Business News of 2014-05-12

15,000 businesses to sell farm supplies to AGRA

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), on Friday, said it has trained and certified more than 15,000 local small business owners to sell farm supplies.

This AGRA said was to address the fact that many farmers in rural areas don’t have access to seeds and fertilizers.

According to a news report released at the Grow Africa Investment Forum, alongside the World Economic Forum on Africa, these modest businesses are having a big impact and that the “agro-dealers” supported by AGRA now provide smallholder farmers in 16 countries with 400,000 metric tons of seed and 1 million metric tons of fertilizers each year.

Additionally, they have held around 7,000 technology demonstrations and 4,000 “farmer field days” where local growers can examine test plots planted with new crop varieties.

AGRA’s goal to train a new generation of African crop breeders has resulted in 66 scientists earning doctorate degrees and 135 earning master’s degrees by the end of 2013.

The report also identified challenges to ensuring that the majority of smallholder farmers in Africa have access to improved crop varieties—and to the fertilizers and other inputs required to achieve their full yield potential.

The report said national governments need to free up the supply of foundation seed developed by their public-sector breeding programmes and offer tax incentives to encourage investments in processing equipment, irrigation technology and other seed production infrastructure.

Also, local seed companies need more access to investment capital and farmers need to learn more about the benefits of investing in quality seeds of superior varieties.

Major new initiatives are being launched, such as the New Alliance for Food Security, a shared commitment of African leaders, private sector partners and donor governments to lift millions out of poverty over the next decade.

As part of that initiative, AGRA, with support from Feed the Future through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is accelerating the adoption of high-yield crop varieties and complementary technologies by smallholder farmers in Africa through the Scaling Seeds and Technologies Partnership (SSTP), a US$47 million effort in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal and Tanzania.

“It’s clear that increasing incomes for small farms and for the local businesses that supply them is the key to prosperity for millions of people living in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Richard B. Jones, SSTP Chief of Party at AGRA.

“Now we’re building on that success by working with the private sector and governments to form country-led initiatives that will substantially increase and maintain the development, production and distribution of quality seed of superior varieties.”

The discussion at the World Economic Forum on Africa of the benefits gained from investments in local seed production occurs at a time when many people inside and outside of Africa see agriculture as the engine that can drive economic growth across the continent.

Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, believes agriculture has the potential to become Nigeria’s “new oil” and has embarked on an ambitious program to dramatically increase food production in Africa’s largest economy.

At the same time, with all the new activity around agriculture in Africa, comes concern that rapid growth could marginalize smallholder farmers and local agriculture business.

Officials at AGRA insist that the focus has to stay on boosting production on smallholder farms and nurturing local agriculture-related enterprises.

“When we talk about a unique Green Revolution for Africa, we are talking about something that is indeed revolutionary, which is the development of a modern, highly productive agriculture sector that remains focused on small, family farms,” said AGRA President Jane Karuku.

“Our seed programme has shown that, if given access to the essential ingredients of modern agriculture, smallholder farmers in Africa can rapidly increase food production and become the bedrock of food security for the continent.”

AGRA is a dynamic partnership working across the African continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.

AGRA programmes develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment. AGRA advocates for policies that support its work across all key aspects of the African agricultural value chain — from seeds, soil health and water to markets and agricultural education.

It works across sub-Saharan Africa, and maintains a head office in Nairobi, Kenya and country offices in Ghana, Mali, Mozambique and Tanzania.