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World has common responsibility to support African agricultural development

Director-General welcomes Italian initiative to boost sustainable and inclusive growth on the continent

20 February 2014, Rome - The world had a common responsibility to support Africa as it strives to achieve inclusive agricultural and rural development, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today at an Italy-Africa Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture in Rome.

The Director-General welcomed a new blueprint plan identifying ways in which Italy can support agricultural growth in the region that focuses on supporting small-scale farmers, strengthening the agri-food sector and promoting partnerships.

Presented by Italy to African agriculture ministers at today’s meeting, the plan forms part of an Italy-Africa Initiative launched by Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino in December 2013.

Africa has already placed food security and agriculture at the centre of its development agenda, Graziano da Silva said, noting the decision in January by the African Union to adopt 2025 as a target to end hunger in the region and the launch of the 2014 African Year of Agriculture and Food Security.

But governments, international organizations, the private sector, civil society and farmers themselves must work together to achieve these goals, the Director-General said.

Promoting sustainable livelihoods is important not only for Africa, but also for Europe, Graziano da Silva stressed.

“When people do not have alternatives, they are forced into drastic decisions. Illegal migration is one of them, and can have tragic consequences,” he said, referring to migrants who have lost their lives in the seas off the Italian island of Lampedusa,

“It is our common responsibility to help build alternatives. Sustainable agricultural and rural development needs to be one of them.”

Italy and FAO in Africa

The Director-General acknowledged Italy’s existing collaboration with FAO on a number of initiatives in the region, including work with African institutions to promote rural development and build resilience in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, two of the most food insecure regions in Africa.

He also pointed to collaboration on the Food Security through Commercialization of Agriculture Program in seven countries in Africa, including Burundi, Kenya and Rwanda. The program has contributed to a 30 percent increase in the income of over 120 000 households and led to a 25 percent growth in employment opportunities, particularly for women and youth, the Director-General said.

Graziano da Silva stressed that Italy could continue to count on FAO for future collaboration.