Africa may be full of poor people, but it certainly is not a poor continent #agrf2012

By Bernadette Mukonyora recently in Arusha, Tanzania for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRF) 2012

IFAD President addressing the session
“Making African national and regional agricultural markets work”.
Africa may be full of poor people, but it certainly is not a poor continent. This is the message that resonated in discussions at the just concluded Alliance for Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2012, which took place in Arusha, Tanzania from 26 to 28 September. The three day Forum hosted by the government of Tanzania, and driven by the AGRF strategic partners including IFAD, showcased the true meaning of public private partnership (PPP) in action. The AGRF 2012 sought to harness different stakeholders in the African agriculture sector and provide a platform for policy dialogue and sharing of experience and best practice on how the continent can move ahead towards achieving a ‘sustainable’ green revolution. In essence, the AGRF emulated the concept of PPPs –  the government of Tanzania provided the physical space (infrastructure) and enabling environment, the private sector provided the financial resources while development organizations such as IFAD, FAO, AfDB contributed ‘seed’ money to leverage more resources from the private sector and also drive the thematic development of the programme to ensure that the substance of the Forum remained true to the main constituents i.e smallholder farmers.

The AGRF provided a space for dialogue and networking for over 1000 delegates from all walks of life, all pursuing different objectives. The programme covered a vast array of topics, however the two areas of prominence were 1) how to Revolutionize Agriculture Finance in  Africa and 2) how to Make Regional and National Markets work. The media also played a key role in disseminating the messages of the AGRF to the global public.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze spoke of the centrality of market linkages in the new frontier to achieving a sustainable green revolution  -- the future of African and global food security lies not only in boosting production and productivity but also in the market linkages. Speaker after speaker confirmed the growing interest in Agriculture for different reasons. There was no doubt on the centrality of smallholder farmers to the dialogue on a Green Revolution in Africa. It was said – they (smallholder farmers) feed the 530 million rural inhabitants in Africa, under the right conditions, they have the potential to be key suppliers to Africa’s growing urban markets and reduce poverty among themselves. 

Kofi Annan and Melinda Gates at a press briefing,
 attended also by the IFAD supported African journalist trainees 
Going forward, Kofi Annan’s message to the delegates made clear that ‘it is the promises that are kept that matter!’

In addition to the enormous opportunity for IFAD to make its work better known amongst development practitioners and African leaders, the President of IFAD, Carlos Sere and Mohamed Beavogui were also actively engaged with the media. A number of press briefings were held for  journalists drawn from the continent. The briefings focused on the importance of concrete investment plans for scaling agricultural development success in Africa and policy support for driving agricultural productivity and income growth for African farmers in an environmentally sustainable way. 

Carlos Sere briefing a group of  journalists. 
Several one on one print and broadcast media interviews were held with IFAD senior management. The President participated in a BBC radio live on air interview. Carlos Sere was interviewed Daniel Makorera of Eye on Africa, Emnet TV. He was also interviewed by the ONE campaign and Farming First TV for video packages to be posted on their respective websites and on YouTube. Coinciding with the Forum, the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the Inter Press Service (supported by an  IFAD small grant ), organised a training workshop for 11 journalists from west, central, eastern and southern Africa (DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia). The journalists training opened with a session on climate change and its impact on rural Africa; the journalists reflected on the role they can play in public discourse on agriculture issues, including communicating research findings and policy to wider audiences, following up on what happens to specific development initiatives, and writing stories that effectively highlight the diverse interests and investments in Africa's rural areas. This training workshop is one of five being organised this year by the grant recipient in various regions where IFAD has operations.