Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)—Launched in 2006
Why This Initiative
Africa is the only major region of the world where the absolute number of people in poverty is increasing and food production per capita is declining. In most sub-Saharan African countries, rapid population growth and climate change are outstripping the ability of traditional farming systems to meet food demands and generate income for the nearly 500 million people (two-thirds of the region’s total population) who depend on small-scale farms for their livelihoods. As the funding catalyst for the original Green Revolution in Latin America and Asia in the mid-20th century, which tripled agricultural productivity at that time, as well as our long-standing presence in Africa, our expertise, relationships and influence placed us in an ideal position to lead a new major effort in this area.
Achieve food security and rural economic growth in Africa—and advance the Foundation’s overall goal of promoting inclusive economies—by delivering technologies to small-scale farmers that significantly increase the productivity of their staple food crops, and also by building profitable output markets for the farmers’ surplus production.
Partnering for Impact
In 2006, The Rockefeller Foundation was looking to renew our support for agricultural innovation in Africa, but we recognized we needed additional funding to operate at the scale necessary to achieve meaningful change. At the same time, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, already active in Africa through its malaria-prevention efforts, was interested in pursuing an agricultural initiative on the continent, but lacked expertise in that area. Leaders of the two foundations met and agreed to pool their resources, with The Rockefeller Foundation spearheading the logistics and Gates supplying additional funding.
While its structure was straightforward, the AGRA partnership represented the first attempt to marry our new strategic approach to an effort on such a large scale and with such singular focus. The initial $150 million commitment to AGRA ($50 million from The Rockefeller Foundation, $100 million from the Gates Foundation) went to fund the Program for Africa’s Seed System (PASS), aimed at improving the availability and variety of seeds and producing higher and more stable yields in sub-Saharan Africa. The program included funding to develop improved crop varieties for local environments, train a new generation of African crop scientists, ensure the production and distribution of improved seeds to smallholder farmers, develop a network of African agro-dealers, and create a program monitoring and evaluation unit.
With ongoing support from the two foundations and other funding partners, AGRA has since expanded its efforts to include soil fertility and water management, investments in infrastructure to build domestic markets, and policies that discourage imports of food aid and highly subsidized crops that undercut the ability of local farmers to sell their produce at a profit. AGRA’s supporting coalition has also grown to include a large number of national governments and private donors. In addition to The Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, the coalition includes:
- The U.S. Agency for International Development, corresponding government agencies of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Kenya, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, the Department for International Development, Partners for Seed in Africa, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Millennium Development Authority, the New Venture Fund, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Econet, the MasterCard Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
- Development partners—some of whom are funders as well—such as the U.K. Department for International Development, the IDRC, the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the Consultative Group on Agricultural Research, and the Association of Europeans Parliamentarians for Africa.
Numerous African national governments and universities, the African Development Bank, and other regional financial institutions.