By 2025, Africa aims to feed its fast growing population with its own production. What is more, the world will need Africa’s help to feed an extra two billion people in the coming generation. So making the right investments right now is crucial to unleash the huge potential of Africa’s farms and agribusinesses.
The African Development Bank, as one of the leading investors in agriculture in the continent, has been firmly on track on how it has deployed US$5.5 billion in investments in agriculture over five years to 2015, the new Development Effectiveness Review on Agriculture released today shows.
Here is a brief report card of the AfDB’s topline results: the Bank trained three million people on better farming practices, put 20,000 food marketing and storage into use, constructed four thousand kilometers of feeder roads, offered 150,000 microcredit loans, irrigated and built other water systems on 181,000 hectares of farmland.
“The Development Effectiveness Review is mission accomplished, as the AfDB sets out an even more ambitious agenda in its Feed Africa strategy to end hunger and extreme poverty by 2025”, Simon Mizrahi, Director of Quality Assurance and Results that authored the Development Effectiveness Review on Agriculture.
Making no little plans
The Review details the progress and the pitfalls to date in transforming Africa’s agriculture sector, and lays out what steps must be taken to catapult Africa into becoming a global agricultural powerhouse in the next decade. In recent years, agriculture has zoomed to the top of Africa’s policy agenda, with African countries pledging to eradicate hunger and halve post-harvest losses in under a decade.
It has become increasingly clear investing in agriculture is the best way to end hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty in Africa, the development report states. Given that seven out of 10 Africans earn a living from the land, agriculture can create economic growth spread more evenly across society, and extending deeper into rural areas, and helping more women, who make up 70 percent of farmers. The report also pointed out that agriculture can create jobs for the 10 million young Africans entering the labor force every year.
Africa has tremendous scope to grow and develop its farming sector and make it an engine of economic growth, the report found: Africa imports twice the food it exports, and agriculture yields in Africa are only one-quarter those of China. African agriculture makes up a mere five percent of global trade.
At the same time, improving the lot of farmers and farming is crucial to the sustainable growth and development of Africa: eighty percent of the typical household budget is spent on food, while forty percent of food produced spoils after the harvest, due to bad or nonexistent roads or lack of storage.
A more robust agriculture system is also key to ending hunger, the Development report says, since one out of four people lacks regular access to food. What is more, agricultural development must be reoriented to factor in climate change: 65 percent of Africa’s arable land is now degraded, and moisture and fertility losses in African soils are worsening.
Over the last five years, the report detailed how AfDB steered its investments into promoting the continent’s transition to commercial agriculture: building up regional transport corridors to link rural farmers to city centers and ports, providing irrigation and building canals to reduce vulnerability to drought, planting over 64 million trees to boost the land’s hardiness in the face of climate change, and bringing agriculture experts together to collaborate, such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which helps family farms across 18 African countries.
Some of the Bank’s most noteworthy operations cited in the report during the period include the Africa Food Crisis Response Programme, which fast-tracked relief that raised US$1.0 billion and led to better harvests; New Rice for Africa, which boosted the hardiness, nutrition and yields of rice and improved the livelihoods of almost a quarter of a million subsistence farmers, with a large share of the development for women’s groups; and the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, which reduced deforestation and degradation by producing millions of trees and agroforest saplings, involving almost 50,000 people in producing and processing non-timber forest products and creating 46,60 hectares of community forest plantations.
One of the largest contributions of the AfDB in shaping the agriculture agenda was its leading role during the Feeding Africa conference in Dakar in October 2015, helping craft a plan for Africa to transform Africa’s agriculture sector. The plan is designed to ramp up nutrition programs, boost agriculture productivity through research, develop farming corridors and agribusiness industrial zones to get infrastructure support, set up a risk-sharing facility, start raising US$3 billion to finance women farmers, and develop diaspora agriculture bonds based on remittances flows.
Progress report card
The sum total of these efforts showed the AfDB has made good progress on several fronts: 97 percent of the Bank’s agriculture projects were rated satisfactory. In the meantime, project approval times shrank to six months from nine months. Largely as a result of the Bank’s Integrated Safeguards on social and environmental impact and its enhanced focus on gender equality, 89% of projects had a climate-informed design, and 87% factored in gender differences, major improvements on both aspects. The number of projects managed by field offices grew to 70%, a leap from 40%, to meet the demand of member countries to working more closely with the Bank.
Now the AfDB is gearing up to deliver more under its new strategy through 2025 by investing US$24 billion, and boosting overall investment through equity, debt, risk and other financial means.
AfDB’s new Feed Africa strategy is one of its High Five priorities, which aims to end poverty, hunger, and malnutrition by 2025 and make the continent a net food exporter. The Bank will achieve this by focusing on certain foods and growing zones, from wheat in North Africa to fish farming everywhere, and making Africa’s food value chains world-class by building markets, setting up commodity exchanges and linking farmers and buyers, among other means. Feed Africa will support agribusiness and innovation, climate-smart agriculture and build roads, energy, and water infrastructure.