Small-scale farmers in Ghana, Madagascar and Mali are the first beneficiaries of a multi-billion dollar project to rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure.
The project, part of the efforts to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals tackling poverty, will later be expanded to other developing countries.
Kofi Annan, of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), signed a memorandum of understanding this month (11 June) with the US government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Under the agreement, infrastructure will be established or improved, agricultural research will be strengthened, and seeds and other technologies will be distributed to small-scale farmers.
Mosa Justin of Madagascar's Millennium Challenge Account, which distributes MCC money, says the joint project will work with researchers to better distribute seeds in three different zones: maize in Antsiranana, rice and butter beans in Menabe, and maize and rice in Boeny.
The Malagasy agriculture ministry has also signed a partnership with private fertiliser companies to increase production. "There is a need to create a fertiliser map according to the type and variety of soils, and then a blending plant to make the most appropriate fertiliser," says Justin. Fertiliser use in Madagascar is currently one twelfth of the African average.
In landlocked Mali, the Millennium Challenge Account has begun a large rice irrigation project in the central Alatona region, which relies on water from the Niger river delta.
Project director Tidiani Traoré says work will begin on extending the Sahel Canal by 23 kilometres, building a new 63 kilometre canal and boosting the banks of the Malado Fala — an ancient dry stream bed used as a natural canal — by December this year.
About 16,000 hectares of farmland — roughly half the Alatona region — will receive improved irrigation, Traoré told SciDev.Net.
Traoré says plans also include formalising land titles, education about land tenure rights, increasing farmers' access to agricultural advice and training in fish, livestock and financial management.
The Mali project also aims to construct a bridge and tar the first 81 kilometres of road from the rice paddies in the Niono inland delta, which floods annually, by October 2008.
Ghanaian plans include starting a dialogue between the private and public sector on how best to work together in getting seeds of new crop varieties to farmers fields.