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African Development Bank approves $1.5 billion facility to avert food crisis

• Initiative to benefit 20 million African farmers, who will receive certified seed and technology to rapidly produce 38 million tons of food

THE African Development Bank (AfDB) on Friday approved a $1.5bn 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 bank said in a statement.

The African Emergency Food Production Facility will provide 20 million African smallholder farmers with certified seeds. It will increase access to agricultural fertilisers and enable them to rapidly produce 38 million tons of food. This would be a $12bn increase in food production in just two years.

African Development Bank Group President 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.’

The African Emergency Food Production Facility has benefited from stakeholder consultations, including those with fertiliser producers and separately with African Union agriculture and finance ministers earlier this month.

The ministers agreed to implement reforms to address the systemic hurdles that prevent modern input markets from performing effectively.

The price of wheat has soared in Africa by over 45 percent since the war in Ukraine began. Fertiliser prices have gone up by 300 percent, and the continent faces a fertiliser shortage of 2 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 percent and the continent could lose over $11bn in food production value, the statement said.

The bank says the  $1.5bn strategy will lead to the production of 11 million tons of wheat; 18 million tons of maize; 6 million tons of rice; and 2.5 million tons of soybeans.

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

It said the  Bank will provide fertiliser to smallholder farmers across Africa over the next four farming seasons, using its convening influence with major fertiliser 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 Facility has a structure for working with multilateral development partners. This will ensure rapid alignment and implementation, enhanced reach, and effective impact. It will increase technical preparedness and responsiveness. In addition, it includes short, medium, and long-term measures to address both the urgent food crisis and the long-term sustainability and resilience of Africa’s food systems.

Beth Dunford, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, said: ‘The Africa Emergency Food Production Facility builds on lessons learned from the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa Response to Covid-19 program. That programme has provided a strategic roadmap to support Africa’s agriculture sector and safeguard food security against the pandemic’s impact.’

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