A new report on the status of African Agriculture by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has singled out Ethiopia and Rwanda as leading countries who are combining political will and government action in investing in agriculture thereby reducing rural poverty by significant margins.
The report dubbed “Catalyzing State Capacity to Drive Agricultural Transformation notes that African countries have failed to use agriculture to spark widespread economic growth because they have yet to marshal strong political support for agriculture—and then pair it with compelling visions, strategies and related implementation capacity for transforming their poorly performing farms.
The report however commends Ethiopia and Rwanda as unique countries who have managed to pair political will with strategies to provide better performing seeds, mitigation against climate change and reviving nutrient-depleted soils, only comparable to Asian countries.
In Ethiopia, 25 years of steady growth in the farm sector has cut rural poverty rates in half and in Rwanda, over the same period, poverty has reduced by 25 percent.
finds that a consistent feature in each of these success stories is rock solid political support—led by heads of state, senior government ministers, private sector leaders and farmer organizations—for the “institutions, investments and policies” that can unleash the economic potential of smallholder agriculture and local agribusinesses.
“Our experience and lessons have shown that impact can be achieved faster by supporting countries to deliver on their own transformation; driving scale through a well-planned and coordinated approach to resources in the public domain to build systems and institutions,” said AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata.
“Governments are definitely central to driving an inclusive agriculture transformation agenda. This body of work recognizes their role and aims to highlight the value of strengthening country planning, coordination and implementation capacity while supporting the development of an effective private sector and enabling regulatory environment.”
Similarly, AGRA experts point to countries such as Kenya, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Zambia as places where political momentum and government capabilities are growing.
Another bright point in the report is the growing number of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa who have moved beyond subsistence farming to become commercial growers. The report finds that 85 percent of Africa’s food is currently produced by smallholder farming households that generate a big enough surplus to sell 30 percent or more of their harvests for income.
“That means governments that are ready to step up their commitment to agriculture transformation likely have a core group of smallholder farmers who have the means and motivation to adopt new crop varieties and better farming practices,” said Boaz Keizire, AGRA’s Head of Policy and Advocacy. “And when their wealth increases, so does the wealth of their neighbors as these farmers tend to spend most of what they earn in their local communities.”