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Green Revolution Within Reach in Africa

By Kathryn McConnell
Staff Writer

Washington — Governments, foundations and scientists are pooling their knowledge, resources and capital to push forward the Green Revolution in Africa.

“If we stand together … and sustain our efforts, a unique African Green Revolution is within our grasp,” said Kofi Annan, head of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and a former U.N. secretary-general.

Annan spoke at the Borlaug Dialogue, which was held in conjunction with the presentation ceremonies of the 2010 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, October 13–15. This year’s winners are David Beckmann and Jo Luck ( http://www.america.gov/st/develop-english/2010/June/20100616160351akllennoccm0.6473963.html ).

The Green Revolution refers to the development of high-yield strains of wheat and other grains led by agronomist Norman Borlaug in the mid–20th century. The grains saved about 1 billion people from starvation. Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and established the World Food Prize in 1986 to recognize people who contribute to making food more plentiful and available and higher in quality.

Annan said small-landholder farmers in Kenya have seen their maize yields increase 400 percent after being taught to apply lime to depleted soil. Farmers in Malawi, after gaining access to affordable fertilizer, are producing enough maize for domestic consumption and a surplus for export.

The chief executive officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jeff Raikes, said his foundation, working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and a host of other international agencies, has helped develop drought-resistant maize that will boost yields 30 percent for 40 million African farmers by 2016.

Raikes said small farmers in Africa are testing improved maize varieties to find the one that best suits their needs. Malawian farmers, for instance, showed a preference for an early maturing strain that can be harvested before the onset of the annual dry season.

Another member of the Gates Foundation, Prabhu Pingali, said that with more support, small farmers can be as productive as farmers with more assets.

FEED THE FUTURE PRIVATE INVESTMENT CENTER

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said free markets and private investment are key elements of the Obama administration’s Feed the Future program, aimed at reducing hunger. He told the participants at the Borlaug Dialogue that a new Feed the Future Private Investment Center will begin operation in the program’s original 20 countries, 16 of which are in Africa.

Shah said that in Tanzania, for example, the Private Investment Center will offer loan guarantees to local firms that sell farmers seeds and process and transport their harvested crops. Shah said the guarantees equip the companies “with the spark they need to mature their businesses and grow their country.”

For more information, see the websites of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa ( http://www.agra-alliance.org/ ), the World Food Prize ( http://www.worldfoodprize.org/ ), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ( http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Pages/home.aspx ) and Feed the Future ( http://www.feedthefuture.gov/ ).

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.  Web site: http://www.america.gov)

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