Donors should rethink Africa’s flagging Inexperienced Revolution, new analysis exhibits (commentary)

  • A scathing new evaluation of the Alliance for a Inexperienced Revolution in Africa (AGRA) finds that this system is failing at its goal to extend meals safety on the continent, regardless of huge funding from the Invoice & Melinda Gates Basis and the US, UK, and German governments.
  • On March 30, critics of AGRA will transient U.S. congressional aides about why they suppose it’s doing extra hurt than good.
  • As fertilizer and meals costs spike with rising power costs from the Russia-Ukraine battle, African farmers and governments want the type of resilient, low-cost options that methods like agroecology supply, a brand new opinion piece argues.
  • This put up is a commentary. The views expressed are these of the writer, not essentially of Mongabay.

A crucial new donor-funded analysis of the Alliance for a Inexperienced Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has confirmed what African civil society and religion leaders have claimed: “AGRA didn’t meet its headline objective of elevated incomes and meals safety for 9 million smallholders.”

The analysis must be a get up name, and never only for the personal and bilateral donors which have bankrolled this 15-year-old effort to the tune of $1 billion. It must also rouse African governments to repurpose their agricultural subsidies from the Inexperienced Revolution bundle of economic seeds and fertilizers to agroecology and different low-cost, low-input approaches. They’ve been offering as a lot as $1 billion per yr for such enter subsidies.

Failing Africa’s farmers

Carried out by consulting agency Mathematica, the analysis confirms that the Inexperienced Revolution has failed to realize AGRA’s acknowledged objective to “catalyze a farming revolution in Africa.”

Wambui Mwihaki, a farmer from central Kenya, takes inventory of her thriving maize crop following adoption of agroecology. Picture by David Njagi for Mongabay.

The evaluation was funded by AGRA’s major sponsor, the Invoice & Melinda Gates Basis, on behalf of different lead donors in AGRA’s Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA): the U.Ok. International, Commonwealth & Improvement Workplace; the Rockefeller Basis; the U.S. Company for Worldwide Improvement (USAID); and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Financial Cooperation and Improvement. The analysis features a abstract of findings, a statistical appendix, and AGRA’s formal responses to the findings, all obtainable publicly.

Such transparency is welcome. AGRA has been stricken by a scarcity of accountability since its founding in 2006. I undertook my very own evaluation of AGRA in 2020 once I might discover no complete evaluation, from AGRA nor its donors, of its progress towards bold targets to double yields and incomes for 30 million small-scale farming households whereas halving meals insecurity by 2020. Utilizing national-level information, I discovered little proof of progress, with meager productiveness will increase, little progress on poverty, and a 31% enhance within the variety of undernourished individuals in AGRA’s 13 focus international locations.

The brand new analysis is much from complete. It covers solely AGRA’s final 5 years of labor, ignoring its first 10. It stories on ends in simply six of AGRA’s present 11 focus international locations. Its information on yields is nearly completely on maize and rice, to the exclusion of the numerous different staple meals crops essential to Africans’ sustenance. And it fails to include or deal with the issues raised publicly by African civil society and religion leaders in public letters to AGRA’s donors.

Agroforestry is a type of agroecology the place crops are grown together with timber, like this pumpkin that Eunice Manyi raised amongst fruit timber in Kenya. Picture by David Njagi for Mongabay.

Nonetheless, the findings about poor outcomes for farmers ought to elevate issues for personal and bilateral donors to AGRA’s PIATA technique and for the African governments which might be energetic companions – and funders – in that effort.

Quoting from the analysis:

  • “PIATA improved maize yields in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Nigeria, however not in Tanzania, Burkina Faso, or Kenya.” Maize is AGRA’s most closely supported crop, so the failure to realize yield progress in half the international locations studied is alarming.
  • “Throughout these six international locations, solely farmers in Burkina Faso skilled improved maize gross sales because of PIATA.” This raises critical questions in regards to the Inexperienced Revolution “principle of change.” Even when yields rose, they didn’t translate into rising incomes for farmers.
  • “Farmers who adopted improved inputs and skilled yield will increase have been sometimes youthful, male, and comparatively wealthier…. productiveness and revenue features have been additionally concentrated amongst these comparatively high-resource farmers.” This discovering immediately contradicts the acknowledged targets of USAID and different bilateral donors to make sure that their help applications profit and empower ladies.
  • “AGRA’s subsequent technique might formally acknowledge that agricultural applied sciences and practices—comparable to fertilizer use and rice cultivation—can negatively impression environmental circumstances and greenhouse gasoline emissions.” Evaluators fault AGRA on a variety of environmentally damaging impacts, together with a scarcity of consideration to serving to farmers adapt to local weather change.
  • “AGRA surveys are at the moment not suited to rigorous impression evaluation.” Evaluators supply many criticisms of the initiative’s poor monitoring and analysis strategies.

Time to rethink Inexperienced Revolution mannequin

Evaluators gave AGRA credit score for a few of its work, saying it “was profitable in creating key coverage reforms, mobilizing flagships and partnerships, and reaching farmers with extension and seeds,” and it helped “incentivize personal sector engagement within the manufacturing and supply of improved seeds in some international locations.”

However these intermediate aims, carried out with substantial funding over 15 years, have up to now didn’t additional the targets of enhancing farmers’ productiveness, incomes, and meals safety. When one’s growth successes fail to provide the supposed outcomes, after 15 years and one billion {dollars} in donor funding, it’s time to rethink the efficacy of the initiative. It’s time to rethink the Inexperienced Revolution mannequin.

See associated: Push-pull agroecology technique debugs natural farming’s pest downside in Kenya

Farmers with seeds in West Africa. Picture courtesy of Grassroots Worldwide.

AGRA’s administration responded to the analysis saying, “We should due to this fact rethink our fashions and focus our assist, and that of our companions, on constructing resilience and adaptation particularly for smallholder farmers.” However there’s little signal AGRA intends to tug again from its pricey input-intensive Inexperienced Revolution mannequin. AGRA president Agnes Kalibata just lately defended the established order in a Q&A with the East African.

Hopefully donors and African governments will take the brand new analysis extra significantly. African civil society and religion leaders have urged donors to shift their funding to agroecology and different low-cost, low-input programs, which have been endorsed final yr by the U.N. Committee on World Meals Safety as a key technique for climate-resilient growth. Such approaches have proven much better outcomes, elevating yields throughout a variety of meals crops, rising productiveness over time as soil fertility improves, rising incomes and decreasing threat for farmers by slicing enter prices, and enhancing meals safety and diet from a various array of crops.

USAID was fast to reject any change in assist priorities. A spokesperson instructed US Proper to Know, “USAID reviewed the findings and suggestions and is glad with the independence and rigor of the [Mathematica] analysis. We recognize AGRA’s response to the report conclusions and concur with their proposed subsequent steps to enhance efficiency outcomes.”

That won’t fulfill African civil society and religion leaders, who weren’t consulted for the Mathematica analysis. They plan to take their complaints to the U.S. Congress, which this yr has to reauthorize funding for AGRA by its Feed the Future initiative. On March 30, they may transient congressional aides in a closed-door session to elucidate why the supposed beneficiaries suppose AGRA is doing extra hurt than good. As evaluators acknowledge, the principle beneficiaries are wealthier male farmers, an consequence at odds with the acknowledged targets of U.S. growth coverage.

As fertilizer and meals costs spike with rising power costs from the Russia-Ukraine battle, African farmers and governments want the type of resilient, low-cost options agroecology gives. Kenyan farmers report at the moment that the biofertilizers they make themselves from domestically obtainable supplies price one-quarter the value of fossil-fuel-based fertilizers.

African governments ought to acknowledge that persevering with to subsidize more and more costly artificial fertilizer is a dropping proposition, particularly when that and different Inexperienced Revolution inputs are producing such meager outcomes.

It’s time for personal and bilateral donors – and African governments – to cease throwing good cash after unhealthy and acknowledge that their 15-year effort to “catalyze a farming revolution in Africa” by Inexperienced Revolution seeds and fertilizers has fallen brief. Fortuitously, extra promising options are proving their efficacy all around the world. They deserve assist.


Timothy A. Sensible is a Senior Analysis Fellow at Tufts College’s International Improvement and Surroundings Institute. A detailed evaluation of the latest analysis of AGRA is obtainable from the Institute for Agriculture and Commerce Coverage (IATP), the place the writer is a senior advisor.

Discover all of Mongabay’s protection of agroecology right here.

Associated listening from Mongabay’s podcast: Creator Anna Lappé and social scientist Philipe Bujold talk about the ability and promise of agroecology to feed the world, hear right here:

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