Let us Partner to Increase Rice Production in Africa by 2030

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that African rice consumption is projected to reach 34.9 million tonnes of milled rice by 2025. However, current African rice production cannot satisfy the consumer demand in quantity and quality, with the gap filled by imports, predominantly of Asian origin, to approximately USD 5.5 billion annually.

Today, rice is an integral meal for several middle to high income households. It is a major dietary energy source for West Africa and the second most important source of calories in Africa. 

In the 9-year span, amongst staple crops, rice consumption showed a significant increase of approximately 37%, comparatively higher than increases from other crops such as maize (20%), sorghum (21%) and cassava (32%). 

The Statista’s (2021) report on Africa’s rice importation indicates a 16.6 million metric tons of rice imported in 2021. AGRA’s 2021 report shows also shows that out of the 34 million tons of milled rice consumed annually in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), only 35% is produced locally. The remaining 65% of rice need is met through importing foreign rice from either USA, India, Thailand or Vietnam, with an import bill of US$ 35 billion annually. 

Africa has the potential to achieve internal food security and play a greater role in feeding the world. More productive land could create a food and agribusiness economy turn Africa from a net importer of food into a net exporter. 

How can this be achieved? 

The rice sector represents a pathway out of poverty in Africa, as rice availability and prices have become major determinants of the welfare of the poorest sections of African consumers. 

This means that we need to strengthen the local rice value chains to achieve better production, nutrition, a better environment, and a better life in the target countries and this is where public–private partnerships (PPP) come in play. 

AGRA, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and Japan International Coalition Agency (JICA) saw the need to future proof the rice demand and this led to the Coalition of Africa Rice Development (CARD). CARD is a consultative Group comprising bilateral and multilateral donors as well as African and International Institutions that was established in 2008, with the aim of developing Africa’s rice sector and to promote a green revolution for Africa.   

Between 2008 and 2018, CARD focused on development and implementation of its National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS) and provision of a capacity development program for all value chain actors.

This led to: 

  1. CARD Member Countries formulated 218 projects from their rice strategies amounting to 9 billion USD. 
  2. CARD’s 28 million metric tons target was surpassed and by 2017, the yield was 30.1 million. 

The second phase began in 2019 and aims to increase rice production from 28M to 56M tonnes by 2030.  This phase also welcomed nine new member countries: Angola, Burundi, Chad, Congo Republic, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Malawi, Niger and Sudan, and a new partner, WFP.

To achieve this, CARD’s approach is to: 

  • adopt the “RICE” approach- Resilience, Industrialization, competitiveness, and Empowerment.  
  • contribute to SDG 2: Zero hunger, SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth and SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.

CARD supports the member countries for preparing their National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS), through organizing a series of workshops called Working Week (WW), on average of three times in a year. 

To achieve impact, it is important to move quickly towards mobilizing the necessary support for implementation. Whilst we operate as an institution, there is an urgent need to develop mechanisms to increase the flow of financial resources for agricultural mechanization investments from commercial banks and other financial institutions, as emerging small- and medium-scale commercial farmers and entrepreneurs require access to loans. 

Another essential area is strengthening of the national, subregional, and regional institutional infrastructure supporting the development of agricultural mechanization. This must include research and innovation; standards and testing; manufacture and trade in agricultural machinery and implements; technology transfer and extension; and capacity building in all fields across the continent.

Expert Panel highlights how youth will be pivotal to transforming Africa’s agrifood systems and unlocking the continent’s job, growth, and health goals through innovative policies

February 14, Kampala, UGANDA – Africa’s agrifood sector holds significant untapped potential to deliver jobs and livelihoods for the continent’s rapidly growing youth population, according to a new report.

 The latest publication from the Malabo Montpellier Panel highlighted how 11 million young people join the African labor market each year, yet only 3.7 million jobs are being created. At the same time, the African agricultural economy is now the fastest growing across all continents, powered by a rapidly rising processing sector, with combined food and beverage markets forecast to triple in value to US$1 trillion by 2030.  With the right innovative policies, African governments can stimulate new employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for young people along agribusiness value chains, while equipping and incentivizing youths to join the sector, the authors found. 

“YOUTH AHEAD: Policy Innovations to Create Opportunities for Young People in Africa’s Agrifood Systems” argues that agrifood systems provide an important channel for solving the unemployment and underemployment challenges facing African youth and strengthening them will reduce poverty and bolster food security on the continent. 

“Africa’s agrifood sector offers extraordinary potential for attractive, profitable, and sustainable jobs for our rising youth population, that will in turn help address the continent’s food security challenges,” said Dr. Ousmane Badiane, Executive Chairperson, AKADEMIYA2063, and Co-Chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel. 

“Innovative strategies to attract and support Africa’s youth to succeed with the right skills, technology, and policy environment would boost the pace of employment creation to meet the growing labor demands in the decades ahead. Our report recommends policies to help create these opportunities, including targeted education, training, enterprise creation and growth support, and technology infrastructure.”

 Launched at the 13th Malabo Montpellier Forum in Kampala, Uganda, the report reviews four systematically selected African countries – Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – as case studies of how innovative policies and institutional reforms can shift the needle on youth empowerment in food systems.

 This report provides examples of successful and emerging interventions being implemented across the continent to empower youth and facilitate a thriving environment for their leadership and engagement in sustainable food systems transformation.

 It identifies opportunities to unlock decent jobs and livelihoods along the agri-food value chain, from crop breeding and research and development to harvesting, processing, and trade. The authors make a critical recommendation for African governments to diversify education and training programs to develop and upgrade skills that facilitate entrepreneurship and employment for young Africans in agriculture and agribusiness.

 In Ghana, initiatives such as the Youth Employment Agency Bill and the National Youth Policy were cited as examples of efforts to upskill and support youth to enter the agri-food sector. As part of its plan to industrialize agriculture, increase food security and employment opportunities, and lower poverty rates, the country launched the Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP), which deployed youth-focused initiatives to change the negative perception of farmers as uneducated, unskilled laborers with low economic returns.

 The authors found that youth-focused institutions and programs in Uganda, such as the Presidential Zonal Industrial Hubs, the Uganda Industrial Research Institute Innovation Centre, and the Youth Livelihood Programme are providing young people with marketable skills in agri-food processing and product development, ICT, agricultural mechanization, and entrepreneurship. To further support digital transformation, the government launched the Digital Skills Acceleration Program and the Digital Transformation Program, which aim to increase access and usage of ICT by vulnerable groups, including small-scale farmers.

 In Zambia, the government set up the Skills Development Levy to mobilize resources that can be invested in youth empowerment, notably in strengthening the infrastructure of technical and vocational training institutions. Through the Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA),  the TEVET bursary enables vulnerable youth to benefit from skills training, including courses in general agriculture, food and beverage production, automotive mechanics engineering, electrical engineering, and computer studies.  

The report also looks at policy interventions in Zimbabwe, highlighting the innovation hubs in higher education institutions that provide technical and research-based solutions for skills enhancement in the country’s labor force. Introduced under the framework of the country’s Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Policy, these hubs equip students with specific industrial skills to enable them to operate entrepreneurially with the capacity to incubate any businesses they create. Beneficiary sectors include agriculture, energy, and mining.

“Attracting youth to the agrifood sector and enabling them to play an active role in shaping African food systems must go hand-in-hand with leveraging the potential of new technologies for the industry,” said Eng. Dr. Dorothy Okello, Dean, School of Engineering, Makerere University, and Malabo Montpellier Panel Member.

“Harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of Africa’s youth alongside developments such as AI and emerging technologies while investing in transferable skills training in areas such as computer programming and embedded systems, data science, and business studies, will maximize the potential of young people to advance Africa’s agrifood and economic transformation.” 

Other recommendations to support African governments in empowering youth in agrifood systems include addressing trade barriers and investing in technology infrastructure for jobs, involving youth in policy formulation and decision-making, and addressing green growth and employment agendas with youth as investors.

“The active involvement of young people in Africa’s agrifood systems is essential for the continent’s economic development and peace,” said Prof. Joachim von Braun, Distinguished Professor, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, and Co-Chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel.

“Reaping the full benefits of the enterprising spirit of Africa’s youth will require access to finance, skills and land, and respect for youth voice in political decision-making processes”.

Agnès Kalibata Parmi les 100 Africains Les Plus Influents

Agnès Kalibata scientifique agricole et décideuse politique rwandaise, et présidente de l’Alliance pour une révolution verte en Afrique (AGRA) a été reconnue comme faisant partie des 100 personnalités les plus influentes du continent.

Ministre de l’agriculture et des ressources animales de 2008 à 2014 dans son pays le Rwanda, elle a commencé son mandat en tant que Présidente de l’Alliance pour une révolution verte en Afrique (AGRA) en 2014.

Tout au long de son mandat, elle a encouragé l’utilisation d’approches agricoles fondées sur la science pour augmenter la production alimentaire et améliorer la sécurité alimentaire, en mettant l’accent sur les agriculteurs familiaux. Elle a mis en œuvre des politiques conçues pour connecter les agriculteurs avec leurs voisins et leurs clients, ainsi que des programmes d’agriculture coopérative et des programmes de partage de vaches qui ont permis aux familles de posséder plus facilement des vaches. Au cours des six années où elle a été ministre, le niveau de pauvreté du Rwanda a chuté de plus de 50%; le budget annuel de son secteur agricole est passé de moins de 10 millions de dollars américains à plus de 150 millions de dollars américains ; et le Rwanda est devenu le premier pays à signer un accord dans le cadre du Programme détaillé pour le développement de l’agriculture africaine (une initiative de la Commission de l’Union africaine).

Félicitations Docteur Agnès Kalibata et à toute l’équipe de AGRA!

Originally from

The Soil is the Boss, so I Protect it: Lucia’s Transformative Journey with Regenerative Agriculture

Lucia Marimu, who hails from the Gatithiini village of Kenya’s Tharaka Nithi County, struggled to make a meaningful income from her farming enterprise to comfortably raise her son, Titus, and her ageing parents. 

Never employed, and losing her husband just as Titus was born in 1995 Lucia focused her energies on green-gram farming, but her venture consistently disappointed as she failed to make enough harvests each season to cater for her bills. 

She was handed a lifeline in 2021, when AGRA partnered with Farm Africa and the Cereal Growers Association to recruit and train Village Based Advisors (VBAs) in her region. The recruitment was part of the Strengthening Regenerative Agriculture in Kenya (STRAK), a project funded by the IKEA Foundation, and intended at driving economic transformation in arid regions amidst the devastating effects of climate change. 

Regenerative agriculture is an eco-friendly approach to food and farming that focuses on topsoil regeneration, biodiversity increase, water cycle improvement, and ecosystem services enhancement. It involves various sustainable techniques, such as recycling farm waste, adding external compost, and adopting practices like permaculture and no-till methods. This approach aims to increase resilience to climate change while promoting the health and vitality of farm soil.

In Lucia’s words, “the soil is the boss, so I protect it. I ensure it retains its fertility and it provides for me.”

In Tharaka Nithi County the STRAK project aims to reach over 20,000 smallholder farmers through VBAs, among them Lucia, who was trained on modern agricultural practices, including proper crop selection and cultivation for the best market outcomes and the best regenerative agriculture practices for soil recovery. 

For Lucia, her transition to a VBA was a change-point in her life, as in two short years, she had begun to witness the results of her work, including a thriving farm that has today allowed her to earn enough to educate her son through college, build a three-bedroom stone-walled house and equip it with sufficient water supply through the installation of a huge water tank. 

Titus, her son, having witnessed the transformation that agriculture can bring to a family, also moved back home after graduating, and is now keen on becoming a successful farmer.  

“I am very passionate about farming, but I didn’t know what to do until Farm Africa recruited me. I previously attend trainings, but my yields were minimal. After Farm Africa and AGRA training, my yields have improved immensely,” said Lucia.

“For example,” she adds, “I used to harvest three bags of green grams before I became a VBA, but today, I harvest seven from the same size of land.” 

Lucia, practices intercropping, planting pumpkins, bananas, sorghum and millet alongside her green grams. She also rears milk goats, chicken and cows.  

“This year, I started a kitchen garden to grow vegetables, onions and tomatoes for home consumption. I am now able to feed my small family,” she said.

She has also recruited over 200 smallholder farmers to date, many of whom have gone on to transform their lives in similar ways as her.

When we visited her, Lucia had baked a millet cake, a product that she regularly prepares for sale on market days. Some of the farmers she has trained and supported as a VBA also joined the meeting, where they gave unique testimonies of their transformation.

Healthy and sustainable soil dominates World Soil Day

World Soil Day, celebrated on December 5, 2023, marks another annual event dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of healthy soil and advocating for sustainable soil management. This day presents a crucial moment for Africa, a continent where soil is not just a resource but the very foundation of life, culture, and survival. The day serves as a reminder of the importance of soil health, particularly in the African context where it supports the livelihoods of millions. Safeguarding the health of African soils for future generations is not just about enhancing food security but is also crucial for environmental sustainability and economic resilience across the continent.

The challenge of soil degradation in Africa is alarming. Deforestation, overgrazing, and inappropriate agricultural practices have led to severe soil erosion, nutrient depletion, and decreased agricultural productivity. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that approximately 65% of Africa’s arable land is damaged, with soil erosion affecting about 30% of the continent’s land. This degradation not only threatens food production but also the ecological balance, affecting biodiversity and the natural systems that many rural communities depend upon.

Africa’s diverse climates and ecosystems present unique challenges and opportunities in soil management. The Sahel region, for example, faces soil erosion mainly due to wind, while in sub-Saharan Africa, water-induced soil erosion is more prevalent. These issues are further compounded by the impacts of climate change, which introduces more unpredictable weather patterns and extreme events, exacerbating soil erosion and degradation.

However, amidst these challenges, there are rays of hope. Across the continent, innovative soil health practices are being implemented to combat these issues. AGRA is leading groundbreaking efforts to enhance soil health, a crucial step towards food security and environmental sustainability. AGRA has embarked on various initiatives to combat soil degradation across the continent. AGRA’s approach is multifaceted, focusing on research, education, and practical interventions. The adoption of regenerative agriculture practices is gaining momentum. These practices, which focus on using local knowledge and natural resources, are creating sustainable and productive farming systems. The use of compost and manure to improve soil fertility, integration of trees in farming systems (agroforestry), and promotion of indigenous crops suited to local conditions are examples of such practices.

AGRA invests heavily in research and development to understand the specific needs of different soil types across Africa. Research projects in collaboration with local and international agricultural institutions. These projects aim to develop soil-specific fertilizers and identify sustainable farming practices that can rejuvenate soil nutrients without harming the environment. This commitment to soil health is a commitment to life itself, a recognition of the intertwined destiny of soil and humanity, particularly in a continent as diverse and vibrant as Africa.

Awareness and knowledge are key to changing farming practices. AGRA conducts extensive training programs for farmers, focusing on soil health management techniques. These include conservation agriculture, integrated pest management, and the use of organic matter for soil enrichment, significantly impacting soil management practices at the grassroots level. AGRA promotes sustainable agricultural practices that maintain and improve soil health. These practices include crop rotation, intercropping, use of cover crops, appropriate crop nutrition among others. Such methods help in maintaining soil structure, preventing erosion, and enhancing soil fertility. AGRA works closely with African governments to influence policy decisions regarding soil health. Their efforts have led to the implementation of favourable agricultural policies in several countries, promoting sustainable soil management.

The impact of AGRA’s initiatives is evident in the improved soil health and increased crop yields reported in various regions. In Kenya for example through initiative such as the sustainable land management program, Laikipia Isiolo Samburu transforming the environment through nexus and strengthening regenerative agriculture in Kenya program. While progress is being made, the journey towards completely revitalized African soils is long. AGRA continues to champion the cause, but it requires the collaborative effort of governments, NGOs, the private sector, and most importantly, the farmers themselves. On this World Soil Day, we celebrate the strides made by AGRA and other stakeholders in enhancing soil health in Africa. Their work not only contributes to food security but also plays a critical role in combating climate change and promoting sustainable development. Let us all join hands in this noble endeavour to protect and nurture the very foundation of our existence – the soil.

AGRA, GGGI sign MOU to promote food systems in Africa and the Middle East

Dubai, UAE, December 10, 2023: AGRA and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) have today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to scale agriculture and food systems across Africa. The MOU seeks to foster cooperation for the development and implementation of research and developmental programs to improve the well-being of farmers in Africa. It will kick off with at least four countries for the first year, increasing to 15 targeted countries across the continent.

The pact was signed by AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata and GGGI’s Mr. Mahamadou Tounkara, Regional Director, Middle East & North Africa on the sidelines of the just concluded COP28 held in Dubai.

Commenting on the MOU, Dr. Kalibata said it was one of the major highlights of the meeting held in Dubai where she served on the COP28 President’s advisory committee.

“We are delighted with this partnership that will anchor our efforts to transform and improve the lives of African farmers. This co-operation will catalyse rapid improvements in food systems as well as further entrenching sustainable agriculture on the continent,” said Dr Kalibata.

As part of the MOU, the parties will jointly mobilise funding for technical assistance to members and partner states to help them transform their food security plans to green bankable solutions that can attract investors.

The two institutions will also develop innovative finance instruments such as green bonds and green sukuk to reduce risk and encourage investments in the Middle East and Africa as well as support countries towards climate resilience and low emissions. The MOU will also foster climate-smart agricultural technology solutions and promote green farming in the selected countries.

“We need to have collaborative efforts to tackle the urgent issues of food security, climate crisis, and rural livelihood vulnerability. We believe that by supporting farmers to apply climate smart technology solutions on their farms and transitioning them towards green farming is a critical step in helping them increase agricultural productivity, food security and reduce harmful emissions,” said Mr. Tounkara.

Under the MOU, GGGI will provide technical assistance for the design and structuring of projects that support food security and food systems transformation as well as mobilise public and private investments from investors in the Middle East. AGRA will support the implementation of activities and commit resources to support the technical assistance in rolling out the plans.

About GGGI
The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) was founded as a treaty-based international, inter-governmental organization in 2012 at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. GGGI supports its Member States in transitioning their economies toward a green growth model that simultaneously achieves poverty reduction, social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and economic growth. With 48 Member States and over 22 Partner countries and regional integration organizations in the process of accession, GGGI delivers programs and projects in over 40 countries. GGGI’s work contributes to its Member States’ efforts to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals and the Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement. GGGI is facilitating the Africa and Middle East SAFE Initiative, launched at COP28, a USD 10 billion public-private partnership, coordinating diverse stakeholders for climate-resilient agriculture and sustainable food systems in Africa and the Middle East.

About AGRA
AGRA is an African-led alliance focused on putting smallholder farmers 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. Founded in 2006, at a time when agricultural development was emerging from a 20-year decline characterized by minimal growth and investment in the sector, AGRA’s mission is to catalyze and sustain an agricultural transformation in Africa through innovation-driven productivity increases and access to markets and finance that improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. AGRA serves as the secretariat of the Africa’s Food Systems Forum (AFS Forum), (AFS Forum Secretariat) which is a coalition of leading actors in African Agriculture (hereinafter referred to as “the AFS Forum Partners Group”) focused on putting farmers at the center of the continent’s growing economies

The Commonwealth Secretariat and AGRA today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will leverage digital innovations to help transform smallholder agriculture across Africa

The MoU aims to bolster agricultural production and trade through the harmonisation of agricultural data systems at national level using a Digital Public Infrastructure model (DPI). During the recent Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting, a unanimous agreement centred on the development of resilient DPIs as a backbone for intra-Commonwealth trade and investment.

Under the MoU, the Commonwealth will help facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogues on ‘National Agricultural Data Infrastructure (NAgDI)’ and capacity building on ‘National Digital Agriculture Strategies’ in selected countries in Africa, as part of a suite of strategic initiatives.

The NAgDI is a model of DPI being designed to support member countries to better manage their agricultural data.   

The MoU was signed by Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC and Dr Agnes Kalibata, the President of AGRA at COP28, the UN climate change summit taking place in Dubai. In her address, the Secretary-General expressed admiration for AGRA’s longstanding achievements in Africa.

The organisation focuses on scaling up agricultural innovations that help smallholder farmers increase their incomes and livelihoods and improve food security.  

The Commonwealth Secretary-General said: 

“The long-standing spirit of cooperation in the Commonwealth positions us to play a crucial role in supporting member countries to harness the power of data to ensure sovereignty over how the digital assets are handled.

By collaborating with organisations, such as AGRA, who are doing important work on the ground with governments, communities and smallholder farmers the Commonwealth can help to reduce duplication and improve impact.” 

Dr Kalibata said: 

“This partnership will complement our efforts to advocate for and advance Africa’s food systems transformation for people and planet. It builds on our strengths to foster synergy to inspire action, attract investment and reform policies for improved livelihoods in a sustainable, inclusive and resilient environment.

Working together, we can strengthen South-South collaboration in advancing global dialogues on climate action, trade, investments and digitization, complementing our recent engagements with IICA, Grow Asia, UAE and Barbados.” 

With 21 member states in Africa, the Commonwealth aims to use this MoU to collaborate closely with AGRA to bolster support for these nations while advancing intra-Commonwealth knowledge sharing. The MoU signing marks a new phase of collaboration between the Commonwealth and AGRA to tackle significant agricultural challenges across Africa.  

The implementation plan outlined within the MoU directly addresses these challenges, emphasising both organisations’ shared commitment to fostering sustainable development and growth on the continent. 

The Commonwealth champions a flagship programme on food system transformation, steered by the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda. With a policy-driven approach, the Commonwealth aims to advance the impact of digital innovations in African agriculture through the facilitation of the enabling environment for digitalisation. 

Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) announces USD 10 billion groundbreaking “Africa and Middle East SAFE Initiative.”

Abu Dhabi, UAE — Countries and Institutions from Africa and the Middle East joined forces under the facilitation of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) to officially introduce the groundbreaking “Africa and Middle East SAFE Initiative.” This landmark initiative endeavors to Scale-up Agriculture and Food systems for Economic development in Africa and the Middle East and aims to benefit millions of people whose livelihoods are threatened by the climate crisis.

The Africa and Middle East SAFE Initiative, a groundbreaking USD 10 billion public-private partnership, represents collaborative efforts to tackle the urgent issues of food security, climate change, and rural livelihood vulnerability. Emphasizing the centrality of food security in COP28 discussions, the initiative demonstrates a dedicated commitment to advancing sustainable development and resilience in Africa and the Middle East through comprehensive and holistic strategies.

During the launch event, government and institutional representatives expressed strong support for the initiative, underlining its significance in addressing critical issues on a regional scale. “We cannot approach the food security problem without a comprehensive approach. It is rare to find a program like the SAFE initiative, which will bring economic development in a multi-dimensional way, bringing public and private sectors together,” H.E. Khaled Mahdi, Secretary General, Supreme Council for Planning and Development, State of Kuwait remarked.  “There is an urgent need to ease access for developing countries to climate finance and technology, and in particular taking into account the current levels of internal and external debt of the African countries. It is therefore important we offer these countries investment opportunities. We capitalize on the Africa SAFE initiative as an approach to improve the lives of people in Africa in a sustainable and climate resilient manner, ” H.E. Hala Helmy el-Said, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Arab Republic of Egypt remarked.

By leveraging Africa’s agricultural potential and the Middle East’s investment capacity, the Africa and Middle East SAFE Initiative aims to unlock green investments, promote climate-smart agriculture for rural farmers, and create green jobs, all geared towards securing a sustainable future for these regions. Comprising the Technical Assistance Fund (TAF) and Investment Platform (IP), the Initiative sets ambitious goals, aiming to irrigate 2 million hectares of African farmland, enhance climate resilience for 10 million smallholder farmers (with a specific focus on women and young people), and effectively address food security challenges. “With food security and agriculture production at the heart of the economic sector of Côte d’Ivoire, this initiative will support particularly youth and women. On behalf of H.E. Alassane Ouattara the country is happy to provide support to the SAFE initiative,” Côte d’Ivoire State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Food Production, Mr. Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani said. 

GGGI is committed to facilitating ongoing dialogues and shaping the potential of the initiative. “This initiative is poised to make a substantial impact by not only addressing immediate challenges but also contributing to the long-term well-being of Africa and the Middle East,” Dr. Frank Rijsberman GGGI’s Director General said. “GGGI is dedicated to facilitating the Africa and Middle East SAFE Initiative, coordinating diverse stakeholder voices to ensure its successful progression toward climate-resilient agriculture and sustainable food systems in Africa and the Middle East,” Dr. Frank Rijsberman added.

Operationalization of the initiative will be supervised by a Board representing participating countries and institutions. GGGI’s Regional Office for MENA will serve as the Secretariat for the Board of the Africa and Middle East SAFE Initiative.

Re-Gain: Green Climate Fund and AGRA partner to transform Africa’s food systems

Despite the challenges posed by the climate crisis, Africa holds tremendous potential to become the world’s breadbasket. The opportunities and challenges facing Africa’s food systems are immense. The continent possesses 60 per cent of the world’s unused arable land and has the potential to accelerate agricultural productivity by 2 or 3 times. Additionally, Africa has the capacity to create a food market worth USD 1 trillion by 2030. However, it must address the dual challenge of escalating food and nutrition insecurity impacting nearly 300 million people while grappling with the intensifying effects of the climate crisis.

Recognising that agriculture and food systems are major levers for Africa’s green growth, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), in collaboration with the AGRA launched Re-Gain, a groundbreaking regional programme that will support Africa in realising its promise as a food production powerhouse.

Announced at the African Heads of States Food Systems Session at COP28, this initiative will enhance African smallholders’ access to technologies, make food loss reduction solutions more accessible and affordable, and support the creation of enabling environments for transitioning food systems.

With project preparation funding from GCF to support development of the programme, GCF and AGRA will work together in designing and implementing an initiative to leverage over USD 100 million in financing to support the wide scale adoption of food loss solutions, in partnership with the private sector. Already, a group of countries including Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia have joined this initiative, and further participation is expected in subsequent phases.

The financial support will enable partners and participating countries to conduct necessary diagnostics and consultations, align programmes with country priorities and climate science, and deliver meaningful impact to African smallholders.

This initiative is on track to become the first project developed through GCF’s pilot Project Specific Assessment Approach (PSAA). PSAA is a new funding modality that aims to streamline and broaden access to GCF resources by working with new partners, countries, and technologies, that have been underserved by the existing GCF Accredited Entity network.

“GCF is proud to partner with AGRA on Re-Gain, which has the potential to transform Africa’s food systems. When implemented, this initiative will mobilise private capital at scale and help lower the cost of innovative solutions to prevent food loss and improve the wellbeing and livelihoods of smallholders, their families, and communities. This is also the first programme to come out of a GCF pilot that expands access to funding for organisations that are not accredited to GCF,” said Mafalda Duarte, GCF Executive Director.

“Underestimating the repercussions of food loss can inadvertently downplay its profound effects on the critical issue of food security. This programme is timely in expediting innovative solutions for the various dimensions of food loss, from post-harvest losses to supply chain inefficiencies at both the national, regional and international levels,” said Dr. Agnes Kalibata, AGRA President.

“Addressing post-harvest losses requires a multi-faceted approach that includes investments in infrastructure, technology dissemination, and the creation of effective market linkages. With proper investment and partnership amongst key stakeholders, it is possible to empower African smallholders, enhance food security, and contribute to the overall economic development of the region,” said H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia and AGRA Board Chair.

The ‘Loss and Damage Fund’ must work for the most vulnerable

Co-authored by Dr. Agnes Kalibata (President of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) & Amath Pathe SENE (Managing Director of the Africa Food Systems Forum)

As the world converges in Dubai for COP28 today, the urgent need to massively scale up action to address the “loss and damage” from climate change becomes increasingly clear in developing countries. Climate change is now an undeniable reality, causing irreversible losses and damages to the most vulnerable communities, ecosystems, and regions around the world, particularly in Africa. The principle of “Loss and Damage” highlights the need to go beyond adaptation and mitigation and acknowledges the irreversible adverse impacts and the economic losses that is already under way as a result of years of inaction/ denial and lack of attention to climate change issues. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable countries in the world have the least ability to stop or even protect themselves from the impact of climate change. For these countries, a functional Loss and damage Fund will go a long way to help recover from damage and build some form of resilience.  Make no mistake, neither this fund nor anything for that matter can bring back life that is lost or recover years of livelihood that is lost in one night of a flood in Rwanda, Kenya, Pakistan or Bangladesh to name but a few.  So this is not about reparations. 

It is now a very well-known fact that Africa has contributed very little to the climate crisis at less than three percent of global emissions.  Nonetheless, it is the continent that suffers the most from the losses and damages induced by climate change and has the least resilience and lowest adaptive capacities.

Home to over 1.4 billion people, Africa is the most vulnerable region in the world to climate change-induced natural disasters including extreme temperatures, recurring droughts, floods including riverine floods, dust storms, and heatwaves, as well as extreme weather events and rising sea levels. These impacts disproportionately affect vulnerable region such as the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the countries along the Equator but also African communities, primarily smallholder farmers who represent 60 percent of the workforce in food systems value chains producing 70-80 percent of the continent’s food.

Climate change related damages are significantly pronounced in agriculture because of the sector’s dependence on rainfall in Africa. This affects not only livelihoods and food security, but also energy production, water resources, the environment, health, and the gross domestic product (GDP), particularly when the losses force governments to redirect public resources to food imports, social protection and food aid to address humanitarian crises and losses and damages caused by climate shocks. In the affected countries, where agriculture is a key sector (accounting for more than 43 percent of GDP in 2018), these impacts can reduce national GDP by up to four percent per year. Of course, this has now been exacerbated by COVID19 and the global security situation which has reduced average national GDP by up to 10%.

These adverse conditions and more frequent extreme climate events make it increasingly difficult for farmers to produce, store, and market food. Food shortages cause prices to rise and contribute to price volatility. This, in turn, fuels poverty and social and political marginalization, leaving a growing cohort of young people at risk and giving rise to violent extremism. Today, climate change has potentially far-reaching implications for national, regional, and global stability and security in economic, social, and environmental terms.

In the debate on the reform of the global financial system, it is also important to highlight the rising debt levels of African countries and the increasing frequency and severity of climate shocks that are slowing growth and eroding decades of developmental gains. The compounding nature of these challenges has deteriorated these countries’ public finances, weakening their resilience to climate shocks, and limiting their capacity to address losses and damages from climate impacts further. According to the IMF-World Bank Debt Sustainability Framework for Low-Income Countries (LIC-DSF), seven African countries are already in debt distress, 18 are at high risk, and 13, at moderate risk. In 2019, Cyclones Idai and Kenneth drove Mozambique’s public debt to almost 110 percent of its GDP, these difficulties are compounded by the impacts of more recent crises, namely the Russia-Ukraine and the Israel-Palestine wars and increasing dollar interest rates that are seriously undermining efforts of developing nations the most important SDGs of keeping poverty under check and the ability of nations to feed their people (SDGs 1 and 2).

At COP27, in Egypt last year, the decision to create the Loss and Damage Fund represented a historical breakthrough, as it recognized the injustice in the distribution of the burden and responsibility of copying with the impact of climate changes. The stated goal of the Loss and Damage Fund is to provide financial assistance to developing countries to deal with the negative consequences of climate change and help them rebuild the necessary physical and social infrastructure.

Since last year, negotiations have been underway to address many considerations and make this fund operational. Recognizing the urgent need for a coordinated response, it is the hope and expectation of many that leaders at COP28 come up with the resources for the fund’s establishment and define a clear timeframe for its operationalization. We appreciate the amount of work underway to operationalize this fund with the consensus now to host it at the World Bank for a trial period of four years.

From an African lens and as we listen to the voices of smallholder farmers and most vulnerable communities, here are key elements worth taking into account at COP28 for the loss and damage fund:

  1. Speed and urgent action: Setting up this fund is not only a moral imperative but a critical step in addressing the severe, and in many cases irreversible, consequences of climate change. In the past, the various funds created to support the climate agenda took years to become operational, while the impacts of climate change continued to become more ferocious and more frequent and visible. For Instance, The Adaptation Fund was created by COP7 in 2001, but became operational in 2007.  So far, it has only disbursed around US$1 billion. As for the Green Climate Fund, after its establishment, some UN agencies took more than two to three years just to get accredited and many African Countries and Institutions still struggle to access the Fund.  We applaud the setup of the Loss and Damage Fund at the World Bank hope that it will be adequately capitalized, agile accessible and timely enough to be of value to those that need it.
  1. Sufficient funding: It is far more expensive to deal with losses and damages than to invest in climate change adaptation or mitigation – not only in monetary terms, but also when we consider the physical and emotional toll of climate impacts on most vulnerable communities, as they watch their fragile asset base being washed away or wiped out. Although governments gathered in Paris in 2015 pledged US$100 billion per year for climate finance, the resources of all climate funds together – including the environmental funds (Green Climate Fund, Global Environmental Fund, and Adaptation Fund) are still well below US$20 billion per year.  Therefore, much greater efforts are urgently needed to make good on previous commitments and come up with the resources necessary to support affected regions in rebuilding their infrastructure, restoring ecosystems, adapting to a changing climate, and addressing losses and damages. And if capacities to generate proposals for funding are weak, let the countries’ capacities be supported. While the negotiations are suggesting developing countries to also contribute into the lost and damage fund like the developed countries, let’s note that several African countries are already in debt distress partially induced by climate impacts which they are historically responsible. Hence, from an African lens, at least most African LDC countries, countries under debt distress Small Island Developing States should not be contributing to this fund.
  1. Strong, robust – but also flexible – mechanisms for compensation:  The African continent is committed to the establishment of a mechanism to compensate communities and nations for losses that are unavoidable, despite adaptation and preparedness efforts. This will require the fund to operate based on clear, simple criteria, transparency, fairness, and accountability. Countries should, similar to other World Bank instruments have direct access and not go through intermediaries to access the fund.
  1. Integrated climate risk management (risk preparedness, risk reduction, and risk transfer): To minimize losses and damages and use of the fund, it is important that the Fund allocates a significant portion of its resources to the most vulnerable countries for integrated climate risk management, which combines risk preparedness, risk reduction, and risk transfer mechanisms. This model is the best way to limit the magnitude of potential loss and damages. In relation to preparedness, the Fund should address the need to strengthen climate information and early warning systems (CIEWS) that provide robust climate data to governments, smallholder farmers, and other relevant stakeholders to enable them to make more informed decisions and adopt effective preventative and adaptive measures to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. The Fund should also work with other funds that specifically support risk preparedness as a precondition for accessing compensation. The said climate risk preparedness actions should be combined with climate risk reduction measures aimed at enabling vulnerable farmers to adopt best climate adaptation and mitigation practices using data from strengthened CIEWS help inform farmers’ choices. To make this integration model efficient, climate risk preparedness and reduction should be linked to climate risk transfer (micro and macro agricultural insurance). The Africa Risk Capacity, a Specialized Agency of the African Union established to help African governments improve their capacities to better plan, prepare, and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters can play a key role.
  1. Support during climate disasters and events: Governments should prioritize support for vulnerable populations, including indigenous communities, women, and marginalized groups, who often bear the brunt of climate-related impacts. It is important to develop contingency plans for all vulnerable areas and communities identified.
  1. Replenishment of the fund: The plans to finance the Loss and Damage Fund should include targets for regular replenishments from countries with high emissions. The fund could also receive resources from partners such as international donors, development agencies, and philanthropic organizations. It should also work closely with other entities that share the Loss and Damage Fund’s vision.
  1. Private sector involvement: The fund should encourage private sector involvement through public private partnerships, climate bonds, climate insurance, and corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  1. Governance and administration: In the current global climate change negotiations, parties are suggesting that the World Bank act as the Fund’s interim host. While we know that this is a temporary solution, our proposal is that the Fund be in Africa, at the African Development Bank with clear guidelines on expediency. 

Furthermore, an independent oversight body that includes UNCCC, representation of donors and receiving countries would ensure transparency agility, accountability and  the desired impact and prevent any conflicts of interest. This body could also perform technical evaluations and validations of the losses and damages and assess the premiums to be paid per country based on clearly defined criteria. Additionally, it is important to ensure proper representation and participation of affected communities, civil society, youth, women, and experts in climate science and adaptation in such a body.

The Loss and Damage Fund should have a robust M&E system to track the effectiveness and impacts of the projects it supports. This should include regular reviews and updates of the Fund’s objectives so as to align them with the evolving climate realities.