US signs up to help promote African farming

2011-05-27 07:04

Washington – US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) aimed at boosting productivity on smallholder farms in Africa.

Under the memorandum, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Agra, which provides help to small-scale farmers who produce most of the continent’s food, will work together to develop seeds, enrich African soil, cut crop loss and manage water resources.

They will also develop programmes to train farmers, create market information systems, and improve infrastructure.

Initially, the efforts will focus on increasing food production in “African breadbasket regions” with high potential like Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania and Mozambique, Agra said in a statement.

“Agricultural development is the key to unlocking increased incomes and combating poverty for millions of people and many nations,” Vilsack said at the signing in Washington.

Dr Namanga Ngongi, who signed the memorandum for Agra, said investing in African agriculture was “the surest path to help reduce poverty, accelerate wider economic and social development, boost women’s influence within their societies, and provide new opportunities for business”.

Women make up the majority of smallholder farmers in Africa.

The continent missed out on the “green revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s, when global agriculture went through a period of phenomenal growth after wealthy nations and philanthropic groups made massive investments in research to improve farming techniques and crops grown in the developing world.

The USDA-Agra memorandum was signed days after Microsoft billionaire-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates and US officials, including Vilsack, called for rich nations to invest in the world’s poor farmers, particularly in Africa, to help end hunger. 

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