AfDB responds to food crisis with $1.5b facility to support African countries

The Russia-Ukraine crisis is impacting global food supply chains, fueling inflation and potentially pushing poor countries into a food crisis. With many countries, particularly in Africa struggling with increasing debt burden, low supply of fertilizer, high cost of production and low productivity in the agriculture sector, most countries also dealing with the yet to be over COVID-19 pandemic, could suffer food crisis.

Considering the large number of poor and vulnerable people in Africa, it is imperative that some concrete action is initiated to address the potential looming food crisis.

At this critical time, the Board of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has stepped up by approving a $1.5 billion facility to help African countries deal with food crisis.

In a press release copied to Ghana Business News the AfDB says its Board has approved the facility to help African countries avert a looming food crisis.

With the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa now faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from both countries.

“African farmers urgently need high-quality seeds and inputs before the planting season begins in May to immediately boost food supplies. The African Development Bank’s $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility is an unprecedented comprehensive initiative to support smallholder farmers in filling the food shortfall.

The African Emergency Food Production Facility will provide 20 million African smallholder farmers with certified seeds. It will increase access to agricultural fertilizers and enable them to rapidly produce 38 million tons of food. This is a $12 billion increase in food production in just two years,” the release said.

Commenting on the approval of the facility, the President of the Bank, Akinwumi Adesina said: “Food aid cannot feed Africa. Africa does not need bowls in hand. Africa needs seeds in the ground, and mechanical harvesters to harvest bountiful food produced locally. Africa will feed itself with pride for there is no dignity in begging for food…”

According to the Bank, the price of wheat has soared in Africa by over 45 per cent since the war in Ukraine began. Fertilizer prices have gone up by 300 per cent, and the continent faces a fertilizer shortage of two million metric tons. Many African countries have already seen price hikes in bread and other food items. If this deficit is not made up, food production in Africa will decline by at least 20 per cent and the continent could lose over $11 billion in food production value, it indicated.

The Bank notes that its $1.5 billion strategy will lead to the production of 11 million tons of wheat; 18 million tons of maize; six million tons of rice; and 2.5 million tons of soybeans.

It states that the African Emergency Food Production Facility will provide 20 million farmers with certified seeds, fertilizer, and extension services. It will also support market growth and post-harvest management.

The Bank adds that it will provide fertilizer to smallholder farmers across Africa over the next four farming seasons, using its convening influence with major fertilizer manufacturers, loan guarantees, and other financial instruments.

“The Facility will also create a platform to advocate for critical policy reforms to solve the structural issues that impede farmers from receiving modern inputs. This includes strengthening national institutions overseeing input markets,” the release said.

According to AfDB’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Dr. Beth Dunford, The Africa Emergency Food Production Facility builds on lessons learned from the Bank’s Feed Africa Response to COVID-19 programme.

“That programme has provided a strategic roadmap to support Africa’s agriculture sector and safeguard food security against the pandemic’s impact,” he said.

The Bank notes that over the past three years, its Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation initiative has delivered heat-tolerant wheat varieties to 1.8 million farmers in seven countries, increasing wheat production by 2.7 million metric tons, worth $840 million.

It states further that a five-year ramp-up phase will follow the two-year African Emergency Food Production Facility.

This will build on previous gains and strengthen self-sufficiency in wheat, maize, and other staple crops, as well as expand access to agricultural fertilizers and the five-year phase will deliver seeds and inputs to 40 million farmers under the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation programme, it says.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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