PIATA: A New Way of Doing Business
Last week at this year’s African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the Alliance for Africa’s Green Revolution (AGRA) launched a new $280 million Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA).
PIATA is a five year partnership that will spur an inclusive agricultural transformation for at least 11 countries in Africa, to increase incomes and improve the food security of 30 million smallholder farm households. Countries include Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique.
Agriculture in Africa is the continent’s heartbeat—its most important sector, and its ticket out of poverty. With rising public investments in agriculture, increasing yields and better prospects for farmers, the past decade has yielded significant progress.
“Agriculture in Africa is the continent’s heartbeat.”
Indeed, the current buzz word in the sector is ‘transformation’, though debate continues as to what, exactly, this means. Yet unquestionably strong political leadership across the continent is due some of the credit. For instance, the African Heads of State 2003 committed to prioritizing agriculture under the CAADP framework, which was reaffirmed in the Malabo declaration of 2013.
And like any two sides, the growth has come with challenges too. Although African countries are signed onto CAADP, few states have since achieved 6% growth in the sector, with even fewer having allocated the recommended 10 percent of government expenditure to agriculture.
Evidently, there is room for even more action in the sector. Africa’s agricultural growth is still slow, its yield increases marginal, and small holder farmers remain some of the poorest people on the land. Also, in the wake of our growing population, food insecurity and high malnutrition rates continue unabated.
These are just some of the building blocks that have brought us to where we are today. We are caught up in a momentum, which we must take full advantage of to ensure our transformation needs move from aspiration to reality.
To do that, we will need credible institutions that have the knowledge to work at different levels—those working at the grassroots among the common citizenry, and those among small holder farmers to help them access the needed resources for their trade. This can be in the form of seeds, technologies, financing, knowledge, etc.
We will need others working at the highest levels with governments to ensure the right policies and commitments are in place. Others will be needed to facilitate the development of new products that can be adopted by the private sector for farther development, affordability and accessibility.
In in totality, we will need institutions that can steer an ecosystem of partners that will fuel this transformation.
Specific to donors’ role, we need to coordinate our efforts to respond to this call, rather than pulling on our individual priorities. Opportunities are ripe where we have complementarity, and potential for pulling in an even wider circle of investors and influencers.
PIATA is a novel partnership, an investment in a shared vision, yet it is not exclusive. We are inviting others to join us, to add their name and investment to this effort that we hope is one for the history books. We invite heads of state, government ministries, research and regulatory institutions, other agriculture sector players. Germany’s BMZ that has joined, and especially the farmers themselves.
It is our hope that PIATA will be a catalyst in every way—complementing ongoing efforts, and also yielding those aspects of the desired transformation that have been delayed. It is upon the partners to adaptively manage PIATA by learning and improving as we proceed, as well as sharing its lessons. This will allow us to have a platform of coordination that can be replicated in other sectors that ail the African continent—such as health, education, etc – in the rapidly changing African context.
The process of establishing PIATA was a lesson in nobility—another opportunity for these cadre of organizations to recognize that a whole can be far greater than the sum of its parts, and availed themselves and their capital to a common cause. That in itself speaks to how critical this issue is, and for this very moment in time.
For us at the Foundation, PIATA speaks directly to our genetic make-up—to our longstanding commitment to food security, and especially to our faith in innovative partnerships. This is yet another unlikely one that we are proud to be a part of, and which has potential for impact that goes beyond ourselves.
We look forward to reaping its gains.