Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Kofi Annan and co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates spent most part of Wednesday visiting Tanzanian rural cassava farmers.

They also toured a commercial village dedicated to cassava processing, which is part of the Cassava Village Processing Programme (CVPP), an initiative supported by AGRA and implemented by Farm Concern International (FCI) in Eastern Africa.

The exercise was to learn more about the positive impact that higher yields and increased market opportunities bring to farm families, prior to the start of the three-day African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF 2012) in Arusha, Tanzania.

Later at a media briefing, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations observed that “agricultural transformation can be done and transformation is taking place”.

Mr. Annan shared his impressions on the activities of smallholder farmers, especially in their adaptation techniques to climate change, and emphasised his belief that “our farmers and farmers generally are very smart; what they need is support, the right inputs and they will get it done”.

He also enjoined Africans living in the cities to give the farmers some respect.

Mr. Annan will chair the AGRF 201, hosted by President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of the Republic of Tanzania.

The Forum brings together hundreds of stakeholders to recognize and celebrate the agricultural progress that has been delivered by African leadership to date, and the continuing investments in agriculture needed to build self-sufficient and more prosperous societies for the long term.

The overall focus of the Forum is to improve the life of the farmer to become more self-sufficient and empowered to reduce hunger and poverty in local communities.

Ms. Gates described African smallholder farmers as “incredibly ingenious” in the difficult task of having to produce their crops.

She is looking up to African leaders renewing their commitments to invest 10 percent of national budgets into agriculture when the Maputo Declaration hits the tenth year in 2013.

“Renewing that commitment next year is going to be incredibly important because we’re seeing countries that are moving closer and closer to that commitment [and] really letting people out of hunger. So everything that we’re talking about today is putting the farmer at the centre”, said Ms. Gates.

AGRA’s commitment, she added, is to connect the smallholder farmers to all levels of markets to obtain large incomes from increased yield.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation spearheaded the institution of AGRA.