Any smallholder farmer should be inspired to dream big and secure a better life for their family and their community, like Tatiana, a farmer in the conflict-affected region of Bambari, Central African Republic (CAR), or in other hotspots for food insecurity in Western and Central Africa.

In CAR like in many countries across the region, more than 80% of people work in the agriculture sector. Greater agricultural yields are, therefore, at the heart of the countries’ economic transformation.

With the right reforms and investments to promote climate-smart agricultural practices and the development of the fertilizer sector, the region could feed 418 million of its people.

However, in the heart of the Western and Central Africa region across CAR, Togo, and the Sahel, people are bearing the brunt of the compounded impact of the food and fuel crisis, conflict in the region and in faraway Ukraine, and more frequent climate shocks.

West Africa is facing its worst food crisis in ten years. Cereal prices have increased more than 30% over the past five years.

More than ever in the region, the future of agriculture, food security, and development are intertwined.

Crouched in the field, a woman plants rice seedling in the mud under the blazing sun. It is the planting season in CAR, and men and women like Tatiana have started working in the field since five this morning.

While keeping a smile on her face and making the activity look effortless, Tatiana is drenched in sweat and pacing her moves with rigor and precision. Each seedling is carefully planted at equidistance from one another. She learned this technique at the farmers’ field school.

“I am setting an example for my children so that they understand the importance of working hard and they get ahead in their studies… I hope they’ll become agronomists later in life, so they are able to hire people and cultivate large areas of land,” says Tatiana with a smile on her face.

Tatiana has been working with her parents in the fields since childhood. She now owns three hectares and is a member of the rice farmer association in her community. “I love working the land.”

Through the Emergency Food Security Response project (PRUCAC in French), Tatiana and 329,000 smallholder farmers have received seeds, farming tools and training in agricultural and post-harvest techniques to help them boost their crop production and become more resilient to climate and conflict risks. As a result, local food production increased by 250%, from 28,000 tons in September 2022 to 73,000 tons in June 2023.

The lasting effects of the conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened the food security and the quality of life in the country. About 3 million people suffer from acute food insecurity in 2023 and more than seven out of 10 Central African live with less than $ 1.90 per day and have limited access to essential services.

For farmers like Tatiana, who is raising nine children, receiving seeds, fertilizers and agricultural equipment and training was critical to help boost their production. By learning post-harvest techniques, the small producers were able to safely store and sell their harvest to local markets, thus significantly increasing their earnings. Tatiana is now securing her family’s future by putting more food on the table and investing her savings in her children’s education.

Through a partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the project was able to deliver results at scale, building on the strengths of each partner. A new Food Security Crisis Preparedness Plan was also developed to help track food insecurity and identify additional funding and scale up action for preventive response.

For Tatiana and other farmers who benefited from the project, it has been a lifeline. They are now able to feed their families three meals a day and have big dreams for the future.

Togolese farmer Victoire Dabla, watching the green paddy field where she spread the fertilizer purchased at a subsidized rate from the government Center for the supply and management of agricultural fertilizers (CAGIA in French), hopes for a good harvest this time.

“Fertilizer is essential for us because our soil is poor. Without fertilizers, the rice leaves turn yellow, and then they turn red. But when we spread fertilizers, they are all green,” says Victoire.

Victoire Dabla, a rice farmer in Mission Tove, 30 km of Lomé, the capital, is one of the many who struggled with low yields and soil degradation. Learning how to use fertilizers sustainably is key for many farmers like Victoire in providing additional nutrients to the soil and boosting crop productivity while improving soil health in the long term.

Most African countries are experiencing challenges in accessing affordable fertilizers for their farmers.

Fertilizer prices have tripled since early 2020 and remain volatile, putting a stable supply of fertilizers out of reach for many small farmers. With the fallout from the war in Ukraine, the situation has worsened as fertilizer exports from major suppliers such as Belarus and Russia have been halted. Fertilizer application rate in Sub-Saharan Africa is low, with 22 kilograms per hectare compared to a world average seven times higher.

During the Lomé roundtable on fertilizers and soil health in May 2023, the President of the Republic of Togo Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, together with other heads of state and ministers from Western and Central African countries, endorsed the Lomé Declaration to strengthen the resilience of agricultural and food systems, and accelerate investments and reforms to make fertilizers more accessible and affordable.

“Without vision, without strategy, fertilizers can quickly turn from a promise of soil restoration to the cause of deterioration. As we need to find a proper balance, planning and state involvement are essential. I therefore support a regional approach,” said President Faure.

Through the West Africa Food Security Resilience Program (FSRP) with $761 million financing, the World Bank has already scaled up efforts across West Africa to ramp up agricultural outputs by adopting climate-smart technologies, promoting intraregional value chains, and building capacity for agricultural risk management.

Overall, in Western and Central Africa over 7.6 million farmers have already received agricultural goods and services, and over 200,000 metric tons of fertilizers have been distributed to vulnerable farmers as part of World Bank agriculture support.

Just in Togo last May 2023, a shipment of 34,000 metric tons of fertilizers has been distributed from the port of Lomé to meet the urgent needs of Togolese producers.

“When we heard they were bringing us fertilizers, we were happy and impatient, as some of us had already sown rice. So, it had to arrive early so that we could spread it in our rice fields. We were grateful that the fertilizers arrived at the right time,” says Victoria Dabla.

The story of Africa’s green revolution builds on the stories of millions of individual farmers, African women and men like Tatiana, Djolly and Victoire, that are cultivating the soil to feed the people.

Together with countries, development and African partners, the World Bank is stepping up its support for building a resilient agriculture that creates jobs and promotes sustainable development.