The Rockefeller Foundation together with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have been celebrating 10 years of their “shared success” working with small-holder farmers all across sub-Saharan Africa with a photographic exhibition at the Nairobi National Museum that runs through the end of this month.
Shared Success: Agriculture Transformation @ 10 celebrates the success of farmers and small-scale businessmen and women in four of the 18 African countries that the Rockefeller Foundation and AGRA have been assisting over the past decade. That assistance has ranged from business training for small-scale agricultural supply shop owners, (including start-up loans to get them off to a good start) to scholarships for hundreds of African agro-research students seeking master’s and doctoral degrees to training of farmers in the growing, processing and selling of specific crops such as soya, maize and cow peas.
Since 2007, AGRA (which was formed with funding from both the Rockefeller and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations) has facilitated the training of no less than 600 African scientists who’ have specialised in either crop breeding or soil science; the vast majority of whom have returned to their home countries to advise and work closely with their people in crop and soil management.
One of many beneficiaries of that assistance is Everline Achieng Ochieng, a farmer in Siaya who’s been advised and trained in improved methods for growing maize.
But Everline is just one of many “before and after” success stories that appear among the more than 50 colour photographs taken by the four-person team of professionals who work with Arete, a media company committed to telling grassroots stories about people and programmes that are making a difference in the world.
Arete was formed by the award-winning Zimbabwe-born photographer Kate Holt who also led the photographic team that travelled and took photos of AGRA partners and projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Mozambique for the Shared Success photo expo.
In addition to Holt who performed most of her photo shoots in Tanzania, there was Mwangi Kirubi shooting in Kenya, Karel Prinsloo in Burkina Faso and Sam Wolson in Mozambique.
What was most impressive in this exhibition was the opportunity it made available for us to see the tangible proof of the efficacy and practicality of AGRA’s assistance to farmers.
Through AGRA, a farmer like Georges Sanaa who is based in Burkina Faso, has been introduced to new types of “certified seeds” that are drought-, heat- and disease-resistant and which he’s been successfully growing and selling for the last few years.
Sanaa’s success story includes him starting with only seven acres of land to now owning and growing seeds on 20 acres, with him now employing up to 40 workers and with his ability to finance the education of all nine of his children.
The one thing the exhibition doesn’t explain is whether the seeds being introduced in the region are the genetically-modified type, or not.
Virtually all the photos in the Shared Success show tell graphic stories but the ones shot by Mwangi Kirubi are especially interesting since he travelled all the way from Meru, Mombasa and Machakos to Siaya, Kisumu and Mumias to photograph not just people’s successes but also their joy in having the support of foundations like the Rockefeller’s and the Gates’, which have understood what is required to improve the lives and livelihoods of African agriculturalists.