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Director-General welcomes President of Benin to FAO

Both renew commitments to continue advocating for agricultural development
©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
Director-General José Graziano da Silva with H.E. Boni Yayi, President of the Republic of Benin, FAO headquarters

22 May 2013, Rome, Italy – Director-General José Graziano da Silva today met with the President of Benin, Yayi Boni, at FAO headquarters.

Graziano da Silva praised Benin for its prioritization of agricultural development, noting that Benin allocated 12 percent of its national budget to agriculture, surpassing the 10 percent level called for by the 2003 Maputo Declaration. According to FAO data, Benin has reduced the undernourishment rate by more than 60 percent, from 22.4% in 1990-92, to 8.1% in 2010-12 . Benin is one of a number of countries that will be recognized for achieving the first Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of hungry people by 2015 in a ceremony at FAO on 16 June.

The Director-General congratulated Yayi for his leadership on agricultural development, also reflected in Yayi’s being elected by peer countries in the African Union (NEPAD) as a champion for African rural transformation at the upcoming G8 meeting in Ireland in June. In early May, Yayi hosted the first-ever Africa Rural Development Forum in Cotonou, for which he is looking to FAO as a key partner as the Forum progresses along a road map for implementation.

Yayi thanked FAO for the organization’s years of support to agriculture, which for African countries is the most important issue, thus making FAO one of the most important global institutions for Africans. Yayi said he wanted to honour Africa’s and Benin’s commitment to FAO with this visit, and that he is advocating for stronger leadership of FAO in its field of expertise.

Yayi also supports the High Level Meeting called by the African Union, FAO and the Lula Institute on “New, unified approaches to end hunger in Africa,” and confirmed his participation in the event on 30 June – 1 July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Director-General lauded advances made in Benin, which has had a bumper rice crop this year and has last year produced enough maize to sell to support the World Food Programme’s relief operations in the region. Benin, he said, could potentially produce enough grain to become a reserve for West Africa, especially the Sahel region, which has been struck by recurrent droughts and food insecurity.

Yayi said that Africa is the continent where natural resources are still being discovered, land is widely available, and even if Africa by 2050 will become the most populous continent in the world, most people will be under 30 and they will need an education so that food and nutrition security will not only be a matter of producing food, but it will also be contingent on creating work opportunities, and addressing pockets of insecurity that continue to cause set-backs when progress is made. He underlined the rule of law in land governance, for which he calls for more concerted discussions amongst all stakeholders, and the need to nurture local markets so that countries reduce their dependence on food imports.

Yayi also extended a cordial invitation to the Director-General to visit Benin.