Youth in Agrifood Systems 

Poultry Farming is an important Safety Net for the Youth

Poultry farming presents a golden opportunity for African youth to transform their lives and contribute to food security. As the continent faces challenges related to unemployment, malnutrition, and poverty, engaging young people in poultry production can be a game-changer.  

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) the importance of poultry on livelihoods and food security lies in the provision of meat, and eggs, while being a strategic household investment. 

Poultry is also an important safety net in the event of a drought – it is easily disposable for cash when need arises or during droughts.  

Rearing poultry can be a rewarding venture, especially for young farmers. Here are some key skills to focus on: 

  1. Education and Knowledge: Before diving into poultry farming, invest time in learning. Explore resources online, government extension programs, and agricultural colleges. Understand different breeds, proper chicken care, nutrition, disease prevention, and biosecurity measures.  
  2. Communication and Negotiation: Young poultry farmers should learn how to effectively communicate with suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders. Negotiation skills can help secure better deals with feed merchants and hatcheries.  
  3. Understanding Inputs and Costings: Learn about the costs involved in poultry production. Understand feed prices, raw materials, and other inputs. Managing volatility in commodity markets is essential.  
  4. Biosecurity Measures: Implement practices to prevent disease outbreaks. Biosecurity helps protect your flock from infections and ensures healthy birds. 
  5. Record Keeping: Maintain detailed records of expenses, production, and health status. Good record-keeping enables informed decision-making. 
  6. Practical Skills: Hands-on experience matters. Learn how to handle chicks, manage broilers, and care for layers. Practical skills include feeding, housing, and disease management. 
  7. Market Awareness: Understand market trends, consumer preferences, and demand. Stay informed about poultry industry developments. 

Remember, passion, dedication, and adaptability are essential traits for successful poultry farming. 

African Policymakers Should Leverage Data and Evidence to Improve the Quality of Policy and Legislative Decisions in Agriculture

“Data-Driven Revolution: How African Policymakers Can Transform Agriculture

Revolutionising African Agriculture: Data-Driven Imperatives

By  Davis Muthuni

The policy and legislative environment is a key driver of agricultural transformation. Policy and regulatory regimes “define the rules of the game”. They regulate the roles and behaviour of players in the sector, determine resource allocation, and assign incentives and disincentives accordingly.

Policies shape the business environment by influencing costs, risks, and competition barriers for different players in the agricultural value chain. This in turn extensively affects investment decisions not only by the government but also by the private sector. Thus, by a single stroke of a policy or law, the government can shift the direction and pace of agricultural development.

Opinion leaders in agricultural development agree that the observed changes in Africa’s agriculture and economic fortunes over time have much to do with the policies that African leaders have chosen than anything else. Weak policies and poor legislative decisions have shaped the continent’s agriculture and economic growth by stifling investments in skills, technology, services, and infrastructure.

Whereas regulation is important to ensure safe agricultural practices, setting quality standards, encouraging innovation and sustainable use of resources; heavy regulation creates burdensome procedures and high transaction costs and can be detrimental, especially to small players. Therefore, the benefits of regulations should always outweigh its social and economic costs. Excessive regulation with opaque discretion and overbearing regulations in the agriculture sector can constrain innovation and trade, to the detriment of poor farmers in the rural villages in the continent.

Agriculture policy and legislative regimes are very dynamic. Governments are constantly enacting new policies and revising existing ones. Yet, a lingering question is how grounded these decisions are in solid data and evidence. Many times, policies have had unintended negative consequences, while others are lacking in key aspects that ensure effectiveness, equity, and sustainability.

 Consider the policies enacted by African countries since independence. In the 1960s-1980s, many nations implemented import substitution industrialization policies, which included trade restrictions like import barriers, marketing controls, and export taxes. These measures aimed to protect nascent industries from competition. However, they inadvertently raised prices for imported fertilizer and equipment, while exports lost competitiveness due to currency appreciation.

The infamous Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) instituted in the 1980s-1990s pushed for better incentives for producers and reduced restrictions for the private sector to invest by eliminating public agricultural marketing boards, ending subsidies, deregulating agricultural pricing and marketing. Evidence is mixed, but many countries experienced strong productivity growth in the 2000s, as a result of macroeconomic stabilization.

At the continental level, the post-2000s era policy has been driven by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the 2014 Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). These commitments require countries to allocate at least 10 percent of public expenditures to agriculture, achieve a 6 percent average annual agricultural growth rate, and reduce restrictions to intra-African agricultural trade, among others. Although CAADP has resulted in increased prominence of agriculture in policy agendas and therefore expenditure and funding, research shows that most of the funding has been allocated to input subsidies.

The subsidies, although associated with increased use of inputs and higher agricultural yields, are poorly designed and rife with inefficiency, bias, and corruption. Implementation of the AfCFTA is constrained by the continued use of temporary regional trade restriction policies, ostensibly as countries seek to respond to food supply and deficit conditions. The International Trade Centre data finds that 70% of African food exporters are affected by challenges related to non-tariff measures. These trade-restricting policy measures sometimes founder and push prices higher.

Ex-ante policy analysis and pre-legislative assessments utilize predictive analysis techniques to forecast the impact of a policy or legislation prior to its implementation. During an ex-ante evaluation, policymakers gather data and evidence to assess the thoroughness of problem/gap diagnostics, relevance and coherence of proposed strategies and objectives to users, consistency with other policies and strategies, pragmatism of expected results, and economic and social impacts on various stakeholders and their activities.

Policies informed by data and evidence are more likely to be effective, equitable, and sustainable. Yet, despite the clear benefits, there are many instances where agriculture policy and legislative decisions are driven more by political expedience or ideology than by data and evidence.

Policymakers in Africa face data availability and quality challenges. Outdated, incomplete, and biased data hinder effective decision-making. Political interests often override evidence-based choices. For instance, despite evidence of inefficiency, bias, and corruption, some governments persistently implement publicly driven input subsidy programs instead of exploring private sector-driven alternatives.

To overcome such challenges, African governments and partners should invest in robust data collection and analytics infrastructure (technology) and skilling (training of personnel to analyze and interpret data). To effectively utilize the data for policy, a culture of transparency and accountability, where data and the rationale behind policy decisions are shared publicly to build trust with stakeholders should be fostered.  The CAADP Biennial Review process is an example of a publicly available accountability mechanism where the performance of countries against the various Malabo declaration indicators is tracked. Lastly, the role of stakeholder engagement cannot be ignored.

Inclusion of various interest groups such as scientist groups and think tanks, provides reliable evidence and exchange of knowledge, while public engagement enhances scrutiny, relevance, and acceptance of policies.

Day 3 | The Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit Day & Nairobi Declaration

AGRA Board Chairman, H.E Hailemariam Desalegn

On the third and last day of the summit, AGRA Board Chair His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn joined several Heads of State to advocate for practical measures that safeguard the health of African soils is key. He emphasised to the attendees the necessity of soil preservation, citing its dual role in improving food security and guaranteeing environmental sustainability.

See a recap of his remarks below;

H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn addressed the various Heads of State present during the first session of the last day of the Summit. He began by emphasising that more was needed to sustain Africa’s growing population and combat climate change.

He raised a challenge on how to significantly boost the yields of crops while conserving soil health and reducing environmental impact. Ethiopia’s Sustainable Land Management Program served as a beacon of hope, demonstrating the transformative effect of investing in soil regeneration and watershed management. With reduced soil loss and greater crop yields, the initiative demonstrates the value of focused interventions.

Recognizing the need for data-driven solutions, Ethiopia’s Soil Information System highlighted the importance of extensive soil analysis. By providing district-level soil fertility maps and targeted fertilizer recommendations, the initiative has enabled farmers to make better-educated decisions, optimising agricultural potential.

Addressing the need for fresh policy prescriptions, he advocated for targeted incentives based on the most frequently utilised nutrients in specific regions, intending to lower overall subsidy costs. These efforts constitute a change from the business-as-usual norm, providing promising solutions for agricultural sustainability.

He also urged African leaders to commit to supporting the African Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit by lobbying for technical, political, and financial support to drive long-term change. By adopting the African Fertilizer and Soil Health 10-Year Action Plan, he called for collaboration to ensure that every African has access to nutritious food and that African soils are sustainable for current and future generations.

Africa’s agricultural future depends on sustainable growth, collaboration, and innovative solutions. Africa can realise its agricultural potential by prioritizing soil health, encouraging innovation, and building global partnerships while ensuring food security and environmental sustainability for future generations,” he noted.

Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACs)

In a move to bolster Africa’s agricultural resilience, AGRA has deepened its commitment to advancing the vision for Adapted Crops and Soils, or VACs. This strategic commitment, announced in collaboration with the U.S. Special Envoy Cary Fowler and the broader VACs coalition, marks a pivotal moment in the continent’s pursuit of sustainable food systems.

AGRA’s renewed focus on VACs aligns with the Soils Initiative for Africa and the African Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan, signaling a comprehensive approach to addressing the challenges of climate change and food security. By championing diverse, nutritious, and climate-adapted crops cultivated in healthy soils, AGRA aims to build resilient food systems that can withstand the impacts of a changing climate.

Building upon its existing groundwork and in-country partner networks, AGRA is poised to scale up efforts in advancing VACs across Africa. AGRA has committed to integrating VACs into the Africa Food Systems forum, fostering dialogue and collaboration on sustainable agricultural practices.

Furthermore, AGRA is committed to leveraging its community and partnerships to promote VACs-aligned initiatives and investment opportunities. AGRA will also work with government partners to develop and implement actionable policy recommendations that advance this shared vision.

Dr Kalibata with US Special Envoy on Global Food Security, Cary Fowler at KICC before the announcement of VACS.

A Summary of the Nairobi Declaration

As the summit came to a close, the importance of the 10-year Action Plan became more evident. It was discovered that due to decades of continuous soil nutrient mining and soil aging, Africa’s soils, which are among the oldest in the world, have become the poorest. An estimated more than $4 billion in soil nutrients is lost each year, putting Africa’s ability to feed itself in danger. However, many African farmers still do not have access to fertilizers or cannot afford the inputs required to bring life back into their soils and halt the downward spiral of environmental deterioration. 

The Action Plan “will mark a pivotal stride towards a green revolution across Africa, laying the groundwork for an agricultural renaissance.

The Action Plan will be guided by 5 key action points that will serve as the roadmap for transformative change. The Nairobi Declaration was a result of discussions among various stakeholders, including policymakers, scientists, farmers and private-sector representatives to declare:

  • Endorsement of Fertiliser and Soil Health Action Plan & the Soil Initiative for Africa Framework as key guiding documents.
  • Commitment to tripling domestic production and distribution of both organic and inorganic fertilizers, ensuring they reach 70% of small-holder farmers across the continent.
  • Commitment to reversing land degradation and restoring soil health on at least 30% of degraded soil by 2033.
  • Commitment to fully operationalise the Africa Fertiliser Financing Mechanism.
  • Private sector to increase investments in Africa’s fertilizer industry and promote sustainable soil management practices.
  • Our governments to create an enabling environment to attract more private-sector investments
  • African Union Commission and African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) to support Member States to implement the commitments we made in the Nairobi Declaration
  • Development partners to support governments and regional economic communities in adopting best practices in fertilizer use and soil management.
  • Heads of State and Government to collaborate closely in implementing the endorsed 10-year action plan for sustainable soil health at the domestic level

This declaration will address key topics including soil nutrient management, the impact of climate change, regenerative methods, and the implementation of African leaders’ past agreements to increase agricultural production.

Musa Faki, AUC Chairperson and Kenya President Dr William Ruto at KICC during Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit

While giving remarks following the declaration, AGRA’s Director of Climate Change, Sustainable Productivity and Resilience Dr. Tilahun Amede stated that the Action Plan has been supported by AGRA who brought the technocrats together, set the agenda, drafted the action plans, which is now declared in the summit.

Key Highlights from Day 2 of the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit  

On the second day of the summit, AGRA, through her thought leaders, participated in various side events as panellists and some gave keynote addresses on an array of topics reflecting our commitment to sustainably grow Africa’s Food Systems.

Addressing Farmers Needs for Fertilizer: Cost Quality and Effectiveness

The session titled,“Addressing Farmers Needs for Fertilizer: Cost Quality and Effectiveness” featured Prof Jean Jacques Muhinda, East and Southern Africa Regional Director for AGRA both as a keynote speaker and a panellist.

Throughout the discussion, various speakers shed light on the pressing issues surrounding fertiliser accessibility and utilisation in Africa.

It was established that many African countries have fallen short of the Abuja targets for fertiliser consumption, despite a growing demand for it- African consumption of inorganic fertilisers represents 3% of the world.

Notably, 90% of the fertiliser used in Sub-Saharan Africa is imported, underlining the region’s reliance on external sources for fertilisers.

Speakers also delved into the intricacies of fertiliser use efficiency, stressing the importance of factors like soil organic matter and pH levels in optimising its effectiveness. Innovative solutions, including digital technologies and tailored fertiliser blends, were explored as means to enhance efficiency and improve crop yields sustainably.

Furthermore, the session underscored the holistic nature of agricultural sustainability, emphasising that fertiliser alone cannot ensure desired outcomes. Addressing underlying soil issues, such as acidity and carbon levels, emerged as a priority for achieving long-term agricultural resilience.

Demystifying Soil Health in Africa

In this discussion, the key message was that if “we improve soil health we can improve water management in Africa since water is a very key component in farming.” The necessity of realistic measures for improving soil health in Africa became apparent. Fertilizer management has evolved as an important component in increasing agricultural output, highlighting the requirement for essential nutrients to promote crop cultivation. Understanding the current state of the soil is critical for effective farming methods.

The various panellists present, from KALRO,ICRAF and APNI agreed on  the significance of soil health and noted the need for a comprehensive understanding of Africa’s unique soil conditions, including issues such as salinity and terrain type.

AGRA’s Dr. Tilahun Amede, reflecting on the collective obstacles faced, put emphasis on the considerable challenges posed by limited government resources, particularly in fertilizer manufacturing, compounded by a lack of information for effective soil regeneration.

We need to understand local soil conditions to maximise soil and fertilizer efficiency. Bridging the “last-mile gap” is vital, which necessitates specific solutions that address the accessibility and price problems of farmers in various regions. By tackling these multiple difficulties and employing specialized measures, Africa can make great progress toward improving soil health and assuring sustainable agriculture practices.

Organics is How…?

The “Organics is How” event, moderated by Assan Ng’ombe, explored the current state of organic fertilizers in Africa. It was agreed that we are beginning to move beyond policy discussions to address practical challenges and opportunities.

In the session, a pertinent question arose; what is the investment readiness for organics and how do we leverage its potential to bolster soil health and crop yields?

It was evident there is a clear demand for organic fertilisers, particularly in Africa, especially considering the high prices of inorganic fertilisers render them unaffordable for small-scale farmers.

However, it arose that for the widespread adoption of organic fertilisers in agriculture, collaborative action-informed decision-making and a supportive regulatory environment are needed. It is essential for farmers to recognize the importance of organic fertilisers to achieve their yield targets. This can only be achieved if we work with governments and policymakers to ensure that we have enough organic fertilisers and that knowledge is disseminated to the farmer.

By addressing knowledge gaps, enhancing investment readiness, and diversifying supply sources, we can unlock the full potential of organic fertilisers to sustainably nourish our soils and improve food security.

Soil Matters: Cultivating Change for Africa’s Food SystemsTransformation through Evidence-based Policy and Practice

The discussion was centred on a central message, that healthy soils are the bedrock of Africa’s agricultural potential. But unlocking this potential requires a multi-pronged approach, and the panellists shed light on key areas for action.
The importance of integrating and scaling up funding systems to enhance market access in Africa’s agriculture sector led this discussion. The conversation acknowledged that present finance mechanisms are constrained, and blending various funding sources with fresh approaches is critical in bridging the gap and connecting resources to market prospects.  This ensures long-term financial stability for soil health efforts.

Another key point was that partners and scientists need to collaborate because while science provides best practices, it is the farmers who implement them.  Working collaboratively ensures that suggested soil health practices are both effective and practical for people who cultivate our food.

To close out the session, the panellists aired some very important calls to action: A shift in perspective, from “farm to table,” was proposed, urging a more holistic approach to agriculture. Another key takeaway was that if soil health is put central to all agricultural policies, then the climate, nature and pollution crises can be easily tackled.

Dr Asseta Diallo reminded those present that the cost of fertiliser production is still higher than the cost of action, and partnerships are needed to leverage each other, and support countries to domesticate the 10-year Action Plan going forward.

What Happened at Day 1 of The Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit in Nairobi

Opening Plenary

Day one of the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit (AFSHS) brought together over 4,000 stakeholders including key government officials, Regional Economic Blocs, private organizations and other key stakeholders to evaluate the state of Africa’s fertilizer use and soil health, while reviewing the progress made since the 2006 Abuja declaration, which aimed to boost fertilizer Growth.

It was established that despite multiple efforts, Africa falls short of the Abuja declaration targets. Fertilizer consumption in Africa has only risen from 8kg/ha to below 25 kg/ha since 2006, far below the 50kg/ha target.

Opening the event was  H.E. Amb. Joseffa Leonel Correia Sacko, AU commissioner for agriculture, rural development, blue economy and sustainable environment acknowledged that African soils have reached a tipping point with low levels of soil organic matter and nutrient stocks, limiting the potential benefits of inorganic fertilizer and plant genetic improvements for smallholder farmers. The Agenda on African soil Health is a matter of urgency and collaborative actions must be taken.

H.E. Dr. Musalia Mudavadi, Kenya’s Prime Cabinet Secretary and Cabinet Secretary and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs reiterated some of the key commitments and declarations by the Heads of State and Government to drive agricultural productivity to improve food and nutrition security.

Key among these commitments is the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, which was endorsed at the second ordinary Assembly of the African Union in July 2003 in Maputo. The Declaration contained several important decisions but prominent among them was the commitment to the allocation of at least 10 percent of National budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years.

AGRA’s  Partner Statement

Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA, reaffirmed AGRA’s role in the Fertiliser and Soil Health Summit.

Highlighting the significance of fertiliser use, Dr. Kalibata pointed out countries that are making notable strides in agriculture through effective fertiliser utilisation. Drawing from studies conducted in Malawi and Ethiopia, she emphasised the correlation between soil composition and human nutrition. The presence of essential nutrients like zinc in the soil directly influences the nutritional value of produce, underlining the critical importance of soil health for overall nutrition.

Dr. Kalibata presented two key recommendations to address soil health challenges:

  1. She emphasised the importance of land tenure in soil health management, particularly for women and young farmers entering the agricultural sector.
  2. She advocated for subsidies that can be flexibly allocated by farmers based on their specific needs, thereby maximising their effectiveness.

Moreover, she underscored the necessity of investing in research capacity, especially in local communities, to shape the future of food systems effectively.

In her remarks, Dr. Kalibata emphasised the indispensable role of fertilisers in ensuring food security. While cautioning against improper fertiliser use, she called for unapologetic action to propel fertiliser utilisation forward, emphasising the need for a balanced approach to meet the world’s nutritional needs.

AGRA at The Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit

Facilitating Countries’ Cross Learning Agenda: Post-Summit Actions following the Abuja Declaration.

Today’s events saw AGRA spearhead two significant side events: “Facilitating Countries’ Cross Learning Agenda: Post-Summit Action” and “Managing Degraded Soils for Reclaiming Livelihoods in Africa.”

During these sessions, Prof Jean Jacques Muhinda, Regional Manager at AGRA, highlighted the crucial need for mainstream decision-making to address the pressing issue of soil health. Drawing upon insights shared by ministers of agriculture from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Ghana, Prof Muhinda emphasised the importance of deliberate policy decisions to increase fertiliser usage, in alignment with CAADP and Malabo frameworks. He stressed that effective policy implementation and intentional decision-making are pivotal in the battle for soil health.

Additionally, the discussions shed light on the agricultural practices in France over the past 60 to 70 years. It was noted that despite using the same land, France has managed to feed three times its current population. This has been attributed to the strategic use of nitrogen and organic fertilizers in farming, underlining the transformative impact of innovative agricultural approaches on productivity and sustainability.

‘Dakar 2 High-Level Event on the State of Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health’

In a high-level discussion which featured Dr. Agnes Kalibata, the spotlight was on Africa’s critical issue of fertilizer and soil health. Shockingly, some African countries are losing up to 33 million tons of soil annually, painting a grim picture of the continent’s agricultural landscape.

Dr. Kalibata underscored the urgent need for Africa to become self-sufficient in revitalising its soil health, stressing the importance of research and studies to identify gaps and formulate effective strategies. She cited AGRA’s Sustainable Farming program as a case study, showcasing progress in soil regeneration across market countries through regenerative agriculture practices.

It was established that to create such a narrative of self-sufficiency, it is essential for the 10-year Action Plan to be effective, to enable other countries to confidently partner with Africa in improving its agricultural practices due to existing data and facts.

The plan’s success will provide essential data and facts, empowering African nations to forge partnerships with other countries for agricultural improvement.

Furthermore, Africa still struggles to attain the targets set out in the 2006 Abuja Declaration. To optimise soil health and achieve maximum yields, farmers require training on the judicious use of organic fertilisers.

Drawing lessons from initiatives like Dakar 1, it was highlighted that African leaders must mobilise resources to invest in domestic fertiliser production. The continent already boasts innovative solutions and incentives tailored to fertiliser production, signalling a shift away from conventional methods.

In essence, Africa stands at a crossroads in its agricultural journey, with soil health emerging as a paramount concern. With concerted efforts, strategic investments, and a unified narrative, the continent can embark on a transformative path towards sustainable agricultural practices, ensuring food security and prosperity for generations to come.

Towards Better Soil Health: Incentives for Youth Enterprise in Production and Distribution of Organic and Inorganic Fertiliser.

This youth-led and youth-centred discussion explored the pivotal role of the youth in shaping the future of farming and development.

Dr. Janet Ademe, Head of Rural Development Division at the African Union Commission, underscored this imperative, stating, “CAYAC stands committed to empowering the youth in sustainable farming and development. Investing in our youth is investing in the future of agriculture.”

This commitment to youth empowerment is echoed by Abednego Mavuthu Kiwia, Program Officer at AGRA, who emphasised the importance of advancing youth-led fertiliser businesses. Key priorities include exploring supply opportunities for both organic and inorganic fertilisers, strengthening delivery capacities of youth enterprises, engaging centres of excellence in training programs, mobilising resources, and advocating for supportive policy environments. These concerted efforts aim to not only empower young entrepreneurs but also foster sustainable agricultural practices, ensuring a resilient and prosperous agricultural sector.

However, realising the full potential of youth entrepreneurship in agriculture requires a multifaceted approach. As highlighted by Abednego, youth entrepreneurship thrives on finance, support, and capacity building, coupled with creativity and resilience from the young farmers themselves. It’s not merely about providing resources but also about equipping them with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in an ever-evolving industry.

Central to this approach is the notion of capacity building. By investing in the education and training of young farmers, we can equip them with the technical expertise needed to enhance soil health and adopt sustainable agricultural practices. This includes providing agricultural knowledge, imparting skills in production and fertilisation techniques, and fostering supportive policy frameworks that incentivize environmentally friendly farming practices.

Africa and the Americas seal partnership to restore soils, under an unprecedented bi-regional initiative led by AGRA and IICA

San Jose, Costa Rica, 6 May 2024 (IICA) – AGRA and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) jointly launched the biregional “Living Soils” initiative, which, based on its successful implementation in the Americas, will seek to restore degraded soils, rehabilitate acid soils, increase agricultural and landscape productivity and improve climate resilience in African agrifood systems.
Participating in the launch event were Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and current Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM); Rattan Lal, recipient of the 2020 World Food Prize; Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA; as well as ministers of Agriculture of several African countries, AGRA authorities, private sector representatives, and other senior agricultural officials of the Americas and Africa.

Designed to improve rural well-being, productivity and food security while respecting environmental limits and making rational use of natural resources, Living Soils links science and public policies to rehabilitate and protect soils, whose degradation is threatening global food security.
Launched in 2020, Living Soils is spearheaded by IICA and Rattan Lal, the world’s leading authority on soil science and Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center (C-MASC) at The Ohio State University.
At the launch event for the initiative in Africa, Lal, who is also an IICA Goodwill Ambassador for Sustainable Development Issues, called for driving and replicating what he described as “the miracle of the Brazilian Cerrado”, in reference to a unique biome that covers almost a quarter of Brazil’s land area and that is characterized by savanna vegetation and a wealth of flora and fauna.

To protect this territory, the South American country has enacted laws and established policies to regulate deforestation and foster sustainable agriculture practices related to the use and conservation of biodiversity.
“Africa possesses the natural resources required to create a miracle; Africa can become the next breadbasket of the world”, said Lal. “The strategy to achieve this should involve translating agronomic and soil management science into action, as well as developing policies that are pro-nature, pro-agriculture and pro-farmer, which is why this initiative is being launched in a timely manner”, he added.
In his presentation, the award-winning scientist added that, although African production systems are increasing their productivity, they are doing so at a slow pace. Therefore, he considered it necessary to take a big leap by fostering “knowledge and technology that is currently not being implemented, as well as improving the management of African soils, which are facing challenges such as degradation, primarily due to erosion, droughts, nutrient depletion, salinization, reduction of organic carbon in soils, urbanization and climate change”.
In the same vein, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana and CARICOM, stated that the Living Soils program “has tremendous significance for Africa because it addresses key environmental challenges and will allow for implementing regenerative agriculture practices, enhancing biodiversity and soil health, improving food security and contributing to climate resilience”.
“Africa possesses 30% of the world’s mineral reserves, 8% of its natural gas, 40% of its gold and 90% of its chromium and platinum. It has the largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds and uranium, and great mineral, agricultural and environmental potential. Africa is home to 65% of the world’s uncultivated land and 10% of the earth’s renewable water resources. It has tremendous potential to assume a leading role in the global supply chain and position itself as a key player in feeding the world”, mentioned Ali.
The President of Guyana also highlighted IICA’s strong leadership in the initiative, which had allowed for promoting sustainable agrifood systems that can transform the lives of small-scale farmers and rural dwellers. “In this developing world in which we are working to build a resilient, viable and competitive food ecosystem, IICA is carrying out commendable work, and I would like to acknowledge this leadership”, he said.

Watch the Launch
Priorities of the initiative
In Africa, Living Soils will receive support from AGRA and will prioritize 11 countries in three agroecological regions: the Guinea savanna zone, which includes Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso; highlands in the Eastern region, which include Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania; and the Miombo woodlands, which include Malawi and Mozambique.
It will focus on leveraging South-South cooperation to foster climate-smart agriculture, restore degraded lands and increase productivity, thereby fostering resilience to the impacts of climate change by incorporating the requisite elements, such as inputs, bioinputs, technology, irrigation and climate-adapted crops.
To that end, the initiative will seek to replicate successful experiences and good practices implemented in the Americas, such as the 2020-2030 Brazilian Agricultural Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and Low Carbon Emissions (ABC Plan), as well as CARICOM’s vision to reduce the food import bill by 25% by 2025.
“Brazilian agriculture has played a fundamental role in fostering global food security through the implementation of innovative and sustainable technologies. Many of these technologies are the result of the establishment, 51 years ago, of EMBRAPA, which is the Brazilian agricultural technology company”, noted Roberto Perosa, Secretary of Trade and International Relations of the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply.
“We used to be an importing country and now we are a major exporter. Many African nations face challenges similar to ours with respect to agriculture and soil preservation, so we strongly believe in the importance of international cooperation to jointly address and support one another in overcoming these challenges. Initiatives such as Living Soils of Africa afford valuable opportunities to share experiences with sustainable agricultural technologies that can help our partner countries in Africa to restore degraded soils and adapt agriculture to the effects of climate change”, remarked Perosa.
During the event—which was moderated by U.S. journalist and Agri-Pulse Communications Editor-in-Chief Philip Brasher— Eyasu Elias, Minister of State for Agriculture of Ethiopia; Yaw Frimpong Addo, Deputy Minister for Crops of Ghana; and Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Senator and Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security of Nigeria, shared the challenges they face and discussed opportunities to adapt key innovations and policy instruments that could lead to sustainable agrifood systems with healthy soils suitable for production. They also agreed to strengthen collaboration and the sharing of experiences between the Americas and Africa.
“The sharing of experiences, capacity building and collaboration are the main ingredients we need to give visibility to and make this initiative a reality in Africa. We are grappling with a very serious food crisis and one of the challenges we face are the poor soils our farmers are working with. Thus, having this program is a win in terms of food security, an issue of importance not only to Nigeria, but the whole world”, remarked Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, highlighting the importance of South-South and triangular cooperation between nations.
“We face a number of challenges, but the most important one, which is also faced by other African countries, is soil erosion by water. This is due to topographic factors, but also to the high rate of deforestation, the loss of vegetation cover over the last few decades, the loss of nutrients and organic matter, the level of organic carbon in soils and their acidity”, explained Eyasu Elias, Minister of Agriculture of Ethiopia.
“In sub-Saharan Africa, we are suffering a great deal. The solution to the issue of soil health requires a multidisciplinary approach, synergies, the introduction of technologies, the mechanization of irrigation, and support to farmers with information and better credit opportunities. We want to help farmers become better prepared and trained to improve their soils”, stated Deputy Minister Yaw Frimpong Addo of Ghana.
The Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, underscored the importance of the public and private sectors, research organizations, academia and civil society taking part in the initiative, in order to broaden its impact.
“Financial support is needed to help African and Latin American countries engage in this South-South cooperation. IICA is going to implement this initiative rapidly by allocating an initial USD 50,000 to support its first steps, but we must encourage other partners to join us and lend their support”, explained Otero.
Private sector support
Major food companies such as Bayer, Syngenta and PepsiCo are involved in the Living Soils of the Americas program. In that region, the program is currently underway in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay, with the support of the corresponding ministries of Agriculture.
“This initiative with Africa is very important. In the Americas, we have been able to promote international cooperation and collaboration with the private sector, farmers and civil society to drive the adoption of soil management and regenerative agriculture practices. As a result, agricultural productivity has improved and impacts on the environment have been mitigated”, said Mildred Nadah Pita, Head of Global Healthcare Programs/Sustainability in Middle Africa at Bayer.
“This initiative is crucial. AGRA and IICA are committed to revitalizing our soils, which are the foundation of our agricultural system. This is a flagship initiative for South-South cooperation that goes beyond just agriculture. It works to build resilient and improved systems, because healthy soils will allow for improving productivity, crop quality, income for farmers and countries’ economic performance. Our planet’s future is dependent on soil health”, concluded Jean Jacques Muhinda, Regional Manager for East Africa at AGRA.

Also participating in the launch event for the Living Soils of Africa initiative were Tilahun Amede, Head of Resilience, Climate and Soil Fertility at AGRA; Zelia Menete, Director General of the Mozambique Institute of Agricultural Research; Manyewu Mutamba, Head of Agriculture at the African Union Development Agency; and Jorge Werthein, Special Advisor to the Director General of IICA.

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.

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.

Urgent Action and Leadership Critical for Climate Wins

Climate change stands as a threat to the foundations of our global food systems, unrivalled in its scope and impact. Today, soaring temperatures, shifting weather patterns, and extreme weather are adversely affecting our ability to feed ourselves, demanding urgent solutions. 

For many, the urgency is heightened as agriculture is the backbone of their economies. The escalating impacts of climate change are making it increasingly challenging for citizens to produce or afford healthy meals. With each passing year, farmers are finding it difficult to predict growing seasons, with erratic rainfall threatening crop yields and livestock productivity. The effects of climate change further extend to the oceans, where acidification and marine heatwaves are negatively affecting fish stocks. 

Such trends are worrisome for the world economies, and notably for Africa, which already needs to accelerate its food production to meet the needs of its growing population projected to double to two billion by 2050 and may reach four billion in 2100.  The pressure on the continent’s food systems necessitates producers to adapt their practices and technologies, addressing these challenges head-on, and increasing their output through more efficient and sustainable approaches.

However, it is this pressure that puts Africa at the centre of global climate action, with the continent’s leaders now seeing the economic opportunities that can emerge from climate action. Investments in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and clean technologies have the potential to drive economic growth, job creation, and innovation, and Africa stands poised to make early gains due to its strategic location and vast natural resources. 

The African Common Position from the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, which was adopted within the Nairobi Declaration at the recent Africa Climate Summit, recognises such opportunities even as it compels the continent’s political leadership to take action on food systems, placing climate at the centre of its sustainable production practices. This commitment was further exemplified at the 2023 Africa Food Systems Forum in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, where African leaders reiterated their commitment to regenerate, re-purpose and protect their regions against the devastating effects of climate change. In both forums, there was a commitment to addressing the soil acidity challenge through significant investments in cutting-edge technologies. This forward-thinking approach aimed to not only combat the immediate issue of soil acidity but also to proactively invest ahead of the curve in the emerging carbon opportunity. Moreover, leaders actively sought to expedite access to practical knowledge for farmers, recognizing the vital role of timely information in sustainable agriculture. 

This agenda has been elevated by the UAE to define conversations and decision-making at the 28th Climate Change Convention (COP28) later this month. The COP28 Presidential Action Agenda seeks to build on the progress and momentum of recent years with the UN Food Systems Summit, COP26 in the UK, and COP27 in Egypt, and emphasizes the need for all countries to better integrate their food systems and climate action to deliver for people and the planet. At the core of this agenda, the COP Presidency has put forward the leader-level Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, where all global leaders would voluntarily commit to incorporating food systems and agriculture into their climate planning and action by 2025. Expedited initiatives in these areas, encompassing production, consumption, processing, transport, storage, and tackling food loss and waste are all critical for accelerating global climate goals and ensuring the food security, resilience, and livelihoods of billions of people. Inclusivity also stands out as a key COP28 agenda item, with the participation of women, youth and indigenous communities required at all levels of decision-making. 

In the run-up to COP28, African countries are encouraged to lead the transformation from their unique contexts and draw inspiration from countries that have already made major strides including Norway and the UAE. Norway’s high electric vehicle adoption rates serve as a testament to the effectiveness of supportive leadership and political will in transformation. This is as the UAE demonstrates dedication to combating climate change by aligning its national goals with the Paris Agreement. Increasing its carbon reduction target to 40% by 2030, up from 31%, marks a substantial move towards sustainability.  

Innovative financing solutions are being explored to facilitate investments in priority climate actions, especially through the Green Climate Fund, aimed at securing essential resources for critical climate initiatives. However, we have fallen short on the second replenishment of the Fund, but there is still time to recover by honouring loss and damage pledges, adaptation finance pledges, and incentivizing private investments. 

Finally, it is important to restate that the success of the global climate agenda depends on leadership. The COP28 Presidency during the Pre-COP meetings in Abu Dhabi laid out its commitment to addressing the decarbonization challenge, openly addressing what many referred to as the ‘elephant in the room’.  We must be willing to have difficult conversations to move forward on important issues and work together to rise above climate change and secure a sustainable future for all.

Harnessing the momentum from COP28 and past commitments, we must now overcome the dilemma of choosing between climate action and development, enabling the simultaneous pursuit of both. We must also break the cycle of delays and dangerous procrastination. Urgency is critical as risks continue to escalate, leaving us with no time for disunity, and requiring us to prioritize collaboration over self-interest and defensiveness. The time for action is now; let us leverage the convening power of COP28 to turbocharge action and make a difference for future generations. Let’s move forward together on the “Clean Industrial Revolution” to secure the future of humanity and our planet.

Dr. Kalibata is President of AGRA, a member of the COP28 Advisory Committee, and served as Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit