PR 96/1 - DIRECTOR GENERAL VISITS KENYA ZAMBIA AND ZIMBABWE


Nairobi, Jan. 17, -- Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), will arrive in Nairobi Saturday, 20 January for talks with high-level Kenyan officials as part of a three- nation Africa tour. The food security situation in Africa and the World Food Summit, to be held at FAO Headquarters in Rome this November are expected to be at the forefront of Dr. Diouf's talks with Kenyan leaders, following similar discussions with leaders in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

During his two-day visit to Kenya, Dr. Diouf is expected to meet with President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, Minister of Agriculture S. Nyachae, Foreign Minister S.K. Musyoka and Ambassadors and Diplomatic Representatives to Kenya.

FAO's Special Report on the Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa is scheduled for release in Nairobi during the Dr. Diouf's visit to Kenya.

A major concern of the World Food Summit will be food security in Africa. The Summit aims to renew the commitment of world leaders at the highest level to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition and the achievement of food security for all, through the adoption of concerted policies and actions at global, regional and national level. While Africa has made progress in the direction of food security, increasing food production by around 60 percent in the past 20 years, its population has grown by nearly 80 percent. The result: per capita food production has declined by about 18 percent.

Of almost 800 million chronically undernourished people in the world, 210 million of them are in Africa, about 40 percent of all Africans.

"We Africans know that our continent has much potential," the Director-General wrote in a recent article. "Africa has many under- exploited natural resources. For example, 4,000 billion cubic meters of water from African rivers flow into the seas and oceans every year, while only 7 percent of the arable land is irrigated and provides 20 percent of the continent's agricultural output!

"So, we can imagine what abundance Africa might produce if this irrigation potential could be tapped. Such potential for increased productivity and freedom from hunger should be the foundation of any policy to develop food security in Africa."

According to FAO, agricultural development policy needs to deliver on at least three fronts: availability of consumer goods and services and the development of infrastructure in rural areas; security of access to land; and farmer participation in decision-making and management. Also, the status of rural women in Africa must improve. African women produce 80 percent of all food grown on the continent, yet they form the majority of the poor population, often deprived of the rights to land and access to credit.

The UN food agency has also pointed to reduced population growth as an imperative in order to relieve the pressure on Africa's natural resource base, particularly marginal lands, and to permit more rapid social development.

A Senegalese, Dr. Diouf who was elected as FAO's first African Director-General in November 1993, has sought ways to improve the food security situation in Africa. In 1994, Africa accounted for almost 50 percent of projects delivered under FAO's Field Programme.

FAO recently introduced two new programmes to improve agricultural performance, with particular focus on Africa. The Special Programme on Food Production in Support of Food Security in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries promotes food self-reliance in poor countries dependent on food imports. There were 88 low-income food-deficit countries in 1995, half of which were in Africa. The Special Programme is currently under way in Kenya, Zambia and 13 other countries worldwide. Dr. Diouf is expected to meet with the Kenyan National Steering Committee of the Special Programme during his visit.

The second programme, Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases, known as EMPRES is focusing initially on the desert locust and rinderpest, two especially virulent scourges in Africa. The programme already has had its first success, stopping a major outbreak of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia in Tanzanian cattle. The disease, which destroys the lungs of cattle, threatened to spread to Zambia and other southern African countries. As part of EMPRES, several experts were sent to Tanzania to set up a control programme that included disease surveillance, vaccine supply and training for field personnel.