Kenyan smallholder farmers long buffeted by failed rains, dwindling arable land, access to credit facilities and unstable markets can finally breathe easy thanks to a $15.5 million programme that also targets their peers in Ghana and Tanzania.
The programme, announced by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA, and The MasterCard Foundation is premised on the belief that smallholder farmers are key in feeding the growing global population if all the processes in the value chain are streamlined making farmers worry less about ….and concentrate more on the cardinal role of food production.
Sub Saharan African small scale farmers grow more than 70 percent of all domestically produced food even as they struggle to access resources to purchase improved seed, farm equipment, credit, extension services, and legal rights to the lands they cultivate. Yet studies indicate that a one percent growth in farm productivity contributes to an 11 percent reduction in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.
The programme, targeting increased incomes for 730,000 smallholder farmers by 2018, will accelerate AGRA’s effort to improve markets, soils, and access to high-yield crop varieties for the smallholder farmers, particularly women.
“We welcome this new initiative because it will enable us to deal with the critical challenges facing farmers in accessing finance to buy inputs, invest in post-harvest technologies, and access storage facilities for their crops to help uplift them from poverty,” said Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA. “The project will promote access to financial services for smallholders through financial institutions and agriculture value chain actors, especially agro-dealers, aggregators, warehouse operators and farmer based organizations.”
Key among the focus areas of the programme is access to finance for smallholder farmers who have struggled to access credit as financial institutions shun them due to the high risk associated with agriculture.
“The project will also target other parts of the value chain, agribusinesses (especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which also struggle to obtain sufficient working and investment capital, yet they are critical to strengthening and developing food value chains,” added Dr. Kalibata.
The programme has a strong emphasis in developing and scaling up innovations, such as the use of ICT and other branchless banking tools, to support farmer access to financial and non-financial services.
“We are very happy to support AGRA’s ongoing efforts to address food security and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Africa,” said Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation. “We believe that making it possible for smallholder farmers and small to medium-sized enterprises to access credit, savings, and insurance services, and helping them connect to strong market value chains, is critical to driving transformation of the agricultural sector in Africa. This initiative should result in real change to the lives of many people in these three countries.”
AGRA has been partnering with the private sector, farmers and non-governmental organizations as well as governments in 18 sub-Saharan Africa countries to help smallholder farmers access the necessary tools and opportunities. African governments have shown their commitment to smallholder farmers through the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), which aims to boost agricultural productivity in Africa.
AGRA and The MasterCard Foundation are optimistic that the new programme, to be implemented over the next five years, will improve food security and enhance the role of smallholder farmers in the targeted countries where many successful programmes already are up and running.