President’s Keynote

President’s Keynote

Integration is AGRA’s strategy for Africa’s agricultural transformation

When I travel across Africa today, I see the biggest gains in food production occurring in response to economic opportunity. That fills me with optimism, and not just because it has major implications for the fight against hunger. It’s important because Africans need agriculture to do much more than provide food security: they also need agriculture to provide a strong foundation for generating jobs and income, particularly for impoverished people.

Dr. Agnes Kalibata - AGRA President

What’s encouraging is that if you look around sub-Saharan Africa today, we are seeing a growing consensus that agriculture systems function best when there are strong economic incentives that attract private sector investment. Africa’s agriculture is in the midst of transformation.

AGRA’s work to date has been an intensive focus on discrete problems related to seed production, soil health, and agriculture markets, profound but neglected for a long time in Africa.

We have recognized that our environment has changed since we were founded. Multinational companies are fast entering African markets, more vibrant local companies are emerging, governments are investing more in agriculture, and many donors have shifted from targeting isolated parts of value chains, to considering the eco-systemsas a whole.

Agribusinesses are growing through African small and medium enterprises from seeds to markets to value addition. It’s just a glimpse of success.But it offers an inspiring new vision of a futureAfrica growing ever stronger through farming as a business.

Clearly, if agriculture is to become the engine of economic growth that the continent needs and deserves, all the necessary interventions must act in concert both within AGRA but also externally and in collaboration with all our partners.

Over the last decade, AGRA has worked alongside others to lay the foundation for a renaissance in Africa’s agriculture, one powered by the enormous progress increasingly evident in farmers who gain more options in the seeds they plant, in the fertilizers they use, and the markets available to purchase their produce.

Together with our partners, AGRA is putting the small holder farmer at the center of the continent’s growing economy by transforming agriculture from a solitary struggle to survive into farming as a business that thrives.

AGRA by design has attracted the largest collection of agricultural technical experts on the continent, with areas of specialization extending the full length of the value chain, from developing and delivering seeds, fertilizers, and agronomic best practices, to connecting farmers with markets. Its staff also includes authorities on farmer organizations, agricultural policy, and financial services for agriculture.

Our collective experience has given the organization an unparalleled familiarity with conditions on the ground across the continent, including an understanding of women farmers’ needs and the potential offered by Africa’s young people. AGRA has collected all these assets under one roof along with the flexibility to bring any of them to bear on smallholders’ problems.

 

Ultimately, we serve as a bridge between problems and solutions. AGRA is now pitted to be a leading and influential catalyst for agricultural transformation in Africa. We have been on a journey steering towards being a preferred partner for agricultural transformation in Africa.

In 2016, we developed a new 5-year strategy to drive our ambition to 2021. A clear break from our posture over the last 10 years is that AGRA’s new strategy is fully integrated- internally as we embark on delivering programs and externally as we engage with our partners.

This may sound like jargon, but in fact it is looking at our work from the point of view of smallholder farmers. The strategy takes all the tools and systems and models our partners have developed over the years and integrates them into a single package that has the capability to change the lives of farmers in their fields—and, ultimately, changes the futures of entire countries.

Our goal is to contribute to doubling the yields and in comesof 30 million smallholder households across the continent.That’s a significant number in itself, but the indirect impact will be much larger. We hope that by demonstrating the possibilities of a smallholder farmer-centered, Africanled, partnership-driven African agriculture, AGRA will help catalyze investments that reach hundreds of millions of people.

AGRA’s overall investment is less than 1% of what’s required for Africa’s agricultural transformation, it is our view that partnerships and leverage are key drivers of scale and sustainability. We seek to be catalytic in that process, choosing to demonstrate to governments possible path ways to transformation and the need for intensive investment in the sector.

As a result, beginning 2017, AGRA is towing a new line of business. We will build on our vast expertise and knowledge of the continent to support governments -particularly ministers of agriculture and related institutions to strengthen capacities to deliver on agricultural transformation for the continent. AGRA’s policy and country support will help put in place the right vision, leadership, policies, and implementation capacities. We will use our continental presence to move what works from one country to another. In doing this, we will support countriest o strengthen dialogue and engagement within and across sectors to improve coordination and resource allocation while building sector wide delivery and accountability mechanisms.

That’s another kind of integration: integrating a large and diverse set of partners around a shared goal. For individual small holder farmers, that goal is a better life for themselves and their children. For the continent, it is an Africa transformed.

 

Dr. Agnes Kalibata - AGRA President