Ghana: From AGRA to Savannah Agriculture Value Chain Development Project

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Another AGRA nightmare: The African Development Fund has committed itself to funding the Ghana Savannah Agriculture Value Chain Development Project to improve Africa’s food security.

The project is a ‘green revolution’ that conjures ill memories of the now-contested Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA).

AGRA was formed in the name of bringing about a green revolution to Africa by developing agricultural corridors very, much like the Savannah region of Ghana.

However, even though the project leaders promised double the yields and incomes of 30 million smallholder households across some 11 countries, AGRA critics say the exact opposite has happened two and a half decades later.

AGRA came into being in 2006, but as of the end of 2021, critics say food insecurity has only worsened in all the countries where AGRA operates. Reports show food insecurity in AGRA-funded countries increased by 31 per cent which now begs the question, is that the fate of the Savannah region in Ghana?’

  • AfDB has approved US$27.9 million to help Ghana develop agricultural value chains
  • The Savannah Agriculture Value Chain Development Project aims to support women and youth
  • The project aims to push use of hybrid seeds in the name of climate resilience

AfDB has approved US$27.9 million in grant money meant to help Ghana develop the agricultural value chains all along the Savannah region. The grant is envisioned to increase the production of staples like maize, rice and soybeans.

Dubbed the Ghana Savannah Agriculture Value Chain Development Project, the initiative will run from 2023 to 2027. Like AGRA, it is also meant to improve and create employment, particularly for women and youth.

Also, just like AGRA promised, the project is meant to increase the incomes of smallholder farmers and improve nutrition for the most vulnerable. Again, like AGRA, the Savannah Agriculture Value Chain Development Project, will involve the facilitation of private sector investment in the targeted staples maize, soybean, rice and poultry value chains.

Despite AGRA critics’ warnings, the similarities are overwhelming. Even though AGRA had much higher projections, similarly, the Ghana project promises to increase the production of staples by at least 8,000 hectares of new rice, maize and soybean.

With respect to AGRA’s performance, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Africa’s largest civil society network made up of over 200 million food producers, said AGRA’s plan to increase the productivity of staples only ended up causing farmers to lose seeds and instead were forced to buy from large corporations year after year.

The reason farmers are forced to buy seeds is that projects like AGRA take away traditional organic seeds by giving subsidized GMO seeds, which cannot be replanted hence after harvest, the farmers must buy new batches of seeds to replant the next season.

In effect, forcing the farmers to rely on new purchases of seeds every year means the peasants are unwittingly caught in a cycle of dependency and poverty, for that matter.

Worse still, projects like AGRA that claims to introduce ‘modern agriculture technologies’ focus on using chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides and also push for monoculture, which locks the farmers in the dependency cycle; they have to buy more fertilizers to keep their lands productive, and they have to buy the same pesticides because of monoculture.

It is for such reasons that last year, AFSA released an open letter with over 200 signatories alleging that AGRA did not increase the productivity or incomes of farmers nor did it reduce food insecurity.

If the organization doesn’t have the authority consider this statement from the United Nations itself; ‘the number of severely undernourished people in AGRA’s 13 focus countries has increased by 30 per cent since 2006.’

However, unlike AGRA, Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture will implement the Savannah Agriculture Value Chain Development Project and target to primarily support women and youth.

Unlike AGRA’s aggressive chemical-intensive and monoculture approach, the Savannah Agriculture Value Chain Development Project uses conservation agriculture practices and technologies which will help improve Africa’s food security.

Also Read: Critics: AGRA billions funding food insecurity in Africa

Hope for Ghana’s Savannah Agriculture Value Chain Development Project

The AfDB funding for the Savannah Agriculture Value Chain Development Project adds to its earlier investment in the Savannah region covering some 20,000 hectares of maize and soybean.

The project is also meant to support the private sector to increase investment in agriculture and in effect, create employment opportunities, particularly for women and youth.

The project is also an effort to mitigate the effects of grain shortage caused by the Russia-Ukraine war.  The project is also part of the AfDB’s efforts to develop Africa’s agroecological zones or the so-called agricultural corridors such as the Savannah regions.

Commenting about the project, Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, the AfDB Acting Vice-President of its Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery Complex, said, “…building local capacity would help reduce imports and help Ghana to mitigate the negative impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on global food systems.”

According to the expert, the project would also “…alleviate the impact of climate change, in line with the Bank’s African Emergency Food Production Facility.”

Should the project achieve its objectives, then it will help Ghana increase its domestic production and, that way, reduce its dependency on imports and secure Africa’s food security. This fact has now proved true for many African countries; the need to increase domestic production and diversify import sources.

Again, should all go to plan, the project is meant to support farmers have better, more affordable access to farm inputs. It is also meant to increase the production of climate-resilient grains through the production of certified seeds by commercial farmers.

The project implementer will work hand in hand with the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute to support providing the needed equipment to farmers to improve their application of agricultural technology in an effort to improve Ghana’s agriculture which could be used as a template for increasing Africa’s food security.

The project is meant to strengthen the capacity of Micro and Small-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and provide skills development for youth and women through mentorship programs.

The objectives and the goodwill of the AfDB Ghana project to improve Ghana agriculture all sound noble on paper, just like the AGRA value prepositions did 16 years ago. However, having learnt of the woeful truth so many years later, it just begs the question how will these new projects that bear such similar traits to AGRA have any better outcome for African food security and were AGRA critics right all along?

Also Read: US$69m grant to support Ghana’s COVID-19 response plan

Giza Mdoe is an experienced journalist with 10 plus years. He's been a Creative Director on various brand awareness campaigns and a former Copy Editor for some of Tanzania's leading newspapers. He's a graduate with a BA in Journalism from the University of San Jose.

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