U.S.-Africa alliance to help small farmer
The partnership between the US and Kofi Annan's farm group reflects the new international emphasis on agriculture.
Convinced the global food crisis has no quick fixes, the international community is beginning to team up with agriculture experts to find long-term solutions to the challenge – with a particular emphasis on Africa.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Taking some cues from past successes – especially from the first "green revolution" in Asia – and mixing them with new technologies, aid donors and agriculture experts are placing new emphasis on infrastructure development, efficient farm-to-market systems, and distribution of new and better seeds and fertilizers.
The new focus is also increasingly on the small farmer who, as Kofi Annan notes, in the case of Africa is more often than not a woman.
"If we take the food crisis seriously … we can turn many of the African countries into breadbaskets," says Mr. Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general. Noting that the African farmer is "perhaps the only farmer in the world who takes all the risk herself," Annan says addressing Africa's "silent hunger" will require a shift beyond better farming techniques. What is needed, he adds, are partnerships that encompass governments and international donors who can provide better technologies, infrastructure, and inputs such as seed and fertilizer.
The US government signaled its endorsement of such partnerships with its announcement last week of a collaborative initiative between the Bush administration's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, or Agra.
The MCC, which rewards the developing world's best-governed countries with grants to combat poverty, is responding to the food crisis by putting greater emphasis specifically on Africa's agriculture sector. Already the MCC, founded in 2004, has made more than half its total grants of $5.5 billion in agriculture and rural development, with $1.7 billion going to African agriculture alone.
According to Annan, who is Agra's chairman, the partnership will combine MCC's expertise in infrastructure development with Agra's agricultural knowledge and its close association with small farmers. "Collaborations such as ours are essential to putting in place long-term solutions to the food crisis," said Annan, who was in Washington Friday to sign an agreement with MCC.
New emphasis on agriculture
The US initiative is one example of a broader global recognition of a need for new ideas for addressing the food crisis.
The World Bank dedicated its latest annual report on development to the challenge of increasing global food production – the first time, experts note, a major international financing institution has focused on agriculture.
And the EU, which with a total of about $15 billion in 2006 is the world's largest provider of development aid, recently announced that it would increase the percentage of its total assistance going to agriculture and rural development from 9 percent to 12.5 percent.