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We are set to double income of African smallholder farmers – DeVries

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Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) works to achieve a food secure and prosperous Africa through the promotion of rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers.

In a telephone chat with Chioma Obinna, the Executive Director of AGRA, Mr. Joseph DeVries said to prevent the disaster, the organisation has come up with a programme tagged; “Programme in Africa’s Seed Systems”, PASS, to dramatically increase Africa’s capacity to breed, produce and disseminate quality seed of staple food crops such as maize, rice, cassava, beans, sorghum, millet and other staples.  Excerpts:

AGRA’s Vision

AGRA’s approach is focused on providing agricultural solutions that help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.  AGRA’s Programme in Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) works to dramatically increase Africa’s capacity to breed, produce and disseminate quality seed of staple food crops such as maize, rice, cassava, beans, sorghum, millet and other staples. This initiative aims to develop seed systems that deliver new crop varieties to smallholder farmers efficiently, equitably and sustainably.

Benefits of the recent $56 million grant to AGRA’s PASS programme to Nigerian farmers

This grant will provide new agricultural opportunities for farmers in Nigeria and across the continent. It will make a lasting difference to local farmers and industry and is driven by very transparent targets that ensure farmers are the ones who benefit.

By 2017, PASS will add 40 new private, independent seed companies to the 60 already established under the first phase of the programme. The programme will continue to support the education of local crop scientists ensuring that every major crop in 13 countries has at least one fully-qualified crop breeder.

PASS will also fund the training of an additional 5,000 agro-dealers to set up individually-owned and operated seed and fertilizer shops in remote areas.

PASS addresses crop disease, the impacts of climate change and other challenges by providing local farmers access to better seeds.

By using conventional crop breeding that has been applied across Africa for generations, PASS is working with farmers to develop crop varieties that are disease and pest-resistant, grow well in local environments, are able to withstand harsh weather and meet local consumer preferences.

Expected turnover of agricultural produce in Africa by 2017

By 2017, PASS expects to see an additional 40 private independent and viable seed companies capable of producing 200,000 metric tons of improved seed annually that can support 10 million farmers.

Talking about producing disease-resistant and higher seeds for important food crops, what is the way forward?

PASS takes a comprehensive approach to producing better seeds for important food crops.  The programme is educating a new generation of plant breeders and seed specialists, improving extension services to share information about new alternatives, expanding seed production facilities, and strengthening agro-dealer networks.

It is said that African farmers have not benefited from improved seeds due to a lack of localized crop breeding and efficient, dependable seed delivery system, what are the consequences of this situation?

Across Africa, smallholder farmers have limited access to responsive, high-yielding, locally adapted varieties of staple food crops.  They must instead rely on low-quality seed that has been saved and reused, degenerating over the course of decades.  Poor seed plus poor soil means that African farmers produce only about one-quarter of the global average yield.

AGRA’s PASS programme is focused on bridging that gap by providing good seed to lay the foundation for farmers to double or triple their yields.

Will this programme bring hunger to an end in Africa?

AGRA is convinced that long-term solutions to Africa’s continuing food crises are urgently needed.  We are focused on ensuring a food secure and prosperous Africa is achieved through rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers who produce staple food crops.

AGRA’s three main goals by 2020 are to double the incomes of 20 million smallholder families, reduce food insecurity by 50 per cent in at least 20 countries and put at least 15 countries on track for attaining and sustaining a uniquely African Green Revolution – one which supports smallholder farmers protects the environment and helps farmers adapt to climate change

By mobilising the vast agricultural wealth in Nigeria and across the continent, Africa can feed itself and the world.

Malnutrition in children

This programme will impact 10 million smallholder farmers and their families across Africa. In Nigeria, this means thousands of children will have access to more food, higher incomes and as a result, better education and opportunity. Investments that help lift farmers and their families out of poverty and hunger ultimately provide more promising future for children.

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