Engaging with government and strengthening state capability are critical to driving accelerated agricultural transformation. As partners, governments help to ensure that every effort and investment we make is underpinned by legitimacy, and that every initiative can be developed at scale and sustained over time.

Today, government remains the biggest investor in social and economic development. In agriculture, government helps to build institutions and systems and facilitate private sector involvement, while bringing together key stakeholders for effective program delivery. Those countries that demonstrate political commitment are able to improve food security and achieve inclusive economic growth, driving progress through the right programs, policies and investments.

Our work in this area is therefore vital to our efforts to transform national and regional agriculture as the surest path to prosperity for smallholder farmers in Africa.

AGRA’s approach

Within State Capability & Policy Engagement, we divide our work into three key areas:

  • Strengthening State Capability
  • Policy and Advocacy
  • Regional Food Trade

In our approach, we work across all levels within ministries and at sub-national level. In particular, we prioritize engagement with technocrats – the key personnel and decision-makers whose technical knowledge and expertise help us work more effectively with government.

Our aim is to help governments to articulate alternative policy options to create an enabling environment in which businesses and farmers can thrive. We also work to enhance implementation capacity, with a view to increasing service delivery and executing commitments. We collaborate with development partners to strengthen intra- and inter-ministerial coordination, and to bolster key platforms. And we support governments and partners to establish mutual accountability frameworks, while helping to identify capacity gaps, co-create evidence-based interventions, and make investments to build state capability.

Above all, we aim to create a sense of ownership and leadership. For this reason, our work with governments is always country and context-specific. From experience, we know that a one-size-fits-all approach to government engagement does not work; a country’s uniqueness is what drives progress. To this end, we listen to and work closely with governments to understand their specific requirements and devise bespoke national strategies.

Flagship Programs

Developing flagship programs is one of the most effective ways of supporting governments to achieve agricultural transformation. And in recent years, flagship programs have become our signature delivery model in state capability enhancement. In particular, they underpin our efforts to deliver integrated country support, encompassing program initiation and design right through to final implementation.

Flagship programs – prioritized, bankable investment projects selected from a national agriculture investment plan (NAIP) – enable governments to address key areas and rationalise agricultural investments. They help to mobilize partners, resources and investments, and leverage core assets and operations.

While certain institutions use technical teams to design flagship documents, at AGRA we engage a range of partners in focused prioritization exercises. Our aim here is to ensure there is a participatory element to the process and that everybody’s voice is heard.

Above all, our goal is to maximize opportunities for unity, cohesion and integration through flagship programs. Flagships unite resources, activities, individuals and organizations under a single banner, providing a cause around which local offices, operations and initiatives can rally. Most importantly, it enables governments to create a cohesive narrative that is easy for others to adopt and support, paving the way for fully integrated support mechanisms to drive sector growth.

In 2019, AGRA continued to develop flagship programs and agriculture strategies across our 11 focus countries. These programs include a rice value chain irrigation scheme in Burkina Faso; the Promoting Sustainable Agriculture Productivity program in Mali; an intervention designed to promote youth and women in agribusiness in Malawi; and an agriculture productivity enhancement program in Kenya, among others.

Summary of performance in 2019

During 2019, AGRA engaged deeply with governments in all 11 focus countries. We also engaged with new countries, Zambia, Togo, and Côte d’Ivoire.

Here we set out some of the performance highlights for the year in each area of activity.

Strengthening State Capability


In Kenya

AGRA worked with the office of the Minister to develop a convincing narrative around Kenya shifting from a government-led fertilizer importation model to a private sector-driven input distribution system. AGRA is now designing a major flagship program to implement this shift.

In Nigeria

  • AGRA’s support enabled the National Agriculture Seed Council (NASC) to develop and launch the electronic seed verification and authentication system – Seedcodex.
  • AGRA supported NASC to develop and validate a five-year strategic investment plan for the effective regulation of the seed sector.


In Tanzania

AGRA finalised an economic analysis study to inform debate on the removal of VAT and the promotion of local manufacture of post-harvest technologies.

At regional and continental level:

  • Institutional Capacity Assessments (ICAs) were undertaken and validated across all 11 countries.
  • AGRA convened a high-level learning and knowledge sharing event on agricultural flagship program design, with representatives from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
  • At AGRF 2019, AGRA held a high-level ministerial roundtable on CAADP implementation, attended by 24 Ministers of Agriculture.
  • AGRA established partnerships with TBI and Volcani Institute to promote learning from Israel’s agricultural transformation, and with BMGF to support Ministers of Agriculture to attend the China Trade Expo.
  • AGRA supported the African Union Commission’s (AUC) CAADP Business Plan Implementation, including the Biennial Review reporting for 2019.
  • AGRA supported the launch of the Country Agribusiness Partnership Framework (CAP-F) with Grow Africa and the Governments of Nigeria and Ghana.

Policy and advocacy


In Burkina Faso

  • AGRA’s support led to the approval of the Warehouse Receipt Strategy in January 2019, triggering implementation through procurement of grain from seven farmers’ organizations. By November 2019, this had been scaled out to 13 additional organizations.
  • The bylaws of the Agricultural Investment Code were adopted by the Council of Ministers in December 2019; this led to the translation of the law and bylaws into local languages and dissemination.


In Nigeria

  • AGRA’s investments in national advocacy facilitated long-awaited presidential assent. In October 2019, President Buhari signed into law the Fertilizer Quality Control Act 2019.
  • In June 2019, the NASC Law was legislated, resulting in increased participation in the global seed industry by both domestic and international seed companies. This situation was further improved by the approval of the complementary legislation on draft Plant Variety Law.
  • The NASC law is triggering the sale of 1 million tamperproof seals, improving sales of quality seed.
  • AGRA’s policy and advocacy and sensitization grant ensured over 2,782,900 farmers received information on NASC and the Fertilizer Quality Control Act 2019.
  • AGRA supported the development, validation and presentation of the Plant Variety Protection Bill to parliament.


In Ghana

  • AGRA’s support resulted in the development and validation of the National Aflatoxin Policy.
  • AGRA supported the development of a code of practice for aflatoxin control in groundnut and maize.
  • AGRA supported the development of the draft Ghana Agricultural Insurance Policy and Agricultural Insurance Bill 2019.


In Kenya

  • The Crop (Irish Potato) Regulations were gazetted in April 2019. Six county governments developed instruments to operationalize the regulations. The enforcement of these regulations has already resulted in the repackaging 100 Kg bags to 50 Kg packs, which enables farmers to earn more money.
  • From July to November 2019, six counties started to implement the enforcement of potato regulations; this led to changes in the sector, with other counties demanding an extension of the regulations.
  • The WRS law was enacted in June 2019. This provided legal backing for the WH Receipt as an instrument of title (ownership) and for their issuance, negotiation, replacement, registration, and liens to enable bank financing. This in turn led to increased private sector investments in warehouses and inventories.


In Ethiopia

  • Import duties and taxes on agricultural machinery were lifted in May 2019, leading to an increase of imports by the private sector.
  • Following AGRA’s support, in October 2019 import duties and taxes on pesticides and veterinary drugs and equipment were lifted, triggering an increase in imports.

At regional and continental level:

  • AGRA supported policy landscaping and adequacy benchmarking of agricultural policies in 11 Countries.
  • AGRA supported the approved East African Community (EAC) regional seed Bill, fertilizer policy and the harmonized Fertilizer marketing standards and instruments.

Regional Food Trade & Resilience 

  • In Kenya, AGRA finalized a technical paper on the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) and Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund (SFRTF), with a view to reforming these institutions and improving transparency.
  • AGRA commissioned a food demand and value chain competitiveness study to identify top tradable food commodities in the east Africa region, key corridors and challenges. The outcome of the study will inform strategies to enhance regional trade flows of key food crops and grow intraregional food trade.
  • AT AGRF 2019, AGRA launched the Regional Food Trade Coalition, leading to wider engagement with the AU and others. The Coalition was endorsed by regional economic communities and PIATA partners.
  • AGRA continued to implement a market-shaping project in Kenya and Tanzania, working with three agribusinesses to reach at least 35,000 farmers.
  • AGRA helped several regional and national convenings prioritizing intervention areas, and launched the coalition under which broad coordination and influencing will happen.
  • AGRA conducted a food demand study identifying key value chains on which to focus.
CASE STUDY: Planting for Food and Jobs in Ghana

One key AGRA-backed flagship program that has delivered tangible results is Ghana’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ). Running from 2017 to 2020, the program’s aim is to help modernize Ghana’s agriculture sector, and deliver structural transformation of the national economy through food security, employment opportunities and poverty reduction.

In 2017 and 2018, PFJ exceeded its farmer beneficiary targets, reaching 202,000 and 677,000 farmers respectively, while also mobilizing 160 senior high schools, 10 public and private universities, and other institutions in crop cultivation. In 2017, a total of 4,400 metric tons of certified cereal seed and legumes was made available to farmers through the program, including four metric tons of vegetable seed. And in 2018, a total of nearly 7,000 metric tons of various crop seed, including groundnut and vegetables, was distributed. PFJ has also helped to build the capacity of selected seed producers, with the potential to increase grain yields and incomes by about 30%.

Overall, the program has led to an improvement in Ghana’s agriculture biennial review (BR) performance, which has increased from 3.9 (not on track) in 2017 to 6.67 (on track) in 2019, promising a tangible shift in fortunes for Ghana’s smallholder farmers.

“We are going to have this report domiciled at our programs coordination unit at the Ministry and ensure all recommendations are implemented.”


FMARD Ag. Minister for Agriculture


Due to the complexity of agriculture and the multifaceted needs of smallholder farmers, Systems Development is a major strategic priority and vital component of our work.

Every aspect of smallholder farming relates to and revolves around systems, from seed and soil fertility systems to input distribution, finance and markets. Gaps, dysfunctions and disconnects within these systems prevent farmers from making progress, keeping them locked in a cycle of low productivity and poverty.

Through our work in Systems Development, led by AGRA’s Program Innovation and Delivery (PID) Division, we aim to resolve the challenges farmers face, working to establish all the mechanisms and connections required to increase production and income. By strengthening core systems, our goal is to commercialize smallholder farming and transform the livelihoods and lives of farmers.

AGRA’s approach

Within Systems Development, we work in seven key areas:

  • Seed Systems Development
  • Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Systems Development
  • Input Distribution and Agro-dealer Development
  • Markets and Post-Harvest Management
  • Inclusive Finance
  • Extension and Capacity Building
  • Resilience

But we do not work across these areas in silos; instead, we take an integrated systems approach, working to ensure all our efforts and activities are connected. Indeed, these systems are interdependent and need to work together. They reflect the sequence and reality of planting processes, and the financial, educational and commercial prerequisites for agricultural transformation. In this way, we aim to positively influence the wider ecosystem in which farmers operate, helping them access the resources, relationships and information they need in order to thrive.

Our guiding principle is to ensure all systems are competitive, inclusive and sustainable, operating together to deliver maximum value for the farmer. AGRA kick-starts the process of agricultural system integration. This is then scaled and sustained by private sector enterprises and governments through increased investments, as well as improved policy environments. It is an approach that enables us to positively impact smallholder farmers on an unprecedented scale. Indeed, in 2019 we reached more than 4 million farmers through the work of the PID division alone.


The consortia approach is a key component of AGRA’s integrated delivery model. It is our way of bringing core agricultural systems together and making them work for the farmer.We first developed the ‘integrated consortium’ as a key delivery vehicle for systems and farmer interventions. These integrated consortia consist of carefully vetted groups of rural organizations and businesses that collaborate to provide the critical components of agricultural transformation. Focusing on a specific geographical area, they help to achieve local coordination and alignment, reaching farmers with technologies, services and knowledge, and encouraging local government and private sector engagement.Consortia deliver value by enabling increased productivity, access to markets, improved incomes and food security. They operate as agribusiness platforms that help to commercialize smallholder farming, taking an ecosystem approach that facilitates business alliances among local actors, especially SMEs. Crucially, consortia activity engages stakeholders across the spectrum, while helping to unblock bottlenecks that may be hampering investment.Since 2018 AGRA has developed 26 consortia that provide a platform for over 5,000 businesses in 11 countries, driving integration of service and delivery of technologies to 8 million farmers.

Summary of performance in 2019

During 2019, AGRA commissioned several studies to assess the progress of our integration efforts and measure selected outcomes in seven countries: Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Mali. Results show that systems integration is working, generating new investment in soil systems and seed production, expanding access to credit, increasing opportunities for SMEs, and creating value for farmers.

Crucially, these studies reveal that 35% of our farmer beneficiaries are women. They also show that 52% of our farmer beneficiaries are aged 40 and under, and 75% are aged 50 and under. These figures suggest that our efforts to increase the participation of women and youth in agriculture are having an effect, although more work is needed to reach, engage and enable women farmers.

Here we set out some of the performance highlights for the year in each area of systems activity:

Seed system development

During the year, AGRA made good progress in seed system development. We achieved 118% of the target quantity of seed produced, which means that against our five-year strategic objectives, we have already achieved 75% of the target amount. We also reached 193% of the annual target for quantity of seed sold, while progress against our strategy target stands at 46%.

Early generation seed (EGS) production

AGRA continued to support several initiatives in countries requiring increased supply of EGS, namely Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mali, Ghana, Malawi and Burkina Faso. The production figures for 2019 are shown in the table below:

Quantities of early generation seed produced

Amount in MT
Seed type
Ghana 281.4 Maize
Nigeria 735 Rice, soybean and maize
Mali 29 Maize, cow peas and sorghum
Burkina Faso 51.4 Maize
Rwanda 112 Maize and beans
Ethiopia 1,851 Maize, wheat, teff and beans
Malawi 119.2 Maize and ground nuts
Mozambique 18.5 Maize and soybeans
Tanzania 57 Maize and soybeans
Total 3,254.5

Certified seed production

AGRA supported companies in various countries to multiply and make available new resilient varieties of certified seed. This led to improved seed production capacity, reflected in enhanced seed quality and acreage, an uplift in technical expertise among staff, and the implementation of required protocols. In total, 21,230 MT of certified seed was produced, which is set to benefit 849,200 smallholder farmers.

Our work also led to improvements in partnership and collaboration between various players in the seed sector, for example between national and international research institutes, companies, agro-dealers and Village-based Advisors (VBAs).

Government support to strengthen national seed regulatory agencies

AGRA extended support to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania to strengthen seed regulatory agencies and help ensure acceptable seed quality. This work involved:

  • Introducing electronic tags to seed packets to help farmers verify provenance and quality.
  • Supporting initiatives to authorize private seed inspectors to augment government inspection capacity.
  • Providing seed laboratories with equipment and reagents to help meet demand.
  • Refurbishing laboratories in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda.

Soil health and fertilizer system development

During the year, AGRA supported research institutions and private sector companies in the development of 11 fertilizer blends. The quantity of blended fertilizers produced and sold more than doubled, from a target of 13,000 MT to 35,000 MT; and against our 2017-2021 strategy, we have already achieved 82% of the target amount. In some countries, the fertilizers blends are being used by governments in their input subsidy programs. In Ghana for instance, the Government has developed a partnership with blending companies and has used the blends as part of its subsidy improvement strategy, targeting 2 million smallholder farmers.

In Malawi:

  • AGRA supported the development of soil maps, blended fertilizer formulations, new blend validation trials and awareness raising.
  • Cumulatively, as of 2019, 1,150 soil samples have been collected and analysed against a target of 1,000, and a total of 498 validations trials were implemented involving 488 farmers.

In Kenya:

  • AGRA continued to support mass awareness of crop-and site-specific balanced fertilizer blends among 120,000 smallholder farmers, across 14 counties. So far, 24,387 farmers have been sensitized and are using the fertilizer blends.

In Mozambique:

  • An AGRA-backed partnership between YARA Fertilizer Company, IIAM and Eduardo Mondlane University mapped soils in three provinces.
  • Four fertilizer blends for soybeans and seven fertilizer blends for maize were evaluated through field trials in one of AGRA’s target geographies.

In Ethiopia:

  • AGRA supported the implementation of the Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) program. Under the IFAD-funded project, capacity building was carried out around ISFM technologies including conservation agriculture, the use of biofertilizer, acid soil management and the application of inorganic fertilizer. Furthermore, 104 ISFM demonstration plots were established to promote the adoption of these technologies.

Inputs distribution and agro-dealers development

AGRA’s Agro-Dealer Development Unit continued to strengthen distribution systems to facilitate easy access to agro-inputs by smallholder farmers. The unit supported the identification and training of VBAs as agro-dealers. The aim is to reach 150 to 250 farmers per agro-dealer, as part of the strategy to reduce the distance farmers travel for inputs to less than 6km.

During the year, 474 VBAs were trained in agro-input distribution in Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania and Mozambique, and the total number of agro-dealers supported by AGRA more than doubled.

The quantity of fertilizer sold by agro-dealers was 68% of the 2019 target. Against our 2017-2021 strategy, we have already achieved 79% of the target amount. Meanwhile, the amount of seed sold by agro-dealers was 77% of the 2019 target, with the strategy target exceeded by 58%.

Markets and post-harvest management

AGRA initiated a strategic shift towards supporting off-takers (traders and processors) to build inclusive and competitive supply chains. Our approach here is to help de-risk their investments in smallholder agriculture and provide technical assistance.

These efforts resulted in farmers selling through structured trade at 72% of the annual target level; the quantity of produce being sold through structured trade at 40% of the target level; and the value of crops being sold at 5% above target.

During the year, we assisted 292 SMEs through matching grants and technical assistance in eight countries. We also backed a number of regional projects, including the Regional East Africa Community Trade in Staples (REACTS) program, and the East African Rice Competitiveness program.

To help prevent post-harvest losses, we continued to work with stakeholders in target countries to reduce the incidence of aflatoxins in major crops. This work includes partnerships with Africa Improved Foods (AIF) in Rwanda and IITA’s Alflasafe initiative in Rwanda and Ghana.

Inclusive finance

Our Inclusive Finance Unit continued to build systems that help reduce the risk and cost of agricultural finance. AGRA’s work in this area encompasses:

  • Blended finance – using public resources to unlock private capital:
    • In Kenya, the government invested US$ 6.9 million in a guarantee fund and US$ 430,000 in technical assistance for banks, which unlocked a loan portfolio of US$ 32.8 million benefitting 153,000 farmers.
    • Examples of AGRA-backed programs include PROFIT, GIRSAL and ABC Fund
  • Value chain finance – designing financial products where risks are shared between value chain actors, coordinated and convened through AGRA consortia platforms:
    • In Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali, an input finance model, where 40% of the risk is taken by value chain actors and 60% by banks, unlocked loans worth US$ 1.2 million for 9,335 farmers.
  • Digital finance – using digital channels to deliver financial services and reduce transaction costs:
    • AGRA accelerated 23 digital solutions in four countries that have reduced the risk and cost of delivering financial services to smallholder farmers.
    • Through the US$ 15.5 million FISFAP program, 1.5 million farmers have been reached and over 500,000 farmers are using solutions such as e-verification, insurance, mobile payments and credit.

February 2019 saw the launch of the Agri-Business Capital (ABC) Fund, of which AGRA is a founding shareholder. AGRA co-designed and invested US$ 5 million in this blended funding mechanism, which targets a fund size of US$ 240 million.

The ABC Fund invests in rural financial institutions and SME agribusinesses in developing countries to support sustainable and inclusive agricultural value chains. The ultimate aim is to help reduce rural poverty, feed the planet, and build food systems resilient to climate change. At the end of 2019, eight investments through the fund, totalling US$ 8 million, were approved for five SMEs in West Africa and three financial intermediaries in East Africa, reaching 15,228 farming households.

Extension and capacity building

AGRA’s Extension and Capacity Building Unit (ECB) continued to develop capacity to implement our private sector-led Extension Approach. Implementing Partners met targets in terms of farmers reached (102% of target) and exceeded targets in terms of VBAs identified and trained by 160%.

In 2019, Implementing Partners, working with Government Extension Agents, identified and trained 15,193 new VBAs to introduce improved crop varieties, fertilizer, and good agronomic practices to farmers, and to help them gain last-mile access to inputs and extension services. A total of 4,655,129 farmers were reached with promoted interventions, for example through Mother and Baby demonstrations with inputs donated by private sector partners.

Many of these VBAs have started to generate income from a range of services, including commissions earned from the sale of improved seed varieties and other inputs, and through the aggregation of farmers’ produce on behalf of Grain Buyers.


AGRA’s resilience-building efforts culminated in ensuring full operational capacities at both country and headquarters level. In addition, AGRA’s Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) was finalized and approved for full implementation. Training was undertaken at AGRA headquarters in December 2019, in readiness for country rollout in the first quarter of 2020.

In Kenya:

  • AGRA is implementing a project designed to integrate sustainable land management (SLM), forest restoration and management, and smallholder farming. The project focusses on enhancing farmer productivity with improved and resilient technologies, while at the same time restoring degraded land around the Kakamega Forest in western Kenya. It also promotes the integration of indigenous vegetables in the farming system as part of the diversification agenda.
  • As of the end of 2019, 81,000 farmers have been practising at least two SLM technologies on their farms, where 4,402 hectares (maize, 2,769, beans, 1,460 and indigenous vegetables, 173 ha) had been put under SLM practices. As a result of the SLM technologies, crop yields have increased significantly, as follows: maize, from 0.8 t/ha to 1.27 t/ha; beans, from 0.22 t/ha to 0.32 t/ha; and indigenous vegetables from 1.0 t/ha to 2.0 t/ha.

In Ethiopia:

  • AGRA, in partnership with IFAD, has embarked on an ambitious project to operationalise conservation agriculture as part of the country’s climate and environmental degradation response. AGRA’s support is focused on developing a manual on conservation agriculture for smallholder farmers. As of 2019, all scoping studies and consultations on the manual were completed.
Developing sustainable ‘last mile’ delivery channels

In Mali, Zamoho Seed Company and EUCORD are partners in the Sikasso Consortium. Zamoho, based in Koutiala, is responsible for seed production, and in 2019 sold 113, 45, and 63 tons of maize, sorghum and cowpea seed respectively to consortium farmers. Of this amount, about 30% was sold through 27 VBAs, who were identified and trained on Good Agronomic Practices (GAP) by EUCORD. The VBAs were rewarded for their efforts by earning a commission of CFA100 (US$ 0.17) per kg hybrid maize seed sold.

With aggregated demand coming in for next season, Mr Karim Malle, Managing Director of Zamoho, is planning to work with EUCORD to engage 162 VBAs to sell his seeds. This initiative demonstrates the potential for developing sustainable ‘last mile’ delivery channels for improved seed varieties through local seed Companies working with VBAs.


Agriculture transformation and food security require significant public and private investments of time, money and effort. Each year, a total of $118 billion is needed to achieve sub-Saharan Africa’s SDG target of zero hunger. In order to have catalytic impact, it is therefore vital we build partnerships with others.

In recent years, AGRA has become more strategic in its approach, looking to build longer-term, bigger-picture partnerships with governments, leading institutions, industry associations and private sector actors. In particular, we have focused on connecting SMEs to a broader ecosystem and range of opportunities. We also focus on strengthening links between the public and private sectors, ensuring increased speed of response through two-way communication and alignment.

Internationally, we work to leverage best practices, innovation and investments from countries including Israel, the Netherlands, China and Brazil: countries with strong agricultural hubs that have accomplished agriculture transformation through public-private partnerships and alliances with multiple ecosystem stakeholders. These and other global partnerships are designed to drive impact on the ground in Africa, linking directly to our work with SMEs and smallholder farmers in our 11 focus countries. As evidence that this approach is working, on average AGRA engages with over 3,500 SMEs across Africa.

AGRA’s approach

We take an integrated value chain approach to partnerships, looking to ensure all systems and interventions are linked to deliver maximum value to the farmer. From consortia in the field through to large agribusinesses, we aim to leverage the expertise of partners to help deliver lasting benefits to smallholder communities. To this end, we select partners against five critical outcomes that align with our strategic objectives. These outcomes are:

  • Scale: increase farmer reach
  • Transformation: increase farmer income
  • Synergies: accelerate delivery towards our targets
  • Leverage: unlock additional resources from public and private actors
  • Systems development: achieve sustainable and widespread impact by ensuring strong engagement with the private sector

In turn, we use our pan-African footprint to help partners scale successful models, while mitigating risk across different areas of the value chain. AGRA has proven capability in strengthening last-mile delivery to farmers – one of the major gaps in the African agriculture system. Through our work in extension and capacity building, and in physical distribution via agro-dealerships, we work with partners to deliver transformational change as close to the farmer as possible.

Other key aspects of our partnership work involve convening and connectivity. The relationships we have with governments and institutions enable us to translate activities on the ground into high-level policy and decision making. And in the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), we host the leading agriculture platform on the continent – a model we can replicate in smaller and more intimate settings to address specific challenges.

Summary of performance in 2019

During 2019, AGRA made excellent progress in partnership development and activity. Overall, 31 partnerships were formalized in 2019, 14 with private sector partners and the remainder with non-state actors.

Here we set out some of the year’s key performance highlights:

AGRF 2019 Agribusiness Deal Room

The Agribusiness Deal Room at the AGRF aims to support new business deals and commitments. The Deal Room provides agribusinesses and governments with access to finance, mentoring and market entry solutions. It also facilitates opportunities to support growth and investment objectives.

AGRF 2019 was a milestone on the Agribusiness Deal Room journey, expanding significantly on the concept and scale of the 2018 Deal Room. Highlights and announcements from the 2019 Deal Room include:

  • 117 SMEs and companies seeking $800 million in capital, engaging with 40+ investors and financial institutions through 350 scheduled meetings; 35% of companies participating in the Deal Room were women-led.
  • 12 of the largest traders and processors in West Africa calling for stronger alliances to increase local sourcing.
  • Grow Africa, a program of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and partner of the AGRF Deal Room, signing seven term sheets that will result in over $200 million of new investment in Malawi, Uganda, Eswatini, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire by 2023. The investments are expected to connect farmers with sustainable commercial supply chains, and should lead to the creation of over 10,000 new jobs across the four countries.
  • Unilever-IDH partnership committing $28.6 million towards investment in food value chain SMEs.
  • 12 partners contributing to the design and delivery of the eight Deal Room components, including the African Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), AGRA, African Development Bank (AfDB), CrossBoundary, GAIN, GrowAfrica, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, with funding provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Deal Room also received advisory support from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Of the SME capital seekers that were presented in the Agribusiness Deal Room, 44 received serious investor interest worth $455 million. At the close of 2019, over 15 active engagements worth about $230 million were still in negotiation with investors. The 15+ active engagements represent investments that could potentially reach 500,000 smallholder farmers.

Aligning government priorities and private sector interests

Throughout the year, our partnerships team continued to support AGRA’s state capability unit. We worked with various African governments to help build compelling investment propositions for private sector engagement as part of our flagship program activity.

By linking our state capability work on flagships with investment mobilization, we broker relationships with leading investors, corporates and other critical partners. At the AGRF Agribusiness Deal Room in 2019, 17 governments, seeking a combined $2.3 billion in investment capital, were able to engage with potential investors, DFIs and companies. The proposed investments, coupled with support from various stakeholders, are anticipated to impact more than 14 million smallholder farmers and create seven million direct and indirect jobs.

Private sector engagement

As part of our commitment to transform agriculture at scale, in 2019 AGRA continued to build strategic and coordinated relationships with major corporates, regional companies and SMEs, including the top 50 agri-businesses across Africa. By the end of the year, our efforts resulted in:

  • 80 partnership project opportunities with a variety of partners, which are ‘live’ at the country level
  • Stronger awareness of AGRA as the go-to partner for agriculture transformation

Our engagement with companies included some of the following activities:

  • Coordinated value chain efforts that strengthen market linkages for farmers in AGRA consortia and build processing capacity. For example:
  • Partnership platform launched with CBIL, Psaltry International, Sahel Grains and Nestlé, targeting three programs in Ghana and Nigeria. The companies are key suppliers of Nestlé and formed an alliance to help provide entrepreneurship and skills training for young people – see case study below.
  • AbInBev is partnering with AGRA, WFP and FTMA to develop a sustainable sorghum value chain in Tanzania. The work is initially targeting a pilot with 1,400 smallholder farmers in Dodoma and Manyara. AGRA is aiming to provide technical assistance to the SME sorghum trader and aggregator, Kibaigwa Flour Supplies, to strengthen its business operations.
  • Improving last-mile linkages to farmers; AGRA specifically partners with the private sector to link corporates to VBAs and consortia, improve the sustainability of its VBA model, and enhance access to inputs.
  • Corteva continued its partnership work in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique and Rwanda to scale AGRA’s VBA extension model and last-mile delivery. Plans were also agreed for Ethiopia, Mali and Burkina Faso. Corteva has introduced a village-level supplier targeted at VBAs earning a margin from supplying seeds to farmers. In Nigeria, Corteva has partnered with AGRA and USAID mission to develop the Corteva seed initiative. This input finance scheme, supported by microfinance institutions, aims to reach 10,000 farmers with seed and fertilizer, with Local SME aggregators guaranteeing offtake. Additionally, during 2019 Corteva partnered with AGRF and the Africa Food Prize.
  • John Deere and their dealer in Ghana and Nigeria, Tata Africa, committed to co-invest with AGRA in a program to develop 100 mechanization service provider SMEs. These SMEs will receive technical assistance in developing business plans, linking to financial institutions, and operator training. John Deere will also train local technicians/mechanics to provide service support and establish an aftersales network. Once set up, the SMEs will provide agriculture mechanization services to smallholder farmers in Ghana and Nigeria.
  • Development of digital agriculture technologies, innovations and partnerships to enhance efficiency:
  • Digital agriculture was a major partnership focus for AGRA in 2019. During the year we completed our digital ag strategy, which outlines critical opportunities for governments, corporates and other stakeholders to drive agriculture transformation through digitalization. We also confirmed our position as a leading player in scaled digital integration.

Our advancements in digital agriculture culminated at AGRF 2019, whose theme was ‘Grow Digital’. At AGRF we established a plethora of digital ag partnerships and engagements, including with IBM and Microsoft.

CASE STUDY: Building partnerships for e-grain logstics

In spite of the enormous grain trade opportunities within the EAC, the region faces major barriers to efficient trade, due in part to a lack of available and affordable transportation solutions.

AGRA, in collaboration with IBM Research Africa, aims to facilitate the commercialization of new e-grain logistics services. These services will use new or existing technology to link grain traders, warehouses and millers with logistics service providers across East Africa, facilitating the efficient and cost-effective transportation of grain.

In Rwanda, IBM Research Africa will work with logistics and post-harvest handling company, Kumwe Freight Ltd, to improve and scale its existing platform by providing access to technology and technical assistance. The proposed platform will demonstrate leadership in innovation through optimized business processes across the value chain. It will also enable seamless integration of regulatory embodiments, interoperable and scalable grain logistics, and analytics to support reporting and decision-making.

Overall, this program addresses the urgency to find new logistics solutions in the face of food security challenges exacerbated by climate change and population growth.

CASE STUDY: Linking young ‘agripreneurs’ to economic opportunity through private sector alliance

Partnership with the private sector does not always lead to the provision of grants. The companies we work with are mainly interested in leveraging existing AGRA investments in systems development, policy and advocacy, state capability and convening power. However, in some cases there is urgent need to deliver co-investment to unlock opportunities.

A case in point is our partnership with global food processor Nestlé, which is supporting three local programs in Ghana and Nigeria in collaboration with its suppliers Sahel Grains, CBIL and Psaltry International. In line with its purpose of “enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future,” Nestlé has set an ambition to help 10 million young people around the world gain access to economic opportunities by 2030. Under its flagship program, the global Nestlé Needs Youth Initiative, the company is focusing on entrepreneurship, or ‘agripreneurship’, as well as providing work-readiness skills training to young people.

The aim of the partnership is to build inclusive business models and provide entrepreneurial and agricultural skills training to 1,200 youth, 35% of whom are women. In turn, these 1,200 agripreneurs will reach another 360,000 smallholder farmers.

AGRA has invested in the program to leverage additional funding from Nestlé. Sahel Grains, CBIL and Psaltry International have supplied the young agripreneurs with inputs (seed, fertilizer and herbicides) and mechanization services on credit. Nestlé has also provided technical assistance to improve their operations and quality control systems. In Ghana, Sahel Grains will manage a maize program to increase yields. In Nigeria, CBIL will also work to increase maize yields, while Psaltry will manage a cassava program. Overall, this partnership furthers AGRA’s commitment to link Africa’s youth to global supply chains and opportunities.


Beyond the numbers, 2019 was a busy year for AGRA. Through partnerships, convenings, studies, publications, project launches and prizes, we engaged a wide range of stakeholders across Africa and internationally in our quest to drive agriculture transformation. Key highlights and milestones include:

A changing of the guard

All good things must come to end. In August 2019, Mr Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Chairmen of the Econet Group, stepped down from his role as Chair of the Board of AGRA. He was succeeded by H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

Taking over as Chair from the late Kofi Annan in 2013, Mr Masiyiwa has been on the AGRA board since the organization was established in 2006. Under his leadership, AGRA grew its operations in 11 countries, empowering over 30 million African smallholder farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs to feed 150 million people.

AGRA’s future, however, remains in safe hands, with H.E. Desalegn bringing a wealth of experience in agriculture transformation and leadership. Credited with sustaining Ethiopia’s rapid and double-digit economic growth, driven by a thriving agricultural sector, H.E. Desalegn is, in Mr Masiyiwa’s words, a “forward-looking leader…[who] will steer the organization and, indeed, African agriculture, to greater heights.”

For his part, H.E. Desalegn said the invitation to chair the AGRA Board was “an opportunity to continue influencing African leaders to accelerate the implementation of the AU’s Malabo Declaration to ascertain that food is available, accessible, and affordable to all”. He also paid tribute to Mr Masiyiwa, whom he described as “a remarkable continental leader, who leaves behind a solid organization and an impressive track record”.

The Hidden Middle: Africa Agriculture Status Report 2019

The private sector has a major role to play in the transformation of African agriculture. But small-to-medium sized agribusinesses often lack the collateral, resources and support they need to realize their potential. As such, they make up what is referred to as the ‘hidden middle’: an overlooked cohort of essential but unrecognized workers and enterprises.

The ‘hidden middle’ is the focus of 2019’s Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR). Coordinated and published each year by AGRA, the AASR addresses the tough questions that accompany the challenge of delivering inclusive growth and enhancing government capacity.

Launched at AGRF 2019, this year’s report was welcomed as an important study on a crucial segment of the private sector. Speaking at the launch, Dr Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA, described how African farmers and SMEs are ready, waiting and willing to expand into new areas.

Through commitments and insights, the AASR 2019 signals a renewed effort to bring SMEs into the light and, through investment and support, help them become “vibrant and visible”.

Feeding Africa’s soils

Improved fertilizer use is critical to agricultural development in Africa. In November 2019, AGRA and its partners launched a new book, Feeding Africa’s Soils: Fertilizers to Support Africa’s Agricultural Transformation, to help raise awareness of the benefits of fertilizer to soil fertility and productivity.

The book finds that increasing targeted fertilizer application by 20% would boost rice yields by 5.1%, wheat by 11%, and maize by 9.9%. It also acknowledges the failings of past farming models that were powered by intensive, environmentally damaging fertilizer use, calling for approaches tailored to Africa’s soil conditions and crop needs.

Speaking at the launch, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Hon. Mwangi Kiunjuri, said: “This book gives a sobering assessment of the progress we are making and offers great recommendations.”

Program for Rural Outreach of Financial Innovations and Technologies (PROFIT) comes to a close

In June 2019, the Program for Rural Outreach of Financial Innovations and Technologies (PROFIT) came to a close. Jointly implemented by AGRA and the Government of Kenya, and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) PROFIT was launched in 2010 to help tackle rural poverty in Kenya by helping smallholder farmers, artisanal fishermen, pastoralists, women, landless labourers and youth gain access to financial services. Since that time, PROFIT’s guarantee facility of $6.7 million and managed by AGRA, unlocked a loan portfolio of $32.7 million from two lending institutions which has impacted 153,200 farmers through 1,048 loans to 50 farmer-owned cooperatives and close to 1,000 agribusinesses. As it closes, the program leaves a legacy of businesses equipped to help promote inclusive agricultural finance in Africa.

Launch of agriculture strategy to drive economic growth in Kenya

In July 2019, Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation launched the Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS). Backed by AGRA, the strategy aims to reinforce agriculture as the major driver of economic growth for the country. It supports the government’s food security goals and will be delivered through nine flagship programs.

In particular, ASTGS is designed to increase opportunities for small-scale famers, pastoralists and fisherfolk by increasing agricultural output and boosting household food resilience. Through training and skills development, it aims to reach 200 national and country government transformation leaders, 1,000 farmer-facing SMEs and 3,000 extension agents. It will also unlock 50 new large-scale farms, with 150,000 current farms under sustainable irrigation from existing infrastructure. Commending Kenya on the strategy, AGRA President Dr Agnes Kalibata described ASTGS as “an idea whose time has come”.

Successful rice projects in Ghana and Burkina Faso

AGRA continued to support efforts to boost rice production in Ghana and Burkina Faso, with ongoing success in both countries.

In Ghana, a total of 150,000 farmers have been targeted from eight regions as part of a €2.5m public-private partnership. The Ghana Rice Initiative, a collaboration between the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Hopeline Institute, John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation, Intervalle, Sparks Seeds, Volta City Seeds, GRIB and AGRA, with key funding from BMZ and KfW in Germany, has seen a 17% increase in yields between 2018 and 2019. The number of rice mills has increased from 12 to 27, aggregators from 31 to 110, and farmer reach is up by 97%. More than $60m has been leveraged from both public and private sector investment in rice schemes across the country.

In Burkina Faso, AGRA supported the formulation of a national rice flagship program, aiming to develop 50,000 fully irrigated hectares for paddy rice production through a PPP model. The document was finalized and endorsed in 2019, with the first development phase underway in 2020. AGRA’s implementing partners are supporting rice value chain development interventions in four regions – Boucle du Mouhoun, Cascades and Hauts-Bassins regions, and Center East. These efforts enabled 33,381 producers to sell 52,917MT of paddy rice, valued at $16,892,643, through structured markets. AGRA’s investment in 24,377 actors across the rice value chain also led to the leveraging of $4,014,755 in loans.

Top honours for AGRA’s President

During the year, our President, Dr Agnes Kalibata, won the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Public Welfare Medal. The award is the Academy’s most prestigious prize, and is presented annually to honor “extraordinary use of science for the public good”. It was awarded to Dr Kalibata for her work as former Minster of Agriculture of Rwanda, and for her visionary leadership at AGRA since 2014.

Dr Kalibata also received an Honorary Doctorate from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Honorary doctorates are McGill University’s highest honor, given to those who have, in the words of Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Suzanne Fortier, “contributed significantly to their field, and are dedicated to improving lives and ensuring a positive impact on society”.

Joint winners for the Africa Food Prize 2019

At AGRF in Accra, Ghana, the 2019 Africa Food Prize was awarded to Dr Emma Naluyima, a trained veterinary doctor from Uganda, and Mr Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forestry engineer. The prestigious Prize is a US$100,000 award celebrating Africans who are taking control of the continent’s agricultural agenda.

Dr. Naluyima was recognized for her role in promoting innovative and sustainable growth in Africa’s agriculture. Through her one-acre farm, Naluyima has trained thousands of Ugandans to maximize yields from compact pieces of land.

Co-award winner Baba Dioum has built a name for himself in agricultural commodities markets. His work has contributed to policy developments promoting cross-border agricultural trade in West Africa.

Growing digital at AGRF 2019

In September, the eyes of the world were on Ghana at our flagship forum, AGRF 2019. Held over four days in Accra from September 3-6, AGRF 2019 comprised a presidential summit, ministerial roundtable, high-level meetings, debates, award ceremonies, bilateral business meetings, and exhibitions.

The forum was attended by more than 2,400 delegates from 89 countries and high-level dignitaries. These included current and former presidents from around the world, leaders of regional economic communities, heads of international agencies and CEOs of global, regional and national businesses within and outside of Africa.

This year’s theme, ‘Grow Digital’, highlighted the catalytic potential of ICT on farming and food production on the African continent. The overall success of the forum reconfirmed AGRF’s status and importance as the premier agriculture platform on the continent.