The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has unveiled a policy document that will guide staff members, beneficiaries and all associates towards promoting sustainable agricultural practices, while adhering to an appropriate Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS).
Through this system, all AGRA supported activities in target countries will be conducted in a manner to avoid, reduce or limit negative environmental, social and climate impacts. Instead, AGRA will seek to support the preservation and protection of biodiversity, sustainable management of natural resources and promote improved social wellbeing of beneficiaries.
“We have had all these practices in our programmes and in bits in our policies and guidelines, but now, we have formalized them into a comprehensive policy document and operational manual for enhanced accountability and reporting to our constituents” said Assan Ng’ombe, Resilience Officer at AGRA.
On the social front, the new policy seeks to promote activities that avoid negative impacts on the living conditions, livelihoods and land tenure of communities. It will improve the occupational health and safety at work of its employees, subcontractors and other partners.
“AGRA also condemns all forms of forced and child labor, discrimination, harassment but instead supports the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining of the workers,” said Mr. Ng’ombe.
By adhering to this policy, the organization will be complying with all relevant environmental, social, health and safety and land acquisition policies, laws and regulations of the countries of intervention.
To be more specific for example, AGRA will not promote or participate in activities that include burning of natural occurring ecosystems, such as forests and savanna, for the purpose of land clearing for the establishment of large scale agricultural plantations.
The policy also prohibits AGRA from supporting interventions linked to production of or trade in pharmaceuticals, pesticide/herbicides, chemicals and ozone depleting substances subject to international phase outs or bans.
The implementation of the policy will not be without challenge as intimated by Mr. Ng’ombe due outdated policies and procedures in some of the countries of operation.
For example, a recent study known as the ‘Insect Atlas 2020’ by the German based Heinrich Böll Foundation named a number of insecticides that have been banned in Europe and North America because they are toxic or highly toxic to bees, but are still manufactured abroad and sold in a number of African countries for agricultural use. National regulations require updating to ensure they are in line with international best practices.
“In such cases, AGRA will not support the use of such banned substances and will work with national governments and stakeholders to update their regulations in line with available scientific evidence and internal guidelines.” said Assan Ng’ombe.
To implement the policy, AGRA will now screen all projects, current and future, to ensure that no aspect of the project is found on the ‘AGRA Exclusion List.’
AGRA will also take informed grant-award decisions based on robust categorization of projects according to environmental and social risk levels, ascertained through environmental and social due diligence and, if and where required commensurate with the scale of the project and the project risks, environmental and social impact assessment studies.
As well, AGRA has instituted measures to monitor compliance with all relevant environmental and social policies, laws, and regulations of the country/ies of intervention as the basic guideline.
“The policy has already been approved by the AGRA’s Board of Directors with the consent of the Management Team. The policy has already been communicated to all staff members and the relevant training for staff across the organisation has been undertaken” said Mr. Ng’ombe.