When the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition was launched in 2012, President Obama and others pledged to leverage technology’s transformative potential by taking innovation to scale. To accomplish this goal, they committed to a series of measures to promote the adoption of agricultural technologies, including setting yield targets that support country-defined agricultural goals; identifying key innovations that can help farmers reach those targets; harnessing information and communication technologies to support agricultural growth; and promoting policy reforms to improve the enabling environment for agricultural investment that will lift millions out of poverty.
One important vehicle for advancing and delivering on these New Alliance commitments is the Scaling Seeds and Technologies Partnership, a $47 million, three-year partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) intended to accelerate smallholder farmer access to transformative agricultural technologies.
The partnership, launched in July 2013, works in six New Alliance countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal and Tanzania – and is helping governments strengthen their seed sectors and promote the commercialization, distribution and adoption of quality seeds of superior varieties and complementary technologies. Through this joint effort, USAID and AGRA aim to increase production of high-quality seeds by 45 percent in three years and ensure that 40 percent more farmers gain access to innovative agricultural technologies.
One of the major initial activities under the partnership is to help New Alliance countries prepare “Road Maps” of specific public and private sector actions needed to achieve 10-year yield improvement targets established by each country. In February 2014, Ghana and Senegal staged the fifth and sixth national stakeholder consultations respectively on scaling up farmers’ access to agricultural innovation; similar consultations have happened in Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi, and in Ethiopia through the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency. These consultations will result in targeted support from AGRA to bring the most promising seed and other technologies to scale in these New Alliance countries.
Among the investments AGRA plans to support is an in-kind grant to the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa that is a specialized agency of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). This grant will provide software development services for a Plant Variety Catalog and Database to support the implementation of the Harmonized COMESA Seed Trade Regulations.
AGRA is also providing input into seed and fertilizer policy reform and implementation processes in support of the African Union’s 2014 Year of Agriculture.
The Scaling Seeds and Technologies Partnership emphasizes the importance of policy and regulatory systems for improving agriculture sectors and food security, laying the foundation for broad-based economic growth that aligns with country-determined priorities set out in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program. Since it was launched, the partnership has played a leadership role in identifying key, practical policy approaches to make seed and fertilizer more widely available to farmers through competitive private sector channels, working with a range of other African and international institutions.