| ARC/02/INF/4 |
TWENTY-SECOND REGIONAL CONFERENCE FOR AFRICA
Cairo, Egypt, 4-8 February 2002
STATEMENT OF THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour and great pleasure to find myself again among the leaders of African agriculture to participate in this 22nd Regional Conference for Africa. As I extend a heartfelt welcome and wish you a pleasant stay in this city charged with history and living testimony to Egypt's vitality, allow me to express my gratitude to His Excellency President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak and to his Government for their warm welcome and generous hospitality.
This Regional Conference is taking place in a global economic, social and political context that is under rapid change. One of its tasks will be to prepare the World Food Summit: five years later, which will be held in Rome from 10 to 13 June this year to accelerate implementation of the decisions taken in 1996 and make it possible to halve the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015.
(State of food and agriculture in the world)
The Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), that was held in Doha last November, has established the framework for more equitable terms of international trade of agricultural products.
During the next years, the globalization and liberalization of trade, for agricultural products, the movement of capital and the transfer of technology should take place in such a way that both the developed and the developing countries will be able to enhance the living conditions of their people.
For agriculture in particular, it is essential that the new negotiations under the WTO should provide the developing countries with greater opportunities to participate in international trade.
FAO will continue to make available to its Member Nations the analyses and information needed to reinforce the technical skills of negotiators in agricultural trade.
The last two years have seen a relatively modest performance of the agricultural sector, the economic mainstay of the poorer regions that employs more than 70 percent of the economically active population in the least developed countries (LDCs). The annual rate of growth of world agricultural production fell to 1.2 percent in 2000 and to 0.6 percent in 2001, the lowest level since 1993 and a sharp drop from the 2.6 percent of 1999. This slowdown has been due to a general levelling-off of growth in the developing and developed countries alike.
World cereal production fell in 2001 to 1 850 million tonnes, 1.2 percent down from the previous year. A number of factors have contributed to this reduction: the natural disasters and low prices of recent years, and government policies to reduce surplus supply.
The projections are that world utilization of cereals in 2001/02 should exceed output for the second consecutive year, amounting to 1 935 million tonnes, up 1.7 percent from the previous crop-year.
Importantly, however, Australia, the European Union and North America have sizeable food surpluses for export (with a total value of 36 000 million US dollars) and are probably in a position to significantly increase their food production.
On the other hand, food production in the low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) is not enough to satisfy the needs of their populations, and these countries have neither the means nor the funds to offset the shortfall through imports.
The world still has some 815 million people suffering from chronic malnutrition, including 777 million in the developing countries, 27 million in the countries in transition and 11 million in the industrialized countries. The improvement recorded in some countries and parts of the developing world, notably in East Asia, is thus neutralized by the worsening situation in other regions, especially sub-Saharan Africa and Central America and the Caribbean.
The gap between outputs and needs in the food deficit regions will continue to widen unless there is an increase in rural investment to generate higher employment, income, productivity and production. Until there is an abatement in hunger and malnutrition, it will be difficult, indeed impossible, to achieve appreciable and sustainable results in other vital domains of the fight against poverty, such as health and education.
Emergency relief operations have escalated in the last 15 years. In Africa, economic losses from situations of conflict represent almost 30 percent of the agricultural production of the countries concerned since 1979. These conflicts and their aftermath, especially prolonged civil war, continue to inflict suffering on millions of people in the region. The displacement of millions of rural inhabitants continues in Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone, and the constant interruption of agricultural and food production activities obliges the affected populations to become heavily dependent on international food aid.
Natural disasters also hamper efforts to improve food security in many African countries. The serious drought that began in 1999 and then continued in 2000 has devastated crops and decimated herds throughout the eastern region.
In the southern region, unprecedented floods struck Mozambique in February and March 2000, damaging or destroying infrastructure and causing loss of crops and livestock. Two cyclones and a tropical storm hit Madagascar in early 2000 and Mauritius last month, causing heavy flooding, loss of human life and serious damage to infrastructure.
The long-term viability of intensive agriculture in the developed countries raises concerns and poses problems. The epidemics of BSE and foot-and-mouth disease, salmonella linked to eggs and chicken, and mutant drug-resistant E.coli infection from contaminated meat and water have changed consumer perception of the consequences of unbridled efforts to intensify, to maximize yields and to cut costs.
Elsewhere, the genetic modification of food crops and animals has sparked fierce controversy. While they are not required today to achieve the objectives of the Summit of 1996, their development and application need to be studied and monitored scientifically and in an international framework. This will make it possible to benefit from the positive aspects while avoiding any detrimental effects on plant and animal health or in terms of quality.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic also constitutes a real threat to agricultural development and food security in Africa. Of the 36 million people infected worldwide, sub-Saharan Africa is the region hardest hit with an affected population of 24.5 million.
The absence of water control, environmental degradation, climate change, transboundary plant and animal pests and diseases are major challenges.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Africa is the only region in the developing world where per capita food supply has fallen for the last four years, exposing vast sectors of the population to food insecurity and malnutrition. The incidence of undernutrition in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped slightly over the past 20 years, from 38 percent in 1979-81 to 34 percent in 1997-99. The level in North Africa is 4 percent and has halved since 1979-81, despite the serious environmental constraints that restrict agricultural production in the subregion.
Yet, if we compare cereal production in 1990 with that of 2000, Africa's share of world production improved, rising from 4.7 percent to slightly over 5.5 percent, but per capita production fell from 150 kg to 142 kg - well below the world average of 338 kg per capita.
Variable production levels are a major problem for many African countries, whose crops are rainfed and therefore vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather.
Agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa increased by about 2.3 percent from 1971 to 2000, but this figure conceals fluctuations in rate of growth from one ten-year period to another.
Agricultural growth was generally higher, at about 3 percent, in the 1990s than in the 1970s. Agricultural growth in North Africa in the same period was slightly higher than in sub-Saharan Africa.
Future growth in production will originate for 25 percent from an expansion of arable land but for 75 percent from enhanced productivity. Irrigation of arable land will therefore have to be raised from 7 to 14 percent, high-yield varieties introduced, and use made of integrated plant nutrition systems, biological control and appropriate veterinary products together with enhanced animal feed. Concrete measures will need to be adopted and the economic environment changed through better agricultural policies. Farmers will need to have easier access to storage and transport facilities, to markets and credit; they should also have an assured provision of inputs and technical options.
Deforestation continues to be a serious problem in many African countries. More than 52 million hectares of forest are estimated to have been lost on the continent during the period 1999-2000. This represents 56 percent of total forest loss for this period. Almost 44 percent of forests have been lost in only three countries: Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia.
Marine and inland fisheries posted an annual growth of about 6 percent during the period 1950-60, but only 2 percent in 1970-80. There has been a steady reduction in catch since the 1990s, with the deficit offset by aquaculture.
The marine fishing effort in the Southeast Atlantic has remained stationary since its peak of ten years ago, while catches in the Central Atlantic have begun to pick up again, but the best overall prospects for marine fisheries lie in the western part of the Indian Ocean.
Africa has some 200 million people affected by malnutrition. This is largely due to the limited possibilities of food production for domestic consumption and to the poor organization of distribution networks and markets.
The situation is very worrying for the small farmers, who make up 70 to 80 percent of the agricultural workforce. Indeed, 42 percent of the rural population live below the poverty line.
Major upstream and downstream investment is needed for rural infrastructure, small-scale irrigation and harnessing of rainwater, rehabilitation and conservation of soils, storage and processing facilities, rural roads and markets. An estimated 37 000 million US dollars are needed for water control and land improvement infrastructure alone. Research, experimentation and extension directed towards the agricultural communities are also essential in order to create productive, competitive and sustainable agricultural holdings.
(FAO activities in the region)
The Organization has pursued its policy of reform and decentralization. In this regard, the day-to-day management of its field programme is being transferred from the Regional Office to the Country Representations.
Programmes of normative and operational activities have been formulated and implemented in the spheres of the Organization's mandate, and detailed reports have been submitted to the Regional Conference.
(African common market for agricultural products)
At the OAU Ministerial Conference held in April 2001 in Lomé, with technical support from FAO, the Ministers of Agriculture and Trade of 32 African countries agreed on the urgent need to promote a common market for agricultural products in order to improve food security on the continent. At the Summit of Lusaka in July 2001, the African Heads of State asked FAO to provide technical assistance to the OAU Secretariat in its fight against food insecurity in Africa, in particular for the establishment of a common market for agricultural products.
Technical studies have been prepared by FAO and submitted for review by the OAU Secretariat and the Ministers of Agriculture, Trade and African Integration for presentation at the July Summit in South Africa.
Last July, at the OAU Summit in Lusaka, the African Heads of State established the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). This initiative attaches high importance to food security and African agriculture. FAO provided the NEPAD Secretariat with an expert to help define the main agricultural issues. The Organization was also actively involved in the recent meeting held in Bonino, in South Africa, to review progress. Your deliberations on this matter should provide FAO with guidelines and help it enhance and reinforce its support to the NEPAD.
(Regional strategies and programmes for food security and agricultural development)
FAO has also been working closely with the African regional organizations for the preparation and implementation of regional strategies and programmes for food security and agricultural development. These complement the national strategies for agricultural development towards 2010 and the activities undertaken by countries, with FAO support, under the Special Programme for Food Security.
This cooperation has involved nine major regional economic organizations: AMU, CEMAC, CEN-SAD, COMESA, ECCAS, ECOWAS, IGAD, SADC and WAEMU.
The objective of these strategies is to coordinate agricultural policy, harmonize quality standards and plant and animal health regulations, and to reduce technical and tariff barriers. Financing packages have been prepared for presentation under the 9th European Development Fund (EDF), in collaboration with the Secretariat and the Ambassadors of the ACP countries.
(Special Programme for Food Security)
The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), the centrepiece of FAO's action in the field, is currently operational in 38 African countries. Its aim is to help the low-income food-deficit countries to rapidly increase their food production and their productivity in a sustainable manner, to reduce year-to-year variability in output and to improve access to food.
The results of the pilot phase have for the most part been highly successful. In some cases, the financial engagement of the government and the concerted support of FAO, the regional financial institutions and several bilateral donors have made it possible to start expanding the programme to the different parts of the country.
It is also most encouraging to note that a number of countries in Africa and elsewhere have asked to establish national programmes based on the SPFS concept and have earmarked large sums of their own money for this purpose.
Equally noteworthy is the progress of the South-South Cooperation initiative, whereby developing countries provide countries engaged in the SPFS with field experts and technical staff to live and work directly with local farmers. At present, Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Morocco and Viet Nam are working with African countries, a total of 22 agreements have been signed, and a further 17 are in the pipeline.
(Animal production - EMPRES - trypanosomiasis)
Following the decision at the African Summit of Lomé in July 2000 to eradicate the tsetse fly and trypanosomiasis, which cause an annual loss of 4 500 million US dollars on the continent, FAO has collaborated closely in the preparation of the OAU's pan-African eradication programme (PATTEC). This work has been conducted under the framework of other initiatives such as FAO's priority programme, the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES) and the OAU's Pan-African Programme for the Control of Epizootics. EMPRES has built close links with this programme in 32 countries and provides assistance, especially in the field of vaccines and control of rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever and Newcastle disease.
(World Food Summit: five years later)
The World Food Summit: five years later will take place from 10 to 13 June in Rome. This important meeting, which was postponed because of tragic international circumstances, should help revitalize the fight against hunger.
Progress made towards the objective set in 1996 of halving the number of undernourished people in the world by 2015 has been inadequate. At the present rate, this would only be achievable towards 2050. The Summit this June will be called upon to identify and adopt concrete measures to correct this delay. It is imperative to reinforce the political will at the highest level and to mobilize the necessary financial resources.
Besides their statements at plenary sessions, the Heads of State and Government will be able to exchange views at round tables.
On the occasion of World Food Day, last October, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Mr Johannes Rau, called for a Global Alliance against hunger and poverty. This concept of international Alliance was subsequently widely supported at the FAO Conference in November 2001. Such an Alliance could be the tangible expression of reinforced political will and an important step towards removing the despair and anger that are so favourable to extremism.
The Organization has set up a Trust Fund for Food Security and Food Safety. Its Member Nations and development partners have been invited to provide voluntary contributions. The success to date, with 20 percent of the initial sum of 500 million US dollars already secured, would be even greater if further pledges could be made before the Summit.
The participation of the African Heads of State and Government at the World Food Summit is essential for its success. I am confident that they will attend in force as they did in 1996 and I thank them for their appeal in Lusaka for the OAU Member States to attend the World Food Summit: five years later at the highest level. They also appealed to the G-8 countries to contribute generously to the Trust Fund initially set at 500 million US dollars.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I eagerly await the results of your deliberations. I am sure that your discussions will provide the Organization with considerations and recommendations that will enable it to better contribute to agricultural development and food security in Africa. The great moral but also economic challenge is to ensure that the men and women of Africa enjoy that most basic of human rights: the right to eat so as to live.
Thank you for your kind attention.