Development partners move to scale up agric 



MASERU – The agriculture sector in Lesotho remains subdued despite efforts by African development banks and partners to try and level the playing field for players across the continent.

Dubbed as one of the major economic pillars in the country, participation in the sector is below average as many people, particularly youth, are reluctant to jump onto the bandwagon.

As a result, poverty and food insecurity keep on mounting, leaving more than half of the population poor.

But Lesotho is not the only country in Africa that is faced with these challenges. Many other countries are struggling to benefit through the sector which for many years has proven to be more rewarding and sustainable.

In yet another joint move to accelerate and double production in the sector, African development banks and partners have pledged over $17 billion meant to help increase food security and address the rising hunger.

These funds were pledged on the final day of a two-day high level dialogue called Feeding Africa: leadership to scale up innovations. The African Development Bank and the United Nation (UN)’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) hosted the event in partnership with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the CGIAR System Organisation from April 29 – 30.

Countries committed to boost agricultural production by doubling current productivity levels through the scaling up of agro-technologies.

This will increase investing in access to markets, and promoting agricultural research and development.

Of the overall amount pledged, more than $10 billion came from the African Development Bank, which further promised to invest $1.57 billion on scaling up 10 selected priority commodities over the next five years. This will among others help countries achieve self-sufficiency.

Another $8.83 billion will go towards building strong value chains for these commodities over the same period. This will include programmes to create opportunities for young people, particularly women.

“Let us now create today, a stronger partnership. A partnership for greater scale, a partnership to take technologies and innovations to hundreds of millions of farmers,” the African Development Bank President Dr Akinwuni Adesina said during the event.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development said it aimed to provide an additional $1.5 billion to support national efforts to transform food and agricultural systems in Africa over the next three years.

IFAD will also invest more in creating the pre-conditions for increased agricultural productivity.

“We praise the African leaders’ commitment to increase agricultural productivity and improve food security for millions of Africans. By modernising African agriculture, small-holder farmers will be in a better position to bring more affordable food to consumers and create decent livelihoods for millions of young Africans involved in the processing, storage and marketing of food,” IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo added during the same event.

Furthermore, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), committed up to $1.5 billion over the period 2020-2024 in agriculture.

The Islamic Development Bank Group also pledged t$3.5 billion to develop the agriculture sector in Africa in the next three years.

It said these investments will develop commodity value chains for both staple food and cash crops.

In an additional show of solidarity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, joining the coalition of development partners, also declared that it will invest $652 million in the next three years. This will support agricultural research and development initiatives in the continent.

The funding is expected to empower a total of 300 million farmers with a host of new innovations.

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