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    Theobroma cacao.The cocoa sector in West Africa is facing many well-known problems. That is a fact. And we all acknowledge those problems. Only by joining forces can we solve the challenges and contribute to sustainable growth and development of the cocoa sector. Succeeding in this, will result in increased farmer profitability, economic growth in West-Africa and reduced negative environmental impact.


    About 70% of global supply is produced in West Africa by smallholder farmers. Productivity is low, trees are old and farmers are using old-fashioned methods. Farming efficiency is a huge issue. Agriculture with low productivity is a very important driver of deforestation. Production areas need to be replanted with improved varieties.

    There is a lack of availability of proper fertilizers and other inputs, knowledge on cocoa agronomy and best management practices is lacking. Climate change threatens production, but we can also say that production threatens to contribute to more climate change, through for instance illegal deforestation. And if you look at it this way, the future can look quite grim. However, I am an optimist - and I believe in knowledge sharing and collaboration.


    In Yara, we have put sustainability and farmers at the centre of our business strategy. Not just because it is the nice thing to do, but because it is the wise thing to do. For example, if farmers improve productivity in a manner which destroys the natural resources base, it will not be sustainable over time neither for them nor for us as an input provider. So let us create growth and cocoa sustainability– in a responsible and inclusive way – for our businesses, the farmers and for society at large.


    To succeed in doing this, however, we need to work together. Government buy-in and leadership is absolutely vital. Progress will not be sufficient if companies along the value chain continue to work individually in pursuit of parallel but separate strategies. Real and transformative change will require what Howard Shapiro from Mars has coined “uncommon collaboration” between academia, government, non-government, industry players and farmers in tackling global challenges- and where the cocoa farmer is put first.


    On the picture below, is cocoa farmer Konfe Sidy from Côte d’Ivoire. Through more modern and sustainable methods, he has been able to increase the yields almost ten times. This has enabled him to create a small business, feed his wife and 3 year old daughter as well as his extended family who live with him. He has even build a new house. Of course, this is small scale. But imagine what the impact could be if we aggregate this to thousands of cocoa farmers.


    We must make production of coca more efficient. Producing more with less, meaning more output based on less input. Increased efficiency will improve forests, diversity and cocoa farmer livelihoods in West Africa. I believe we can succeed if there is a sufficient will and we put ourselves in the correct frame of mind. The chocolate industry has already paved the way with CocoaAction. In Yara, we have for a long time recognized that we need look beyond our own sector, broaden our perspective and find ways of working with a range of different partners. We have decided to engage beyond our own interests and contribute to the sustainable cocoa productivity challenge by bringing our unique crop nutrition competence and to form alliances involving partners ranging from UN Environment the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to key companies and organisations in the chocolate industry.

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    The result so far is a public-private research and development partnership which aims to address critical gaps in the knowledge base required to close cocoa yield gaps and deliver this knowledge to cocoa farmers. I truly believe that this partnership can bring the best of science to tackle the major problems to the service of the smallholders and the cocoa producing countries.


    The time to make cocoa production more sustainable is now. Some of the tools and strategies already exist. Through “uncommon collaboration” we can not only turn cocoa around but also lead the way.


    This week representatives from national agricultural research and extension organizations of the major cocoa producing countries in Africa together with key companies and organizations in the cocoa industry will be gathered in Abidjan. The main purpose is to discuss how science can work together with the chocolate industry players to bring the best science to tackle major problems to the service of the smallholders and the cocoa producing countries. It is all happening in the context of the 7th African Green Revolution Forum. Under the leadership of the Government of Cote d’Ivoire, the 2017 AGRF is shaping up to be the most important agricultural platform on the continent for 2017.


    As Yara, we are ready and prepared to work with others to improve the knowledge base required to close cocoa yield gaps and deliver this knowledge to cocoa farmers – and we know we cannot crack that nut alone.

     

     

     

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    Dr. Kanayo Nwanze


    Opinion
    As I settle back in my homeland Nigeria since retiring as the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in March this year, I am reminded of a local saying that when you go to the stream to fetch water, your bucket will only be filled with the water that is yours. No one can take the water that is meant for you. Life will give you what you deserve, nothing more, and nothing less. But first you must walk to the stream, bend down, and dip your bucket.


    This parable inspired the title of my recently released book, A Bucket of Water, that distils lessons and experiences from my 40-year professional career dedicated to agriculture in general, and African agriculture in particular.


    I have witnessed many inspiring changes in Africa over the years. Technologies that enable farmers produce more yield per unit acreage have been developed. Access to markets and financial resources have also improved as has the policy landscape. Additionally, Africa is experiencing unprecedented economic growth with five of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies being African.


    However, this progress is ironical when Africa, rich as it is, is still unable to feed itself - poverty levels remain high and millions go to bed hungry. I see our over-dependence on minerals as the main problem.


    According to the US Geological Survey 2016, Sub- Saharan Africa produces 77 per cent of the world’s platinum metals; 60 per cent of its cobalt (used for batteries and metal alloys); 46 per cent of its natural industrial diamonds; and an abundance of gold, uranium, oil, and gas. Tragically, this immense mineral richness has not benefited the majority
    My vision for Africa’s future is not built on a foundation of extractive industries.

    These riches have not translated into wide-ranging job creation, or social welfare and stability. They have not fed hungry people. They have not reduced poverty.


    I see Africa’s economic growth predicated upon unlocking and fully tapping into the potential of smallholder farmers who make up 70 per cent of our population. When I insisted for many years that small-scale farms were as much businesses as large-scale operations, my views were considered at best romantic and at worst foolish. I am glad to note that the concept of smallholder farms as a business has become commonplace today.

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    Achieving the kind of economic growth that leaves no one behind requires deliberate prioritization of the agricultural sector. In fact, agriculture is the surest path to Africa’s prosperity. For instance, it is well established that GDP growth due to agriculture is at least three times more effective in reducing poverty in resource-poor, low-income countries than growth in other sectors. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated to be 11 times more effective.

    We are richly endowed with what it takes to achieve greatness - ideal climatic conditions which are, unfortunately, changing in devastating ways; large swathes of arable land; huge deposits of water that can be used for irrigation; and, most importantly, the vast potential of the people themselves especially the ingenuity and vigour of our youth. Our women who do most of our farming deserve a special mention. In 2016, I was honoured as the winner of the Inaugural Africa Food Prize which I dedicated to the millions of African women who silently toil to feed their families. I am a strong believer that no nation has been able to transform itself without giving women the same rights and opportunities as men.


    However, as I have said many times before, achieving a continent-wide agricultural transformation, as the foundation for food security and poverty alleviation, requires visionary national and continental leadership. For our continent has all it needs to succeed in the right climate of leadership.


    We laud our leaders’ commitment to allocate at least 10 per cent of public expenditure to agriculture, and to ensuring its efficiency and effectiveness, in the Malabo Declaration. A lot more still needs to be done. For instance, only eight out of 44 governments in sub-Saharan Africa have kept these promises to invest more in agriculture.


    However, where the resolution has been adopted, and the will is there; where the decisions have been taken, and the actions implemented; the results have been both swift and phenomenal.


    Ethiopia, for example, has reaped huge benefits for the last two decades from visionary leadership and by honouring its development commitments. The government set up the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) to bolster smallholder farmers’ productivity, enhance marketing systems, upgrade the participation of the private sector, increase the volume of irrigated land and curtail the number of households with inadequate food.


    Today, agriculture is Ethiopia's most important sector, accounting for nearly half of the country’s GDP (46.3 per cent), 90 per cent of exports and 85 per cent of the labour force.


    Rwanda is another example where agricultural transformation has spanned land reform, land consolidation, and better access to inputs and extension for smallholders. This has increased the country’s food availability by 150 per cent, reducing chronic malnutrition and stunting significantly, and reducing poverty by 20 per cent in the last 10 years.


    Visionary leadership in agriculture, therefore, demonstrably offers rapid returns. Ethiopia and Rwanda, both among the fastest growing African economies, are good examples of countries that have walked to the stream to fill their buckets.
    Other countries should make the same walk to the river of agricultural opportunities that continues flowing. The landmark African Green Revolution Forum to be hosted in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire by H.E. President Alassane Ouattara, is one step towards the river. At the Forum, global and African leaders will develop actionable plans that will move African agriculture forward.


    Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze is the 2016 winner of the Africa Food Prize and the immediate Former President of the International Fund for agricultural Development (IFAD). He is also a Board Member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

     

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    Farmer piling his potatoes after harvest. Photo: Flickr/CIP/HKI

    Opinion
    Asked where the next crop of African Billionaires will come from, the President of the African Development Bank, Nigerian Dr Akinwumi Adesina, without batting an eyelid, declared that they will be farmers. And he is not the only person in his class endorsing agriculture as the next frontier. Technology success Strive Masiyiwa, a Zimbabwean, has indicated more than once that if he was to start over, he would go into farming.


    Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, too, is now venturing into farming, just recently investing $4.6bn in Nigerian agriculture. Dangote plans to invest $3.8bn in sugar and rice and $800m in milk production in the next three years. Already greatly involved in agriculture, Dangote, through his Dangote Group conglomerate, is out to increase his sugar output by 50 per cent (from 100,000 tons), rice yield by 1 million tons, and start producing 500 million litres of milk a year by 2020.


    Masiyiwa and Dangote are successful businessmen in their own right, and being billionaires, they must know something that the average African doesn’t.


    Yet, for years, and even with front-seat access to data and consultant-advice from real billionaires, the majority of African governments have done little to reposition their economies as agricultural powerhouses. But things may now be set to change.


    In 2014, African heads of state met in Equatorial Guinea, and vowed to work together to open up the potential of the region’s agricultural industry. This agreement was put into a document, now popularly known as the Malabo Declaration, which stipulated the specific commitments with clear indicators for tracking and measuring agricultural practice that needed attention.


    Further, the Malabo Declaration, agreed that a new monitoring system would be set up to ensure that the Heads of State, and their respective authorities, maintained accountability to peers, and to their citizenry in delivering this agricultural transformation.


    For this purpose, the Heads of State agreed to review their achievements every two years; popularly known as the biennial review. The first such review is now underway, with a final report set for presentation at the next African Heads of State Summit. In the same way, the Heads of State agreed that there was an urgent need to create a scorecard that would show countries how they are faring on the different goals of the Malabo Declaration.

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    The scorecard, the first ever pan-African co-operation of its kind, is now under development and will be ready before the January 2018 African Union Summit of Heads of State. Once presented, it will provide a new and powerful tool for all stakeholders in identifying the specific areas of agricultural transformation that need attention.


    A complementary tool for the Biennial Review process, the scorecard is powered by data submitted by respective countries on their performance in the 43 agriculture growth indicators agreed on in Malabo. The beauty of the new agriculture scorecard is that it is least concerned with how countries perform against each other and provide an opportunity for sharing lessons.


    The hope is that countries that are struggling to reposition their agricultural sectors for takeoff will use it to reach out to those who are proving successful for guidance, allowing the region to grow together, as a block.


    This function of the agriculture scorecard, therefore, represents the intent and purpose of the discussions in Malabo, as a pan-African drive, where it has become clear that success is not owed to any country in Africa, and that the only way up is by nations becoming pillars of support for each other.


    The scorecard will also be available online to encourage public participation in the interrogation of the information gathered, in the knowledge that by engaging with citizens, Heads of State can benefit from expert advice that may not be immediately available to them. The key principle for presenting the information publicly, however, is rooted in Jürgen Habermas’ articulation that public engagement can influence decisions in ways that see key national objectives met more swiftly.


    The ultimate goal remains to dispel the myth that scorecards are complicated documents whose aim is to vilify non-performers while rewarding success. The leaders’ meeting in Malabo rightly confirmed that Africa is moving into a space where competition in development no longer matters, and that the failure of some countries adversely affects the reputation of the region as a whole.


    By the end of the second biennial review process, and with countries actively engaging with the agriculture scorecard, it is foreseen that further improvement in regional integration will have been secured, with key successes in intra-African trade and increased investment in agriculture and hunger reduction efforts.


    However, the speed at which the scorecard fuels that success depends on support, from governments and other stakeholders, in pursuing its underlying objective. The active interaction of Heads of State with the tool will introduce them to a new line of questioning that will allow them to identify the specific weaknesses they need to overcome for further development. The hope is that by easily identifying critical areas of failure, the Heads of State can encourage both a policy and attitude shift that will eventually drive the desired changes.


    Opinion leaders, such as Dangote, Adesina and Masiyiwa, are helping fellow Africans to appreciate the importance of achieving the Malabo goals. Masiyiwa has already emerged as a major influencer through his interaction with the youth on social media, and his voice is now gradually inspiring a radical shift in favour of agriculture. So are Adesina and Dangote, who are driving a new admiration for farming through their views voiced on television and radio. More of their peers are following suit too, but a lot more mouthpieces are needed around the continent to drive this revolution with the speed it deserves.


    As experts note, it is only when the average African realizes that digging dirt is an honorable job, and develops the desire to be actively involved in it because of the financial liberation it comes with, that the continent will begin to achieve its economic development goals.


    The Malabo declaration and its biennial review process, as well as the new agriculture scorecard, are now providing a new base to drive that change.

    Boaz Blackie Keizire | Head, Policy and Advocacy |Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

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