An unprecedented partnership among key players in agricultural development aims to significantly boost food production in Africa's "breadbasket regions," link local food production to food needs, and work across Africa's major agricultural growing areas-or agro-ecological zones-to create opportunities for smallholder farmers. Today's agreement marks a significant transformation in the way major global agencies work with smallholder farmers to assist them in solving Africa's chronic hunger and food problems.

The "Memorandum of Understanding" was signed today by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) at the FAO High-Level Conference on World Food Security.

Among the challenges facing accelerated food production in Africa are poorly developed markets, lack of investment, and poor infrastructure in rural areas. Despite this, there exist opportunities that can be tapped to help end chronic hunger and food problems. This new partnership aims to make a difference now by optimizing food production in areas with relatively good rainfall, soils, infrastructure, and markets-or "breadbasket areas."

The new partnership announced today will work closely with other stakeholders in these breadbasket areas to rapidly improve food production, food security and rural incomes. Careful environmental monitoring, and conserving biodiversity, water and land will be given high priority. The agreement also calls for coordinating and sharing agricultural development innovations across diverse ecological zones and associated crops. At the country level, the partnership will support the efforts of governments and work with farmers and other stakeholders to rapidly boost agricultural productivity and farm incomes. Each agency will deliver unique expertise towards achieving an environmentally and economically sustainable green revolution that will end the continent's perennial food crisis.

"This collaborative initiative is part of AGRA's strategic vision to build partnerships that pool the strengths and resources of the public and private sectors, civil society, farmers organizations, donors, scientists and entrepreneurs across the agricultural value chain," said Mr. Kofi A. Annan, Chairman of the Board of AGRA. "We must implement immediate solutions for today's crisis and do so in the context of a long-term concerted effort to transform smallholder agriculture, to increase productivity and sustainability, and to end poverty and hunger.

Per capita food production has declined in Africa for the past 30 years and farm productivity in Africa is just one-quarter the global average. Today, more than 200 million people are chronically hungry in the region, and 33 million children under age five are malnourished. To turn things around, there is need for urgent focus on raising agricultural productivity. More investment is needed to improve soil and water management of rainfed and irrigation agriculture, more adaptable new crop varieties, improved access to seeds and fertilizers, environmentally sustainable integrated pest management practices, reduction in post-harvest losses, and improvement of rural infrastructure, especially roads and communication infrastructure. These will need to be bolstered by bold pro-poor policies to help transform smallholder agriculture.

FAO Director-General Mr. Jacques Diouf said, "Unlocking the potential of agriculture in Africa is a huge challenge, but it can be done. This initiative is an important contribution to reduce the number of more than 200 million hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa by boosting food production and productivity, and improving the livelihoods of millions of people in rural areas. FAO will actively participate in this important initiative by assisting in stimulating local food production, providing technical input, and developing new agricultural investments."

AGRA will develop and promote higher yielding, locally adapted seeds, soil fertility options, water management systems, and market development to aid smallholder farmers and pro-poor policies that will catalyze farm productivity growth in the breadbasket zones. "We hope to spur a green revolution in Africa which respects biodiversity and the continent's distinct regions and great variety of crops-from millet and sorghum in the Sahel, to the root and tuber belts that cut across humid West Africa, to maize in the high and lowland areas of Eastern and Southern Africa," said Mr. Kofi A. Annan, Chairman of the Board of AGRA.

IFAD President Mr. Lennart B├ąge said, "Smallholder producers constitute the largest group of economic actors but are often the poorest segment of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. IFAD, by working in collaboration with AGRA and the Rome-based UN agencies, will help lift the rural poor from poverty by expanding their production capacity, strengthening their institutions and voice, and improving their access to critical markets." As a major buyer of food in Africa and the developing world, WFP will use its purchasing power to contribute to a green revolution in Africa and to market development-a powerful incentive for agricultural production. This agreement assures farmers a market, without which many well-meaning efforts to increase farm production have failed. Last year, WFP purchased a record amount of food-US$612 million in 69 developing countries-of which US$253 million was in Africa, most notably in Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Zambia and Malawi. From 2001-2007, WFP purchased more than US$1.2 billion of food on domestic markets in Africa. This new partnership could result in millions more being spent in potential breadbasket areas where surpluses exist.

"WFP is delighted to work with AGRA, a critical player who will help stimulate agriculture production," said Josette Sheeran, WFP's Executive Director. "Together with FAO and IFAD, we can bring major improvements to the lives of small-scale producers and food- insecure farmers all across Africa, and help reduce hunger and vulnerability."

Today's new partnership will help to advance the goal of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) towards achieving at least 6 percent annual growth rate in agricultural production by 2015.

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