Today, we have the tools and knowledge to end extreme poverty and hunger by working together to transform agriculture. This isn’t just a development hypothesis; it’s actually happening.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see firsthand the dramatic results of an emerging agriculture transformation on a visit to Tanzania. In just one year, rice yields have increased by over 50% and horticulture yields by 44% – early progress being reflected in farms and fields across Africa.
Across the continent, African nations are taking concrete steps to make agricultural development like this a priority, lifting families out of poverty and increasing their participation in the global economy.
More than 20 countries in Africa have developed country-owned investment plans and at least seven have increased expenditures in agriculture. African nations have come together under a common vision to make progress like this possible and reduce underinvestment in agriculture to put their continent on a new course towards sustainable, inclusive development.
Grow Africa is helping that vision become reality.
Grow Africa is a partnership of the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and the World Economic Forum. After only one year, it is already seeing results by working with eight African countries to engage governments, civil society, and the private sector to advance sustainable agricultural growth. These partnerships have already invested more than US$ 60 million in agriculture and reached more than 800,000 smallholder farmers, connecting them to markets and innovative tools and opportunities.
We are excited to be a part of this progress, supporting Grow Africa and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. Feed the Future targets investments in countries that have demonstrated a commitment to their own agricultural development. This past year, we helped more than 7 million farmers around the world apply new technologies and practices, four times the number we reached the previous year.
To expand this progress and reach more people across the continent, President Obama announced the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition at the 2012 G8 Summit. Much like Grow Africa, this global partnership brings together African governments, the private sector, and donors to accelerate investment in agriculture through market-oriented reforms and new private sector commitments.
African nations are leading progress on this effort. Tanzania has removed its export ban on staple commodities, Mozambique eliminated permit requirements for inter-district trade, and Ethiopia no longer imposes export quotas on commercial farm outputs and processed goods. At the same time, more than 60 companies – half of them local African firms – have committed US$ 3.7 billion towards African agriculture, with plans to lift 50 million people out of poverty in the next 10 years.
This week, we will announce with our partners new efforts that will catalyze private sector investments in agricultural infrastructure in Africa and strengthen capacity in African agriculture sectors. These efforts align with our commitments through Feed the Future and the New Alliance to help reduce poverty, hunger and undernutrition.
Earlier this year, during the State of the Union address, President Obama called on the United States to help end extreme poverty in the next two decades. The President spoke from the belief that even in a time of tight budgets around the world, we can still come together to accomplish incredible goals.
We can’t do it without our partners. We look forward to continuing to support country-led efforts like Grow Africa, building momentum towards a future free of extreme poverty and hunger.
Author: Rajiv Shah is Administrator of the US Agency for International Development