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Declaración del Director General de la FAO José Graziano da Silva
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29 January 2014

“2014 African Year of Agriculture and Food Security:
from subsistence to success”
Event at the margins of the African Union Summit


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honor to be here.

The launch of the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security is an important step towards a hunger-free and sustainable Africa, that Nelson Mandela and many others have dreamed of and fought for.

We are giving one more step forward in that direction.

The African Year builds on the foundation laid in 2003, when the Maputo Declaration adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) as the Africa-owned framework for addressing the region´s agricultural development and food challenges.

FAO has supported its implementation since the early days and will continue to support Africa in its efforts.

CAADP has provided a new momentum for the transformation of the agricultural sector in Africa.

It is also one of the reasons why many African countries have already reached the First Millennium Development Goal hunger target of reducing by half the proportion of undernourished people between 1990 and 2015.

These countries include Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Djibouti, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo. Their success in meeting the MDG hunger target was recognized at the FAO Conference in June 2013.

But despite individual success stories, as a whole, Africa needs to step up its efforts: more than one out of every 5 of its citizens is still denied the right to food.

Africa can change this situation.

Most of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa.

The challenge is to make this growth more inclusive. Agriculture, rural development, women and youth are key elements for this.

The African population today is mainly rural and expected to continue so for the next 35 years.

Many of rural households are headed by women.

At the same time, 75 percent of the Africans are 25 years old or younger.

Agriculture is the only sector of the economy capable of absorbing this workforce. We need to support young people to get engaged in the agriculture sector and become entrepreneurs.

Combine these factors and we can see that there is no inclusive and sustainable way forward for Africa without women, youth and agriculture.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The celebration of the African year of Agriculture and Food Security happens alongside the International Year of Family Farming, which is also observed in 2014.

For many years and in many parts of the world, small-scale farmers, pastoralist families and fisher folk, among other groups, were viewed as part of the problem of hunger.

That could not be further from the truth. Family farmers already are the main food producers in most countries. And they can do even more with the right kind of support.

Our job is to create the conditions so they can blossom.

This means transforming subsistence farmers into efficient and productive actors.

This means improving access to financial services, training, mechanization and technology that are adapted to the needs of family farmers: the climatic and geographic conditions, to their stage of development, socially and culturally acceptable and economically feasible.

It means improving the connection of family farmers to markets so their production generates additional income to satisfy other basic needs.

There are many examples of how we can make this work, of how we can support the business of small farms.

Financial inclusion strategies such as National Financial Inclusion Framework launched last December in Tanzania are ways to ensure that small-scale farmers have access to credit and other services to support their production and marketing of products.

In Sierra Leone, the Smallholder Commercialization Program with its Farmer Field Schools and farmer-run Agricultural Business Centers are helping some 80 thousand farming families make this transition.

Such actions support the entrepreneurial spirit that every farmer has. We increase local food availability and food security. We improve livelihoods and we stimulate job creation throughout the agricultural value chain.

In short, we make agriculture the engine for growth that Africa needs.

Supporting family farming also means protecting rights. In this regard, I want to highlight the work of the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank to develop the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policies in Africa.

The implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure will contribute to this effort that will be further strengthened when the Committee on World Food Security approves the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments.

At the same time, we also must recognize the vulnerability of poor rural families: any shock can push them back into extreme poverty. To avoid this, productive support needs to be coupled with social protection.

Ethiopia and Malawi were the first African countries to invest in social protection and productive safety nets and are reaping the benefits. And Senegal and Togo, both countries which I visited in December, are amongst those that recently launched social protection strategies.

It is encouraging to see how countries are adopting a more holistic approach to food security and nutrition that also includes the education and health sector.

I want to take this opportunity to invite you to the Second International Conference on Nutrition that will be co-hosted by FAO and the World Health Organization next November. This meeting will help us improve coordination at the national and global levels, and increase political and financial commitment to achieve better results against malnutrition.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Family farming and agriculture are also central to sustainability.

In the past decades food production has increased.

However, this growth was made possible by the use of input intensive technology. And it has its cost: damage to soil quality, land and water degradation and loss of biodiversity.

In a time in which we are seeing the effects of climate change and in which we are facing increasingly violent and unpredictable climatic events, business as usual is not an option.

The future of agriculture depends on the same innovative thinking that led us to increase production with the Green Revolution.

But it also needs to be adapted to today’s challenges: increase food production in a sustainable way.

And nothing comes closer to the paradigm of sustainability than family farming.

By using innovative such as building terraces and adopting conservation agriculture and zero-tillage practices, family farmers have succeeded to maintain and increase production on often marginal lands.

In Zambia, for instance, women farmers using conservation agriculture were able to increase production, productivity and sell surplus.

For Ms Martha Mvula, one of the women farmers participating in this program, the results are easy to see. It means producing enough to feed her nine children and generate enough additional income to enroll them in school and buy the learning materials they need, improve the roofing of the house and in the small grocery shop she runs.

Crop diversification, farming methods that are climate smart and that sustainably increase production while preserving the natural resources, strengthened local markets… those are all different faces of the future of agriculture and our food security and nutrition.

The efforts that we are launching can generate the concrete actions that are needed to tap into the still vastly unexplored potential of smallholder and family farming.

But Africa is doing even more than that.

Last year the African Union, the Lula Institute and FAO organized a high-level meeting on food security Africa.

Wide-ranging discussions took place involving governments, regional and international organizations and civil society and the private sector.

The meeting concluded with a commitment to end hunger in Africa by 2025.

This target is set to be adopted by the leaders of this region at this African Union Summit.

That means the commitment, at the highest level, of an entire continent.

This will be a historic sign of political will and a show of confidence that, with our joint efforts, we can make it come true.

The 21st Century is Africa’s century. And it starts with ending hunger.

Thank you.