By improving access to inputs and markets, Agra serves 19 million farmers across Africa

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By The East African

The President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) spoke with East Africa on the results of its work and the challenges of agricultural transformation

What are the highlights of the impact of Agra’s work so far?

Overall, Agra reached 18.9 million farmers by improving market access, removing inefficient subsidies and streamlining value chains. Regionally, 7.9 million farmers in seven countries received better seeds, fertilizers, technical assistance and, in some cases, access to markets through Agra-supported village advisors.

In Ghana, the Planting for Food and Job program designed by Agra, a flagship strategy to boost smallholder agricultural production by facilitating market linkages and creating jobs along multiple value chains, has reached 1, 74 million farmers, while in Tanzania, Agra has helped catalyze fertilizer reform which has seen 1.65 million farmers benefit from a simpler and cheaper regulatory regime.

Has this impact been assessed by an independent third party?

Yes, our work is continuously assessed through Agra’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning system and by third parties, the most recent being a comprehensive assessment by an organization called Mathematica. We are also evaluated under several USAID missions.

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The credibility of our reach numbers is fundamental to our commitment to transparency and accountability. Agra’s outreach methodology is well documented: actual numbers are captured and consolidated quarterly and periodically reviewed through data quality assessments and gaps are addressed.

What has been the impact of Agra’s interventions on yields?

The assessment found that yields have improved in six of the seven countries studied, largely due to the improved seed varieties introduced by Agra. Low or high yields are an expected result of the unique diversity of factors that impact crop productivity – from climate to soil quality, farming practices, input mix, and more.

Climate change has brought drought, extreme weather events and degraded land, but also unforeseen hazards, such as the Fall Armyworm and locusts. These external shocks have been amplified by Covid-19, which over the past two years has affected agricultural SMEs in many unexpected ways. The more farmers adopt an integrated set of technologies, such as seeds, nutrients and agronomic practices, the more likely their yields and incomes will increase.

Explain how Agra reached 10.1 million farmers?

About 70 percent of these were reached through our Village Advisor Extension (VBA) model. They are local farmers who live and work with others and provide direct support to smallholders with good agronomic practices, seed packets and other inputs.

VBAs are often used to amplify government support. Agra also worked with other partners including agro-dealers, SMEs, local civil society partners and government officials through various interventions. Mathematica’s comprehensive review raised sustainability issues on the VBA model.

Agra recognizes the importance of VBA sustainability and is actively working with its local partners to explore alternative funding models – from integrating income-generating activities alongside their support (i.e. aggregation and distribution services) to ensuring that governments provide basic support as part of a broader agricultural policy. support efforts.

How do you respond to criticism that Agra promotes a broken industrial “green revolution” model?

This is a criticism based on an inadequate appreciation of our model. The Agra model is based on an approach that African farmers can turn their lives around with improved food security and incomes if they had better access to finance, inputs, knowledge and markets.

We support the change needed in African agricultural systems by complementing government agricultural development efforts and working to develop a vibrant agricultural SME sector.

What is the central place of agroecology in Agra’s agricultural transformation strategy?

Agra sees opportunities in agroecological thought and practice to support the development of agriculture and thus supports its principles and practices:

Through a soil health program that promotes integrated soil fertility management options, specifically increasing soil organic matter through the combined use of organic fertilizers and limited inorganic fertilizers; Promote inoculants to increase soil fertility and reduce demand for chemical fertilizers, and, through regenerative agriculture, which promotes key agroecological practices such as minimum tillage, agroforestry, intercropping /crop rotation, use of cover crops, organic manure/compost, microdosing, soil and water conservation structures and mulching.

Agra has been blamed for spurring a decline in crop variety, with a tendency to grow mainly maize at the expense of other equally essential food crops. How does Agra approach this?

It is true that Africa is overly dependent on maize as the staple food of choice, either because of cultural preferences or because of its ease of access. However, Agra remains aware of the need to support diverse cultures and works actively to achieve this goal.

On average, all of the local seed companies that Agra works with produce more than one crop. For example, in Eastern and Southern Africa the most common are maize, beans, rice, soybeans, while in West Africa it is maize, sorghum, rice, and cowpea. . Producing cassava and sweet potato planting material requires a special seed system and Agra has supported farmer groups and NGOs that play this role. This has worked well in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. Overall, we have supported the development and release of 670 crop varieties.

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