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Declaración del Director General de la FAO José Graziano da Silva
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29 October 2013

Joint World Bank-Government of Mauritania-CILLS

High Level Forum “Beating the Odds, building resilience
in the Sahel: Pastoralism in the 21st Century”


Your Excellency Mr Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Your Excellency Mr Idriss Déby, President of Chad and President of Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, CILSS

Your Excellency Jeremie Tinga Ouedraogo, Minister of Animal and Fisheries Resources of Burkina Faso

Your Excellency Mr. Issa Ali Taher, Minister of Pastoral Development and Livestock of Chad

Your Excellency Mr. Nango Dembele, Minister of Rural Development of Mali

Your Excellency Mr. Mahamane Elhadj Ousmane, Minister of Livestock of Niger

Your Excellency Mrs. Aminata Mbengue Ndiaye, Minister of Livestock of Senegal

Mr. Makhtar Diop, Vice President of the World Bank

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Assalamu Alaikum.

It is an honor to be in Nouakchott. I want to thank the people and the Government of Mauritania for their hospitality.

I also want to congratulate the World Bank, the CILSS and the Governments of Mauritania and Senegal for promoting these high level forums on resilience.

In fact, in recent decades, billions of dollars have been invested to fight hunger and extreme poverty in the countries of the Sahel.

For many reasons, the results have been mixed. Last year, nearly 19 million people were severely food insecure in the Sahel.

They have been hit by four major crises since 2005. And each crisis leaves them weaker.

Pastoralism is a way of life for millions of people in the Sahel. Their animals are their livelihoods.

Their pastoral mobility and transhumance is a time-tested way to deal with the difficult and erratic eco-climatic conditions.

However, this way of life is under increased pressure by a number of issues. They range from climate change to competition over natural resources; and from restriction of pastoral movements within and cross-borders to conflict.

The link between food security and peace is very clear in the Sahel. The current food insecurity and malnutrition is both a consequence of, and a contributing factor to conflict and violence.

Poor pastoralist families are among the most affected by recurrent crises. Their animals have died or have been sold to fulfil immediate needs.

Selling animals might give temporary relief, but many times it also means giving away their only productive assets. And once that happens, pastoralist families become even more vulnerable to future shocks.

This is an example of the vicious circle that we need to break.

The only way to end recurrent emergencies is to change from a reactive to a proactive, integrated approach, focusing on resilient livelihoods.

As I have said before, we cannot prevent droughts or floods. But we can put in place measures that will help stop them from turning into famine.

The shift from emergency to resilience is already underway. Governments, regional institutions, FAO, the World Bank and many others are adopting this approach.

There is growing evidence that resilience works. And it not only saves lives and livelihoods, but also money. Let me give you three examples.

First, it cost 500 million dollars to control the Sahel locust plague in 2003/2004. Last year, a timely investment of eight million dollars helped avoid a new outbreak.

Second, studies show that supplementary feeding of livestock before a crisis hits can cost 16 times less than buying new animals.

And, third, research shows that the direct costs of treating livestock to ensure milk is available for children under 5 years old are up to 75 percent less than therapeutic feeding programs.

The resilience approach is also one of the factors that explain the fall in severe food insecurity in the Sahel, from 19 million last year to 10 million people in 2013.

FAO is one of many actors involved in this effort, supporting over 5 million people thanks to the generous contribution of different partners.

We are convinced that resilience is key to food security and are raising its prominence in our work.

Increasing the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises is now one of our five strategic objectives.

In this framework, we are giving particular attention to the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

Resilience is one of the main pillars of our work in Somalia, in which UNICEF and WFP are major partners.

Resilience building is also at the core of our humanitarian work in the Sahel. In 2013, our proposed interventions for the Sahel would benefit over 6 million people with a program of around 135 million dollars.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This meeting will allow for an interesting discussion on how to build pastoral resilience.

Drawing from lessons learned and from ongoing work, I would like to mention a few elements that are relevant to the road ahead.

Perhaps the most important point to make is that we should not try to reinvent the wheel time after time.

We need to build from what exists and from what we know is working, complementing our efforts, filling in the gaps and scaling up.

That must be our starting point. Once we have that clear, then we can identify innovative approaches to overcome the challenges.

Let me give you two examples of innovation:

First, explore new technologies. For instance, taking advantage of the mobile phones boom, using it for weather forecasting and estimating vegetal cover.

And, second, linking social protection, in particular safety nets, to productive support.

Traditionally, these areas have been kept separate. But we are seeing positive results when they are brought together.

Cash for work and other productive safety nets helps prevent poor families from falling into extreme situations.

I also want to stress the importance of preparedness. CILSS has an important early response system in place. In general, what we need to do is make sure that early warning triggers early reaction.

There is a lot of direct support we need to provide to pastoralists. To do this, we need to go to where they are. For instance, the water points they use.

One important area is domestic animal protection and production. It includes:Providing animal multi-vitamin and mineral food complements Investing in vaccination; Offering technical support for livestock management, animal health and production;Destocking and restocking of herds; and,Creation of animal feed banks.

Our efforts should also promote pastoral mobility as a proven coping strategy to adapt to climate variability. There are many ways to do this.

It may include from formally recognizing major dry season grazing areas such as inland river deltas and large oases as spaces of common pastoral interest.

And also revising legislations and regulations regarding pastoralist movement across borders. In this regard, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure can be an important tool.

Our efforts should also support the diversification of livelihoods and accumulation of assets by pastoralists.

This is a way to capture the opportunities offered by a growing national and regional market of meat products. And Pastoralism can also be linked to school meal programs.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Recent experience shows that to build resilience, we cannot work alone. We need to work in partnership.

This requires a joint effort with local communities, governments and the development community.

We need to work within agreed frameworks such as NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, the Global Alliance for Resilience Initiative for the Sahel and West Africa (AGIR), together with ECOWAS and to efforts led by the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy on the Sahel.

I believe that the simple fact that we are here, discussing resilience and not emergency, and looking at what we can do together and not alone, shows that we are on the right track.

The commitment that we are making today will help build a food secure future for these people, increasing their resilience, protecting their livelihoods and respecting their culture and traditions.

Thank you for your attention. Shukran.