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Similar to Asia, enhancing Africa’s productivity requires significantly increased investment from African governments, businesses and development institutions to deploy  proven 21st century food production technologies to tens of millions of African farmers where they will have the most impact. These food production technologies already exist and include new high yield crop and livestock varieties,  micro-nutrient dense crops – for example, pro-vitamin A rich orange-fleshed sweet potato and high iron beans, drought tolerant maize varieties, integrated pest and disease management (IPDM), and simple storage and post-harvest technologies to reduce crop losses.

The potential of these food production  technologies to provide food and nutrition security has been demonstrated and needs to be taken to scale.  For example, DroughtTEGO® is a trademark for a high yielding drought-tolerant maize variety developed by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project to mitigate against drought stress. Experts predict that with global changes Sub Sharan Africa will be disproportionately affected by drought and suffer a 30% decrease in yields.  Kenyan farmers who grew the WEMA varieties during the drought of 2016 obtained 3.6MT/Ha of maize compared to 1.5MT/Ha in fields of farmers who grew other commercial hybrids. In addition, it has been demonstrated that 125g of orange fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP) can provide the daily provitamin A needs of a preschooler. Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) is a significant health concern in Africa contributing to high rates of blindness, disease and premature death in children and pregnant women.  An estimated 43 million children under 5 years are Vitamin A deficient and  between 50,000 and 125,000 of those vitamin A-deficient children go blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight.

A major target of TAAT is the control of the Fall Army Worm  (FAW), a recent pest problem on the continent that currently puts at risk an estimated 13.5 million tons of maize valued at US$ 3 billion in the 2017/2018 season.  This assessment is from research funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) at the Center for Agriculture and Biosciences Intenational (CABI) that assessed current and potential damage of the Fall Army Worm  (FAW).    Based on the aforementioned research findings, DFID requested the leadership of the African Development Bank to contain the serious problem of Fall Army Worm (FAW). Following, the Bank hosted a meeting of experts at the recent World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines, Iowa; in attendance were Center for Agriculture and Biosciences Intenational (CABI), USAID, the International Center for Improvement of Wheat and Maize (CIMMYT, the Spanish acronym), the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), and the private sector.   The meeting recommended a regional approach,  awareness raising campaigns, scouting and early detection, Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPDM), and search for resistance in preferred varieties.  TAAT will tackle Fall Army Worm (FAW) based on these recommendations working with CABI, ICIPIE, CIMMYT, National Agriculture Research and Extension Systems (NARES) of RMCs, regional and Sub-Regional Organizations, and R&D Centers.

Simple storage and post-harvest technologies being to reduce crop losses and help farmers manage the increased harvest under TAAT include: hermetic grain storage (Purdue Improved Crops Storage system) that prevent pest and mycotoxins infection of stored grains.  Other post-harvest technologies include affordable and efficient grain drying, and low cost extruders for production of simple processed food by small and medium scale agribusinesses.

Crop campaigns to reach farmers with agricultural technologies of inputs and extension have occurred in Africa with significant success in the past.  Over a four-year period, 2011-2015, Nigeria, working closely with Africa Rice, the rice CGIAR center in Africa, combined innovative (ICT-based) ways to deploy improved rice production technology of seeds and fertilizer, a value chain approach, and supportive public policies to reach 6 million rice farmers. Average yields in the country doubled from 2MT/Ha to over 4MT/Ha and national paddy rice production rose by an additional 7 million MT.

Similarly, in Malawi, delivery of subsidized seeds of improved maize varieties and fertilizer to millions of farmers in 2004 made the country self-sufficient in maize production and a net exporter of maize in a single season. Ethiopia’s national extension system also deployed new crop technologies to over 4.4 million smallholder farmers from 2010 to 2015 on nearly 2.2 million hectares of land. Since then, Ethiopia’s agriculture sector has enjoyed an average growth rate of over 7% per year, which has contributed in no small way to the double digit annual growth rate of the economy overall.

The approach to scaling technologies has been based on national boundaries, instead of agro-ecological zones across multiple countries. The releases of crop varieties often go through four years of testing in national contexts, which has to be replicated across countries within the same agro-ecological zone in which the same technology can make a difference. Thus, a technology that is good fit for a given agro-ecological zone of ten countries could take 40 years to reach farmers if deployment from country to country spreads one after the other. What is needed is a new approach that will cut back on these unnecessary regulatory bottlenecks and fast track the release of technologies across similar agro-ecological zones in one go. This is what TAAT will do. This will help open up the regional seed industry and markets and lead to faster uptake of technologies.

TAAT will engage  Regional Technology Delivery Infrastructure (RTDI) – of CGIAR centers and other technology providers to develop a menu of proven food production technologies working with National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES), Sub-Regional Organizations (SROs) and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the umbrella body of NARES in Africa. Based on the menu of proven food production technologies, RMCs, as represented by NARES, will work with the CGIAR centers to prepare proposals for food technology outreach campaigns across similar agro-ecological zones that cut across multiple countries to the decision making body of the RTDI, the Clearinghouse. There are eight Priority Intervention Areas (PIA) of TAAT that are agro-ecology based and cover 18 priority commodities.  But for this phase, nine food production technologies have been prioritized because of potential impact to increase food security, combat malnutrition, reduce food imports, and improve livelihoods.  They include: Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), high yielding rice varieties adapted to Africa (the NERICA varieties), high-yielding and high-starch cassava varieties, high yielding sorghum and millet for the Sahel, orange fleshed sweet potatoes, high iron beans, small livestock (goat and sheep), aquaculture, and new wheat varieties.  Control of pests and diseases, for example the Fall Army Worm (FAW), is a cross cutting intervention across all nine technologies.

While TAAT is not a research program to develop new technologies—for the most part the needed technologies already exist and in some cases are already in use—but rather a crop and livestock outreach campaign to disseminate best-bet crop varieties/livestock breeds and practices to the farmers, it requires a close partnership with National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES) and International R&D Centers to provide solutions that tend to arise as research is deployed over a wide range of similar but diverse agro-ecologies with unique micro-ecosystems.

Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPDM) optiones  include resistant germplasm, pesticides, biopesticides, botanicals, pheromones, biocontrol via natural enemies, etc.

The development objective of TAAT is to “rapidly expand access of smallholder farmers, majority women, to high yielding agricultural technologies to improve their food production, assure food security and raise rural incomes, and deliver regional public goods by scaling up agricultural technologies across similar agro-ecological zones”. Overall TAAT has three main objectives:

  1. Creating an enabling environment for technology adoption by farmers via policies for deployment and adoption of food production technologies that are regionally harmonized, food and nutrition conscious, and environmentally sustainable;
  2. Facilitate effective delivery of technologies to farmers by working with existing Regional Technology Delivery Infrastructure in a compact with RMCs, represented by NARES, private sector actors, and an independent technology Clearinghouse;
  3. Raising agricultural production and productivity through the identification and deployment of appropriate technologies, including nutrient dense crop varieties, and vigorous crop outreach campaigns, extension, and market linkage campaigns, in RMCs.

Feed Africa takes a value chain approach to raising crop/livestock productivity in Africa. Figure 1 shows where TAAT will intervene in the commodity value chains. A commodity value chain is described as a series of goods and services required for a commodity to be produced and then to move from the place of its primary production to the ultimate end-user

Positioning of TAAT within agricultural commodity value chains

 Agricultural growth that has occurred in Africa reveals that productivity enhancement and market access development are prevalent factors. Productivity unaccompanied by strong growth in markets leads to a glut from over-production, while markets without increased productivity gives rise to food imports due to insufficient supply. Feed Africa will work to reinforce these productivity aspects of the value chain and agriculture markets through its various initiatives such as TAAT, Agropoles, post-harvest losses and agro processing. The role of TAAT in particular is to improve outcomes at the beginning of this chain by increasing productivity, as well as resilience to weather and disease-related risks, providing a much more solid basis from which to build strong production systems and markets that make African agribusinesses successful. TAAT will work in concert with the other initiatives to foster the deployment of commercially viable technologies with improved access to input and output markets, and other enablers such as innovative finance and soft/hard infrastructure.

The TAAT program consists of four major components namely:

  1. Component #1: Creation of an enabling environment for technology adoption by famers via a seed system, technology release and registration policies that are regionally harmonized
  2. Component #2: A Regional Technology Delivery Infrastructure (RTDI)—or TAAT platform—that is able to provide and deploy needed food production technologies and any additional adaptive research required
  3. Component #3: Deployment of appropriate food production technologies, through crop/livestock campaigns in RMCs
  4. Component #4: Project Management.

The approach to scaling technologies based on national boundaries needs to be replaced by an approach that involves agro-ecological zones that spread across multiple countries. Policies and protocols for release and registration of crop varieties and animal breeds needs to be streamlined so that varieties/breeds released in one country can be utilized in other countries of the same region, same with seed system protocols that can replicated across countries within the same agro-ecological zone. TAAT, working with Sub-Regional Organizations (SROs) and CGIAR center responsible for policy work, IFPRI (and its key partners such as the Africa Technology Policy Studies ATPS Network), will review national and regional policies on variety release, registration, and the seed system with an aim of harmonizing them to fast track the release of technologies across similar agro-ecological zones. This will help open up the regional seed industry and markets and lead to faster uptake of technologies.

RTDI is a consortium of CGIAR centers, FARA, Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and SROs working on regional approaches to deployment of new crop and livestock technologies, and combatting pest and disease threats through a fair and transparent method in prioritizing technologies and allocating resources. The RTDI will develop a menu of food production technologies and work with RMCs, as represented by NARES and the private sector, to develop a proposal to take these technologies to scale.  Figure 2 schematically describes the RTDI processes. The RTDI is made up of four units, namely:

  1. A Project Steering Committee (PSC): the highest decision-making body composed of representatives of participating RMCs, the private sector, CGIAR centers. The committee provides oversight to Regional Technology Delivery Infrastructure (RTDI).
  2. Clearinghouse: the body of the consortium that decides on which technologies should be used. The Clearinghouse will be independent of the Project Management Unit (PMU);
  3. Commodity Technology Delivery Compact (CTDC): is at the core of TAAT and it is an agreement among the entire ecosystem of actors needed to deliver improved technologies at scale for a specific crop or livestock value chain, for each of the priority commodities. They will be hosted the CGIAR center or institution with the particular mandate for each specific crop;
  4. A Project Management Unit: oversees day-to-day implementation of project fiduciary and administrative activities;

Expected Outputs

TAAT interventions are projected to raise productivity of target commodity up to 100% over the next 8-10 years (Table 2). Other outputs include reduction of Vitamin A deficiency in children under five and pregnant women by 30% and reduction in post-harvest losses by 50% in target locations of TAAT over the next 8-10 years.

Provision of Regional Public Goods (RPG)

Regional public goods will be provided via a number of vehicles including:

  1. Harmonization of regional and transnational border protocols for introduction and release of improved varieties/breed and other agricultural technologies
  2. Synchronization of seed system protocols, especially those that deal with production of foundation seeds (inclusion of private sector seed companies)
  3. Disease control – monitoring and IPDM methods
  4. Extensive adaptation trials of crop varieties across the region, including nutrient dense varieties

Crop Outreach Campaigns to reach millions of African Farmers

  1. Toolkits for the different priority commodities provided to the RMCs
  2. Feedback on performance of technologies via the RTDIs
  3. A doubling of acreage under improved crops and breeds, from the current 30% to 60%, by 2025
  4. Availability of cheap and nutritious food

Expected Outcomes

TAAT will benefit via increased food security and income, raising farmer’s household incomes by an average of US$600 per annum, reaching an estimated 11.7 million households, representing on average 40 million people, over ten years, and reducing by as much as a third the total number of hungry people on the continent. TAAT will add an estimated 120 million MT of food to Africa’s food production valued at US$1.71 to US$2.8 billion (Table 2).  The increased food production will also have an effect on food prices, reducing the amount households spend on food, and further increasing access to more food, in a positive feedback loop. TAAT is expected to add 3.15 million direct farm jobs over eight years.