The agricultural sector is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for an estimated 19-29% of these emissions according to the World Bank. This figure climbs even higher to 40% when we consider the emissions produced throughout the entire agricultural value chain, encompassing transportation, storage, and processing.
With the global population expected to double by 2050 and consequently increase demand for food, emissions from agriculture are expected to increase unless action is taken to stem the harm to the environment.
The solution lies in embracing agricultural technology (Agtech) to revolutionise agricultural practices, boost yields, increase farmer incomes, and promote sustainability. Technologies such as climate-smart agriculture, precision farming, soil carbon sequestration, and digital tools for value chain optimisation all aim at raising the production per square inch of agricultural land while recovering more from loss and damage.
Agtech offers numerous tools and techniques for sustainable crop and livestock management, including the use of climate-resilient seeds, and improved breeding techniques that result in higher yields with reduced land, water, and chemical inputs. By increasing the productivity of land, agtech helps preserve natural ecosystems, reduces deforestation, and prevents the conversion of additional land for agriculture, thus mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
Soil health technologies are also important for transforming the output of agricultural land for increased food production and soil sequestration. Soil mapping and monitoring enable farmers to apply the appropriate nutrients in the right quantities leading to enhanced crop productivity and increasing the capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Additionally, through regenerative agricultural practices like cover cropping, reduced tillage, and agroforestry, agtech actively contributes to carbon sequestration.
As well, more climate goals are linked to climate-smart agriculture, which leverages digital technologies for weather forecasting and data-driven analytics to provide farmers with real-time information on rain patterns, crop diseases, and market conditions. As a result, farmers are equipped to make climate-smart decisions, such as adjusting planting schedules, selecting suitable crop varieties, and adopting climate-resilient farming techniques. The AgriBot co-developed by AGRA and Microsoft is one such agtech, designed to optimise resource utilisation and minimise climate-related risks, ultimately helping farmers adapt to changing climatic conditions. The AgriBot provides valuable agricultural information to farmers through SMS and social media platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram. Deployed in two Kenyan counties since 2020, the Bot today serves 47,470 farmers with vital information on good agronomic practices, pest management, weather prediction, and insurance as well as linkages to county approved agrodealers and certified seed varieties. The same is being scaled to three other counties in Kenya and three countries of Nigeria, Malawi and Uganda through the partnership of AGRA and IFC.
Precision farming involves the application of data collected using drones and sensors to drive precision irrigation and nutrient management. This minimises wastage of resources, prevents pollution from excess chemicals, and decreases the overall carbon footprint of agricultural operations. CropIn’s Smartfarm is a good example of farm monitoring and management solutions that utilise advanced analytics to help farmers geotag their land, digitise their records, and optimise their use of water, fertilisers, and pesticides. The tool also supports the real-time monitoring of crop performance. The technology has already digitalised 10,626 village-based advisors in six countries – Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique, and Tanzania – where it supports delivery of inputs, services and information to 2.7 million farmers on nearly 600 million hectares of land. Overall, the World Economic Forum estimates that the adoption of precision agriculture on 15-25% of farms could boost global yield by 10-15% by 2030. It would also lead to a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 20% decrease in water usage.
The optimisation of agricultural value chains is critical in advancing food and nutrition sufficiency without increasing the size of land under cultivation. Technologies like blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) enable better tracking, traceability, and management of agricultural products throughout the value chain. This reduces post-harvest losses, optimises transportation routes, and ensures timely delivery, thereby lowering energy consumption and emissions.
A good example is the deployment of IBM technology in Rwanda that combines satellite data with machine learning to identify where maize is grown and the forecasted yield. Farmer organisations can also use the technology to identify areas of low yields and provide timely output-enhancing measures such as the adequate supply of fertilisers.
Yet, even with the transformative nature of the technologies, many remain beyond the reach of a vast majority of smallholder farmers in Africa due to the high costs of acquisition and lack of infrastructure to support such solutions. In the short-term, stakeholders can ensure an equitable and inclusive transition through investments in digital infrastructure and connectivity driven by a collaborative approach for developing a conducive policy environment, and the advancement of regional integration. Sustained investments in agricultural research and development also remain crucial, as has been shown in developed countries, which increased their adoption of agtech by committing 3.25% of their GDP compared to only 0.52% in developing countries. The increasing disparity in R&D expenditure exacerbates the gap in productivity, thereby rendering the poorest countries incapable of rapid progress.
AGRA is proud to announce Dr. Kalibata’s membership to the Advisory Committee of the President of the 28th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The COP28 which will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the end of this year is a critical platform that brings together nations, organizations, and stakeholders from around the world to address the challenges of climate change.
As a member of the COP28 President’s Advisory Committee, Dr. Kalibata will contribute to the development and implementation of strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change. She will be involved in strategic initiatives, including working groups, task forces, and consultations, to ensure that the voices and needs of farmers and businesses are heard and incorporated into global climate policies.
“I am delighted to join the COP28 President’s Advisory Committee. There is nothing today that is more important than all of us pooling together to contribute to the global effort to combat climate change,” said Dr. Kalibata. “Climate change is quickly becoming the most significant challenge facing our planet, and I am committed to working with other partners and stakeholders to address this critical issue. I am committed to share my experience and to collaborate with other members to drive urgent and meaningful action.”
Dr. Kalibata shares the vision for COP28 having herself successfully stewarded the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit to create global awareness for the need to transform Food systems to be more inclusive, deliver better food and reduce environmental foot print. “This is an opportunity to advancing Food Systems efforts even further globally and here in Africa and I remain desirous of and committed to sustaining the momentum” she said. “The diverse membership to the COP28 Advisory Committee is an opportunity for all of us to continue our efforts to combat climate change and work towards a more sustainable present for us and future for all.”
The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the international forum for countries and stakeholders to discuss and collaborate on climate change policies and strategies. COP28 is scheduled to take place in November 2023, and will be hosted the United Arab Emirates.
It is daunting enough to head an iconic organisation supported by big-name international funders.
As if that is not demanding enough, this is an organisation founded by the legendary Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General from 1997 to 2006. The Ghanaian diplomat died in August 2018 but remains one of the most revered Africans on the global stage with a legacy to match.
Tall order as it may seem, one woman has been at the helm of this organisation since September 2014. She is Dr Agnes Kalibata, an agricultural scientist from Rwanda who grew up in Uganda as a refugee then later returned to Rwanda to be the country’s Agriculture and Animal Resources minister in 2008, where she drew global acclaim for the radical improvement her ministry brought to small farmers in Rwanda.
That contributed to her being picked as the president of AGRA, an organisation with a presence in 11 African countries and whose headquarters are in Nairobi. The alliance aims at inclusive agricultural transformation in Africa by increasing incomes and improving food security for millions across the continent.
As she readied herself for an interview with us at her Nairobi office on a Tuesday afternoon, she offered us sweet bananas she had carried to take for breakfast but her busy schedule somehow couldn’t allow her. She farms them in her Nairobi home.
“And this is a type I’m sure you have not tasted before,” she said.
They sure had a unique taste somewhere close to a glass of milk with two teaspoonfuls of sugar added and with the solidity of a fresh loaf of bread that had been compressed.
The sweet bananas were perhaps a representation of what Dr Kalibata is passionate about: improved breeds that can withstand the pressures of the environment and deliver bumper harvest that can fill tummies and part of it be sold to fill pockets.
There were many takeaways from the interview in which Dr Kalibata came out as a deeply knowledgeable scientist with a distinct sense of humour.
“I take pride in ensuring that we are a well-run African institution.”
AGRA employs more than 200 staff from at least 27 countries; the vast majority being from Africa. It has a list of partners across the globe, with some of them pumping in huge amounts of money to be used in various ways. These include the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme, USaid, UKAid, German Development Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, MasterCard Foundation, among many others.
“Our recent evaluation highlighted our success facilitating 42 policy reforms, supporting 11 national flagships, and mobilising $1.4 billion (Sh89.3 billion) investment into the (agriculture) sector,” says AGRA’s Life of Strategy Report covering 2017 to 2022.
Though Dr Kalibata says that AGRA handles significant sums of money and one of her roles as president is to ensure accountability.
“My job is to ensure that the institution is well-run, and that is extremely important,” she said. “I know that there is this thing out there where they say Africa doesn’t have capacity.”
She added: “I also ensure that we give value to our funders. Our job is to ensure that once people invest in AGRA for the work that we do, we show them the value in terms of good custodianship of their money. There is a whole lot of belief (about) Africans — corruption and stuff like that. We can actually demonstrate that we take care of people’s money; that an African institution can take care of people’s money.”
The AGRA strategy report says that in its first 10 years (it was founded in 2006), the organisation trained 680 PhD and Master’s graduates in crop breeding, crop science and agronomy. It also facilitated the release of 562 new seed varieties and supported the production of nearly 600,000 metric tonnes of seed. It also trained 5.3 million farmers on soil fertility management practices.
In the last five years, it says, it has been focusing on working with governments and widening its network of partnerships.
“As a result of our efforts, a majority of our farmers have adopted improved practices, with 75 per cent of farmers adopting fertiliser use, 48 per cent adopting improved seed and 60 percent adopting post-harvest practices. We are starting to see these outcomes translate into increased yields at the farm level,” the report notes.
Dr Kalibata is happy to be the captain. Supervising the management team she heads is a 14-member board of directors that is chaired by former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn.
“We’ve been very deliberate to ensure that members of our board, not just the chair, are passionate about how this continent can get itself out of poverty, are passionate about the role of the agriculture sector and are influential enough to help us move things forward,” said Dr Kalibata.
Dr Annan, the United Nations secretary-general for almost 10 years, was the founding AGRA chair. Among the members of the current board is former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete.
“You will see that some of the members of our board are former heads of State because they understand some of the things that need to be done,” said Dr Kalibata.
“The thing that fascinated me the most is that there are insects that regrow legs.”
How does a girl being raised in a foreign land choose to study insects and biochemistry at Makerere University? Well, one of the things that made her intrigued about entomology, the study of insects, is the fact that some of them regrow legs when they are cut off. She wanted to know what magic goes into this.
“I was really interested in understanding it,” she said. “But that’s another story.”
Her father used to teach in Rwanda before they fled northwards due to war.
“My family ended up in Uganda because of colonial challenges. You remember the fight for independence and all that? At that time in Rwanda, there was a war. My family and a whole lot of people were forced to flee the country. Others fled to Congo; others to Kenya; others to Burundi. Rwandans got scattered all over because of that war,”said Dr Kalibata.
“I went back after my PhD, after over 35 years of living in exile,” she said.
Her father being a teacher ensured she got an education to the highest level. Most of her female peers didn’t go very far and it hurts her.
“I wasn’t the brightest child in my class. And I always think of those girls who I think were bright but couldn’t progress (because of poverty). I was lucky because my dad was a teacher. And he was going to stop at nothing to ensure that I’d get an education,” said Dr Kalibata. “When I was leaving my rural village and going to secondary school, the drop-off at that stage was amazing.”
After her first degree at Makerere, she returned to the same institution for a Master’s in agriculture. She would later head to the University of Massachusetts Amherst in America for her PhD in entomology.
She says that besides insects like bees being key to the survival of humans, there is a lot to learn from the six-legged creatures.
“Our understanding of genes and genetics is so much greater (because of insects); and our understanding of how we can improve medicine is so much better,” she said.
“Another reason why I thought entomology was a good area, especially as I was doing my PhD, is that it’s also an area that’s not just in agriculture. It’s also medical. There is also criminal entomology,” added Dr Kalibata. “Who knew that you could tell the cause of death (of a person) by studying insects?”
After her studies, she was involved in university research before Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame appointed her minister. She is credited for ensuring almost half of Rwandese farmers rose out of poverty. Among the initiatives she implemented is the famed cow-sharing programme.
“I did that job for about seven years and while in that role, I learnt a lot around policy and how policy-making is a make-or-break,” she said. “I learnt that it’s actually possible to use agriculture to fight poverty.”
“Nairobi is a beautiful place with good weather.”
Having lived in Nairobi for the last eight years, Dr Kalibata admits that she is in love with Kenya’s capital. She is even happier that it is nowadays easier to take her children to school and to reach the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
“I love Nairobi,” she said. “The people are great; the culture is good. It has a vibrant international community; it has a vibrant local community. It’s really a decent place. Most people love living here, so you get to meet all sorts of people.”
She went on: “Nairobi is interesting; it has everything. It has the African part and the Western part, all in one. So, it’s not like you’re missing anything. You find anything in one place. You can be purely African in Nairobi and you can be purely whoever you want. So, it’s a microcosm of things that make it really interesting to live in as a city. And the traffic has significantly improved. As long as getting to school and the airport is easy, life is easy,” she said, laughing.
Clearly, if she can farm sweet bananas, Nairobi is as good as it can get.
“I’m one of those pretty late mums.”
With a chuckle, Dr Kalibata noted: “I sometimes wonder about my choices.”
She said that as she discussed her life as a mother. She has two fraternal twins – a boy and a girl – who are 10 years old.
She admits that she got into motherhood late in her life, noting that she should have found a way of striking the balance earlier.
“It’s very painful, wondering whether you’ll be able to have children, whether you’ve sacrificed too much when it comes to children. It’s something that every woman who has a career worries about. And I just keep saying that there must be a better way. There must be a better balance. There must be a better balance that saves you the pain; that allows you to get your career in good time and saves you the pain of having to look for children when you’re older,” she said.
On the left of her desk at her office are writings by her children declaring that she is the best mum in the world.
The children have had to keep up with her busy travel schedule. And meetings. And her bid to strike the perfect work-life balance.
“Yesterday I told them, ‘You know, there is a meeting next week. I’m supposed to be in…’ They were like, ‘Again? You just came from Washington and you’re going to another meeting?’” said Dr Kalibata.
She noted that the children keep her in check. They also ensure that she at least takes a break once in a while to take them somewhere to take a breath of fresh air. Without that, leave for her means doing work that was waiting to be done elsewhere.
“You know, sometimes Africans don’t take leave. They go home to do other projects. I’m still waiting to see one African that actually takes leave. Because when you go home for leave, there are so many things that are waiting for you. So, you basically shift. Sometimes I come back from leave more tired than when I left. Am I going to take a leave to go to the beach? Unlikely. But today, because I have young children, I’ll do it,” she said.
On the work-life balance, she noted: “(Work is) 7am-7pm really.”
“Once you put in 7 to 7 like in my case, you can afford three hours of sitting and having dinner with your children. You can afford to pretend that the world doesn’t exist. You know, in the morning it will be waiting for you but that ability to shut off when you’re entering your home is extremely important. Unfortunately, it also translates into the ability to shut off when you’re entering the office,” she added.
“The incentive has to be strong enough.”
Dr Kalibata believes that Africa’s youth are less enthusiastic about agriculture because of the meagre rewards. Because the continent imports billions worth of food annually, she notes, it means there is a huge demand that is not being addressed.
“We are importing $50 billion worth of food that we can produce. If you do a back-of-the-envelope calculation on how many jobs that is, basically those are the jobs we are losing that young people should be having here,” she said.
“We need to make sure that the market is available, to make agriculture attractive. And I think that’s the biggest gap to date that we see. With a good market, people will invest in research, in improving the sector. In getting better yields. But the market has to pay,” she added.
To change that trend, AGRA has been funding institutions that in the long run improve the market.
“Our job is to strengthen capacity, not to do things for people. We want to make sure these communities can actually do a better job when we are not there. So, we want to leave them in a better place. Because of that, we use grants and technical support. When we go out to a community and find that there is a private sector that is struggling, we find ways to support that private sector so that they can be better off at providing the services that they are providing,” said Dr Kalibata.
“Because we’re a small institution and we don’t have a whole lot of money, we focus on trying to be catalytic,” she added.
She went on: “Because of that place we have chosen of being a catalytic institution and again really trying to do our best while we can, my typical day is full of meetings internally, consulting with staff, externally, engaging with partners and also just trying to move things from what we have agreed on to do as a strategy.”
Side-by-side with incentive, she says, better seeds are transformational.
“Imagine if all farmers adopted improved seeds so that instead of 0.5 metric tonnes, they are producing five metric tonnes. Life will change for these farmers. My job is to focus on those farmers who are not adopting even simple technologies that are already available to us,” she said.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 17th March 2023 – Her Excellency Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, has today officially launched Africa’s Food System Forum 2023, Africa’s premier platform for advancing the agriculture and food systems agenda on the continent, at State House, Tanzania.
The theme of this year’s Forum – Recover, Regenerate, Act: Africa’s Solutions to Food Systems Transformation – is anchored around building back better Food Systems and Food Sovereignty. It identifies three steps needed to achieve this transformation: Recovery: a call for decisive strategies and actions to help the continent recover and rebuild its food systems following multiple crises and shocks; Regenerate: which calls for the need to regenerate the natural resources, such as soil and water, which are essential for sustainable food production, and Act: which refers to the need to take urgent action to address food systems challenges, such as climate change, food waste, and food insecurity at only seven years before the 2030 SDG deadline.
The forum will spotlight the role of women and youth through a re-energized commitment in the food systems conversation, with a focus on regenerating interest in agriculture as a means of wealth creation for the continent.
Speaking at the launch in Dar es Salaam today, President Suluhu spotlighted the role of youth and women as critical to Africa’s food systems agenda
Speaking at the launch, H.E. President Samia Suluhu said:
“The hosting of the Africa’s Food System Forum 2023 is of importance to our nation where more than 25 percent of our GDP relies on the agricultural sector. For many years, Tanzania’s agriculture was based on subsistence farming. Today, the Government of Tanzania has intentionally made it a goal to prioritize this sector to create livelihoods for our people. We are doing this through various programmes borne out of our hosting and learnings of the 2012 AGRF Summit and our focus on ensuring that the youth are a priority in investment and agricultural reform in our country. It is my hope that the hosting of this forum in our country is one step forward and a good start to achieve the results we expect in our agricultural sector.
In addition, Tanzania as the host of this forum announces to the world that our country aims to become a food granary for Africa and the world in general. I would like to call on the international community, partners of Africa’s Food Systems Forum, the private sector and development partners to participate fully in the upcoming forum on the development of the agricultural sector to strengthen food systems in Africa.”
In his remarks, the Chair of the Africa Food Systems Forum H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn highlighted the importance of the continent moving beyond planning to curb food insecurity, to executing and actualizing commitments, and called for innovation, partnership, leadership and home-grown solutions to respond to emergent agricultural and food systems challenges.
“Our challenges around food system challenges will only get worse unless we work together to drive meaningful change. The difference between the Africa we seek to see and the Africa we shall become by 2060 is all dependent on the decisions we as leaders make and the supporting infrastructure, investments and policies in transforming food systems to produce sufficient, nutritious food in the changing social, political and climatic conditions.
As we rally towards the next Africa’s Food Systems Forum, it is important that we deepen our efforts to scale up our homegrown solutions and partnerships.” He said.
The Africa Food Systems Forum will take place from September 5th-8th 2023 in Dar es Salaam Tanzania, with a pre-summit event scheduled for September 4th 2023. Launch. The summit will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, including leaders, policymakers, scientists, heads of governments and private institutions, farmers, and youth, to agree on practical actions and solutions. These discussions are crucial to driving Africa’s food security forward and creating better livelihoods for all.
AGRA has always used strategic partnerships to support the creation of alignment between government priorities and private sector interests, for improving impact at smallholder farmer level and for mobilizing private sector investment to scale.
In the first week of March 2023, AGRA team, alongside Natasha Santos, the Vice President at the Germany based Bayer Crop Science visited Makueni County to find out some of the priority areas for partnership with the main aim of supporting agriculture transformation particularly for smallholders.
“Today’s mission is to learn from the County government (of Makueni) about areas of opportunities, what areas of knowledge that can be drawn from the government that can be scaled out, areas that can be rife for partnerships, and areas of challenges that AGRA and Bayer can partner to bring more people on the table,” said John Macharia, AGRA’s Country Manager for Kenya.
“Am here to learn from the County Government of Makueni, then I recommend to the (Bayer) team about the areas where we can do more, and the areas we should prioritize,” said Santos.
To that effect, Joyce Mutua, Makueni County Executive Committee Member (CEC) in charge of Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock, Fisheries & Cooperative Development pointed out some of the priority areas that the county government is already working on, and require partnerships.
“We are at the beginning of the five year cycle of the government, and every government comes in with a new policy direction,” said the CEC. “Focus of the current government is on transformation agenda, with priority on agriculture,” she said.
In Makueni, said Ms Mutua, the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP), which is a five year document, is all about agriculture transformation.
To that end, Makueni County is looking at value chain development in areas not limited to poultry, rabbits, green grams, beans, pigeon peas, livestock, and fruits among others.
“It is unfortunate that 57% of households in Makueni County are food insecure and yet more than 80% of the households are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods,” said Ms Mutua.
She noted that so far, there is a deliberate effort to produce food for commercialization. “The county is now looking at sufficient production of food so as to feed the world. This is because if we achieve primary target of feeding the world, then we will definitely afford to feed ourselves, and be 100% food secure,” she said.
So far, the county is already walking towards the (feed the world) direction by exporting mangoes, French beans, and pulses. The county government is also working towards exporting avocados. However, the CEC noted that those value chains being exported have not been well developed, and that is therefore one of the areas that need partnerships.
“Our strategy is that farmers will determine the value chains they want to follow. We encourage them to focus on at least only three value chains at a time and perfect them, and the government will help move those value chains to scale,” said Ms Mutua.
She pointed out that if it is poultry value chain for example, the farmer should target not less than 200 birds at any given time. If it is dairy farming, the farmer will need to have at least four animals, out of which at least two are lactating. If it is green grams, the farmer should target at least five acres under the crop.
“If we get this correctly and aggregate the farmers, then we will have enough for commercialization,” said the CEC. “We are already clear on the strategy for mango value chain, and the strategy for exportation of pixie oranges is coming out very well,” she added.
The ban that had been imposed on the exportation of mangoes has since been lifted. The county had been banned from exporting the fruits because of some pests, and slightly above average chemical reside levels. The lifting came in after the government introduced the use of pheromone traps to achieve low pest zones in Kibwezi and Mbitini areas, where mangoes mature earlier than the interior zones. But the county is slowly expanding the acreage under the low pest zones.
Ms Mutua said that investing in integrated pest management to expand low pest zones is therefore another area that needs partnerships.
So far, mangoes from low pest zones retail at up to Sh40 a piece in the export market, four times higher than what is found in the open market.
Makueni County has installed a plant that is producing puree, though in low volumes. However, this season, the county purchased one million kilograms of mangoes from local farmers.
“We are doing the market study, and this is an area we are seeking for support. We are looking at how we engage with the private sector partnership in the mango value chain. This is because the government has its own limitations based on how it runs,” said the CEC noting that sometimes, money coming from the government arrive late, which is not good for such projects that involve perishables.
“We are also setting up a drying plant so that we can absorb as many mangoes as possible. There is a huge market for the dried mangoes, and we are exploring many more value addition techniques including the use of hot pepper on the dried mango crisps,” she told the AGRA and Bayer team, pointing out that one youth group is already exporting dried mangoes to South Africa and USA.
Dairy farming is another area that the county government is working on, though the facilities in place are not running at the moment. “We need support to boost fodder production. We also need involvement of the private sector to develop the required facilities, because we can still buy milk from elsewhere to be processed in our facilities,” said Ms Mutua.
Other areas of interest include scaling up of production and aggregation to bypass brokers who always take advantage to offer very poor prices.
The county government is also planning to put up a testing facility because at the moment it is relying on the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and other facilities in Nairobi for testing, which takes a long turnaround time.
The county is in the process of putting up phase one of agriculture and food laboratory that will be able to test the soils, and the food laboratory that will support the angle of processing.
“We are also planning to put up an industrial park to be supported by aggregation centers. That is where we will do incubations like starter businesses, and host businesses that just need to run,” said Ms Mutua.
“At the moment, we are not very industrialized as a county due to lack of infrastructure, such as electricity, water supply, sewage system among other amenities,” she noted.
Delegates graduate from prestigious leadership programme targeting change makers from government, civil society and private sector
[Lilongwe, Tuesday, 24 January 2023]: Eighteen food systems leaders from Malawi and Tanzania have graduated from the AGRA-led Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture’s (CALA) Advanced Leadership Programme in Lilongwe, Malawi. They were awarded certificates in the Advanced Leadership Programme for Africa’s Food Security and Sustainability after completing a 16-month training, designed to equip them with the practical leadership skills for effective implementation of national agriculture programmes prioritised in their respective countries.
This was the third and final of three regional graduation ceremonies scheduled for CALA’s inaugural cohort of 80 delegates who were competitively selected from eight countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Ghana and Nigeria – for the 16-month programme last year. The first graduation ceremony for 17 delegates from Ghana and Nigeria was held on November 30, 2022, in Accra, Ghana, in a function presided over by Dr Solomon Gyan Ansah, Director of Crops Services in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Dr. Ansah noted the CALA programme’s responsiveness to climate change mitigation and adaptation. “I am delighted by the delegates’ deployment of environmentally friendly practices, tools and techniques to solve for food systems challenges.”
The second graduation ceremony for 32 delegates from Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Uganda was held on December 7th, 2022, in Nairobi, Kenya. This East African graduation was presided over by Mr Philip Kello Harsama, Principal Secretary in the State Department for Crop Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. Mr Harsama commended AGRA for supporting the Ministry to achieve its objectives, and for heeding to its promise of supporting sector leadership as they work to advance food systems transformation.
Mr Harsama highlighted CALA’s collaborative spirit which brings together government, private sector and civil society to jointly solve food security challenges.
“One of the biggest challenges we face today is moving from decision making to action. Transformation beckons, with many of the technologies, financing mechanisms, practices and policies necessary for change in place. Yet all these require a spark. That spark, which CALA provides, is collaborative leadership. That is the ability to work together in all our diversity as leaders, to solve problems for the good of many,” he said.
The last of the three scheduled graduation ceremonies was held in Lilongwe, Malawi on 24th January 2022 for 18 delegates. This Southern African graduation was presided over by Dr.Rodwell Mzonde, Director of Planning Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Malawi. Dr. Rodwell Mzonde encouraged the graduates to mentor others and note that their ability to apply what they have learnt is what is going to make them transformation agents. During the ceremony, the delegates presented results of their Action Learning Projects, a unique aspect of CALA’s leadership training. In Tanzania this included reducing poultry mortality rates by promoting cluster production systems and enhancing small-holders sesame farmers’ access to formal market channels in the Southern regions of Tanzania. Malawi delegates also worked on facilitating the creation of structured markets in the honey value chain and improving the Legume Value Chain through an Assessment of the Legumes Platform operations in Malawi.
Dr Agnes Kalibata, AGRA’s President, said CALA is breeding leaders to take the agriculture sector forward and get our people out of poverty. This will be achieved by building a critical mass of African leaders who are committed to cross-sector collaboration and innovation in food systems.
“One can’t be a leader in the agriculture sector unless they understand how the sector works. There is need for continuous sharing of ideas and support within the sector. It is time to think of our roles as leaders and how we can collaborate for the sake of our people. CALA has empowered you as leaders to influence change and move the agriculture sector forward.”
The graduates join a growing continental network of leaders who have distinguished themselves advancing national food security goals. The first class of 80 included executive-level leaders with more than 15 years of experience, and rising stars – typically those with 10+ years of experience in delivery of key national agriculture programmes.
The first cohort was selected from over 1,000 applicants, with 45% of them drawn from government agencies across the eight countries. Twenty-six percent of them come from the private sector and 29% from civil society. The second cohort of 80 delegates joined the programme in August 2022.
CALA was launched in August 2021, as an AGRA-led initiative, to provide practical training for African leaders in the agriculture sector. The initiative seeks to catalyse collective action on food systems as an avenue for transformation of national and regional agriculture priorities. The Centre’s programmes are delivered in collaboration with implementing partners, including the African Management Institute (AMI), CALA’s lead implementing partner, and USAID’s Policy LINK. Policy LINK has led the design and rollout of the leadership programme’s coaching component. CALA is also supported with funding from the German Development Cooperation, through KfW Development Bank.
Founded in 2006, AGRA, is an African-led African-based organization that seeks to catalyse Agriculture Transformation in Africa. AGRA is focused on putting smallholder farmers at the centre of the continent’s growing economy by transforming agriculture from a solitary struggle to survive into farming as a business that thrives. As the sector that employs the majority of Africa’s people, nearly all of them small-scale farmers, AGRA recognizes that developing smallholder agriculture into a productive, efficient, and sustainable system is essential to ensuring food security, lifting millions out of poverty, and driving equitable growth across the continent.
About the African Management Institute (AMI)
AMI enables ambitious businesses and leaders across Africa to thrive, through practical tools and training. We equip leaders with tools to build their businesses, help companies train their teams and run work readiness programmes for young people starting their careers. AMI’s programmes combine online and mobile tools with in-person workshops and on-the-job practice and support. AMI has trained over 42,000 people in over 39 countries and has offices in Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa, with additional presence in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, and Cote’ d’Ivoire.
About Policy LINK
Policy LINK is a global Feed the Future program that strengthens the leadership capacity of public, private, and civil society actors and fosters collective action among them for better policy systems. Feed the Future is America’s global hunger and food security initiative, led by USAID.
The inter-related crises of conflict, climate change inflation and more are threatening our food systems at an inflection point for humanity.
To make sure we hit the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we must evaluate and improve our global food systems.
In 2023, we’ll have a few stocktake moments that we must take advantage of to set us up for success moving forward.
Food security and our food systems are under threat. COVID-19, conflict, disruptions to global trade, climate change and the energy and inflation crises are threatening the supply of food for people all over the world.
These inter-related and inter-dependent challenges are a reminder of the urgent need to transition to inclusive, sustainable, nutritious and resilient food systems. Doing so would deliver for people, prosperity and the planet.
Sustainable food systems are essential for building resilience against future shocks, improving global health and nutrition, achieving net-zero carbon emissions, protecting nature and biodiversity, empowering communities and building inclusive and resilient economies.
Food systems under threat
The 2021 UN Food Systems Summit convened 163 countries and thousands of other actors around the world — including policymakers, private sector, civil society, food producers, indigenous communities, youth and scientists — to accelerate action for food systems transformation.
The UN Secretary-General’s summary and statement of action from the Summit recognised current food systems’ major impediments to climate, environment and health, even as they have immense potential to “feed the growing global population while protecting our planet.”
There is growing consensus and recognition of the central importance of food systems in delivering the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), for tackling climate change, improving livelihoods and overcoming the silent pandemic of global malnutrition.
From (IPCC) reports to COP27, 2022 has been a year of progress in recognising the importance of food systems — both in terms of their potential to be global-scale forces for positive change, but also the danger mismanagement of them poses to communities everywhere, particularly the vulnerable.
We already know we are not progressing fast enough. However, we are resolved for the transformation, and can use our collective experience, knowledge and convening powers to accelerate action, implementation and support for the 2030 Agenda and deliver on the Paris climate agenda.
Four priorities for 2023’s stocktaking moments
Here are four priorities for these stocktaking exercises, which are just as important for the Climate, SDGs and Food Systems communities.
1. Understand the best practices, innovations and ideas.
During the UN Food Systems Summit process, more than 2,200 ideas were surfaced by constituencies all around the world, broadly consolidated into five action areas and 59 solution clusters. This knowledge was captured in a Summit compendium.
Many of the innovations and solutions are already being implemented and a body of knowledge is being built from regenerative agriculture to sustainable proteins, from advancing Indigenous food systems to city-based solutions and from producing food at the lowest cost to the true value of food. Irrespective of the idea, we must strive for and give priority to solutions that have proven potential for positive change at scale, delivering benefits across communities and landscapes and anchored in local context.
2. Recognise and support courageous systems leadership.
Change is hard and often takes a long time. For meaningful change, we need courageous systems leadership from individuals and communities, which must be recognised, supported and leveraged for wider momentum. This includes the need for trust between all stakeholders, both public and private, corporate and civil society.
3. Rally behind national pathways for food systems transformation.
163 countries stepped forward during the UN Food Systems Summit with the intention of improving their national systems. Of these, 117 put forward unique national pathways for food systems transformation. Along with the African Union/NEPAD, AGRA is working with countries and partners to transform national pathways into detailed food systems strategies, investment plans and priority programmes for African countries.
Ghana, Malawi and Rwanda have finished designing elaborate food system transformation strategies that will guide their transformation agenda and direct investments to their priority areas. Through a combined effort from all players, more than 25 countries globally should have clear transformation roadmaps by July 2023. But even then, this will not deliver change until the global financing architecture moves from funding agriculture to funding food systems, from delivering calories to nutrition and from working towards poverty lines to inclusion and more resilience in communities.
This can be delivered by working closely with these countries to mobilise supportive partnerships, investments and other capabilities through deliberate public-private-philanthropic-civil society collaboration.
4. Improve collaboration and coordination to deliver on bold visions.
Too many of our communities and institutions work in siloes and focus on individual interests. Within countries, cross-ministry collaboration and coordination remains a major challenge, and greater clarity is needed on the stewardship of government approaches in food systems action. Good coordination can maximise value from current resources, while working out how to bring in important new resources.
In this context, we must strengthen national, regional and global coordination mechanisms and multi-stakeholder platforms that can deliver better food systems outcomes across the SDGs.
Cooperating to build resilient food systems
The Food Action Alliance, founded in 2019 by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rabobank and the World Economic Forum, stands out as a premier platform for coordinating such multistakeholder action. It mobilises country-led food systems transformation and flagship initiatives with the best of public-private producer collaboration. We need to build on existing efforts and refrain from further fragmentation by turning every idea into a new initiative.
The myriads of initiatives that have emerged out of the UN Food Systems Summit, while a great recognition of the urgency of the situation, have left countries and partners wondering how best to move forward. Part of these stocktakes should be to continue to enhance coordination and alignment to country efforts.
As we work together, guided by these important stocktakes, 2023 can be a pivotal point in our collective effort to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and all our goals for people, planet and prosperity. But we must do it together.
Dar es Salaam Tanzania / Washington DC, USA, 12 December 2022 – Tanzania will host the AGRF 2023 Summit, the announcement was made by Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan, the president of the United Republic of Tanzania and H.E Hailemariam Dessalegn, the Chair of the AGRF Partners Group on the sidelines of the U.S. Africa Leaders’ Summit currently taking place in Washington, DC.
The AGRF, Africa’s Food Systems Forum, is the premier platform for advancing the agriculture and food systems agenda on the continent; from food security to agri-food investments. The annual Summit convenes leaders, policymakers, scientists, heads of governments and private institutions, farmers, and the youth in the agriculture and food systems landscape to discuss and agree on practical actions and solutions that drive Africa’s food security and better livelihoods for all.
The 2023 Summit aspires to position Africa as the place for innovation, investments, and to advance a stronger more diverse, and resilient food system. The Summit will look to energize and spotlight continental progress beyond the call for aid. The Summit will showcase Africa’s solutions to Africa’s food systems transformation while spotlighting leadership, accountability, inclusion and investment opportunities in Africa in general and in Tanzania in particular.
Tanzania will be the first country to host the AGRF Summit since the forum was rebranded to Africa’s Food Systems Forum in 2022 as a reflection of the partnerships’ ambition to move forward the transformation of Africa’s food system and sustain engagement year-round.
In her remarks, Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan welcomed agriculture and food systems experts, investors and stakeholders from across Africa and beyond to Tanzania for the Summit and emphasized the importance for Africa to lead on its food security for national and continental development. She highlighted that Africa’s food security can collectively be attained if all parties join hands to advance localized solutions that drive prosperity for all urging the youth to participate in agriculture to enable faster growth of the continent’s growth.
“I am pleased to announce, that Tanzania has been selected to host the AGRF 2023 Summit. This important Forum will bring together global and local voices, will highlight investment opportunities and will be looking to do business. We must chart ways to protect our people from the current drought and climate change impacts and we must make it possible for investments to move into this important sector.
“I have no doubt, that this Summit will provide actionable solutions for the continent and our people,” President Samia said.
H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn congratulated and recognized Tanzania’s leadership in advancing food security and shared his appreciation to President Samia for hosting the AGRF 2023 Summit.
“The AGRF, Africa’s Food Systems Forum 2023, comes at an integral time when the continent, battered by the effects of climate change, is coming together to find solutions that safeguard lives and livelihoods. It is commendable that Tanzania is developing a national blueprint to drive its economy forward and food and agriculture will play a huge role in ensuring the country’s prosperity. We urge all stakeholders ahead of the Summit to kickstart these vital discussions and conversations while surfacing innovative ideas that can be shared and deployed across the continent.”
The AGRF 2023 builds on the AGRF 2022 hosted by the Government of Rwanda in Kigali. It was attended by more than 2700 delegates In-Person and over 4000 online. In 2023, the AGRF secretariat and partners will build on the conversations, agreements, and critical decisions from the AGRF 2022 Summit through in-country meetings and roadshows with leaders, farmers, and the youth. The Summit is expected to convene critical voices in Tanzania with the aim of strengthening Africa’s food systems transformation through consensus.
The AGRF, recently rebranded to Africa’s Food Systems Forum, is the world’s premier forum for African agriculture, bringing together stakeholders in the agricultural landscape to take practical actions and share lessons that will move African agriculture forward. Under AGRF’s current strategy, the Forum is particularly focused on driving progress of the Malabo Declaration by 2025 as the priority set of commitments African Heads of State and Government have made to strengthen agricultural development at the center of the continent’s overall development and progress. The AGRF is organised by the AGRF Partners Group, a coalition of institutions that care about Africa’s agriculture transformation. https://agrf.org
About the AGRF Partner’s Group
The AGRF Partners Group is made up of 26 leading actors in African agriculture all focused on putting farmers at the center of the continent’s growing economies. Members include: African Development Bank (AfDB), African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), African Union Commission (AUC), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Bayer AG, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), CGIAR System Organization, Corteva Agriscience, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Government of Rwanda, Grow Africa (AUDA-NEPAD), Heifer International, IKEA Foundation, International Development Research Center (IDRC), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Mastercard Foundation, OCP Group, Rockefeller Foundation, Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Syngenta Foundation, The Tony Blair Institute, UPL Limited, US Agency for International Development (USAID), Yara International ASA.
AGRA participated in the Beans is How global launch, an ambitious campaign mobilised by the SDG2 Advocacy Hub to double the global consumption of beans (as well as peas, pulses and legumes) by 2028. Eating beans is an affordable, accessible solution to the world’s growing health and climate challenges. The seed for the initiative was planted at the AGRF – Africa’s Food Systems Summit in Rwanda, during a Presidential dinner hosted by President Kagame.
AGRA also was in panel discussions to explore how the climate-resilient African crops (e.g. Sorghum, Millets, Teff, Fonio, Cassava) could be promoted and integrated in the wider food systems, given their high nutrient density and resilience to climate risks and infertile soils. There has been a call for research investment, value addition and improved market linkages.
There are a range of climate-friendly technologies available for agricultural value chains that could improve the resilience of food systems, and reduce climate risks, many of which are suited to SMEs and small farmers. However, they remain in their early stages because most value chain actors have not yet priced the effects of climate change. The AGRA delegation participated in several events that unpacked innovative components for a sustainable transformation agenda. Participants identified private sector players as key champions for enabling the participation of smallholder farmers participate effectively in climate programs to address their challenges and seize opportunities.
The private sector’s role in developing technologies and practices for carbon removal and the reduction of carbon loss is at its infancy. Small scale farmers would benefit from incentives to improve and restore their farms and landscapes if they benefit from carbon credits. However, from the context of African farmers, the intervention areas and technologies that would attract carbon markets need to be piloted and fine-tuned to make it fit to the context and significantly easier for agri-SMEs to afford the climate products and services they need to adapt.