Dr. Joseph D. DeVries

Vice President for Program Development and Innovation, AGRA

Dr. Joseph D. DeVries is the Vice President for Program Development and Innovation at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Dr. DeVries, a citizen of the USA, began his career in Africa in 1986 as a United Nations volunteer building irrigated rice schemes in drought-afflicted areas of West Africa’s northern Sahel region.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s he delivered seed of staple food crops and technical assistance to Mozambican farmers trapped behind the front lines of the country’s civil war.

He earned a PhD in plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University in 1994, after which he joined World Vision International as Director for Food Security in Africa, based in Accra, Ghana, leading the development of agricultural recovery and development activities in 20 countries. In 1997, he joined The Rockefeller Foundation, where he developed a new initiative focused on genetic improvement of African crops and a farmer demand-driven system.

In 2006, while serving as Deputy Director for Agriculture with The Rockefeller Foundation, he led a team that developed the business plan for the “Program for African Seed Systems” (PASS), which became the first program of the newly-formed AGRA. Over a period of 10 years, with DeVries serving as its Director, the PASS initiative invested nearly $300 million in the development of public crop breeding and private sector-led seed supply in 18 countries of Africa.  By 2016, 119 private, independent seed companies supported by AGRA were annually producing approximately 126,000 MT of certified seed, serving the needs of approximately 15 million smallholder farmers.  The PASS-supported network of seed companies is the largest source of certified seed to farmers in Africa.

Dr. DeVries currently oversees AGRA program investments in the areas of seed and fertilizer systems, agricultural extension, input supply, capacity building, resilience and innovative finance.