Investing to make Africa self-sufficient in food

The ongoing war in Russia and Ukraine shows the need for countries to have excellent food security. Currently, several African countries are expected to face increasing food inflation from shortages of fertilizer and grain that are produced in the war regions, combined with rising oil prices as well as global shipment chain disruptions. Wheat prices are up 45% while fertilizer prices have also risen 300% since the conflict began.

One of the most interesting programs from the African Development Bank Group that is being showcased at the 2022 annual meetings in Accra, Ghana is an ongoing farm improvement project that links to food security and climate resilience in the production of vital cereals such as maize and soya bean and also of poultry.

The AfDB Group’s African Development Fund, which this week celebrates 50 years since its establishment, approved funding of $34.75 million towards the implementation of Ghana’s Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP), one of whose pillars aims to provide access to agricultural finance in two ways: extending “missing middle” loans to commercial farmers, and food processors including makers of animal feed and a poultry revolving fund that finance imports to small poultry farmers. These have competitive interest rates and flexible repayments that are matched to production periods.

It includes a symbiotic relationship between larger nucleus farms and smaller out-grower farmers who previously had challenges accessing resources and inputs for intense cultivation. But now they get these from this to nucleus farms who have been supported by the AfDB to source modern farm equipment and certified seed. They then hire them out to smaller farmers and provide inputs to the out-growers and provide a ready market by buying produce from the out-growers.

in the harsh Northern regions of the country where farming capacity is underutilized and other land is degraded, conservation farming is encouraged by minimum-till cultivation and reforestation that set trees planted on boundaries and degraded farm areas to restore water and carbon levels and rebalance the environment.

Employing lessons from the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), including improved certified seed, blended fertilizer adapted to suit local farm needs, subsidized inputs and mechanization, the TAAT program was rolled out as (TAAT-S) in the savannas regions. It started in 2018 with four commercial farmers on 87 hectares and received more funding under the Savannah Investment Program to support land development, high-quality inputs, and minimum-till cultivation of maize, soya bean, rice and other staple crops. By 2021 it had 118 farmers cultivating 13,000 hectares with further support from 30,000 smallholder out-growers who cultivate an average of 2 hectares. They now benefit from technology transfer, access to markets financial and mechanization services provided through commercial farmers in the out-grower arrangement.

Four mechanization service centres have been established in the country with a full complement of equipment for land preparation, from planting up to harvests for operations on both large and small farms. Small farmers who do well can graduate to larger farms while other specific programs target to make women and the youth become better entrepreneurs. Large farmers who participate in the scheme can, as a result of their increased acreage and yield, be able to approach financial institutions and access larger facilities such as asset finance of $200,000 – 300,000.

There’s is also the Savannah Investment Program (SIP) being implemented in nine districts of northern Ghana in which the Agriculture Ministry works with farmers to help the surrounding communities improve staple crops and animal yields to reduce grain and poultry imports. The country imports $400 million worth of poultry products a year, but the Ministry is certain the demand can be met locally if farmers’ capacity was enhanced. It has developed value chains finding buyers for the farm outputs with governments, schools, hotels and other institutional and retail buyers.

To enhance local value chains, poultry breeds are improved with exotic breeding while goats and sheep were introduced to the pastoralist communities. To improve sustainability, poultry farmers are assisted to venture into feed production, to reduce the substantial cost of animal feed.

The improvements have been achieved with a subsidy cost of about $100 million a year. But subsidies are the norm in food-producing countries in Europe and the Americas that then get to export their surplus to other nations.

The Ghana program is now a flagship of the Bank’s “Feed Africa” portfolio and a template for other African countries. The program will be rolled out to other countries including Tanzania, Uganda, Mauritania and Egypt.

Speaking ahead of the annual meetings in Accra, African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said that TAAT has delivered improved agricultural technology to 76 million farmers. The interventions have led to enhanced harvests and crop self-sufficiency in countries like Sudan and Ethiopia that received and cultivated new heat-tolerant wheat varieties.

The Bank has just announced a $1.5 billion emergency food production facility to help African countries enhance food production and mitigate disruptions from the Russian war in Ukraine. Taking on lessons from TAAT, instead of relief food distribution, which is a short-term measure, the AfDB is signaling that the continent has the resources, technology and a plan to boost production and ensure food security. It will target to deliver subsidized certified seed, technical support and extension services to over 20 million farmers.

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