AfDB, AU, IFAD Advance Ties to Boost Africa’s Food Production

Dike Onwuamaeze

Top development organisations have pledged to forge partnerships to expand the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) that would build resilient African food systems based on diverse, nutritious, and climate-adapted crops grown in healthy soils.

These organisations are the African Union (AU), African Development Bank (AfDB), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), CGIAR centers and the United States Department of State.

They made the pledge recently at the sidelines of the African Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit in Nairobi where they called on African countries to join the VACS strategic partnership by aligning with the AfDB’s flagship initiative known as Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT). 

 The VACS would target five of TAAT’s priority crops, namely cassava, orange-fleshed sweet potato, sorghum, millet and high-iron beans, which the U.S. Department of State, the African Union (AU), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) launched in February 2023.

The AfDB Group Vice President, Dr. Beth Dunford, said: “I am excited to see how the bank through its TAAT initiative, the United States Department of State, the African Union, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and CGIAR centers are developing a relationship to advance the work of VACS, also Feed the Future and the African Union Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan, and the Soil Initiative for Africa.”  

He added: “Working together under the umbrella of this plan embodies the aspirations and priorities of African nations in building a prosperous, food-secure future.”

The TAAT, which is part of the AfDB’s Feed Africa Strategy, would deliver heat-tolerant, drought-resistant and other climate-smart certified seeds to millions of Africa’s smallholder farmers, with the goal to produce 120 million additional tons of food in Africa and lift 130 million people out of poverty while the African Union Commission-mandated Soil Initiative for Africa (SIfA) is a framework effort to systematically improve Africa’s soil health and productivity.  

The U.S. Special Envoy for Food Security, Dr. Cary Fowler, said: “a Soil Initiative for Africa statement captures the urgency of the situation we face in Africa very well: ‘Since 2000 only 25 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural production growth came from crop yield improvement, while 75 per cent resulted from expansion area under cropland.’ Clearly that’s not sustainable.

“The African Union’s Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan notes, ‘projections suggest that more than half of the currently arable land may be unusable by 2050’ – if that doesn’t concentrate our attention, I’m not sure what will.”

Fowler said this during the event’s panel discussion that identified partnership opportunities and explored potential areas of collaboration between the AU, and VACS stakeholders.

He added: “We know very clearly that for crops to be productive they will need good soils. We also need to realise that for soils to be productive, they need the right crops. The two are related.”

The African Union’s Commissioner for Rural Development and Agriculture, Ambassador Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, said: “More than one billion [Africans] remain unable to afford a healthy diet.

“We are really tired of one meeting after another – we want action…that is why I support this initiative because I believe concrete actions are tangible.” 

Other participants included Chair of the CGIAR System Board, Lindiwe Sibanda; Malawi’s Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Sam Kawale, MP; Vice President of International Fund for Agricultural Development, Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana; Italy’s Ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Roberto Natali, who represented the G7 and Head of Public Affairs, Science and Sustainability for Africa at German chemical firm, Bayer, Mildred Pita, who announced a $1 million donation in kind to support VACS.

The summit, was organised by the AU, in collaboration with AUDA-NEPAD, regional economic communities and other partners to build consensus on an African Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan and the Soils Initiative for Africa, that were aimed at stemming a widespread decline in soil quality of African farmland.

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