Director-General meets with Benin President
20 November 2012, Rome, Italy – Director-General José Graziano da Silva met with Boni Yayi, President of Benin and Chairperson of the African Union today.
Talks covered South-South Cooperation involving cotton, rice and maize cultivation, national and regional security and food security in Africa, youth employment, transport and communication infrastructure, the use of Benin food surpluses to feed neighbouring countries suffering food shortages, and Benin’s long-term vision for its agricultural sector.
The Director-General also accepted an invitation from President Yayi to visit Benin.
President Yayi said Benin is willing to contribute to the food stability of the whole continent – with the help of FAO.
He spoke at length about his vision for Benin agriculture, saying he wanted the country to have a profitable agricultural sector that could provide jobs especially for young people. He added that Benin was already selling surplus maize to the World Food Programme so it could be provided to the hungry Sahel. Benin produced nearly one million tonnes of maize in 2007 and has plans to produce 1.9 million tonnes in 2015.
The Director-General of FAO made reference to a joint FAO-China mission that visited Benin earlier this month to formulate a South-South Cooperation programme, which would see Chinese agricultural experts being posted to Benin to work alongside and share their expertise with Benin technical experts. The President said he wants the new programme to concentrate on providing jobs for youth. He also said the programme might collaborate with the UNDP Songhai programme for young entrepreneurs already underway in Porto Novo, Benin.
The Director-General reiterated that Africa is FAO’s top priority. He recalled that South-South Cooperation was one of the five pillars on which he ran for election. He also agreed with the President that it was a good idea to have a food reserve in Benin ready to provide emergency food to the subregion as necessary.
Almost 12 percent of Benin’s national budget is dedicated to agriculture, which means it has reached the goal set out in the Maputo Declaration of 2003, in which African countries committed themselves to set aside at least 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture.