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Agriculture is the Engine of Growth that Africa Needs

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Agriculture is the engine of economic development in Africa. An estimated 70% of Africans rely on agriculture for their life and livelihoods—farmers like Lucia Gakou, a mango farmer in Karocho, Kenya, and Baitha Kindole, who grows maize in Mangalali, Tanzania. The potential for economic growth—as well as home-grown food security—is enormous.

This has become all the more apparent over the past decade, during which time we have seen remarkable progress. It is not a coincidence that it was in 2006 that the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was launched, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Our institutions recognized the promise and opportunity of a uniquely African green revolution, one that pioneered solutions to the specific challenges facing Africa’s farmers, raising yields—and incomes—to build food security and prosperity.

“Today, millions of farmers are using technologies that double their yields, moving from subsistence to profitability.”

This week, AGRA celebrates its achievements in supporting seed improvements, soil management, financial services, post-harvest management, and local and regional market access that have kick-started a transformation in African agriculture. Today, millions of farmers are using technologies that double their yields, moving from subsistence to profitability. Meanwhile, through support for higher education and other training, we have a new generation of agricultural leaders, whose work is already felt through new seeds, better markets, and private sector investments.

A decade in, it’s also clear what more is needed. The sector faces challenges—climate change among them. As a continent, Africa remains a net importer of agricultural products, and many governments still commit only 3% of their total budgets to the agricultural sector. The reality is, AGRA’s work has just begun.

With that in mind, AGRA’s vision is for the incomes of 30 million farm households to double by the end of this decade, which will build resilience in families, communities, and nations. As a belief in this work, The Rockefeller Foundation is committing an additional $50 million to AGRA, building on the nearly $200 million we have invested over the past decade.

As leaders converge in Nairobi this week for the African Green Revolution Forum, agriculture is top of mind—as it should be. No other sector counts as many people relying upon it for both health and income.

Indeed, agriculture is more than just food security, it’s prosperity. I invite other leaders—philanthropic, government, and throughout the private sector—to join me and The Rockefeller Foundation in our renewed commitment to AGRA, and to Africa.

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