A team of leading scientists from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as senior representatives of the Syngenta Foundation — under the auspices of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and in collaboration with the Volcani Center–last week visited Israel to explore the possibility of establishing an Israel-Africa Agriculture Innovation Center.
While there are no further details at this stage as the talks were exploratory, the organizations have laid out the goals for the proposed center:
- Determine what Israeli technologies would be most appropriate to Africa’s diverse and unique agro-ecological conditions,
- Figure out the best way to transfer these technologies,
- To develop new solutions designed for Africa’s smallholders, together with African partners.
Africa’s increased production, adoption, and continent-wide distribution of agricultural technologies — like improved and high yielding seed varieties, irrigation and appropriate fertilizer application –has created progress in entire economies and in the lives of millions of people.
Increasingly, this momentum is leading to even greater aspirations for the years ahead with many African nations pushing to achieve middle income status in the next 30 years, and a few others gunning for high income status. To meet this demand, organizations like AGRA and its partners are building partnerships with other regions to “identify relevant technologies and best practices that can be applied by African farmers, entrepreneurs, and policymakers.”
Israel, widely acknowledged as a world leader in agricultural development –Start-Up Nation Central counts around 525 currently active innovative Israeli Agritech companies –has stepped forward to transfer appropriate technologies and practices to partners across Africa. “It’s a win-win for both Israel and Africa,” said Dr. Agnes Kalibata, AGRA President, adding that Africa could benefit from Israel’s technical expertise in agriculture and at the same time the Innovation Center could create an opportunity for trade and mutual market opportunities between Africa and Israel.
AGRA, founded in 2006 by the late Kofi Annan, advances food security and inclusive rural development on the continent, putting smallholder farmers at the center of Africa’s growing economy. Through this work, over 15 million farm families now have access to inputs, training, financing, and markets. AGRA has also helped to establish thousands of local African agriculture businesses, including 112 African seed companies. AGRA-funded work with regional and national plant scientists has generated over 650 new crop varieties. In its current strategy for 2017-2021, AGRA is focused on catalyzing and sustaining an inclusive agricultural transformation in 11 African to improve the food security and incomes of 30 million farm families.
The Israel trip by the AGRA team was coordinated by the Volcani Center, Israel’s premier agricultural research and development institute, Volcani International Partnerships – Volcani’s non-profit partner, dedicated to supporting Volcani technologies and maximizing impact abroad, and Start-Up Nation Central, an Israeli tech NGO that connects companies, countries and organizations with relevant Israeli innovations. The Tony Blair Institute, the Syngenta Foundation, and the Israeli Government were also deeply engaged. “We are delighted to participate in the effort to establish an Israel-Africa Agriculture Innovation Center. Global partnerships like the proposed Innovation Center will help supercharge the continent’s growth trajectory through a technology-backed agricultural sector,” Dr. Kalibata said.
“Israel’s expertise in agriculture innovations can be of great assistance to Africa,” said Professor Eli Feinerman, Head of the Volcani Center, who met with the team.