Failing Africa’s Farmers: An Impact Assessment of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa
Timothy A. Wise
Medford MA 02155, USA
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was founded in 2006 with the goal of bringing high-yield agricultural practices to 30 million smallholder farming households. With the adoption of commercial seeds and inorganic fertilizer, AGRA set out to double crop productivity and incomes while halving food insecurity by 2020. As AGRA reaches its self-declared deadline for these ambitious goals, how well has AGRA done in increasing productivity, incomes, and food security?
The organization has received roughly $1 billion in funding, two-thirds of it from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and disbursed more than $500 million in grants, mainly in 13 priority African countries. The Green Revolution technology campaign has been supported during this time by international programs far larger than AGRA and notably by national governments in Africa, which have spent roughly $1 billion per year on programs that subsidize the purchase of commercial seeds and fertilizers. There is little publicly available documentation of impacts, from AGRA, the Gates Foundation, or donor governments that have supported the initiative.
This paper attempts to fill some of that accountability gap. Because AGRA declined to provide data from its own monitoring and evaluation, we use national-level data to assess progress in productivity, poverty reduction, and food security in AGRA’s 13 countries. We find little evidence of widespread progress on any of AGRA’s goals, which is striking given the high levels of government subsidies for technology adoption.
There is no evidence AGRA is reaching a significant number of smallholder farmers. Productivity has increased just 29% over 12 years for maize, the most subsidized and supported crop. This falls well short of doubling yields, which would be a 100% increase. Overall staple crop yields have grown only 18% over 12 years. Meanwhile, undernourishment (as measured by the FAO) has increased 30% in AGRA countries. These poor indicators of performance suggest that AGRA and its funders should change course. We review more promising approaches African governments and donors should consider.