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    High Yield


    Agriculture is instrumental in Africa’s poverty: it must also be instrumental in its wealth. Only through agricultural regeneration can growth, diversification and job creation occur for African economies, for no region of the world has ever industrialised without the agricultural sector being first transformed.


    In short, the future of Africa depends on agriculture. But Africa cannot develop quickly if farming remains largely a subsistence activity. 60% of the population are involved in farming, yet it accounts for less than one seventh of its GDP, and African agricultural yield is the lowest in the world.

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    A farmer weeding his maize garden. Between $30 and $40 billion a year over the next ten years is needed to transform African agriculture and create the vibrancy.


    So Africa is late in developing but even this very fact offers a large scale opportunity for international investors and big-ticket entrepreneurs.


    Economic diversification and lasting wealth creation begins with a vibrant agriculture sector. Between $30 and $40 billion a year over the next ten years is needed to transform African agriculture and create the vibrancy. It’s a lot of money, but it is available, even within Africa, if the projects are good enough.


    And they ought to be good enough, since such investments will create new markets worth at least $85 billion per year in added revenue by 2025. That’s a potential return of at least 100%. But which producers will own, influence and leverage these markets? Most, surely, should be made in Africa? We must own our development. The commitments of last year’s AGRF gave us a flying start with $30 billion over 10 years.


    And with such transformation would come the reduction of Africa’s net trade deficit in food, potentially bringing net savings of up to $100 billion per year. We must bring an end to the costly and damaging anomaly of the net deficit in food. No more should Africa produce what it does not or cannot consume, and no more should it consume what it does not (but could easily) produce.


    Other related measures would deliver similarly impressive albeit incalculable financial impacts: fiscal inclusion, tax reform, domestic revenue mobilization, higher remittances, reduced corruption and better governance.


    There are also still huge and unexploited growth opportunities in Africa. The continent is endowed with 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land and huge reserves of water. Sub Saharan Africa also has 10% of the world’s oil reserves, 40% of its gold, and up to 90% of its chromium and platinum. And those are just the known reserves – the whole continent is one of the world’s largest unexplored resource basins. Africa may suffer from poverty but it is an unimaginably rich continent, even after fifty years and more of commodity exploitation.


    But how to bring about this transformation? How to close this potential deal of the century? Public and private sector should be acting together. They are needed to provide significant opportunities for Africa’s emerging innovators and entrepreneurs, not to mention its financiers, fund managers and financial advisers.


    Over the past few years, the Bank has been able to bring about a comprehensive re-evaluation of the potentially enormous role of agriculture in the transformation of Africa, and the AGRF has been a critical factor in the shared objective with the Bank of bringing about the green revolution in Africa.


    The technologies to feed Africa exist already. This is the period of climate change. High yielding drought-tolerant maize can allow farmers to grow a good crop even during droughts. Some cassava varieties can yield 80 tonnes per hectare. High yielding rice varieties that meet or beat international standards of imported rice now exist. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes allow us to address the problem of vitamin A deficiency. Tropical and drought-tolerant wheat varieties are being grown in Nigeria, Kenya and Sudan.


    These technologies need to be scaled up for widespread adoption. This will not happen by itself. It will require specific incentives. In particular, the African Development Bank and the World Bank plan to jointly provide $800 million through “Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation”, a flagship programme for the scaling up of agricultural technologies to reach millions of farmers in Africa over the next ten years.


    For agricultural transformation more generally, the African Development Bank has committed $24 billion to agriculture over the next 10 years, with a sharp focus on food self-sufficiency and agro-industrialization.


    It’s also why we launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), to make an extra $3 billion available for women entrepreneurs, in order to improve food production levels on the basis that women are demonstrably more dependable and bankable than men.


    Getting our youth involved in agriculture as a business is crucial. That is why the Bank launched the ENABLE Youth program. This program will provide access to capital and capacity to “Agripreneurs” to create about 300,000 agribusinesses and 1.5 million jobs in 30 countries across Africa, with an estimated investment of $15 billion over the next five years.


    With so many entrepreneurs now on the case of farming, an issue to resolve quickly is the current low level of commercial financing for agriculture. Finance and farming have not been easy partners in Africa, and the farming sector receives less than 3% of the overall financing provided by the banking sector.


    The African Development Bank is promoting national risk sharing facilities in every country to leverage agricultural finance, similar to the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), a facility designed to reduce the risks of lending to Nigerian agriculture value chains. The impact in Nigeria was massive. Over four years, 15 million farmers were reached, 2.5 million of them women. Food production expanded by over 21 million tonnes. Today, several African countries are adopting the approach, as well as others such as Afghanistan.


    I predict that the next few years will see agriculture emerge fully from poverty and subsistence to become the next big booming business sector of Africa, with entrepreneurs, financiers, inventors and innovators all gathering round a honey pot of bankable projects, programmes and opportunities. After all, who eats copper? And who drinks oil? Africans need to become producers and creators, and not just consumers, in the fast-moving enterprising business of food.


    The African Development Bank will play its active role as a catalyst of this activity, and I am confident that we will soon see Africa’s first tranche of billionaires coming from the farming and food sectors.

    Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank. He authored this op-ed ahead of the African Green Revolution Forum

     

     

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    I first met Memory in Kasungu, in the Northern part of Malawi. Memory, a mother of six, farmed on a one acre piece of land alongside her husband. Every year, they planted maize and beans, often from seed that they had saved from the last season, or bought in the market. The previous season however, they had been lucky. A government subsidy program had provided them with improved seed and fertilizer, they had expanded their farm and the harvest was good.


    When I asked Memory, how life had changed for her and her family, her answer was not as simple as I had expected. Yes, the family had harvested more maize, more than they had ever harvested. But this had come with additional costs. Her workload had increased, it meant she had to spend more time on the farm doing tasks that men shunned as women’s work, such as weeding and harvesting, this in addition to looking after her six children. Her husband had sold most of the maize and beans, despite her pleas to save some of it for food in case the next season did not go well.

    They had quarreled, and for a few weeks, she had gone to live with her parents. Her husband argued he was the head of the household, and he had a right to make decisions on the sale of the maize. After all, the land belonged to him, and to his father before that.


    While access to inputs and technologies is important for women, Memory’s story shows us that it is equally important to address the harmful social and cultural norms that prevent women from making decisions that can improve their lives, such as owning property, land, and controlling finances.


    The future of our continent depends on it. In sub-Saharan Africa, gender inequality costs us an estimated US$ 95 billion a year. Nowhere is this more evident than in the agriculture sector, which employs 63% of economically active women. We know, for example, that if women were given the same access to productive resources such as fertilizers, machinery and information as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent.


    But closing this gap in access to resources does not automatically lead to gender equality and the empowerment of women. Explicit efforts are needed to ensure that the engagement of women in agriculture delivers benefits for women. Only then will it benefit entire families, societies and economies.


    First, we need to address the enormous burden of work for rural women. In developing countries in Africa and Asia women typically work between 12 to 13 hours per week more than men doing farm work, care work. In sub-Saharan Africa women spend about 40 billion hours a year collecting water. In Tanzania alone, increasing access to water would free up women’s working hours and, if converted into paid employment, would be equivalent to 1 million new full-time jobs for women.

    Investments in improved agricultural technologies can also improve efficiency of household tasks and save women’s time. A project funded by IDRC in Kenya and Uganda, developed precooked bean products that reduced cooking time for beans, a common source of protein, from 3 hours to 15 minutes saving on women’s time, water and firewood. We need more investments like this that reduce the burden of work for rural women.


    Second, we need to address the gender and social norms that still determine what a woman’s place is in terms of household decision making and ownership of property. In Kenya for example, despite a very progressive constitution that guarantees inheritance of land by sons and daughters, only one percent of land titles are held by women with another five percent held by women jointly with men. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, a society’s perception is still that women and girls should not own land. Approaches that challenge these norms and engage men are being tested in a few places.

    In Malawi and Zambia, for example, a fisheries project funded by IDRC has been using theatre to shift perceptions on women’s roles in the fisheries sector. Decision making by women on use of income has risen by 32 percentage points. Projects like these that seek to understand and tackle entrenched social norms should be replicated.


    Finally, we need to invest in data and evidence on what works for empowering women in agriculture. In 2013, USAID’s Feed the Future program developed the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index. Using this index, people working in agriculture and development can track what impact their innovations have on women’s empowerment in the sector. Such data can tell us what is working and what needs to be taken to scale.


    As the agriculture community in Africa converges at the African Green Revolution Forum in Abidjan in September, I hope that we not only discuss what women can do for agriculture, but what agriculture, and we in the agriculture community can do to ensure that agriculture serves women, their families, communities and economies.


    Dr Jemimah Njuki is a Senior Program Specialist at Canada’s International Development Research Centre where she manages a portfolio of agriculture and food security, and women's empowerment projects. She is an Aspen News Voices Fellow.

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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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