As part of efforts to support farmers and agricultural businesses across Africa, the United State Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced that the United States and Norway are jointly committing $70 million to establish a support fund.
Recurring drought, climate change, armed conflict, and economic and political instability have led to severe food shortages across the continent, which houses about 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land.
The development was made known by the USAID Administrator Samantha Power and Norwegian Minister of International Development Beathe Tvinnereim on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, comes as Russia and China vie with the United States and Europe to win over developing countries.
While speaking, the spokesperson said, the fund aims to reach a total of $200 million through additional contributions from donors and has the potential to benefit nearly 7.5 million people.
USAID and Norway will each provide an initial commitment of $35 million, which has the potential to assist 500 small- and medium-sized agricultural enterprises, benefit 1.5 million smallholder farmers, and generate close to 60,000 private sector jobs.
The fund aims to spur hundreds of millions of additional dollars in commercial financing by mitigating investment risks.
However, agriculture on the continent is largely rain-fed, the sector is often vulnerable to decreased productivity in situations where there is a shortage or absence of rainfall attributable to the impacts of climate change.
Famine in parts of the Horn of Africa was averted this year as the rainy season, projected to fail for a fifth consecutive year, beat expectations. But aid officials say some 60 million people are still food insecure in seven east African countries.
Millions in West Africa have faced food insecurity spurred by climate shocks, COVID-19 and high prices.
“Without these smaller agribusinesses, Africa’s smallholder farmers are growing just enough to feed themselves and their families,” Power told Reuters in a statement.
“But connect them to a nursery that can supply them with quality seeds and fertiliser, a market where they can sell excess harvest or a processor that can turn their crops into higher-value products, and suddenly they have a chance to take off, delivering the kind of agricultural growth we know is necessary to fight hunger and poverty.”