System change gives choice and opportunity to smallholder farmers.
Early Generation and Certified Seed
One of AGRA’s objectives has always been to increase smallholder farmers’ access to quality seeds of improved crop varieties through a vibrant seed industry. In 2021, we set out to increase the volume of Early Generation Seed and Certified Seed produced for high yielding and resilient crop varieties in Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Mozambique and Ethiopia from 32,000MT to 77,267 MT. We exceeded our targets in this area, achieving 122,068 MT. AGRA also sought to support seed certification and regulatory systems by working with government seed regulatory agencies to improve seed quality in 5 countries where there was particular need (Rwanda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda). Further technical support was provided through direct monitoring, joint results and performance reviews and customized recommendations for each seed company.
An additional change was in business sustainability for seed companies, and business linkages between seed companies, agro-dealers and village based advisors (AGRA supported extension services). The PIATA Evaluation 2021 observed that AGRAsupported seed companies showed clear signs of sustainability and had helped crowd in other new companies in AGRA’s countries of operation. The crowding in of new companies enables farmers to have a wide choice of varieties to choose from, and healthy competition among seed companies enables farmers’ access to quality seed.
We saw tangible results from these efforts, including reductions in fake seed through the use of e-tags. In Kenya, this work has helped the level of fake seed reduce from 34% to 4%, and in Nigeria, fake seed has fallen by 40% within two years. Meanwhile, strengthened regulatory agencies in Rwanda and Nigeria have devolved seed inspection by authorizing private seed inspectors. Rwanda now has 30 private inspectors, Nigeria has 68 with more being certified, while Uganda and Ethiopia are in progress. Governments have also become increasingly involved and seed associations have got stronger, for example in Malawi and Mozambique.
Implementing Seed Assessment Tool (SeedSAT) and Centre of Excellence for Seed Systems in Africa (CESSA)
The Centre of Excellence for Seed Systems in Africa (CESSA) was launched in 2021 at the AGRF. CESSA was designed to support the building of functional seed systems in Africa and enable Africa’s farmers to access a wide choice of modern, high quality, resilient and affordable seed, across an extensive range of crops. This can only be achieved if there is good coordination among different players to understand who is doing what, and where, providing data, information and evidence for decision making and implementation.
The Seed Systems Assessment Tool (SeedSAT) is one key CESSA flagship which helps analyze the functionality of national seed systems. The SeedSAT tool was first implemented on a pilot basis in Ethiopia and Nigeria, Country stakeholder meetings were organized in 2021 in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Malawi. These countries represent the first SeedSAT roll out countries.
Soil health and climate change adaptation
In 2021, AGRA embarked on increasing investments in integrated, regenerative agriculture and soil health systems. Most importantly we managed to advocate for farming systems specific nutrient targeting approaches in selected countries, promoted soil fertility interventions with farm level water management options, published scientific papers in minimizing fertilizer costs and improving agronomic efficiency https://www.growingafrica.pub/ ga11-hhwj4044/, and developed new projects and generated resources that would help us continue investments and support countries in developing the resilience of agricultural systems.
AGRA concluded its investments in agribusiness consortia that aimed to enhance the integrated delivery of a suite of services to farmers through effective coordination of private investments in various agricultural systems. In the preceding 4 years, AGRA had worked with almost 4,000 buyers who provided market opportunities to more than 2.6 million smallholder farmers, who sold a range of products worth US$1.3 billion. During the year, efforts to attract various post-harvest management technologies were successful and this enabled farmers, traders and processors to reduce postharvest losses from 22% to 11%. These technologies improved the quality and value of the harvest, and included threshing machines and hermetic storage bags, as well as milling machines as the most preferred technologies.
Lessons from an independent evaluation carried out in 2021 confirmed that input markets that were a priority for AGRA working in consortia were very successful. The evaluation concluded that missing provisions like output markets, and finance across Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana could have been instrumental in improving incomes for SHFs. This is an area we will seek to improve in the new strategy.
In 2021, AGRA secured the participation of three new finance partners. A US$250,000 partnership was closed with the Business Development Fund in Rwanda to implement a mechanization program which seeks to enhance the number of private sector actors offering mechanization services to small scale producers. In Malawi, a US$ 250,000 partnership was closed with the Malawi Agriculture & Industry Investment Company to implement a blended finance scheme for agro dealer finance where suppliers’ credit will be de-risked through a guarantee fund and technical support scheme. In December 2021, a US$100,000 partnership with Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) in Kenya was concluded to support the development of a warehouse receipt product.
AGRA has also been able to continue its work with ABC fund. As of 31 December 2021, ABC has invested in 21 investees, including 3 farmer cooperatives, 8 agricultural SMEs and 10 financial intermediaries, benefitting over 170,000 farmers and sustaining over 5,000 jobs in 9 countries. Since its establishment, the fund size has increased by nearly US$15 million thanks to investments from Bank of America and IFAD/SDC with assets under management reaching around €48 million by the year end. AGRA’s investment of US$ 5 million has been leveraged almost 10 times.
In 2021, AGRA developed a risk management model for input finance and bankability metrics for Agricultural SMEs and shared it with various partners. Creating awareness of innovations that work is the first step in their adoption, as we have learned from the VBA and consortia approaches.
The Mastercard Foundation funded program “FISFAP” which reached 2.1 million farmers with digital solutions, increasing their access to finance, closed on 30 June 2021. AGRA supported 22 partnerships through grants and technical support to develop, pilot and roll out affordable innovative financial and non-financial solutions for smallholder farmers, often by using digital technology to enhance outreach and reduce costs of serving farmers. In addition to the over 2 million farmers reached, around 300,000 farmers are actively using any one of the 22 developed solutions with a total value of financial transactions close to US$ 30 million.