NAIROBI, Sept 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - African
farmers are set to benefit from tens of billions of dollars
pledged by African leaders, development banks, the private
sector and international donors at a conference in Nairobi this
Commitments of more than $30 billion have been made so far
at the African Green Revolution Forum, to transform agriculture
on the continent over the next decade - said by organisers to be
the largest package of financial commitments to Africa's
agriculture sector to date.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged $200 million to
help 150,000 young farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs gain
access to markets, finance and insurance in the next five years.
"I challenge fellow heads of states in Africa to accelerate
their investment in agriculture for the benefit of the continent
as a whole," he said.
Around 70 percent of Africa's population depends on
agriculture for food and income, but many farmers are still
struggling with poverty and poor nutrition.
A report released on Tuesday by the Alliance for a Green
Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said African countries that took
early action in the past decade to invest in agriculture had
reaped the rewards, enjoying higher economic growth and a bigger
drop in malnutrition.
But much more funding was needed to expand progress across
sub-Saharan Africa, it said.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) answered that call,
saying on Thursday it would invest $24 billion in African
farming over the next ten years, a 400 percent increase over its
"I want Africa to feed itself and develop with pride," said
AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina.
Part of the bank's funding will support an international
programme to get modern agricultural technologies to millions of
small-scale farmers in Africa. The bank will also help them
access commercial loans.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to contribute at
least $5 billion to African development over the next five
years, of which around a fifth will be used to expand crop and
livestock research, strengthen data, and improve systems to
deliver better tools, information and innovations to farmers.
In the next six years, the continent will also benefit from
$3 billion pledged by the International Fund for Agricultural
Development (IFAD), in keeping with its policy of allocating at
least half of its annual $1.1 billion spending to Africa.
Most of its investments are targeted at creating jobs in
farming and food production, particularly for youth and women.
"Those of us who have been fortunate to achieve so much over
a rich and full lifetime must now do everything in our power to
provide our young people with opportunity and hope," said IFAD
president Kanayo F. Nwanze, who was awarded the new Africa Food
Prize this week.
LESS WASTE, MORE FERTILISER
A further $180 million was pledged by the Rockefeller
Foundation, including $130 million for AGRA's Yieldwise
initiative to strengthen crop storage, handling and processing
capabilities to reduce significant post-harvest losses on
African farms due spoilage or pests.
"Food loss and waste across the value chain threatens
farmers' livelihoods," said Rockefeller Foundation president
Judith Rodin, noting that 40 to 50 percent of some staple crops
are lost after harvest.
Fertiliser firm OCP Africa will invest $150 million over the
next five years to support local fertiliser distribution,
storage and blending, while Kenya Commercial Bank Group will
channel $350 million into business opportunities that could
reach some 2 million small-scale farmers.
The World Food Programme, meanwhile, promised to purchase at
least $120 million each year in agricultural products from
smallholder farmers through a partnership called the Patient
Procurement Platform, which will expand into Kenya and three
other countries next year.
Africa should take lessons from Asia, which rapidly expanded
public investment in the agricultural sector to achieve a green
revolution, said AfDB's Adesina.
"In order to unlock the potential of African agriculture, we
need a stronger role for the governments," he said.
In addition to boosting investment, he and others noted the
need for sound policies that are not subject to political whim.
"We should not waste time in reversing policies whenever
there is change in governments," said Adesina. "We need good
policies which are consistent."
(Reporting by Isaiah Esipisu; editing by Megan Rowling. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)