joined forces in a plan to help African countries tackle poverty and hunger through smart, sustainable solutions to improve the productivity and incomes of small-scale farmers and poor rural households.
The groundbreaking collaboration combines the strengths and expertise of the United States governments Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The plan was signed by the MCCs CEO Ambassador John Danilovich and former Secretary-General of the United Nations and AGRAs Chairman, Kofi A. Annan.
MCCs investments in agriculture and in public infrastructure such as roads and irrigation complement AGRAs investments in providing the rural poor with seeds and fertilizers to increase their incomes and production, Danilovich said. Our mutual goal is to put in place a comprehensive and sustainable approach to agricultural development that invests in long-term solutions to end poverty and hunger.
The announcement comes as the global food crisis deepens widespread hunger and poverty in Africa. More than 200 million people are chronically hungry, and 33 million children under five are malnourished.
Collaborations such as ours are essential to putting in place long-term solutions to the food crisis, Annan said. It is incumbent upon us, as major supporters of agricultural development to approach development differently than it has been approached in the past, in order to propel progress on the ground.
The two organizations will initially focus their joint efforts in three countries: Ghana, Madagascar, and Mali.
AGRA is a partnership-based organization that works with small-scale farmers across Africa to sustainably increase their productivity and incomes. AGRA has already invested US$330 million in solutions to problems across the agricultural value chain: from seeds and soil health to market development, agricultural education and policy issues.
MCC, a United States government agency designed to work with developing countries, was established in January 2004 with the mission to reduce global poverty through the promotion of sustainable economic growth.MCC is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom and investments in people.
MCC has signed anti-poverty grants with 16 countries totaling $5.5 billion. Of this amount, fully funded agricultural and rural development investments total nearly $2.8 billion worldwide, including $1.7 billion invested thus far in African agricultural development.
MCC and AGRA will work together to identify specific projects and activities to be undertaken by targeted African countries to foster broad-based agricultural growth and poverty alleviation. Five complementary areas of activities are contemplated:
- building roads, irrigation and other agriculture-related infrastructure;
- advancing agriculture research, multiplication of seed, and distribution of inputs and technologies to small-scale farmers;
- increasing access to financing for farmers, farmer groups and agribusiness;
- improving dry and cold storage, food processing and other value-added systems; and
- working toward a more conducive policy environment for domestic agriculture growth, investment and trade.
Each of these areas is critical to launching Africas smallholder farmers out of poverty and onto a path of prosperity, Annan said. Today, the efforts of our farmers are thwarted by a lack of access to good seed, fertilizers, and financing. In addition, some 95 percent of African agriculture is dependent on rain fall; and farmers lose and average of 40 percent of their crops after harvest. Reducing these losses by just 10 percent would yield five million additional tons of cereals per year.
In Ghana, AGRA and the Ghanaian governments Millennium Development Authority or MiDA (established to implement the countrys MCC grant) will launch a public-private dialogue with seed industry stakeholders regarding current seed policy and gain consensus on reform measures that best enable private seed companies and public institutions to work together towards greater distribution and use of improved varieties into farmers fields. AGRA and MiDA are developing plans to coordinate seed multiplication and distribution (maize, sorghum, millet, cowpea and soya), agro-dealer development and rural finance interventions in MiDAs target districts.
In Madagascar, where rice yields remain among the poorest in the world and fertilizer use is one-twelfth the African average (which is itself one-tenth the global average) AGRA and MCA-Madagascar (the entity established to implement the countrys MCC grant) will use MCC-funded Agriculture Business Centers in at least three agricultural zones to expand seed multiplication (rice, maize and butter beans) and distribution systems as well as availability of appropriate blends of fertilizers to better reach area farm households with inputs and advice.
In Mali, AGRA will direct its investments in crop research, seed development, and agro-dealer network development to include the Alatona region, where the MCC investment focuses on expansion of irrigations systems to small-scale farmers. AGRA and MCA-Mali seek ways to best leverage each others investments in multiplication and distribution of disease resistant vegetables and other improved crop varieties, in addition to exploring avenues to boost private sector capacities in post-harvest systems and value-added processing.
Danilovich concluded, In these countries, significant investments in agriculture are critical to their poverty alleviation strategies. I am pleased to partner with AGRA to outline a framework for future collaboration to help some of the world’s poorest countries find long-term economic solutions to their most critical challenges.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a United States government agency designed to work with developing countries, is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom, and investments in people that promote economic growth and elimination of extreme poverty.
MCC has signed anti-poverty grants with 16 countries totaling $5.5 billion. Of this amount, fully funded agricultural and rural development investments total nearly $2.8 billion. For more information about MCCs investments in agriculture worldwide, visit http://www.mcc.gov/documents/factsheet-060308-foodinvestments.pdf.
About the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
AGRA 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 chainfrom seeds, soil health, and water to markets and agricultural education.
AGRAs Board is chaired by Kofi A. Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations. AGRAs President is Dr. A. Namanga Ngongi, former Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme. With initial support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AGRA maintains offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Accra, Ghana. For more information, go to www.agra-alliance.org.