Africa: Breadbasket development key to achieving African food security

Kofi Annan meets Ghanian farmer (Source: AGRA)

AGRA press release | 11 June 2009 | excerpt

Cape Town — Mr. Kofi A. Annan, Chair of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), today called for the development of key African breadbaskets that would produce food surpluses of staple African food crops. He called for marshalling resources in areas of Africa ripe for agricultural growth, and doing so in ways that benefit smallholder farmers as the best strategy for ending hunger faced by 40 percent of the continent's population.

"By focusing on breadbaskets, we will reverse decades of rising hunger and move forward to a food secure and prosperous Africa," said Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, addressing government leaders and CEOs at the plenary session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa. Two years after assuming chairmanship of AGRA, Annan highlighted aspects of its new strategy. AGRA is a partnership-based African organization that aims to achieve rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers and comprehensive change across the agricultural system. Smallholder farmers, the majority women, produce most of the continent's food, but with minimal resources and government support. This has meant low yields, over-reliance on food imports and food aid, and entrenched poverty.

AGRA's new 10-year strategy focuses on marshalling investments and partnerships to develop breadbasket areas, initially in Ghana, Mali, Mozambique and Tanzania. It will simultaneously invest in another nine countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, setting the basis for future breadbasket development.

Breadbasket for the World?

"The rush for land by outside players is more proof of the enormous potential of African agriculture. Africa itself must harness this potential," Annan said. "One-off land deals will solve neither Africa's food crisis nor the long-term threats to global food security. Africa's breadbaskets must be developed in ways that benefit the continent's major food producers -- smallholder farmers. That is the surest route to feeding the continent and producing for export."

AGRA Vice President Dr. Akin Adesina noted that foreign land deals offer both opportunities and risks. "If arrangements are transparent and inclusive of smallholder farmers, if they deliver know-how and farm inputs and help develop infrastructure, they could contribute to Africa's growth," Adesina said. "But, clearly, Africa cannot afford to give away its best lands. It is not time for a 'going-out-of-business sale.' It is time for partners to sign up to help build a prosperous new Africa."
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