Alongside Kofi A. Annan, A. Namanga Ngongi to Lead AGRA’s Work To End Poverty and Hunger of Africa’s Small-Scale Farmers
Accra, Ghana (14 November 2007) — The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) today announced the naming of Dr. A. Namanga Ngongi as its first president. Ngongi is in Accra meeting with Ghanaian government officials, after which he will return to AGRA headquarters in Nairobi.
Ngongi began his career in the fields alongside farmers in his native Cameroon, where he worked as an agricultural officer helping farmers improve yield and diversify and market their crops. His career has spanned involvement in international organisations, and has included serving as Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and leading the peace-keeping mission in war-torn Congo for the United Nations.
“Dr. Ngongi’s leadership will strengthen AGRA’s efforts to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families end poverty,” said Kofi A. Annan, Chairman of the Board of AGRA and former Secretary-General of the United Nations.
“Ngongi is a man of vision, dedicated to the eradication of hunger and poverty. He knows the vital importance of agricultural development, and that ambitious goals inspire the energy and will necessary to achieve them.”
AGRA is an African-led and African-inspired partnership of farmers, scientists, governments, the private sector and civil society. AGRA aims to significantly increase the productivity and incomes of millions of small-scale farmers by supporting sustainable, innovative agricultural practices that help poor farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.
AGRA programs focus on issues across the agricultural “value chain”-- from seeds, soil health, and water, to markets, agricultural education and public policy. AGRA programs to date include targeted efforts to develop new varieties of Africa’s orphan food crops that are low-yielding and highly vulnerable to disease; support for agricultural education including sponsoring two new PhD programs in leading African universities; and efforts to develop seed distribution networks and markets for poor farmers. AGRA also advocates for public policies that support small-scale farmers.
“I am proud and eager to serve as president of AGRA,” Ngongi said. “AGRA’s goals are my own. There is no acceptable reason for Africa’s farmers to be poor. Working with their many allies, farmers can move beyond mere subsistence farming. With access to the needed tools and technologies and with responsible stewardship of our natural resources, we can bring prosperity to Africa’s farmers and their families.”
History of Service
Born in Buea, Cameroon, in 1945, Ngongi earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, Calif. He earned masters and doctorate degrees in agronomy from Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y. Ngongi went on to earn a postgraduate certificate in agricultural and rural development project planning from the University of Bradford, in the United Kingdom.
Early in his career, Ngongi worked with village farmers for Cameroon’s Ministry of Agriculture. He motivated farmers to grow new crops such as yams and plantains, and worked to help them control plant-damaging pests. Later, collaborating with the Government of Ghana and Cornell University, he headed a joint soils research project aimed at ensuring sustained production of basic food crops across the country’s agro-ecological zones. He supervised the establishment of rural development institutions and agro-industrial enterprises in Cameroon.
Ngongi began his international service with the Cameroon Embassy in Rome, where he played an active role in key committees of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
He joined the WFP in 1984, heading operational activities in 17 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, and addressing the populations’ needs after the devastating droughts in Ethiopia, Sudan and the Sahel.
In 2001, Ngongi became Under-Secretary-General of the UN and head of the organisation’s peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
As special representative of the UN Secretary-General, Ngongi managed a mission comprised of 6,000 troops from seven countries and a civilian staff of over 1,500 from more than 60 countries. He organised several local peace negotiations between warring factions in the midst of fighting, hunger and disease, while working to deliver humanitarian aid. His efforts are credited with contributing significantly to the overall success of the peace negotiations as well as the formation of a transitional government in the DRC.
Ngongi retired from the UN in 2003, and returned to Cameroon. He has since taken up farming on his own farm, while also undertaking several high-level missions for the UN, including a study on food reserve systems in Africa.
“It is not enough to know about the problems of farmers from 26,000 feet in the air,” Ngongi said. “I know about the problems of farmers on the ground, and I know that with the support of AGRA partnerships, we can overcome those problems.”
Ngongi succeeds interim president Dr. Gary Toenniessen, who has presided since AGRA’s founding in September 2006.