Statement from our Board chair
Catalyzing an enabling environment for smallholder farmers
I am pleased to introduce AGRA’s annual report for 2021, the concluding year of AGRA’s five-year strategy for 2017-2021.
We pioneered our approach to the sector in 2006, to support system level change. Fifteen years later, we have made significant progress, and have supported government efforts to develop the sector across the continent. We have been the partner of choice for the private sector, working to develop a vibrant enabling environment for SMEs. AGRA’s work has been greatly supported by the Partnership for an Inclusive Agriculture Transformation in Africa (PIATA). This has been an innovative partnership – bringing five key development partners together with continental and national stakeholders with a common vision.
In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to cause major after-effects around the world. We saw huge investments in social safety nets and vaccines first mitigate the effects of the virus, and then turn the tide. But as I write, new global challenges around the cost-of-living crisis are hitting Africa and its most vulnerable disproportionately. What we hoped would be recovery is now an urgent challenge. Six months in, countries have spent or need more money than they did in the horrific years of COVID-19.
There are many causes for this crisis. Climate change, felt through drought and other rain pattern variations, is a very real threat to both food production and to farmers’ livelihoods. The IPCC reports in 2022 have proved beyond all doubt that climate change is reversing hard-won development gains. COVID-19 disrupted supply chains, and African governments used their reserves to cushion the impact of the crisis. Debt pressures started mounting at the start of year – at the very time that the Russia Ukraine Crisis (RUC) was building up. This combination of circumstances led to prices of commodities our farmers depend on, like fertilizers, to skyrocket. The RUC then significantly distorted markets further.
All this makes AGRA and its partners’ work so vital – and we have come through. At the end of this strategic period (2017-2021), AGRA has delivered on what it was established to do. It has created a more sustainable enabling environment for over 37 million farmers. It has secured and encouraged investment that promotes adaptation and long-term resilience.
Much of this involves support to a conducive policy environment, strengthening weak delivery systems in seeds, extension services and to a limited extent fertilizer, output markets and financing systems. In the last year we integrated practically more ecological, sustainable and regenerative aspects into the food production systems we support.
AGRA provided important thought leadership both to the United Nations Food Systems Summit and the COP-26 climate change conference. AGRA had a major contribution towards the debate on combating climate change, and we will continue to find opportunities to make our views and solutions known, including at the COP-27 conference in Egypt.
In uncertain times, strong governance of AGRA has been crucial. We have taken further steps to ensure strong and independent leadership across our operations, with strict and careful oversight of the strategic execution of all our plans and initiatives. AGRA’s Board has actively supported the executive management team in responding to the challenges facing the continent. I am grateful for board members that chose to join the AGRA Board in the last year and assure you that AGRA is looking to learn from you. I want to thank my colleagues for helping to shape the most effective and strategic responses to both challenges and opportunities.
I am sorry to report that Linah Mohohlo sadly passed away in June 2021. She was a valued member of our Board team and a strong champion for financial inclusion and female empowerment. She was passionate about the role AGRA has to play in agricultural transformation and will be greatly missed.
Looking ahead, as we plan our next five year strategy to deliver on our founding objectives and goals, we will seek to build upon the strong finish to the 2017 – 2021 program. 2022 is a bridge year for AGRA, where we are stepping back, together with stakeholders and partners, to reflect on what worked well and where we had challenges.
In closing, I would like to thank all AGRA’s partners –those whose resources make our work possible – especially the PIATA partners, and also partners in delivery, my fellow Board members, our staff, our farmers and SMEs. AGRA was founded against a vision – so my thanks to all for your tireless efforts and unwavering support.
H.E Hailemariam Dessalegn
Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Chair of the Board of Directors of AGRA