Defining the Path Towards Adaptive, Resilient and Sustainable Food Systems: AGRA at the AGRF 2021 Summit
Delivering on commitments and increasing investment in food and agriculture in Africa preoccupies technical teams and continental thought leaders across the continent. Catalyzing thematic working groups and mobilizing critical stakeholders are core to AGRA’s mission. Five teams worked tirelessly with dozens of partners and institutions and governments to organize the AGRF 2021 Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya from September 6-10. The AGRF Summit is Africa’s pre-eminent forum that brings together political leaders, scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs and farmers on a common platform to discuss strategies and strike partnerships for the transformation of the continent’s food systems. The AGRF Summit and Partners Group are AGRA’s premier advocacy platform and communications highlight of the year.
At the AGRF 2021 Summit, AGRA launched the Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR), and curated a Youth Town Hall, which brought the needs and aspirations of youth to the attention of governments and other stakeholders. AGRA also supported a high-level presidential summit, which brought together five of Africa’s presidents to review the strategies for fast-tracking Africa’s food system transformation. The newly-launched Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture (CALA) hosted a dialogue on African leadership for food systems transformation. This was as the Farmers’ Forum cast a spotlight on the continent’s farmers by inviting them to chart the pathways to resilient food systems in the continent. Meanwhile, the prestigious Africa Food Prize was awarded to ICRISAT for improving food security in the continent. Additional information about these and other highlights of AGRA at the AGRF are presented below.
Africa Agriculture Status Report – Among the most important publications in Africa’s food systems is the Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR), which is published annually as a handbook for governments and other partners to provide direction for agricultural transformation. The 2021 AASR, unveiled at the AGRF Summit by AGRA President H.E. Dr. Agnes Kalibata and Chief of Staff and Strategy Andrew Cox, addresses the tough questions that accompany the challenge of delivering inclusive growth and enhancing government capacity. The 2021 AASR is a product of intense scholarly work aimed at stimulating discussion and a productive synthesis of ideas around the creation of sustainable and resilient food systems in Africa. A diverse set of researchers from different disciplines were involved in writing the AASR21.
CESSA – Seeds are an important entry-point for increased agricultural productivity, better nutrition and the promotion of resilience among smallholder farmers. It is against these backdrop that AGRA unveiled the Center of Excellence for Seed Systems in Africa (CESSA) to champion the development of quality seed of improved varieties in Africa. Hosted by AGRA, CESSA will convene seed actors to help fill gaps, and build capacities and varieties that respond to needs of farmers in Sub Saharan Africa. The Center will begin operations in 2022, supporting governments, private sector and development partners to deliver modern, effective and resilient seed systems that serve African farmers better. It will also strengthen the seed value chain, particularly variety development and release, production and distribution of both early generation and certified seed, farmer awareness creation and participation, quality assurance, national planning, policy and regulatory frameworks.
Presidential Summit – A high-level Presidential Summit at the AGRF 2021 Summit brought together five of Africa’s presidents to review strategies for fast-tracking Africa’s food system transformation. The five were: host Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Dr. Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), and Hage Geingob of Namibia. Joining them in a panel discussion were Tanzania’s Vice President Dr. Philip Mpango, IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo,Josefa Sacko, the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the Africa Union Commission, Salamatu Garba, the Senior Gender Specialist at UNDP-GEF Project, and Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group. The session was moderated by Dr. Vera Songwe, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa.
Youth Townhall – AGRA curated and organized a Youth Townhall that provided a unique platform for young people to present their issues, challenges, aspirations to governments and stakeholders for policy consideration as well as interact with various ecosystem players and their peers. The Townhall cast a spotlight 4-K Clubs, a new policy recently approved by Kenyan government, with the aim of returning agricultural learning and clubs in schools, both at primary and secondary schools’ levels in Kenya. At the session, an agreement was made with stakeholders to create awareness about the 4-K club’s policy, bolster its implementation in Kenya and inspire other governments in Africa to replicate this policy.
Collaborative Food Systems Leadership – The newly-launched Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture (CALA) hosted a dialogue on the nature of African leadership for food systems transformation. The session sought to catalyze a professional movement of food system leaders who work collaboratively to build sustainable food systems for the well-being of all African citizens and its environment. The session also started a new dialogue on the nature of African leadership for food systems transformation in Africa.
Farmers’ Forum – Seeking the voice of smallholder farmers, the key stakeholders in Africa’s agricultural and food systems was a Farmers’ Forum, which invited attendees to chart the pathways to resilient food systems in the continent. The session was premised on the fact that inclusive and sustainable agriculture transformation is pegged on the revolution of smallholder agriculture into a highly productive, efficient, competitive, and sustainable business. Its outcome was a concrete list of priorities for smallholder farming enterprises and actionable next steps for complete food system transformation.
In appreciating the important work of Africa’s innovators and food system entrepreneurs, AGRA supported the presentation of awards totaling USD278,500 across different categories. Three of the four awards were designed to draw attention to the role of women and youth in food system transformation, by rewarding innovative and scalable enterprises by individuals in the two demographics.
Africa Food Prize – The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) was awarded the 2021 Africa Food Prize, for its work in improving food security across 13 sub-Saharan Africa countries. ICRISAT, a CGIAR Research Center, is an international organization that conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. ICRISAT became the ninth winners of the USD100,000 award, which was first held in 2016 and sometimes shared between two innovators.
WAYA – Three winners were awarded the inaugural VALUE4HER Women Agripreneur of the Year Awards (WAYA), which celebrates women agripreneurs that show remarkable innovation in their businesses. Bagging the USD10,000 top prize was Dr. Hajia Salamatu Garba, the Founder and Executive Director of the Women Farmers Advancement Network WOFAN, a network of cooperative societies owned by small-scale, low-income rice farmers in Northern Nigeria. Beatrice Nkatha M’Munyi of Kenya’s Sorghum Pioneers was the first runners-up, winning USD 7,000 while Linda Manyeza, the founder and director of South Africa’s Food Masters Limited took home the USD 5,000 third prize.
Pitch AgriHack – Six youth-led agribusinesses with market-ready innovations for African farmers won a share of the USD 45,000 Pitch AgriHack 2021 competition. SAYeTECH Company Limited in Ghana, which designs and manufactures climate-smart agricultural machinery won the early-stage category with Nigeria’s Rural Farmers Hub taking second place. The mature/growth-stage category was won by Liberia’s J Palm limited, for their innovative labour-saving technology in the production of palm oil. Nigeria’s Farmcrowdy Limited was the runners up. Meanwhile, Kenya’s GrowAgric won the women-led award, in recognition of their end-to-end solution, which optimizes the entire agriculture value chain, providing small and medium-scale farmers with training, marketing linkages and accessible working capital. Zimbabwe’s Fresh In A box took second place. In a fourth, invitation-only category, known as the AYuTe Africa Challenge, US$1.5 million in grants were awarded to two agritech businesses- ColdHubs and Hello Tractor. Cold Hubs provides solar powered cold storage options to smallholder farmers, while Hello Tractor connects farmers to tractor owners via a mobile app.
GoGettaz – Two agribusinesses working towards food systems transformation in Africa shared the USD100, 000 grand prize in the third GoGettaz Agripreneur Prize. The winners were Kenya’s Tracy Kimathi, founder of Tree_Sea.mals in Kenya and Rwanda’s Nshimiyimana Alexandre, co-founder of Sanit Wing Ltd. Kimathi’s company provides affordable off-grid cooling solutions for farmers while Alexandre’s enterprise is a community-focussed avocado processing and manufacturing company dealing with oils, cosmetics and soaps. Beyond the two grand prizes, four entrepreneurs won USD 2,500 each in the Impact Social and Environmental category. These were: Fily Keita, co-founder and CEO of Agrowomen in Mali; Diana Orembe, co-founder and CEO of NovFeed in Tanzania; Gabriel Eze, co-founder and COO of Rural Farmers Hub in Nigeria, and Costantine Edward, founder of AgriLife in Tanzania.