World Food Day 2020 - Banking On Agriculture

16 October 2020
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African Development Bank (Abidjan)

Quick facts on the African Development Bank's Feed Africa High 5:

Approvals for the Feed Africa priority totaled UA 884.7 million in 2019. Twenty-nine percent went to non-sovereign operations.

The Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) Africa, is an African Development Bank initiative launched in a continent that holds 60% of the world's arable land; yet we remain importers of food and are unable to reap the benefits of our labour. About 220 million Africans suffer from chronic undernourishment - close a fifth of the continent's population and a quarter of the global total experiencing this burden.

The African Development Bank has embarked on a mission to address these challenges through the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation programme. The programme, launched in 2018, is an integral part of the Bank's Feed Africa Strategy 2016-2025.

TAAT aims to help the continent fulfil its enormous potential in the sector by employing high-impact technologies to boost output.

Video: Martin Fregene. Director, Department of Agriculture and Agro-Industry, African Development Bank. African Development Bank

The African Development Bank making a difference on the ground: spotlight on some of our interventions

Ethiopia:

Wheat that can take the heat

Bank-sourced, heat-tolerant seed varieties boost effort to meet Ethiopia's growing wheat production demands

Farmer Elfnesh Bekele says she doesn't care much for the science behind the heat-tolerant wheat growing on her farm plot in Ethiopia's arid lowlands. But Bekele does know that after she started planting the specialized seed varieties designed to thrive in the area's daytime heat, she has been harvesting - and selling - more units of grain than when she farmed traditional wheat crops.

"The heat-tolerant wheat has really improved our productivity... our family is very happy," Bekele said. "Because of my income from this year's wheat farming, I plan to send my two children to Addis Ababa to continue their studies in private universities," she added.

Bekele belongs to a farming cooperative about 215 kilometers outside the capital, which agreed to plant the heat-tolerant seed as part of a government initiative to boost Ethiopia's wheat production. Ordinary wheat, which needs moderate temperatures between 20 to 26 degrees Celsius to produce high yields, doesn't grow well in Ethiopia's lowland areas - where field temperatures can rise in excess of 30 degrees Celsius.

Over the last two years, the African Development Bank's Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation program, or TAAT, has been collaborating with Ethiopian authorities and seed companies to bulk up seed supply of five heat-tolerant wheat varieties. To date, the project has worked with more than 28,000 small holder farmers like Bekele to cultivate 20,000 hectares of irrigated wheat in the lowlands.

TAAT's goal is to cultivate ten times more hectares to produce upward of 800,000 to a million tons of wheat, which the Bank says could take Ethiopia to close to 80% self-sufficiency in wheat production.

Across the continent, TAAT aims to get the right agricultural technologies - including seed - to farmers at scale. The timing of this flagship intervention bodes well for Ethiopia, sub-Saharan Africa's largest wheat producer. The country's population boom, continuous economic growth and urbanization over the last decade led to a rapid change in Ethiopian diets, and the wheat sector cannot keep up with growing domestic demand.

As a result, Ethiopia imports most of its wheat - around $600 million worth of the cereal grain per year, according to some estimates. Dr. Martin Fregene, the Bank's Director for Agriculture and Agro-Industry, said TAAT-sourced seed adapted to withstand hotter climates was the answer to the country's gap in wheat supply.

"In these lowland fields, the farmer is now getting a fair return for his efforts. Here, farmers are getting the same yields they'd get in Nebraska, Kansas - all around the world," he said.

Cultivating Ethiopia's previously underused lowlands is also creating jobs and generating steady, decent incomes to residents in rural areas. The program also offers farmer field schools that provide hands-on training and technical backstopping. Participating farmers like Elfnesh Bekele say the TAAT initiative allows them to be more self-sufficient.

"We want help to be better farmers, rather than receive a simple handout from the government," Bekele said about the program. "Everyone here is very enthusiastic about our prospects ahead."

São Tomé and Príncipe

Training small-holder farmers to become agents of change

São Tomé and Príncipe has what it takes to become an agricultural powerhouse: excellent weather and fertile soil. By combining these natural resources with new infrastructure and proper training, the country can become more self-sufficient and enjoy improved food security.

To help rural communities, the African Development Bank financed the Infrastructure Rehabilitation for Food Security Support Project, which benefited 4,000 farmers and 3,000 fishermen and fishmongers. São Tomé and Príncipe's food production sector has improved, and food security has strengthened. The African Development Bank has invested approximately $7 million for the first phase of the project and a second phase is under way.

Project: Sao Tome and Principe, Infrastructure Rehabilitation for Food Security Support Project (PRIASA)

"I worked in agriculture for six or seven years, and I see that in São Tomé and Príncipe, agriculture is very good. We have a favourable climate for agriculture and, thanks to this, we might become less dependent on external products."

Ineias Santana Trindade, Agronomy Student, Center for Agricultural Technical Improvement

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