By AGRA Content Hub

“Farmers appreciate good seed. Every farmer at the beginning of every season takes time to find a good seed. And when that seed is an improved variety that increases yield and improves their lives, that goes a long way.”

These were the words of AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata during a webinar organized by Agrilinks under the theme Effective Pathways to Africa’s Agricultural Transformation.

Agrilinks is an online platform by the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, where agriculture, food security and development professionals connect, share and learn. 

The webinar held on Wednesday August 4, 2021 was structured to define the investments needed for a vibrant and functional agriculture and food system that can deliver sufficient food, agriculture inputs, products and services to provide better incomes for farmers and others, and increased nutrition and food security for everyone in Africa.

The conversation revolved around the involvement of different stakeholders in building the systems need for driving an inclusive agricultural transformation across the continent.

Notably, the webinar highlighted the important role of policies that encourage private sector participation in agricultural transformation, with notable examples from successes in Rwanda.

François Nsengiyumva, the CEO of Kilimo General Business Limited, a seed company in Rwanda credited the transformation of the seed industry in the East African country to the development of policies and an environment that favored local production and consumption.

“Between 2007 and 2019, the Government of Rwanda (GoR) used to import 100 percent of hybrid maize, wheat and soybean seed from Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. However, after the GoR established a seed policy that emphasized the role of the private sector in seed development, all of Rwanda’s seed needs for the three crops are covered by local production,” he said.

“It is important to note that AGRA and its partners played a catalytic role in enacting the policy into law,” he added.

More emphasis was placed on private-public partnerships by highlighting the critical achievements in the digitization of the GoR’s Subsidy programs, through technology developed as a partnership between the Rwanda Agricultural Board and technology firm BK TecHouse.

The platform, christened Smart Nkunganire, was launched in 2017 and has already registered 1.3 million farmers, who are now connected with 1,300 agrodealers and 32 agro-input suppliers focussing on 15 crops.

Additionally, the role of partnerships between the governments, research community and development partners was highlighted for its success in the development of Ghana’s aflatoxin control policy.

“Before the policy, aflatoxin control activities were poorly coordinated. So we approached AGRA to fund the development of a national policy that spells out what each stakeholder needs to do and the funding sources that we can tap into,” said Dr. Rose Omari is a Senior Research Scientist at Ghana’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-STEPRI).

As confirmed by Dr. Omari, the draft aflatoxin policy is now undergoing cabinet approval, even as it has attained the endorsement of four ministries following the enactment of technical regulations by the country’s parliament.

In relation to aflatoxin control, Kwame Boateng, the founder and CEO of Sahel Grains Ltd spoke of the gains made by encouraging private businesses to pursue high food safety standards for traditional African foods.

“As a result of the focus on food safety, Sahel Grains’ Faast Mmori [a brand of maize dough] is FDA [Food and Drug Authority] and GSA [Ghana Standards Authority] approved, and is now available in many of the leading supermarkets in Ghana,” he said.

Concluding the webinar, moderator Carol Jenkins, Office Director for the Center for Agriculture-Led Growth in USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (RFS), asked the speakers to list their priority areas  in leading Africa’s agricultural transformation.

“I would work on strengthening the ability of institutions to deliver – by equipping them to mobilize resources and developing systems,” Dr. Kalibata said.

Nsengiyumva said he would focus on financing, noting that, “as a businessman, finance that is affordable will help me to deliver improved seed to the market.”

Meanwhile, citing his experience in Rwanda, Patrice Hakizimana, the Agriculture and Rural Development Specialist at USAID/Rwanda pointed out a skills gap in the local seed production, adding that partnerships with organizations like AGRA can help transform the quality of production to quickly reach markets outside the country.