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Statements

Curriculum vitae of Dr Jacques Diouf

 


Statement of the Director-General
to the Twenty-first FAO Regional Conference for Africa

Yaoundé, Cameroon, 20-24 February 2000



Mr Prime Minister,
Mr Chairman of the Regional Conference,
Mr Independent Chairman of the Council,
Distinguished Ministers,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

It is a great pleasure for me to be present among you in this beautiful city of Yaoundé, on the occasion of the 21st FAO Regional Conference for Africa.

Allow me, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of all the participants at this Conference, to thank the highest authorities of the Republic of Cameroon for their warm welcome and hospitality.

State of food and agriculture in the world

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world is undergoing a rapid pace of globalisation, and inter-dependence with borders increasingly opened economically.

In 1999, world cereal production, estimated at about 1872 million tonnes, is expected to be about one percent down from 1998, and two percent down from 1997 which was however a bumper year. The only expected increase is for rice, while wheat and other cereal harvests will be lower.

For the first time in four years, projected cereal consumption will exceed production, leading to a drawdown of stocks of 8 million tonnes and leaving 334 million tonnes, which gives a stock-to-utilization ratio of 17.4 percent, which is within the safety margin of 17 to 18 percent.

Not surprisingly, the 1999/2000 marketing season should see an increase of over three percent in world cereal trade, which should amount to 222 million tonnes. Yet, cereal prices on world markets are generally lower than last year, a positive factor for the low-income food-deficit countries.

Another encouraging sign is from the fisheries sector, where a partial recovery in output was achieved in 1999 from the heavy losses incurred the previous year.

However, the most positive factor is the reduction by 40 million of the total number of malnourished people in developing countries between 1990-92 and 1995-97, as indicated in the first FAO report on The State of Food Insecurity in the World. This reduction of about 8 million people per year on average is encouraging, but still far below the figure of 20 million required to achieve the objective of the World Food Summit.

Emergency situations

Within a global picture where the number of undernourished people in developing countries is declining, but insufficiently and unevenly, in 1999 a total of 35 countries worldwide faced food emergencies. Whilst in the 1970s and 1980s, food emergencies were mainly the result of natural catastrophes, in more recent years man-made disasters, including war, civil strife and financial and economic crises, have shown an upward trend

In Africa, civil strife and recurrent droughts are the major causes of emergency situations, whilst in Asia millions of people have seen their basic access to food eroded by the decline in their purchasing power brought about by the financial crisis of 1997/1998. In Latin America, most countries are still recovering from the devastation caused by El Niño and Hurricane Mitch in 1998, aggravated in 1999 by a severe cyclone and disastrous flooding in Venezuela. In the Near East, the worst drought in decades seriously reduced food production in several countries in 1999.

FAO, which must first assess the food and agriculture situation and food aid needs, and then report back to the international community, has had to make heavy use of the Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture. The System also collaborates with an extensive network of governmental and non-governmental organizations, in particular WFP and the UNDP.

Emergency situations also require that FAO help revive agricultural production in the framework of consolidated appeals for humanitarian assistance, especially by providing direct assistance to farmers. In 1999, FAO's Special Relief Operations Service intervened with emergency assistance in 67 countries. The resources available for such assistance have steadily increased over the past years, rising from US$ 98 million in 1998 to US$ 186 million in 1999.

FAO is currently implementing 72 emergency projects for a total value of US$ 31 million in 25 African countries. The assistance consists of seed and tool distribution, transboundary diseases and pest control, assistance to artisanal fisheries, livestock restocking and other initiatives helping farmers regain their production capacity and reduce their dependency on food aid.

Other "crises"

But, the world also faces other "crises" relating to the quality of food products and the risks linked to rapid progress in biotechnology. "Mad cow" disease, dioxins in the food chain, and disagreements over trade in genetically modified organisms are serious causes of concern for governments and public debate.

FAO will have to play a greater role in establishing scientifically-based international standards and in disseminating objective information on potential risks and measures of protection.

To this end, the Commission on Genetic Resources is actively preparing Codes of Conduct. The programmes of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques for Food and Agriculture will be broadened to include the Codex Alimentarius, plant and animal health issues and biotechnology problems. As for questions of ethics, these are being examined by an internal committee supported by a panel of international experts.

State of food and agriculture in Africa

Now, let us focus on Africa. During the last three years, a number of African economies in general continued to grow, despite the slowdown in world trade and the re-emergence of civil conflict. First-round effects of the Asian crisis were more muted on the continent than elsewhere, except for South Africa. Food production, small-scale enterprises and intra-African trade are also expanding. This growth stems from government efforts to create investor incentives, better manage public resources and promote the private sector provision of goods and services. Such efforts can only be sustained in an environment of political stability, democratization and decentralization.

In Africa, agriculture still remains the dominant sector and its recovery in 1998 and 1999 was decisive for GDP growth. Good weather and reforms to improve the availability and distribution of modern inputs, and access to credit, contributed towards this result. However, the elimination of subsidies and the reduction of public extension services have negatively affected small agricultural producers. In addition, the efforts of African countries to achieve food self-sufficiency have been hampered by the decline in donor support for rural development projects, and by the reduction of investment in rural social services.

In 1998-99, the rate of growth of agricultural productivity was lower than the rate of population growth, estimated at 3%, thus placing undue pressure on land and other natural resources. Growth in output during this period is therefore due to an expansion of cultivated area.

The rate of growth was about 1 percent for cereals, 5.2 percent for roots and tubers, 5.7 percent for pulses and 4.2 percent for oil crops. Expansion of cultivated area contributed to the tune of 30 percent for cereals, 86.5 percent for roots and tubers, 50.9 percent for pulses and 59.5 percent for oil crops.

For crops vegetables and fruits, the rates of growth of output were 1.2 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, entirely due to expansion in area because yields declined by 0.5 percent per year for vegetables and 0.6 percent per year for fruits.

Livestock production increased in 1998/99 at an annual 1.1 percent for meat and 1.7 percent for milk.

Low yields therefore persist despite the significant investments that have taken place in research and extension in Africa by donors who have typically contributed about 40 percent of research funds. High returns continue to be recorded on research stations and demonstration plots but the products and technologies developed by international agricultural research centres (IARS) and national agricultural research centres (NARS) have yet to be widely adopted by farmers. A central thrust of FAO's Special Programme for Food Security, which is being implemented in an increasing number of African countries, is to find a lasting solution to this situation.

May I also mention that during the past two years, the African agricultural research community and its partners have decided to do better. Under the auspices of the Special Programme for African Agricultural Research (SPAAR) they have developed a Vision for making agricultural research an engine for poverty alleviation, food security and economic growth. The Vision calls for reforms to empower stakeholders and to make research institutions demand-driven. It emphasizes the need for sustainable funding and for enhanced regional integration so that agricultural research in Africa can be more effective.

Annual commercial food imports have risen rapidly to bridge the gap between domestic food production and demand, with an increase of 15.1 percent for cereals and 6.5 percent for milk products. There is therefore a growing dependency on the outside if we add food aid to these imports.

Although food insecurity has increased, marked progress has been made in some countries. According to the FAO report on The State of Food Insecurity in the World 1999, 22 of the 40 countries that have made significant progress in meeting the World Food Summit target are in Africa. Furthermore, the 5 countries in the world that have registered the largest reductions in malnutrition are in Africa.

Against this background, FAO has reinforced its technical assistance to member countries in areas relating to food security, reduction of poverty and sustainable use of natural resources.

Achievements of the Organization

FAO's activities during the 1998/99 have focused in particular on the recommendations of the 20th Regional Conference held in Addis-Ababa in February 1998.

  • Technical expertise in the region has been strengthened through the transfer of 39 and 23 professionals to the Regional and Sub-regional Offices, respectively.
  • Technical assistance to member countries has continued with the aim of building national policy-making capacity, defining the respective roles of the public sector, private sector, NGOs and civil society in order to enhance food security at all levels, giving due consideration to women and children. To this end, a regional workshop was organized in 1998 on the nature and extent of public assistance to agriculture. FAO also enabled them to monitor and evaluate the follow-up activities of the World Food Summit.
  • FAO has developed its cooperation with regional organizations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) and the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), in the preparation of their regional strategies for food security.
  • FAO has fostered its relations with other UN agencies and African organizations and commissions. The Organization has been involved in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework and in the United Nations Special Initiative on Africa.
  • At the country programme level, FAO developed 118 non-emergency technical assistance projects and programmes.

In addition, during the course of the biennium, the Organization has continued to provide technical assistance to member countries of the region in the areas of:

  • Natural resource use and management: Nine workshops were organized to examine the control of land degradation, land and water development, fertiliser use, and transfer of irrigation technology. An expert consultation on water for food was also held. Four small-scale irrigation projects were initiated and a regional environmental information management project is in progress in the Congo Basin.
  • Crop development: A number of activities were carried out at national level. by Farmers' Field Schools in eight countries to promote integrated protection, to improve plant genetic resources and seed production, to develop new crop varieties and to disseminate this information on the Internet. A regional workshop was held in 1999 to formulate a global strategy to increase cassava production.
  • Livestock development: FAO provided support against African Swine Fever in ten countries of West Africa; against ticks, rinderpest and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia in Central and West Africa; against trypanosomiasis in Southern and West Africa; and against gastro-intestinal parasites in small ruminants in Southern and East Africa. Implementation of the FAO Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources was pursued in 1998/99 in collaboration with the OAU/International Bureau for Animal resources (IBAR) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in the SADC countries.
  • Agricultural support systems: FAO participated in two meetings held by the West and Central African Farming Systems Network (AASFRET) and the Eco-regional Programme of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). An international workshop on Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture in West Africa was organized jointly with the International Board for Soil Research and Management (IBSRAM) in 1999. Water harvesting studies were carried out in seven countries. A participatory community planning method (PCP) based on the Asian experience is also currently being tested.
  • Research and technology: FAO organized an Expert Consultation on sustainable development and food security, and continued to support and collaborate with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) system, the Special Programme for African Agricultural Research (SPAAR) and sub-regional research organizations, namely the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), the West and Central African Council for Agricultural research and Development (CORAF), and the Southern African Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Training (SACCAR).
  • Rural development: FAO continued to support the programme of the Technology Transfer Centre at community level. Twenty-two centres of participatory demonstration on adaptive research and extension have been set up and seven centres have been established in West Africa. A regional project is being formulated to define the technology transfer concept at grassroots level. 
  • Women in agricultural and rural development: Activities have continued to be organized during the biennium within the FAO/WID Plan of Action. A guide was developed on how to integrate gender concerns into water control activities. Under the current round of agricultural censuses, FAO is supporting member countries to enhance the collection of gender disaggregated data.
  • Food and nutrition: FAO and WHO continued to provide support for the development of National Plans of Action for Nutrition (NPAN) which have been finalized in 21 African countries, are being developed in 20 countries and are under formulation in 6 others. FAO also provided technical assistance to 22 countries to ensure the quality and safety of marketed food. A workshop on promoting household food security in Eastern and Southern Africa was held in late 1998.
  • Food and agricultural information and analysis: FAO provided assistance to 47 countries to improve their capacity to compile reliable agricultural statistics and to establish sustainable data collection systems.
  • Food and agricultural policy: FAO has provided assistance:
    • to 35 member countries in the design of policies, strategies, plans of action and investment programmes for agricultural and rural development; and
    • to member countries to strengthen their institutional capacities and to enable them to participate actively and effectively in the WTO rounds of negotiation. Two regional workshops have been held for 11 French-speaking ECOWAS countries and five North African countries. Other workshops for English-speaking ECOWAS countries, the SADC countries and those of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) have been scheduled for the first half of this year. A workshop for the remaining English-speaking countries of Africa and for the members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is scheduled for this year.
  • Fisheries: The main activities undertaken during the period include:
    • The organization of two meetings of experts, and assistance to 14 countries in the preparation of viable aquaculture programmes, and in the assessment and management of important fishery resources, through one workshop and three working groups;
    • Implementation of a project to reduce the negative environmental impact of shrimp and trawl fisheries; and to provide training in sustainable fishing practices and quality and safety of fishery products;
    • Application of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries through the organization of two conferences, one seminar and three workshops.
  • Forestry: FAO has organized 11 sub-regional workshops and technical expert consultations on forest genetic resources, criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management and management of protected areas. Six studies on bushmeat, forest products, non-wood products, wood-based energy and bushfires were carried out. Thirty projects are currently underway in several member countries, with assistance from the Organization, aimed at helping countries enhance their institutions, foster sustainable resource development and raise the contribution to food security.
  • Investment Programme: FAO has helped prepare 23 investment projects approved by cooperating financial institutions. Total investments for these projects amounted to US$ 704.63 million, including US$ 432.24 million in external loans, mainly from the World Bank/International Development Association (WB/IDA), the African Development Bank/Fund (AfDB/AfDF), IFAD and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).

Other achievements

With respect to the Emergency Prevention Systems (EMPRES), activities have centred on:

  • The control and prevention of Rift Valley Fever in East Africa and the Horn of Africa; African Swine Fever in West Africa; the training of technicians to reinforce early warning expertise and improve emergency preparedness capacities against rinderpest, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, Newcastle disease and foot-and-mouth disease.
  • Preventive Desert Locust control measures were undertaken in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden areas as well as in North and West Africa.

To date, the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) is fully operational in 30 countries and under formulation in 14 others in Africa. Within the SPFS context, the Organization has followed up with implementation of trilateral cooperation involving African countries, other developing countries and FAO under the South-South Cooperation initiative. Countries participating so far include China, Cuba, India, and Vietnam, in addition to two African countries, Egypt and Morocco.

Implementation of the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) is being conducted at international and especially national level, with the full cooperation of the UN system partners in the framework on an interagency committee. Initial activities commenced in some eight countries in 1999. The FIVIMS is thus helping design and implement appropriate policies and programmes to combat food insecurity and poverty.

Agenda of the Regional Conference

Mr. Prime Minister,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen

This Twenty-first Regional Conference has set itself the task of examining some of the key issues relating to the fight against food insecurity and vulnerability, and the degradation of natural resources in Africa. You will thus be called upon to examine:

  • The challenges of sustainable forestry development to maximize the sustainable contribution of trees and forests to national economic and social development, promote the conservation and improvement of trees, forest systems and their genetic resources, reduce the risks and mitigate the impact of calamities in forest areas, and strengthen national institutions and capacities.
  • Public assistance to agricultural development to highlight its central role in the process of agricultural growth and development, as well as measures to develop the institutional framework and general policies to enhance the mobilisation and allocation of public resources to agriculture.
  • Integration of sustainable aquaculture and rural development to ensure corresponding social and institutional viability through sustainable development policies integrated within the overall agricultural system.
  • World Food Summit follow-up and notably the Special Programme for Food Security to evaluate progress made and difficulties encountered as well as measures to reinforce South-South cooperation, and define the conceptual aspects of food security, questions of parity and the role of different products.

Mr. Prime Minister,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

You have before you an important and inspiring task in the fight against hunger and poverty on the continent. I therefore eagerly await the outcome of your deliberations and wish you every success in your work.

 

 

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