Sep 9, 2021 | Blog

Africa’s Youth Outline their Priorities for an Inclusive Agricultural Transformation

Youth comprise the biggest demographic in Africa, with nearly 60 percent of the continent’s population being under 25 years. To get the views of this group in informing the creation of resilient and sustainable food systems in Africa, a Youth Townhall was held at the AGRF 2021 Summit in Nairobi Kenya on Thursday September 9, 2021.

The Townhall provided an opportunity for young people to present their issues, challenges, aspirations to government ministers for policy consideration. 

“The Townhall gives us a point of learning to exchange the ideas that we have as a continent, to learn from each other and see what we can collectively implement for the benefit of our children,” said Anne Nyaga, the Chief Administrative Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. 

In her speech, Ms. Nyaga spotlighted the 4-K Clubs, a new policy recently approved by Kenyan government, with the aim of resuming agricultural learning and clubs at both the primary and secondary school levels.

Meanwhile, Rwanda’s Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture, Rosemary Mbabazi spoke of her government’s investments in encouraging youth participation in agriculture. Ms. Mbabazi noted that the high number of youth in Africa can be actively used to transform the region’s economic prospects.

“We (Rwanda) look at our large number of youth as a key asset rather than a liability because of their agility, flexibility, ability to adapt and their will to impact communities, as well as their risk aversiveness and their innovativeness,” she said.  

Sharing Mbabazi’s sentiments, Yaw Frimpong Addo, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture underscored the need for Africa’s governments to commit resources in supporting youth agripreneurs. He intimated that his government’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) flagship has a strong youth component, which has dedicated investments to helping young farmers’ gain agricultural education.

“About 125 youth are as we speak in Israel learning about greenhouse technology through a paid internship organized by our various universities…We have also set up three large greenhouse farming sites to encourage the youth to go into agriculture,” he said.

The townhall ended with a call to action from various youth participants, who spoke out their priorities for an inclusive agricultural transformation.

“My call to action is for governments to involve the youth in policy making and policy decisions; the only way you can get the young people to drive agricultural transformation is by involving them in every step of the way,” said Joseph Mathenge, an advocate of the high court in Kenya and a farmer.

Dorcas Omole, a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), on her part, urged policy makers to incorporate agricultural skills in rural education, “and to make the transfer of land to women less problematic.”

The youth townhall is an annual event at the AGRF, curated and organized by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in collaboration with relevant ecosystem partners. The event is conducted under the Youth entrepreneur platform of the AGRF.  

Sep 8, 2021 | Blog

Presidents Engage in Discussions on Africa’s Food System Transformation

Five of Africa’s presidents met at the AGRF Summit in Nairobi on Wednesday September 8, 2021 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, theUnited Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa. 

Mr Kenyatta described the AGRF Summit as a platform for consolidating Africa’s voice in readiness for the UN Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) in New York starting September 23. The UN FSS will bring together leaders from around the world to review the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with notable attention on the eradication of hunger and poverty.

“The biggest outcomes that some of us are looking for at the AGRF Summit is that we will work together as Africans and come up with a common position to table UN Food Systems Summit,” Kenyatta said.

In relation, Mr. Mpango, proposed that difficult financing be given prominence among the biggest challenges of Africa’s food systems.

“It is important that we take to New York the issue of agriculture financing especially given the risk of rain-fed agriculture,” he said.

Ms. Sacko, however, lamented that while African governments had enough resources to support an agricultural transformation, many were unwilling to invest in the sector.

“In 2014 heads of state committed to invest 10 percent of their public expenditure in agriculture, but up to now, very few countries are investing in the sector,” she said, noting that Africa’s progress to the SDGs would remain slow unless things changed.

President Kagame reiterated the need for an increase in agriculture spend among his five priorities for food system transformation.

“Africa’s solutions will be pursued in five tracks, i.e. nutrition & school feeding; supporting local markets, supply chains and trade within Africa; increased financing in agriculture to 10 percent of public expenditure; helping smallholder farmers especially women in expanding their social safety nets, and the creation of climate early warning data systems,” he said.

Meanwhile, Houngbo and Garba focused their presentation on the plight of women and girls, both agreeing that this demographic plays a critical role in Africa’s agricultural systems but is often under-rewarded.

Other speakers Adesina, Chakwera, Holsether and Museveni addressed the need for investments in agricultural technologies and finance in increasing agricultural productivity for food security and better household income.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Songwe appealed for rapid control action, noting that failure to tame the disease would be disastrous to Africa’s food systems. 

 “We cannot have effective food systems if we do not vaccinate and if we don’t get the COVID-19 fight under our belt,” she said.

The Presidential Summit culminated with the official opening of the AGRF, which runs from September 7-10, 2021.

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Strengthening Food Systems Through Rural and Market Development

Despite the setbacks in 2020 across the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa is on the edge of a breakthrough in agriculture. This is evident as seen in the pace of adoption of innovation and interventions in response to the recovery plans set out across many African countries.

From farmers, to aggregators, to processors, to retailers, the Summit session on ‘Rural and Market developments’ spoke to interventions in logistics and marketing, as well as the means to getting integrated value chains functioning more effectively in Africa.

“Rwanda has taken various measures that have led to improvement of our agricultural systems. Among these are that we are working strongly with local authorities to ensure construction of market infrastructure in most villages and more importantly creating market linkages regionally and globally, encouraging more nutritious food of high quality, which in turn is growing the economy and benefiting farmers,” said H.E. Gerardine Mukeshimana, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda, as she opened the session.

Session 1

The panellist in the first session delved deeper in speaking to strengthening mechanisms post-2020.  Professor Siza Tumbo, the Deputy PS, Ministry of Agriculture, United Republic of Tanzania, indicated: “In Tanzania, the first priority is the farmer, it’s impossible to advance agriculture without involving private sector for the provision of inputs, and financing. We created a consortium with different players to create effective and adequate financing.”

In upholding the theme of the day ‘building forward better’, Dr. Holger A. Kray, Practice Manager Agriculture & Food Security, The World Bank, indicated some of the challenges that the farmers are facing, including lower-than-expected prices, being disconnected from international markets, fewer incentives to invest in productivity of storage solutions, hence why he posed the question if perhaps we are dis-incentivizing the original objectives leading to compromising productivity.

“I have dedicated my life to better agricultural policy, I want good policy and at the World Bank we measure good policy using the business of agriculture index and what I want to see is the states being facilitators by creating regulatory environments, and not just being actors.”

Mr. Ayodeji Balogun, Chief Executive Officer, AFEX Nigeria, put strong emphasis on access to technological and infrastructural advancements, especially in storage. “It’s not just creating supply for infrastructure, but also asking ‘can you deliver the supply of it in a cost efficient manner?’,” added Mr. Tom Kehoe, Deputy Dir. Shaping Inclusive Markets, Agriculture, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Session 2

In the second session, the speakers introduced working examples within their organizations on how they are strengthening agricultural value chains.

Ms. Ashini Patel, Senior Manager, IDAS, KPMG, began by stating that due to the Covid19 pandemic, they have supported and worked with participants on improving digital technologies, such as mobile banking, and satellite data to collect input data from and for small scale farmers. “They also use WhatsApp groups for online training and dissemination of information on financial inclusion, good agricultural practices among others.” 

In answering how smallholder farmers can be strengthened, Michelle Kagari, the Global Director of Government Relations and Policy, One Acre Fund, said: “Building smallholder capacity to withstand shocks and stresses is key. At One Acre Fund we encourage practices that maximize productivity, saving on previous harvest, securing alternative sources of incomes and having strong support systems in cooperatives.”

Professor Edward Mabaya, Research, International Programs, Cornell University, stated that for most African countries, agriculture, food systems and economic recovery are inextricably intertwined. Governments, private sector, development institutions, and research organizations must join forces to build back better and more resilient food systems serving the continent sustainably.”

As a plea to the government on behalf of smallholder farmers, Hellen Onyango, a Crop Aggregator, Farm to Market Alliance, said: “We need to ensure that smallholder farmers have access to crop insurance to cushion the adverse effects of the losses incurred because of various shocks.”

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Experts: Smallholder Farmers Should Be at The Center of Africa’s Resilience Building Strategies

Food insecurity and poverty in Africa are primarily driven by multiple shocks and risks that include conflicts, climate extremes, and disease outbreaks, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

A session at the AGRF Summit 2021, in Nairobi, Kenya (and virtual) sought to identify and share global experiences in resilience building, while showcasing the best practices for addressing the aforementioned shocks. The panel discussion provided an opportunity for debate around the strategies for the reduction of agricultural risks and vulnerabilities.

Leading speaker Dr. Tilahun Amede, the Head of Resilience, Climate & Soil Health at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) reiterated the need for urgent action in reversing the damage caused by agri-food activities on Africa’s ecosystems.

According to Dr. Amede, the continent loses nearly 2% of its forests to agriculture-related activities, further worsening Africa’s climate change situation. He added that more damage is expected if control measures are not taken.

However, Dr. Dennis Garrity, the Board Chair of the Global Ever Greening Alliance and a Senior Fellow, of The World Agroforestry Center, noted that a step-change is being achieved as farmers appreciate the importance of natural tree cover in the creation of a sustainable food production environment.

“Increasingly, farmers are realizing that the establishment of on-farm trees – fruit, fertilizer, fodder and timber trees – builds the family asset base to enhance resilience to climate and other major shocks to livelihoods,” he said.

Still, noted Natasha Santos, Vice President, Global Stakeholders’ Strategy & Affairs at Bayer Crop, more gains can be made for the environment by supporting smallholder farmers to increase their agricultural output on land they already work on. 

“When the prosperity of smallholder farmers improves, so do education rates, local economies, sustainable outcomes, and social cohesion. Small farms do more than grow food; they are the backbone of entire communities,” she said.

To this end, Ms. Santos asserted the need for investment in technologies that increase on-farm efficiency, as well as the creation of new avenues to markets.

“It is not just technology and equipment that African farmers need to become more resilient, we must help them create more market linkages,” she said.

Jean Senahoun summed up the session by confirming that the promotion of resilient agricultural systems will fast-track the achievement of the UN sustainable development goals, for most of which Africa is still not on track.   

“Building viable agricultural livelihoods that are resilient to shocks and risks is central to attain and secure development gains, medium-term outcomes and long-term development goals,” he said.

The discussion took place on the second day of the AGRF Summit, which runs until Friday September 10, 2021. So far, scientists, farmers, government officials and heads of development organizations have engaged in themed sessions around the future of Africa’s agri-food systems.

Some of the resolutions from the Summit will inform the continent’s presentation at the UN Food Systems Summit in New York from September 23, 2021.

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What can Africa’s agri-food sector learn from China’s response to COVID-19?

Speaking on Day 2 of the AGRF 2021 Summit, a stellar line up of agri-food experts from Africa and China convened to uncover what Africa can learn from China’s response to COVID-19 in building resilience within its agri-food sector.

Dr. Fadel Ndiame, Deputy President, AGRA, moderating the session, reminded us that in the last two years, the world has seen the emergence of a global pandemic with far-reaching impact. Dr. Ndiame talked about how the pandemic has already started to trigger a health, economic and food crisis.

“It amplifies all the challenges the world is already facing. It’s putting the lives and livelihoods of millions across the world in jeopardy,” he added. Of H.E. Mbelwa Kaikuri, Tanzania Ambassador to China – the session keynote speaker, as well as of the panel, Dr. Ndiame asked:

  • How does the pandemic materialise in different countries?
  • How is it being managed across the globe?
  • What are the best practices?
  • What can we (Africa) learn, especially from China, given the tradition of innovation and transformation of food systems over the last decade?

The deepening interdependency of African and Chinese food security

H.E. Mwelbe Kaikuri spoke passionately about the interdependency of Africa’s and China’s food security and the need for food security to be a priority agenda for both countries: “Our shared future dictates that we collaborate to ensure food security”.

As the country first severely hit by the pandemic, H.E. Mwelble Kaikuri highlighted the opportunity for Africa to learn from China’s proven competence and resilience in food and agriculture. From China’s Green Channel Policy, to the use of ecommerce and much more. He also highlighted Africa’s opportunity, with a young population and 60% of the world’s arable land, compared to factors perhaps threatening China’s food security, including their shrinking rural labour force and the reduction of available farmland.

With the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on the horizon, H.E. Mwelbe Kaikuri mentioned the need to align Africa’s priorities with China’s development policies, as well as the need for China to widen its involvement in supporting agriculture in Africa beyond government and regional economic communities.

Ecommerce has the potential to help alleviate poverty

As the last stop before the UN Food Systems Summit (23rd September, 2021), COVID-19 has given Africa the opportunity to build sustainable food systems long term. Dr. Fengying Nie, Director General, Chinese Academy of Agriculture Science, agreed, citing ecommerce as a huge opportunity.

COVID-19 forced implementation of a strict policy for movement, which caused problems in transportation, rural incomes, and rural employment. Ecommerce played a very important role in increasing income – the individual consumer and the farmer really needed a channel to meet and connect. China introduced special channels on the roads to help ecommerce companies deliver products – the so-called Green Channel.

China already had the ecommerce platforms, the infrastructure, the cooperatives and the companies to help alleviate the shock of the pandemic, particularly among smallholder farmers.

Using ecommerce for rural revitalisation

For Africa, Dr. Nie recommended using ecommerce for rural revitalisation, by:

  1. Optimising supply chain
  2. Increasing added values of the ecommerce industry
  3. Cooperating with an ecommerce platform to build exclusive supply base for high-quality agricultural productions
  4. Avoiding homogenous competition – every rural community needs a special product, rather than everybody producing the same product
  5. Creating supportive policies for human capital and start-ups
  6. Creating an organisation for economic cooperation

Dr. Zhigang Chen, China Program Leader, International Food Policy Research Institute, agreed. Pointing out that COVID-19 is only one of many risks facing the agri-food sector, he confirmed that i     t’s also facing conflict and political instability, trade restrictions, climate change and more.

“COVID-19 is an example of a single event cascading into a coincidence of multiple risks. This means when you have all those risks together, it’s going to have a compounded effect on everyone involved in agri-food,” said Dr. Chen.

Six long-term efforts to promote food systems resilience

He discussed six long-term efforts to promote resilience, based on China’s experience:

  1. Give top priority to build resilient food systems over years, including the construction of high-yield cultivated land
  2. Ensure effective logistics for agricultural products and inputs, like China’s ‘Green Channel’
  3. Link farmers with markets by establishing a public service alliance on production and sales
  4. Support production and enterprises, financially and technologically
  5. Promote ecommerce, consumption and livelihoods with initiatives such as e-vouchers, contactless delivery and the promotion of local employment
  6. Monitor the market to avoid panic, including the regular provision of information to consumers

He was adamant that the key is really a public/private partnership – in which private sector businesses and local communities work together to ensure adequate food supply during the pandemic.

Dr Lixia Tang, Professor, China Agriculture University, agreed that ecommerce is critical, saying: “We use online channels, like WeChat, to open up the last mile.”    

As well as ecommerce, Dr. Tang, referenced China’s program to alleviate poverty by offering subsidised temporary work:

“To alleviate poverty, policies have been adopted to offer temporary work, like giving farmers work in public service roles, teaching them new skills in areas like construction and social care.”

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most young labourers had moved out of villages to urban areas. So, we couldn’t find enough labourers. But farmers can’t move, they stay in their villages, so it’s a good opportunity to invest in the local infrastructure development.”

Open trade and investment critical for agri-food recovery from the pandemic

Dr. Chen added: “I recommend maintaining open trade and leveraging imports for domestic demand. China actually increased imports of some food products, which not only addressed domestic food demand but also helped to address the income issue in the exporting countries.”

Dr. Jiqin Han, Professor and Dean, Nanjing Agricultural University, agreed, saying that Africa’s food systems transformation needs to switch from self-sufficiency to market-driven economy, with focus on building social cohesion, providing a platform for global exports, and pulling farmers out of poverty.

Sharing her top three measures from efforts in Jiangsu Province, China, Dr. Han said Africa could focus on: 1) A simple approvals process for the approval of specific capital support 2) Concessional loan and agri-insurance from financial institutions 3) High quality information on investment and risks, and opportunities to exchange.

Calling on the private sector, Dr. Han talked about the need to engage the private sector for value chain development, for example by enabling private sectors to get access to finance and insurance to build resilience against shocks.

Syngenta Foundation takes very specific action post-COVID

Closing out the session, Dr. Yuan Zhou, Head of Agriculture Policy at Syngenta Foundation, said: “When COVID came, we took very specific and immediate actions to communicate and coordinate with local governments and partners in order to ensure farmers were subsidised despite challenges.”

Dr. Zhou discussed the challenges farmers faced at input level – access to inputs and transport disruption, and at production level – limitations in farmers training and technical support.

“Then, when farmers want to sell their products there are restrictions on open markets and low local demand due to closures of schools and restaurants. Our foundation took some interventions – like organising 30-day young farmer training programs and helping goji berry producers and local co-ops to set up online stores when they faced difficulties selling their products.”

Final takeaways for Africa, from China

Dr. Zhou’s possible takeaways for Africa, from China, included:

From a development perspective:

  1. Proactively facilitate interactions with local partners to ensure input supply and finance
  2. Leverage digital innovation e.g. ecommerce
  3. Think through the whole value chain and address key pain points

At policy level:

  1. Encourage multi-stakeholder collaboration and coordination – this is key
  2. Diversify distribution channels
  3. Promote more efficient urban-rural coordination
  4. Accelerate the digital economy to expand connectivity between farmers and consumers
  5. Invest in building a sustainable, reliable food system

COVID-19 has really challenged Africa to combine health preservation with economic development, and there is a lot that Africa and China can do together to build food security for all.

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Leaders define what it takes to create sustainable food systems in Africa

Africa’s agricultural production has been invariably linked to adverse environmental impacts including the loss of natural ecosystems. In Kenya, for example, there has been extensive damage to the Kakamega Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the country, as a result of encroachment by neighboring farming communities.

The constant pursuit of fertile land for agricultural production has been found to contribute to deforestation and biodiversity losses, both of which are associated with the effects of climate change like altered rain patterns. It is against this backdrop that delegates at the AGRF 2021 Summit participated in a discussion that centered around the development of sustainable and resilient agri-food systems.

In the first of a two-part panel discussion, Dr. Maximo Toreto, the Chief Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), argued that while Africa continually faced the problems of hunger and malnutrition, the continent cannot continue to open up new farmlands to increase food production.

“This lack of balance between what we need to have – the environment – and the problem that we have on access to healthy diets brings a huge challenge to the African continent,” he said.

Dr. Toreto recommended food waste reduction among the strategies for sustaining healthy food systems that balance well with environmental considerations.

Co-panelist Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, the founder and CEO of Cold Hubs Limited added that modern technologies bear solutions for some of Africa’s biggest agricultural and food system challenges.

“Through renewable energy and digitalization we can increase production, reduce the cost of production, increase income for farmers and have safe food for consumption,” he said.

The conversation then shifted to Africa’s priorities for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Director and Regional Representative for Africa, Dr. Juliet Biao, noted that the continent could attain the net-zero objective, and reduce the associated effects of climate change, by properly managing food systems to provide sufficient and nutritious food using existing resources.

“Climate change cuts across all the development sectors and we need to look at it as a cross-sectional issue that must be dealt within a wholistic manner,” she said.  

A separate panel sought strategies for driving youth engagement in agriculture, with all the speakers recommending the modernization of the trade using digital tools.

“The digital realm is not just playing a role in terms of making farming easier to access, but it is providing transformative solutions for breaking down the barriers that have prevented the scaling of agri-business,” said Mastercard Foundation’s Regional Head for Eastern and Southern Africa, Daniel Hailu.

The AGRF Summit 2021 is taking place in Nairobi, Kenya in a hybrid format with participation in the East African country and virtually across the world.

Sep 7, 2021 | Blog

Insights: Can African agriculture contribute to Net Zero

The insights session provided a thought-provoking stance on achieving net zero, moderated by Georgie Ndirangu Media Broadcaster, BBC Multimedia Broadcast.

Dr. Ruben Echeverria Chair, CGIAR Global Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification started off by stating ‘Yes, we can achieve Net Zero’. He continued to add that it can be achieved if we invest in agriculture to achieve productivity and ensure rural development. He cited that Africa is responsible for 2-3% of global carbon emissions but also has the most vulnerable people who are greatly affected and less equipped to tackle its challenges.

Adding to the conversation was Dr. Leonard Mizzi Directorate-General for International Partnerships – Sustainable Agri-Food systems and Fisheries, European Union(EU). He cited that the EU has unveiled proposals like the contribution to the farm to fork strategy are all efforts geared towards achieving Net Zero. “We need to focus on what can be done suited to the various countries in Africa, encompassing cross-fertilization of ideas on various topics like diversity of crops and farming systems, and basically a holistic approach will be critical,” he said. He added that the EU is considering one pathway as a priority with member states and beneficiaries in its programming is Agro-ecology to combat climate change.

“We need to create a shift by incorporating cultural sensitive change through carbon cropping and introducing organic fertilizers. You get food security if you have legumes and tree crops side by side to improve soil development,” said Ms. Poorva Pandya Deputy CEO ETG Farmers Foundation (EFF). She reminded all that 75% of rise in production is due to land expansion but only effects 25% farm productivity which is alarming as farming is the backbone of the economy. She added that adding measures such as bio-fertilizers, legume and tree crop cross planting improves soils, yields and the entire value chain.

Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa Incorporating livestock cited, “technologies will help to improve the quality of nutrition in animal produce, pastoralists for example we need forages to raise the productivity of animals and ensure environmental friendliness.”

When asked if Africa’s food systems achieve net Zero, Dr. Ruben Echeverria Chair, CGIAR Global Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (CoSAI) answered that it is possible if countries become responsible to counter key challenges in agriculture which will eventually reduce emissions. Citing an example he said, “Gabon is a net absorber of more than 100m tonnes a year of CO2 which is about one third of the carbon that France emits. Countries should pay for the carbon they trap!”

“We need to have more expertise on the continent especially regarding extension services,” Ms. Poova added. The last punchline to finalize the session was given by Dr. Leonard Mizzi who stated, “Intra-trading proves to be the game-changer for the African continent.”

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Achieving Equitable & Inclusive Livelihoods

The Poverty, inequality, and power imbalances at household, community, national and global levels are a major constraint to the attainment of sustainable food systems. More than 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the world population, still live in extreme poverty. Many people living on less than $1.90 a day live in sub-Saharan Africa and the COVID-19 crisis risks reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty. The world is clearly off track, when it comes to the 2030 targets of eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere.

This is the discussion brief that kicked off the equitable and inclusive livelihoods plenary session moderated by Ms. Nozipho Tshabalala CEO, The Conversation Strategist. Nozipho who passed the mantle to Prof. Hamadi Boga-Principal Secretary, State Department for Agricultural Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, Kenya. Professor Hamadi profiled key milestones alongside the challenges in policy made in agriculture in Kenya by stating, ”Kenyan policies in agriculture recognize that we have smallholder farmers who are still very poor, women are equally not adequately involved however noting this we ensure that we do not exclude anyone in dialogue and policy regulation.”

The fireside chat included contributions from Ms. Michelle Nunn Chairperson, UNFSS Action Track 4, Advance Equitable Livelihoods, & President and CEO, CARE USA contribute. She cited that she doesn’t think that we are on the right trajectory to achieving the SDGs, adding, “we need political will and investment of resources that are not currently available in society.”

“We are supporting all efforts to food systems transformation and in Africa for example, we are deeply committed to consumers. Producers however have a heavy task in transforming agriculture and it takes heavy investments even in the wealthiest parts of the world,” said Mark Schneider, CEO, Nestlé. This was in response to what roles the private sector plays in achieving equitable and inclusive livelihoods.

Dr. Susan Chomba Director, Vital Landscapes, World Resources Institute (WRI) Africa also contributed by listing the key levers of change. “I will state four levers of change starting with Innovation, with a focus on improving smallholder farmer production, the second lever is Human Rights, are people accessing food in a way that respects Human Rights?”  She went on to state that the third lever is on finance which needs to be nature positive and accessible to women. To finalize she stated the fourth lever was gender equality and women empowerment, calling on the fact that we cannot leave women behind.

Next was a panel discussion that invited key panellists from the private and development sector to discuss further. Mr. Vimal Shah- Co-Founder and Chairman of Bidco Africa representing the private sector indicated, “Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement is an opportunity to tap into if well implemented in the continent.”

Prof. Kevin Urama, African Development Institute, African Development Bank Group added that there are very deliberate efforts in various programs within Africa Development Bank that puts women and Youth at the core of agriculture. This primarily encompasses providing financing and for the youth incubation for innovative ideas to boost creativity and interest in agriculture.

“Countries should find ways to incentivize SMEs in agriculture, while partnering with smallholder farmers and also being sensitive to cultural practices,” said Ms. Blayne Tesfaye, Co-founder and CEO TruLuv.

On came the last plenary session where Mr. Stephen Jackson, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya brought in passionate and insightful sentiments from Kenya. “Kenya is a beautiful paradox, it is a success story in agriculture despite having loads of drought/flood-affected areas. We have best practice of putting together private-public sector partnerships which have put actionable legislations and I am very optimistic,” he said.

To finalize with a punch, Prof. Sheryl Hendriks, Professor and Head of Department, University of Pretoria stated, “the era of cheap food is way gone.”

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AGRF Agribusiness Dealroom officially launched

Agripreneurs and investors can now engage in the 2021 Agribusiness Dealroom after its official launch on Day 1 of the AGRF Summit in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday September 7, 2021.

The Dealroom provides businesses in the agriculture and food value chains with an opportunity to access finance, mentorship, and market entry solutions to support their growth objectives. It also creates opportunities for governments to present investment opportunities, and incentives for different investors.

These objectives are achieved through partnerships in project preparation, pipeline development, project bankability, investment promotion, and by enabling policy environment. 

Participants in the Dealroom also explore trade deals and partnership opportunities that enhance sourcing from African smallholder farmers.

This year’s Dealroom was unveiled at a ceremony that brought together panellists from governments, the private sector and development organizations to discuss the investment opportunities arising from the continent’s pursuit of food systems transformation.

The session began with representatives from Kenya’s national and county governments, who presented the investment opportunities available in the country’s agriculture and food sectors.

Thule Lenneiye, the coordinator for agricultural transformation in Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, gave a presentation that highlighted new opportunities emerging from the Government of Kenya’s new projects, including an agri-processing hub planned for development in Naivasha, some 100km northwest of the country’s capital.   

“The government of Kenya is developing a USD55 million agri-processing hub with an annual output capacity of 320k tons, and which is set to create 27,455 jobs,” she said.

Fellow speaker Hon. James Nyoro, the governor of Kiambu County, made a case for partnerships between governments, development partners and the private sector, citing the success of a project by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) that helped transform extension support in the region.

“I am happy that AGRA has been working with us to introduce a Village-based Advisor (VBA) model in Kiambu County that has helped increase the availability of extension services to our farmers – we now have 1200 VBAs serving farmers in Kiambu county,” he said.

In the second half of the session, Sean de Cleene, Member of the World Economic Forum’s Executive Committee, and Vanessa Adams, AGRA’s Vice President, Strategic Partnerships & Chief of Party, moderated fireside chats and panel discussions that covered varied topics, including the role of private sector investment in driving inclusive agricultural transformation.

In the conversations, the Dealroom was hailed as the best platform to initiate partnerships that would deliver food security and increased household incomes in Africa.

“The Dealroom provides the tools that SMEs need to facilitate business connections and increase access to finance” – said Mark Meassick, the Mission Director at USAID-Kenya.

The Dealroom will remain active in the entire duration of the AGRF 2021 Summit, which ends on Friday, September 10, 2021. Interactions made at the Dealroom could, however, extend beyond the Summit.

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Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR) Launch

There has never been a time in Africa when sustainability and resilience have been more important – food security and a robust agri-food system are crucial in a world where climate and health shocks are ever more prevalent.

This year’s Africa Agriculture Status report was unveiled today (Tuesday 7th September, 2021) with a focus on how we build sustainable and resilient agri-food systems, technology, job creation, market opportunities, global sustainability, enhancing nutritional quality of food products and regreening Africa through ecosystem restoration.

We know that sustainability is a key objective of development policy, but resilience has been neglected.

Dr Louise Fox, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute, acknowledged that resilience has been taken for granted in the global North because it seems to have always been there, but no-ones knows how it got there.

This century, resilience is having its moment, highlighted by so many shocks. Now each country needs to find its own way, to develop its own path and strategy.

Dr Fox highlighted the strength of this year’s report, saying that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, because we have to recognise that if we are too ambitious we won’t make it. There is no 75-point plan, but there are ideas, recommendations and encouragement for how countries can find their own way forward.

Prof. Adesoji Adelaja, Michigan State University (MSU), talked of how Ebola, cholera, malaria and other endemic diseases weaken Africa’s health systems. Now there is COVID, and we can expect more in the future unless the root causes are addressed and reversed.

Meanwhile, climate change continues. These shocks, and others, must be mitigated by resilience strategies that are in addition to existing growth strategies, because it is resilience that will hasten the journey to sustainability.

Wandili Sihlobo, Chief Economist, Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, added climate change, biosecurity, animal disease and pests as additional drivers and called for an effective policy environment and the need for tax incentives for SMEs in order to encourage investment. Private sector investment will come if policy issues are addressed, but African governments need to ramp up the pace of policy reforms and continue to invest in infrastructure.

Poor quality diet is the main driver of disease wherever you are – Africa or Europe.  Dr. Lawrence HaddadExecutive Director, GAIN, wants us to move away from hunger and talk about nutrition. 75% of Africa can’t afford a healthy diet and preventing malnutrition should be our priority – it destroys muscle, the brain and the immune system. We have the opportunity to not just focus on staples, but look beyond to the more nutritious sources, and they need to be promoted by governments. They need to look at their own procurement, in schools and hospitals, and ask if they are sending the right signals. But whatever the future holds, we must acknowledge that taking a food systems approach can seem really very complicated, a wide-angled approach is required to sequence what needs to happen and prioritise our actions.

Dr Agnes Kalibata,President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), officially launched the ASSR 2021 report by echoing the important of nutritious food.

“Nutrition is one of our biggest challenges. There’s no continent better placed to feed its people the right food, but we just don’t know where to start when it comes to healthy eating. It’s impacting everyone, it’s costing us dollars.”

Africa cannot expand at the cost of the environment and natural resources. The cost of food is often discussed, but the true cost of food is not just monetary, it is counted in the cost to health and to the environment. Resilience is part of the solution.

Officially unveiling the report, Professor Joachim Von Braun, Director of the Center for Development Research (ZEF), said: “The AASR is here. We are standing on the launch pad and the rocket is to boost agriculture in Africa.”