The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, announced the initiative on Friday.

The programme aims to work with 4.1m farmers and regenerate 6.3m hectares of farmland in a bid to reverse poverty and hunger.

Initial funding for the scheme has come from a US$164.5m grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and US$15m from the Rockefeller Foundation.

“AGRA’s Soil Health Program will breathe new life into soils where rapid nutrient loss is sapping the ability of farmlands to sustain crops,” said Dr Namanga Ngongi, president of AGRA.

“This will improve the sustainability of small-scale farms, raise the yield and income of poor farmers – most of whom are women – and help protect the natural resource base of soil and water.”

The programme will run alongside existing AGRA initiatives, including its Seeds Program, to help small-scale farmers use new high-yielding varieties of Africa’s staple food crops.

AGRA bosses said the investment will help African governments achieve a target of 6% annual growth rates in agriculture.

Farmers will be encouraged to adopt the Integrated Soil Fertility Management strategy to assess local soil and water resources and consider how a combination of organic matter, fertilisers and cropping systems to revitalise soil.

The Soil Health Program will also work to improve farmers’ access to affordable fertilisers and advise them about efficient and environmentally sound use, and encourage the development of policies to support soil health and protect Africa’s natural resources.

“This program gives us renewed hope because with improved soils and seeds, we will boost our yields and therefore feed ourselves and use the surplus to improve our income and living conditions. We welcome this initiative by AGRA,” said Kenyan farmer Philip Kiriro.

Kate Martin

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