The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa today announced the appointment of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as its first chairman. Speaking at the World Economic Forum on Africa meeting in Cape Town, where he is delivering a keynote address on African agriculture, Annan said he hopes to use his new position to help farmers across the continent.
Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, with a new office planned in Annan's home country, Ghana, the Alliance will be working throughout the continent to strengthen local and regional agricultural markets, help improve irrigation, soil health, and upgrade training for farmers. It will support the development of new seed systems better equipped to cope with the harsh African climate.
The Alliance is already working with African crop scientists and small-scale farmers to use conventional breeding techniques to develop more productive and resilient varieties of Africa's major food crops, as well as the means to distribute them. It will soon launch an initiative to improve the health of Africa's soils.
The Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA, was established last year with an initial US$150 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.
"Kofi Annan brings not only a great breadth of experience and insight into the challenges facing African agriculture, but also the will and skill to help lead a wide range of partners to address those challenges," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation.
Annan's new job comes six months after his departure from the United Nations, where he served to two five-year terms as secretary-general. While at the UN, Annan often drew attention to the link between Africa's failing agriculture systems and its persistent hunger and poverty.
Keenly aware that most of Africa's poor, particularly its poor women, depend on farming for food and income, in 2004 Annan called for a "new uniquely African Green Revolution - a revolution that is long overdue, a revolution that will help the continent in its quest for dignity and peace."