Professor Richard Mkandawire

Ten years after the Abuja Summit, the Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizers in Africa campaign carries on the commitments of the African Green Revolution

Professor Richard Mkandawire, Vice President of the African Fertilizer Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) explains the objectives of the Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizers in Africa campaign.

The Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizers in Africa campaign was launched in 2014 by a large coalition of partners: AFAP, AGRA, CNFA, IFDC, IITA, IPNI, IPI, One Acre Fund and IFA. Through the campaign AFAP, IFA and their partners work to enable smallholders to access to critical inputs and services, such as: soil nutrients/fertilizers; financing for purchase inputs; improved seed varieties; crop protection products; irrigation and crop insurance.

IFA: Professor Mkandwire, why is this campaign important? What are its main objectives?
Professor Mkandwire
: The fertilizer industry is called upon to increase linkages between agribusinesses and farmers, to open up domestic markets and get inputs to farmers on time and at affordable cost. The campaign is raising global awareness to the critical challenges faced by SMEs and smallholder farmers as catalysts for fertilizer value chain development in Africa, and to encourage the private sector to invest in them. In addition, 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution signed in Abuja, Nigeria in June 2006. During that Summit, African leaders agreed to improve the access of fertilizers smallholder farmers. Ten years on, a lot has been achieved, but gaps remain that need to be addressed, hence the call of the campaign.

IFA: The campaign was launched in 2014, in conjunction with the FAO 2014 International Year of Family Farming 2014 and the African Union 2014 Year of Agriculture. What is the situation like in 2016?
Professor Mkandwire
:The farming situation in Africa has changed and continues to change, blending progress and challenges to attain continental food security. Over the last couple of years, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has strongly committed itself to support the transformation of African agriculture. Fertilizers feature prominently in their plans. This has ignited a new hope for the growth of the fertilizer sector and a strong signal to the financial sector. Strategic stakeholders, including governments, are beginning to demand innovative interventions that stimulate increased reach to smallholder famers with timely and appropriate fertilizers. There is clearly a coalescing of voices that demand more efficient, private sector- led approaches to be pursued to support smallholder farmers access and effectively use fertilizers.

The recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an important development to the agriculture sector in Africa. SDGs 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere and 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture as well as SDG 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss directly address problems facing African farmers today. The fertilizer industry, in partnership with governments, needs to speak with one voice to achieve the objectives of the SDGs, which are an essential component to solving hunger and poverty in Africa.

In addition, policy makers in several African countries have understood the need for good governance when it comes to effective agricultural policies. Some are even contemplating the adoption of fertilizer specific policies, for instance Mozambique. Others, like Nigeria, are opening the fertilizer market to private sector participation. In the face of all these changes, AFAP is providing different approaches tailored to specific needs of countries to ensure the smooth flow of fertilizers from suppliers to farmers as well as financial instruments.

IFA: On 05-09 September 2016, the African Green Revolution Forum will take place in Nairobi, Kenya. What are the expected outcomes of this Forum for AFAP?
Professor Mkandwire
: The African Green Revolution Forum is an African owned and driven agriculture platform, where African and global stakeholders come together, discuss policies and policy models conducive to the growth of the agricultural sector. Public and private sector officials are invited as well as representatives of financial institutions. This forum provides a great opportunity for all to act on the wide array of commitments by African leaders and the global international community in supporting an African owned Green Revolution.

This year AFAP and IFA are holding a panel discussion as a side-event at the Forum, which will take place on 06 September with the theme, “Seizing the Moment, Accelerating Fertilizer Usage among African Smallholder farmers”. Farmers, private sector representatives, policy makers and government officials are invited to attend to the panel discussion, where we will address the challenges of promoting the use and access to fertilizers in realizing Africa’s Green Revolution. We are also inviting SMEs to take part in this side-event, as the fertilizer access campaign is targeted directly to them and their feedback is valuable to us. We expect to come out with a strong message in support of our actions that will deliver fertilizer to our smallholder farmers and secure a food future for Africa.

About Professor Mkandwire:

Richard Mkandawire is currently the Vice President of the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), a non-profit that works with the public and private sectors to make fertilizer accessible and affordable for African smallholder farmers. Before joining AFAP, Mkandawire was part of the leadership that drove the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), an innovative framework for agricultural development established by African nations and leaders. CAADP began as part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty by growing agriculture. At CAADP's inception, Mkandawire played a critical role in engaging support for NEPAD’s focus on agriculture, and advocating for its acceptance by African heads of state and donor agencies. Mkandawire has received awards for his work on CAADP including the Drivers of Change Award and an honorary doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Mkandawire came to CAADP and AFAP with decades of experience as a socio-economist and rural development expert. He earned degrees from the University of Malawi, the University of Missouri and the University of East Anglia. He has taught at multiple universities and is currently an extra-ordinary professor at the University of Pretoria.

Mkandawire continues to lobby for increased investments into the African Agricultural sector for reduced poverty and food insecurity.