At the UN food summit in Rome, a new initiative was announced today to boost food production in Africa?s breadbasket regions. It is being called an ?unprecedented partnership? by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Food And Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The goal is to help smallholder farmers solve Africa?s hunger and food programs.

Dr. Akin Adesina is vice-president for policy and partnerships for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, also known as AGRA. From Rome, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the new collaboration effort. 

?This is a very unprecedented partnership in many ways. First, you know that FAO, IFAD, and the World Food Program and AGRA have been working in Africa for many years. But our work and efforts have been splintered. And so, this partnership brings together much more synergies in what we do across several countries. And secondly, the partnership will focus on breadbasket areas of Africa. So, instead of deploying our resources everywhere we will concentrate them on these breadbasket areas, areas with good infrastructure, relatively good markets and relatively good irrigation to very quickly boost production,? he says.

AGRA, for example, is making it easier for farmers to obtain seed and fertilizer, while the World Food Program is buying food from local farmers.

The partnership focuses on ?smallholder farmers.? Adesina says, ?African farmers are likely smallholder farmers. Eighty-five percent of the farmers are smallholder farmers. So, one has to create opportunities for them to feed themselves by raising their agricultural productivity. They can feed themselves and their kids and send them to school. Secondly, the smallholder farmers, if they are properly supported, can produce a lot of marketable surpluses that would provide food for those in the urban areas and in fact drive down the cost of food. They can feed Africa if they are supported. That is the key.?

However, would the program make countries self-sufficient? The AGRA official says, ?This partnership will contribute to that collective effort. By itself alone it?s not going to help all of Africa to feed itself, but it will significantly contribute to what?s there.?

The various agencies are also talking with the World Bank, the African Development Bank and several donors to raise the level of financing for agriculture. ?For example, Africa needs a lot more irrigated land so that farmers cannot be exposed to too much risk of producing on dry land. There are infrastructure needs that need to me met. Africa needs about eight to ten billion dollars a year in investment to be able to achieve this green revolution,? he says.

He says that such funding would be needed for up to 15years, citing the long-term investment that was so successful in Asia. ?This cannot be done on a shoe string budget,? he says.