Multilateral lenders recently announced the launch of an initiative to transform smallholder farming in Africa and enhance its contribution to food security and rural incomes.

Dubbed the “African Agricultural Transformation Initiative (AATI),” the 19.6 million U.S. dollar project that runs until 2025 seeks to revamp farming at the grassroots level through smart policies and financing.

“Given the scale of the rural economy in Sub-Saharan Africa and its enormous potential, we believe that inclusive agricultural transformation is the most effective way to drive sustainable development,” said Safia Boly, the executive director of AATI.

A brainchild of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and private donors, the initiative will also strengthen the capacity of African smallholder farmers to cope with climate change. It is hoped that once the initiative is implemented fully, local farmers’ incomes will improve, enabling them to meet the food and nutritional needs of their households.

The initiative, which will be launched in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Senegal during the initial phase, will harness farmers’ expertise, local innovations and targeted financing to transform food systems.

Governments, the private sector and civil society will also be part of the initiative that seeks innovative ways to transform African smallholder agriculture amid threats like climate change, declining arable land, pests’ infestation and market volatility.

Donal Brown, the associate vice president of the Programme Management Department at the IFAD, noted that small-scale producers and agro-processors will benefit from the new initiative to transform farming systems in Africa.

“Transforming agriculture is therefore very much about empowering these actors through smart policies, investments, technology and knowledge,” said Brown, adding that by enhancing productivity and climate resilience of African small-scale farmers, the continent stands to attain sustainable development goals on poverty eradication, health, environment and gender parity.

Agnes Kalibata, the president of the Nairobi-based Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), said the initiative will create enabling policy and regulatory environment to spur investments in the continent’s food production systems, reeling from climatic stresses, pests, diseases and under-funding.