Initiative sharpens skills to drive food security

Stella Massawe, AGRA’s senior programmes officer.

African nations are grappling with a huge food import bill every year at a time of great volatility in the international currency market, it has emerged.

Transforming the agricultural landscape by reducing food wastage, bolstering productivity and advocating for greater value addition is one of the ways of responding to this recurrent challenge.

To fulfil this, efforts are being directed towards enhancing farmers’ returns and improving food security across African nations through a pioneering leadership initiative by the Alliance for Greening Africa (Agra).

Agra’s Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture (Cala) seeks to fortify the capabilities of leaders within Africa's agri-food systems by developing their capacity to effectively confront the intricate challenges in their environments and achieve the ambitious food security agenda set for 2030.

“Addressing these challenges requires effective leadership at every level, from every perspective, to make the difficult decisions needed for system-wide change,” says Stella Massawe, Agra Senior Programmes Officer.

The leadership programme, initiated in 2020, celebrated the graduation of its second cohort, underscoring the Alliance’s ambitious move to reshape the region's food landscape.

So far, over 150 delegates from Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Ghana, and Nigeria have gone through the programme. Each country has taken up 20 slots, distributed across government, private sector and civil society.

The programme tailors its approach to address each country's specific priorities in its food systems and focus, be it crops or livestock.

Delegates undergo extensive training on various leadership skills, including crisis management, multi-tasking, team building, partnership management and coordination, monitoring and evaluation, budget management, and resource mobilisation.

"Armed with diverse skill sets," Massawe notes, "delegates are prepared to confront the systemic challenges within Africa's food systems, becoming results-oriented champions capable of leading collaboration, mobilising change, and ensuring the delivery of country priorities."

One tangible outcome of the programme has been the promotion of flagship government projects across participating countries, influencing policy shifts and implementation, such as those witnessed in the poultry value chain in Tanzania and sesame promotion in Nigeria.

Leadership capacity at local government level is a critical success factor because of the unique role leaders play as front-line implementers of agri-food systems strategies.

“Long-term sustainable progress necessitates enhancing leadership and delivery capacity at this level,” Massawe adds.

Food systems leadership encompasses a set of skills that individuals or organisations can employ to support transformation of food systems.

“This innovative approach proves instrumental in realising goals related to food nutrition and financial security, as it has the capability to tackle multifaceted problems that span various dimensions by employing solutions,” Massawe explains.

With many African countries struggling to meet the 10 per cent target for allocation to agriculture envisioned by the Comprehensive Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), Massawe asserts that achieving inclusive food systems transformation requires enhanced resource allocation to agriculture.

Governments need to undertake measures such as competitive compensation, training, and development to attract and retain effective leaders to ensure sustainable food systems.

Since potential investors base their decisions on continuous monitoring, evaluation and effective communication of research results to provide needed resources, countries need to invest in strong monitoring, evaluation and learning platforms.

The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to play a major role as it opens up the market for farmers across the region.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Free Trade Area can help enhance agricultural trade and food security.

The UN agency says implementing the AfCFTA, alongside targeted policies to boost industrialisation and the agro-industry in Africa, can spur the creation of much-needed jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities for local populations.

The training initiative, conceptualised by Agra, is implemented in collaboration with the African Management Institute and USAID's Policy Link, with funding from the German Development Cooperation through the KfW Development Bank, BMGF, and the Mastercard Foundation.

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