African leaders, businesses and international donors pledge $30 Billion agriculture
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12 September 2016
Author :   Protus Nabongo
The money will support African farmers : >> Image Credits by:Isaiah Esipisu

The week-long African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) ended on Friday with African Heads of State, private sector, donors and philanthropists pledging billions of dollars to help transform agriculture on the continent.

The forum which began on Monday September 5 ended on September 9 with pledges of up to $30 billion (Ksh3 trillion) while presiding over a high level panel that Rwanda President Paul Kagame, former Nigeria and Tanzania presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Jakaya Kikwete and representatives of the public sector, promised to do all in their means to boost the agriculture sector in Africa.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday led other stakeholders to pledge the money in investments to increase production, income and employment for smallholder farmers and local African agriculture businesses over the next ten years.

The collective pledges at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) that ends today at the UN Complex in Gigiri, Nairobi, are believed to represent the largest package of financial commitments to the African agricultural sector to date, backed by the broadest coalitions ever assembled in support of food production on the continent, Uhuru who was joined by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and other speakers at the AGRF high level panel, laid out a bold vision for how agriculture transformation can be achieved in Kenya and across Africa.

The President committed himself to deliver on both the political and policy agenda, announcing that his government will invest Sh20 billion (US $200 million) for 150,000 young farmers and young agriculture entrepreneurs can gain access to markets, finance, and insurance, Uhuru as chairman of the African Peer Review Mechanism called for a continental scorecard that will measure and track the commitments to agriculture transformation and ensure they translate into action and promised that agriculture will be part of the agenda of the institution he chairs.

Other agriculture investors and development partners who announced new financial and policy commitments include the African Development Bank (AfDB), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group, OCP Africa, World Food Programme, Yara International ASA, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Gayle Smith, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), called for investors and donors to be bold and do their part to achieve "A Food-Secure 2030".

The US government already has invested more than $6.6 billion in global food security and nutrition efforts through its Feed the Future initiative. This commitment is now locked in for the long-term following approval in July of the bipartisan Global Food Security Act legislation. Smith noted that the initiative "signals the US government's enduring commitment to global food security and nutrition and is the largest development authorisation the US Congress has made in a decade," Smith said.

AfDB's President Dr Akiwumi Adesina pledged US $24 billion over the next ten years, representing a 400 percent increase over previous commitments, to help drive agricultural transformation in Africa.

"A key pillar of AfDB work will be support for the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme, which is scaling up various agriculture technologies for millions of farmers. AfDB support will also accelerate access to commercial financing, buttressed by proven approaches to reducing risks of commercial lending to smallholder farmers and other agriculture businesses," Adesina said.

He added, "Now is the time to come to the aid of our long-suffering farmers and give them the modern agriculture technologies they need to ensure a good return for their labor and hard work."

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation promised to contribute US $5 billion to African development over the next five years. The package will include at least US $1 billion for agriculture, based on expenditures in recent years. The agriculture investments will continue the Gates Foundation's work to expand crop and livestock research, strengthen data for decision-making, and improve systems to deliver better tools, information and innovations to farmers.

Speaking to the conference via a pre-recorded video, Bill Gates praised AGRA, which sponsors and organises the AGRF, for work over the last ten years that has reached some 15 million farmers.

"We are excited about what AGRA has achieved. We are committed to them and feel like it is a huge part of this whole vision," Gates said.

In addition, both the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation promised to renew their support for AGRA as it embarks on an ambitious series of partnerships to support agriculture-led economic transformation across entire countries. The Gates Foundation also promised to match "dollar for dollar" other development partner support for AGRA programmes.

The Rockefeller Foundation promised US $180 million in additional commitments. The contribution includes US $50 million beyond the US $105 million already invested in AGRA and its partners over the last ten years. In addition, the Foundation is providing US $130 million for its Yieldwise initiative, work directed by AGRA and other partners that is deploying better storage, handling and processing capabilities to reduce the significant post-harvest losses on African farms due spoilage or pests.

"Food loss and waste across the value chain threatens farmers' livelihoods and costs the global economy more than the combined 2015 profits of the Fortune 500," said Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation adding that in sub-Saharan Africa, 40 to 50 percent of certain staple crops are lost post-harvest.

Joshua Oigara, chief executive officer of Kenya Commercial Bank Group (KCB) pledged $350 million to finance agriculture business opportunities that could reach some two million smallholder farmers, which is five percent of the bank's overall lending portfolio. Out of the amount, $200 million will go toward improving market infrastructure and mobilising farmers and US $150 million through the KCB Foundation to support livestock farmers. KCB will also work with the MasterCard Foundation, contributing US $30 million each year to helping smallholder farmers to access credit and market information via mobile devices.

The World Food Programme (WFP) committed to purchase at least US $120 million of its agricultural products each year from smallholder farmers in Africa through a partnership called the Patient Procurement Platform. The US $120 million represents 10 per cent of WFP's annual procurement budget. Ertharin Cousin, WFP Executive Director, also announced that the Patient Procurement Platform would expand into Kenya and three other countries in 2017.

OCP Africa pledged US $150 million over the next five years from OCP Africa to support local fertilizer distribution, storage and blending in Africa. Tark Choho, Managing Director of the OCP Group and Chief Executive Officer of OCP Africa, said OCP also will focus on building fertiliser plants in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and is in discussions with five countries. The investment is expected to increase access to fertiliser for Africa's smallholder farmers and is projected to cost US $1 billion.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will give US $3 billion to African agriculture over the next six years in keeping with its current policy of spending at least 50 per cent of its annual US $1.1 billion in Africa. IFAD's investments focus on intensive efforts to generate jobs in farming and food production, particularly for African youth and African 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 Kanayo Nwanze, President of IFAD and first winner of the prestigious new Africa Food Prize that was awarded during this year's AGRF.

Yara International ASA (Yara), which has been involved in African agriculture for more than 50 years, has pledged to continue with significant investments that can link smallholder farmers to lucrative value chains. "We believe there is a tremendous opportunity for the African agriculture sector to grow from being a net importer to an exporter of food," said Yara CEO, Svein Holsether.

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