Program Development and Innovation

The Critical Importance of Markets

The PDI team has deep respect for Africa’s farmers and is dedicated to serving their needs in professional, cost-effective ways.  Many of us are farmers, ourselves, who grew up in rural, farm settings.  We understand the value of better technologies in farmers’ lives, but we also understand the importance of market forces in encouraging or discouraging their uptake.  In order for investments in more productive farming methods to be sustained, farmers need to be compensated.  Hence, the PDI team works seamlessly with colleagues in the downstream fields of on-farm storage and marketing, to help create a truly sustainable, inclusive, agricultural transformation in Africa.

Who We Are

The Program Development and Innovation (PDI) team at AGRA is responsible for developing and implementing initiatives that allow Africa’s smallholder farmers to increase the productivity of their farms.  The PDI team is composed of experts in the fields of crop breeding and seed systems, fertilizer supply systems, agricultural extension, input distribution, and capacity building, who work side-by-side with AGRA program officers in “Geographic Service Teams” across the region to help farmers increase their crop yields.

Huge Potential for Change

The biggest hurdle to increasing farmer productivity in Africa today is the continued use of outdated production technologies and practices.  Nevertheless, broad experience has shown that Africa’s farmers – like farmers everywhere – will adopt new technologies when they are useful, affordable, and available locally.  Past investments by AGRA in plant breeding have yielded over 600 new crop varieties which are higher-yielding, resistant to local pests and diseases, and are more resilient in the face of environmental and climatic stress.  Meanwhile, AGRA’s collaborations with the African private sector have contributed to the establishment of over 100 private, independent seed companies and over 25,000 village-based agro-dealers.  Parallel initiatives in the development and marketing of new blends of fertilizer which are formulated to suit local soil types are now underway.

The Challenge

Nevertheless, awareness of the value of this new technology at farmer level remains low, restricting both demand and supply.  Communicating to farmers the opportunity to improve their lives and livelihoods through the adoption of improved seed, fertilizer, and other inputs helps unleash demand at local levels.  Helping entrepreneurs and public officials to build systems that deliver high-quality inputs will allow input markets to grow to scale across the program area, at which point AGRA’s services will no longer be required.