A partnership with co-operatives to fight global hunger has been announced by US President Barack Obama.
The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, part of the Grow Africa initiative, is a shared commitment between governments and private enterprises to achieve sustained and inclusive agricultural growth in Africa over the next ten years.
Announced at the G8 Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington on Friday, President Obama said: "Governments, like those in Africa, that are committed to agricultural development and food security, they agree to take the lead — building on their own plans by making tough reforms and attracting investment.
"Donor countries — including G8 members and international organisations — agree to more closely align our assistance with these country plans. And the private sector — from large multinationals to small African co-operatives, your NGOs and civil society groups — agree to make concrete and continuing commitments as well, so that there is an alignment between all these sectors."
The US$3 billion investment from the private sector will help to strengthen areas across the agricultural chain, including irrigation, processing, trading, financing and infrastructure, which will impact millions of smallholder farmers.
Rabobank, the global food and agribusiness bank, is the largest backer within the co-operative movement, which intends to launch a lending facility in West Africa that would provide up to US$135 million in loans over five years to small and medium‐size companies in the region which participate in the agricultural value chain, ranging from production, processing and logistics to services and technology.
Other co-operatives pledging support include ADMAS Farmers Cooperative Union, Ethiopia; Becho‐Weliso Farmers Cooperative Union, Ethiopia; and Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, Ethiopia.
Added President Obama: "Today, I can announce that 45 companies — from major international corporations to African companies and co-operatives — have pledged to invest more than $3 billion to kick off this effort. And we’re also going to fast-track new agricultural projects so they reach those in need even quicker."
The President said "this has to be all hands on deck"; and that more nations, organisations, companies and NGOs should help with the challenges of development across the world.
He added: "We’re going to sustain the commitments we made three years ago, and we’re going to speed things up. And we’re starting with these three countries —Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia — precisely because of their record in improving agriculture and food security.
"But this is just the beginning. In the coming months, we’ll expand to six countries. We’ll welcome other countries that are committed to making tough reforms. We’ll welcome more companies that are willing to invest. We’re going to hold ourselves accountable; we’ll measure results. And we’ll stay focused on clear goals: boosting farmers’ incomes, and over the next decade, helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty."
Rabobank is one of 45 organisations to show a commitment to the initiative. Chief Executive Piet Moerland has signed a Letter of Intent with the International Finance Corporation to create the West Africa Agribusiness Development Corporation.
The scheme will initially be operated in Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire, but can easily be expanded into other countries. It aims to loan US$135m over five years through 200 intermediaries, which will benefit smallholder farmers.
WAAD is based on the proven concept in Latin America (LAAD), which has been successful in agri-finance for more than 40 years. Over these 40 years, LAAD has successfully realised its mission while showing increasingly healthy financials, generating over 120,000 new jobs in mainly rural areas. Over the next five years, the WAAD corporation will provide access to financial services to small- and medium-sized companies across the agricultural value chain in West Africa.
Berry Marttin, member of the Executive Board Rabobank, said: “Feeding the world requires investing in agriculture, as farmers feed the world. And without Africa it will be impossible to meet the increasing demand for food worldwide in the coming decades. In most African countries access to finance is badly lacking. Through our subsidiary Rabo Development we undertake investment and advisory activities in Sub-Saharan Africa to increase finance options for agricultural entrepreneurs."
• For more information about the Grow Africa initiative, visit: www.growafrica.com