image: Mrs. Bernadette Mwikali Kioko, farmer, Ukambani, Kenya
The BBC reports a $180m (£90m) five-year project to revive sub-Saharan Africa’s depleted soils has been launched in Nairobi.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’s (AGRA) Soil Health Program will work with 4.1 million farmers to regenerate 6.3m hectares of farmland. Organisers hope the scheme will boost farmers’ incomes, improve crop yields and protect the region’s soils. Initial funding has been provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.
“Currently, farm yield in Africa is one-quarter of the global average, and one-third of Africans face chronic hunger,” said Dr Namanga Ngongi, AGRA’s president. “We know that the use of high quality seeds, combined with the rejuvenation of African soils, can begin to turn around this dismal situation.”
“AGRA’s goal of enabling small-scale farmers to produce more on less land will have multiple social, economic and environmental benefits,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, which is one of the project’s partners.
“”It can reduce the pressure to clear new land for agriculture, which in turn can assist in countering deforestation, conserving biodiversity and triggering improved management of Africa’s wealth of natural and nature-based assets.”
Dr Akin Adesina, AGRA’s vice president for policy and partnerships explained that “No one size can fit all,” he said. “We will work with farmers and researchers to develop locally adaptable soil interventions.”
The Soil Health Program will form one aspect of the organisation’s work to improve the plight of the region’s farmers in the global agriculture sector.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa
More about the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa . AGRA is chaired by Kofi A. Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations. AGRA is a relatively new organisation, with initial support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, maintains offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Accra, Ghana.
AGRA believes that pro-poor and pro-environment agricultural development requires:
*Conserving African crop biodiversity, and using that diversity to develop resilient new crop varieties that are high-yielding, stress tolerant and naturally resistant to pests and diseases;
*Providing Africa’s small-scale farmers with access to a balance of organic and mineral fertilisers to restore soil health and increase farm yield;
*Farm management techniques that integrate livestock and crops to the benefit of the environment;
*Low-cost water management systems that make efficient use of available water, getting “more crop for each drop”;
*Providing small-scale farmers with knowledge of safe and environmentally sound use of farm inputs that will protect human health and restore soil health;
*Monitoring and evaluation of new farming practices, using environmental sustainability as a benchmark of success;
*Evaluating results for small-scale farm households and families;
*Helping small-scale farmers gain access to markets.
Taken together, these efforts will ease the pressure to clear more land for cultivation, thus saving forests and savannahs from destruction and protecting wildlife habitats.
See AGRA Grants to date here.
Read Stories from the Field, where people relay their experiences and farming difficulties from different parts of Africa.