COVID-19: Towards a resilient agriculture model in Africa

OCP Africa is helping African farmers cope during the COVID-19 crisis, explains Colin Mackay.
Photo OCP Africa

By Colin Mackay

14 Jul 2020

Under a warm May sun, a group of women work the land, Effia swings her hoe while singing a lullaby to her baby resting on her back.

Effia has been working this land - located 200 km from Accra the capital - from an early age.

The containment measures initiated in Ghana following the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t discouraged her from ploughing, especially now that she has the help and supervision of agents from fertilizer manufacturer OCP Africa who mobilised to help her and her sisters stay resilience in the face of the crisis.

In early April, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published an alarming report claiming that the number of people facing food insecurity in the world could double by the end of the year with Africa specifically highlighted.

This threat has prompted several global donors to mobilise, including the European Commission, which announced, via its president, Ursula von der Leyen, around €15bn in aid for vulnerable countries including Africa.

Present in 18 African countries through rural development programmes, it seemed only natural that OCP Africa, a subsidiary of the world leader in phosphate fertilizers, Moroccan OCP Group, announced an emergency programme for Africa.

Since April, OCP Africa has stepped up action on the ground to help farmers cope with the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure stable incomes for them and their families.

"Present in 18 African countries through rural development programmes, it seemed only natural that OCP Africa, a subsidiary of the world leader in phosphate fertilizers, Moroccan OCP Group, announced an emergency programme for Africa"

The programme that Effia and her sisters are part of, ‘Women in Agribooster’ has been exclusively tailored towards women and was developed to help 5,000 women farmers in Ghana by OCP Africa.

During lockdown and containment, it’s difficult to find enough buyers for agricultural products, with main customers such as hotels, restaurants and households being closed. Consequently, the cooperatives that these women are a part of face an uncertain future.

In Africa, more than half of the agricultural workforce is made up of women. In Ghana, farmers are supported throughout the agricultural value chain, from the acquisition of adequate inputs to the sale of their harvest on the market, including training in good agricultural practices and access to mechanization.

The CEO of OCP Africa, Karim Lotfi Senhadji explains, “Sustainable models and partnerships and the identification of synergies to create value, are for us necessary to support real agricultural transformation. The Women in the Agribooster programme in Ghana perfectly illustrates our convictions.”

He adds, “In addition to access to inputs and markets, technology remains key. That is why we have selected two brilliant Agri-tech start-ups TROTRO TRACTOR and SAYeTECH to support women farmers in soil preparation and also in optimising their activities to improve their yields.”

“Both start-ups are part of the IMPULSE acceleration programme for African start-ups, launched by the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University and supported by OCP Africa and the OCP Group"

African agriculture accounts for around 15 percent of the continent’s GDP and employs six in ten people. Leveraging its agricultural experience and its flagship Agribooster programme, the OCP Group is a frontline player.

Since 2016, this holistic programme has had a significant impact on African agriculture, benefiting more than 300,000 small producers across Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire.  The Agribooster programme has helped increase yields by up to 40 percent and supports farmers in accessing markets through insurance and financing tools.

In Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, OCP Africa distributes fertilizers to 50.000 farmers in support of the so-called ‘Presidential Fertilizer Initiative’.

"African agriculture accounts for around 15 percent of the continent’s GDP and employs six in ten people. Leveraging its agricultural experience and its flagship Agribooster programme, the OCP Group is a frontline player"

Mohamed Hetti, Managing Director of OCP Africa in Nigeria, explains, “In the context of the current crisis, it is entirely natural for us, an involved actor in the transformation of food systems in Africa, to support the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative and the efforts of the federal government in mitigating the risks linked to COVID19 on the agricultural sector.”

“With this support, beneficiary farmers will have timely access to quality agricultural inputs, including seeds, fertilizers and agricultural equipment, essential for launching the agricultural campaign.”

OCP, through its Foundation, is also involved in raising awareness around social issues among rural populations. Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, the OCP Foundation has supported the CorpsAfrica NGO, which distributes hygiene kits in Senegal, Rwanda and Malawi.

Since 2011, CorpsAfrica has recruited and trained future leaders in Africa to help facilitate small-scale and high-impact projects.

On the educational front, the OCP Group, through the Pan-African Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, launched the "Excellence in Africa" initiative in partnership with the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne.

The initiative aims to democratise e-learning, particularly during COVID-19. It has made available to 33 African universities, affiliated to the RUForum university network, a series of educational resources, such as open online courses and other e-learning platforms, which can be freely used by teachers and students across Africa.

OCP intends to bring a multidimensional agricultural, social and educational commitment to Africa, the world's largest bread basket. These are the three pillar ingredients that can deliver lasting resilience.

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