I have been away for far too long 🙂
However my time away has been spent in the pursuit of the ever elusive and sometimes, seemingly fantastical goal of working to transform the agricultural sector in Africa. I have been in Ghana and Nigeria working with donors and partners on a progress report for the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition Initiative; a new G8 funded program which promulgators hail as a “landmark move to boost agriculture and relieve poverty in Africa!”, and which detractors scornfully and (dare I say) predictably decry as “neo-colonialism!”. Because I am still marshalling the appropriate amount of evidence that will allow me to draw my own conclusions, and awaiting clearance on what information I can and cannot share :), I will save my opinions on the matter for a later post.
Today, I will write a little about another program which I recently discovered which makes me feel somewhat validated in this work; something that does not happen as often as you would think in development practice.
It is no secret that agriculture across sub-Saharan Africa is yet to have its best day. Yet a large percentage of the most knowledgeable people on the subject, on the planet, agree that given the fact that agriculture in its current state typically accounts for between 30 to 40% of gross domestic product and 65 to 70% of the labor force in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the sector is a crucial player in all current and future efforts to end poverty and boost shared prosperity on the continent.
Intent on exploring what has become a proven link between agricultural development and poverty alleviation, African governments in collaboration with the usual cadre of global partner big-brothers, have over the years come up with many, MANY solutions, which while technically sound as a general matter, can often and quite fairly be equated to flinging wads of cash into the nearest lagoon.
However, I will say that there have been some that have made the agricultural development community sit up and take notice. There have been some that have made it easier for a farmer to irrigate her crops during dry season planting. There have been others that have provided subsidized fertilizer for smallholder farmers (a mental note here to tell you about the Nigerian GES fertilizer program soon; it’s a really entertaining story). Some have been solo performances by individual countries such as Ethiopia’s Five Year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), others have been regional such as the South African Development Community’s Regional Agricultural Policy (just say SADC’s RAP; we development policy people LOVE our acronyms!) We must however, not forget the mother of them all; the ubiquitous, Africa-wide Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), which brings us full circle to the program in the spotlight today, and so without further chit-chat, I give you the East African Agricultural Productivity Program (EAAPP).
Financed by the World Bank and partners, and focusing on key commodities such as cassava, rice, wheat and smallholder dairy production, the program represents a new and concerted push by four countries in eastern Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda –to marshal the power of science, boost food and dairy production, put more money into farmers’ pockets, help send and keep children in school, allow them to eat more nutritious meals, and reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint. The project is implemented by ASARECA, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa, and supports the objectives set by African countries through CAADP.
I, for my part, find the EAAPP particularly exciting, because it touches on three topics that I am particularly close to; agricultural technology, nutrition and climate change, and there are few things in this life that are quite so awesome as using cutting-edge technology to create food production systems that are environmentally sustainable, and provide people not just with food that fills the belly, but food that secures a healthy lifestyle for generations.
The African Union Commission christened 2014 as the “Year of Agriculture and Food Security”, and while some might argue that this nom de plume is inaccurate in that it may suggest that the push for a food secure Africa can be constrained to the activities of a single year, I would say that my excitment about this year in agricultural development programming stems from a viewpoint that highlights 2014 as a year that has brought some serious innovation to African Agriculture; a year in which agricultural development took on a newer face…a bolder face… a face that gives us young agricultural policy infantry a spark of hope that maybe, just maybe the best days for African agriculture are coming, and hopefully…we will be alive to witness them.
Enjoy the EAAPP highlight video below and maybe next post, I will be able to tell you more about this New Alliance that is causing so much activity in the ag-sphere 🙂