FAQs

  • Established in 2006, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is an African-led and Africa-based institution that puts smallholder farmers at the center of the continent’s growing economy by transforming agriculture from a solitary struggle to survive into farming as a business that thrives.
  • In our first decade, we worked with governments and partners in 18 countries to help build the systems and tools needed to advance an inclusive agricultural transformation.
  • The system includes a significant asset base of technologies, unique technical capabilities, knowledge and lessons learned, and local partnerships that we will leverage in our new 5-year strategy for 2017-2021, to catalyze and sustain inclusive agricultural transformation through integrated, country-based investment plans in 11 countries with high potential for success.
  • This transformation will be achieved through innovation-driven and sustainable productivity increases and access to innovative finance and markets to achieve agriculture’s potential as the reliable path to the continent’s prosperity and the best option for youth employment creation.
  • In collaboration with our partners—including African governments, researchers, development partners, the private sector and civil society— AGRA’s work primarily focuses on smallholder farmers – men and women who typically cultivate staple crops on two hectares or less.
  • With experts across the entire agricultural value chain, 90% of whom are Africans – sons and daughters of farmers – representing about 32 different nationalities, AGRA believes in the ability of the continent’s human resource to drive the agricultural transformation.
  • AGRA is supported by international development agencies, research institutions, private foundations, philanthropists, the private sector, and African governments.
  • Over the last 10 years, AGRA has received funding from more than 25 development partners. We are continually building partnerships to ensure we are making the best of use of resources available to advance inclusive agricultural transformation.
  • We recognize that even with investing $100 million a year, per our new strategy, this would likely be only 1-2% of the total annual investments needed to drive an inclusive agriculture transformation in targeted countries. We, therefore, focus on aligning, harmonizing, and leveraging the much greater investments of other public and private actors.
  • Over the last decade, AGRA and its partners have worked across 18 African countries to give over 15 million farm families access to inputs, training, financing, and markets, enabling them to utilize their farms to generate better lives for their families.
  • AGRA has also supported the establishment of thousands of local African agriculture businesses including nurturing 112 African seed companies that has witnessed local seed production rise from 2,000 tons in 2007 to over 600,000 tons in 2016.
  • AGRA-funded work with plant scientists has generated 640 new crop varieties with traits specifically selected for local growing conditions.
  • Our efforts to improve soil health have reached more than 3 million smallholder farmers and revived 1.6 million hectares of badly depleted croplands.
  • Partnerships with farmers’ associations, financial institutions and small- and medium-sized African-owned agribusinesses have helped African farmers sell some 769,000 tons of produce at a 10 to 50 percent price premium.
  • Read more about AGRA’s achievements in our 2007-2016 Progress Report.
  • AGRA has prioritized 11 countries for its new strategy located mainly in three high-potential, under-exploited agro-ecologies – the Guinea Savannah Zone (Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso), the East African Highlands (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania), and the Miombo Woodland (Malawi and Mozambique).
  • These are countries where we have existing assets and value proposition including existing network of local partners and grantees; governments that have shown commitment to agriculture; and there is potential for impact including opportunities for private sector engagement.
  • AGRA’s vision is to see an inclusive agricultural transformation across the continent, and so we will look to ensure that more countries are covered by our efforts over time as resources become available and systems are established.
  • AGRA is well positioned to be the go-to partner for Africa’s agriculture transformation.
  • Our new strategy and business model has the following structure and principles:
      • Seeks to catalyze and sustain an inclusive agriculture transformation in Africa by increasing incomes and improving food security for 30 million smallholder households.
      • Is guided by and aligned with government’s priorities for the agriculture sector and their overall vision for the agricultural transformation.
      • Requires an integrated delivery approach across value chains and through an ecosystem of partnerships and the coordination of investments including public-private resources.
      • Pays close attention to four cross-cutting themes of resilience, women empowerment, youth empowerment and capacity development
  • AGRA believes that most of the issues surrounding hunger and agricultural productivity in Africa are solvable by local people who nevertheless need to be empowered with ideas and financial support to development functional systems. Therefore, most of our interventions and projects are implemented through local grantees and partners with presence in the target communities and with potential for delivery. Since inception, AGRA has awarded over 789 grants.
  • Recognizing that no single solution will be a sufficient driver of lasting change, we bring a full complement of tools to trigger an inclusive Agriculture Transformation. They include:
    • Grant making, specialized technical assistance, knowledge management, brokering and facilitating government and partner/private sector relations, communications, convening ability, and— perhaps most importantly—strong partnerships to drive a transformation agenda in all its focus countries.
  • AGRA is not seeking to replicate food production strategies from Asia, Latin America, or anywhere else in the world. The AGRA founding Board Chair, Kofi Annan, called for a uniquely African green revolution tailored to the needs and aspirations of the diverse continent recognizing the importance of sustainability.
  • Africa’s agricultural revolution needs to be different to those seen in the rest of world. We are very aware of the shortcomings of other revolutions.
    • We are advocating for an inclusive agricultural transformation linking millions of small farms to agribusinesses, creating extended food supply chains and employment opportunities for millions including those that will transition from farming.
    • This is in contrast to the model often seen elsewhere in the world of moving to large scale commercial farming and food processing, which employs relatively few people and requires high levels of capital.
    • We will distill lessons from Asia, Latin America and other regions to ensure that Africa’s green revolution does not cause ecological harm witnessed in earlier revolutions.
  • We work with our partners to provide assistance that is closely aligned with Africa’s unique farming conditions, dietary preferences, and to developing an agriculture sector that is economically inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
  • We work to preserve the diversity of the menu of staple crops produced by African farmers which is wider than that of farmers elsewhere in the world.
  • Agriculture harms the environment through the expansion of food production into delicate ecosystems, misuse of inputs, like fertilizers which pollute surrounding water systems and contribute to general land and soil degradation.
  • We seek to limit agriculture’s expansion into natural lands by increasing yields in existing fields. This “sustainable intensification” is possible because many African farmers can double or triple yields simply by planting high quality certified seed and adopting basic soil management practices.
  • Our investments are designed for environmental sustainability including soil health maintenance, protection against water and air pollution, proliferation of weeds and pests and adaptation to and mitigation against climate change effects.
    • For example, in delivering programs related to seeds, AGRA has adopted USAID guidelines and developed Pesticide Evaluation and Safe Use Action Plans (PERSUAPs), which are used to enforce use of known, registered and appropriate agro-chemicals.
  • AGRA takes a precautionary approach to environmental challenges and requires its grantees to conform to appropriate environmental standards and practices including adherence to set national, regional and international standards and regulations.
  • This is an area we are continuing to strengthen in 2018, and we have a work plan with partners to build on our practices to date and augment our Environmental and Social Management System where appropriate in our 11 countries and our overall corporate strategy, policies, and systems.
  • Farmers in Africa struggle with some of the most depleted soils in the world because they don’t have enough mineral or organic nutrients to replenish their lands.
    • Average fertilizer use on African farms is about 10 kilograms per hectare as compared to Germany (211) or India (179).
  • AGRA believes farmers in Africa need to have greater access to fertilizers and stress fertilizer use in the context of a broader integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) approach.
    • Our soil health work emphasizes the need to feed crops with a combination of organic supplements, like manure, blended fertilizer and micro-dosing—far less than what is typically applied in Europe or the Americas.
    • We also emphasize the importance of “inter-cropping” with legumes that draw nutrients into the soil and adopting simple planting techniques that can prevent soil erosion.
  • AGRA ensures safe use of agro-chemicals by insisting that farmers, seed companies, aggregators and other grantees use pesticides and herbicides, whose active ingredients are approved by national and international bodies.
  • Tools like the Pesticide Evaluation Report and Safe Use Action Plan (PERSUAP), which was prepared for the AGRA-USAID Scaling Seed and Technology Partnership Project are used to provide project operators with practical tools for better and safer management of crop pests.
  • We have developed pest management matrices that summarise the available Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tactics for the major crop pests and provide the user with additional references to the subject as well as main contacts for technical support.
  • Ensuring Africa’s rural communities have secure access to farmland is essential to a farmer-led transformation of the African agriculture sector.
  • Challenges over land rights can make farmers reluctant to invest in seeds and inputs and banks reluctant to extend credit.
  • Land rights can be especially challenging for women farmers in Africa, particularly if they live within cultures that traditionally grant males exclusive control over land.
  • AGRA understands that land concerns are politically volatile and remains neutral on national land debates.
  • Our role is to make a strong case for the inseparable link between establishing clear, secure land rights for African family farmers and achieving a new era of agriculture-led economic growth.
  • We also encourage the development of a model for private sector investments in agriculture businesses that encourages partnerships with smallholder farmers and respect for their land rights.
  • Hybrid—or improved—seeds are seeds from plants in which breeders carefully control pollination from males to females until they produce a crop variety with certain “improved” traits, such as higher yields, disease resistance or faster growth.
    • Hybrids are not genetically modified. But by controlling which plants are allowed to breed with one another, scientists can produce hybrid seed that will provide farmers with a crop that has a consistent, uniform quality.
  • AGRA supports the production of hybrid seed because hybrids typically offer farmers much higher and much more consistent yields.
    • The only downside is that seeds saved from hybrid crops are unlikely to be equally productive as the original seed.
  • But we have found that, like farmers around the world, African farmers often prefer hybrid varieties to saved seeds if the hybrid’s superior yield and quality is worth the annual investment. Overall, AGRA simply wants African farmers to have more choices in the crop varieties they cultivate.
  • AGRA believes in freedom of choice for farmers. Our efforts focus on making the hybrid seeds readily available and advising them in a transparent manner to make the choices most appropriate for them.
  • That said, our experience shows that farmers can afford to purchase seeds if they improve yields compared to what they were previously planting.
    • Ideally, farmers who purchase new seed produce a surplus, which they then sell at a profit and devote a portion of the earnings to buying more seed for the next season.
  • We are finding that seed demand in most rural communities is very high. Most of the local seed companies we work with who primarily serve poor farmers are regularly selling out of everything they can produce.
    • That’s because they are providing crop varieties that farmers want, selling seed in small packages they demand, and making it available at the village agro-dealer shop where local farmers purchase supplies.
  • In addition, our new strategy advocates for an integrated approach that will bring onboard financial institutions to develop innovative products that give smallholders farmers affordable financing for inputs including seeds.
  • AGRA expands access to improved crop varieties mainly by supporting plant breeding work, locally-owned and managed seed companies, and farm supply stores.
  • For seed crops, such as maize and sorghum, we support African scientists who are developing new crop varieties that perform well in local growing conditions.
  • We are also supporting the development of local companies that can produce seed for these new varieties.
  • We also support efforts to expand the number of rural agro-dealers who can both sell the seeds and guide farmers through the selection process.
  • For crops like sweet potato and cassava that are propagated vegetatively, we support farmer organizations and plant breeders who can produce and distribute cuttings, which farmers can replant for many years.
  • AGRA has never taken a monocropping approach to agricultural development. We have invested millions of dollars in breeding minor crops grown by smallholder farmers in order to help them maintain diversity even as agricultural systems intensify.
  • AGRA has built and works with a network of agro-dealers who train farmers on the right agronomic practices.
    • For example, as part of the Integrated Soil Fertility Management practices and in an effort to increase yields per acreage and to build farmers resilience, we encourage farmers to intercrop.
  • We also work with crop breeders to develop high quality seeds that are rich in nutrients.
  • We acknowledge the critical role played by the private sector in creating an inclusive agricultural transformation.
    • As part of our country support package, we encourage governments to create an enabling environment for the private agri-businesses to thrive.
  • Our private sector partners are primarily small and medium-sized agriculture-oriented African businesses, which we believe can become a powerful force for social change.
    • They include thousands of small, rural farm supply stores and a growing number of locally-owned seed production start-ups.
  • We partner with banks and microfinance institutions to seek innovative ways to expand access to credit— on terms African farmers can afford.
  • We also work with international organizations that support our mission. For example, we have worked with Rabobank and input supplier Yara International to address credit, input supply, and market access issues that have suppressed maize production in Tanzania.
  • We are reaching out to several firms to develop cold-storage facilities across the continent that would limit post-harvest loss and increase market opportunities for storable produce, like potatoes, yams, onions, and sweet potatoes.
  • AGRA recognizes that agriculture is a business, and the vast majority of our time is spent working with Africa small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and farmer groups our focus countries and communities. Our work with agricultural SME’s owned and operated by African entrepreneurs is a sincere attempt to empower the African private sector to deliver better goods and services to farmers at scale, and it has worked.
  • We work with partners that support the sustaining and scaling up of the progress made in African agriculture by mobilizing greater political, policy, and financing commitments from across the public and private sector.
  • The key target private sector partners are primarily small and medium-sized agriculture-oriented African businesses, which we believe can become a powerful force for the change.
  • We also work with international companies that support the achievement of our target.
  • AGRA identifies its grantees through a competitive selection process by publishing notices in local newspapers and on the internet asking eligible institutions to submit their proposals for consideration.
  • Grantees are also selected through direct solicitation for proposals especially from those partners that we have successfully worked with in the past.
  • Despite their integral role in agriculture, women operate on an unequal playing field in agriculture. They are oftentimes involved in unpaid agricultural labor, often for their household, and are five times less likely than men to own land and other key production resources.
  • AGRA works to increase gender integration which means incorporating strategies that address issues around gender and aim to narrow gender based inequalities into program design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
  • Climate change related drought and other extreme weather events put the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Africa at great risk, increasing their vulnerability to famine and diseases.
  • AGRA has invested in pro-active and longer-term adaptation actions including the development and adoption of many new agriculture innovations and technologies especially seed technologies to achieve food security under climate change.
  • We are also promoting interventions that enhance the resilience of farmers, communities and production systems to climate change and climate variability.
    • This includes developing more efficient marketing systems, introducing post-harvest technologies to close yield gaps and ensure farmers can sustainably sell quality products to markets.