25 June 2014
31st Session of the Nepad Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee
Your Excellency, Macky SALL, President of Senegal and Chairperson of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee,
Your Excellency, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and Chairperson of the African Union,
Your Excellency, Dr. Nkosazana DLAMINI ZUMA, Chairperson of African Union Commission,
Your Excellency, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD,
Your Excellency; Carlos Lopes, Director-General of the UNECA
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
Heads of Delegations to the NEPAD,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor to take part in this NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee meeting.
The CAADP process is helping change the face of agriculture in Africa.
It has helped transform agricultural development into a priority, convincing Africa of the central role of agriculture in ensuring food security.
Even more important is CAADP’s ownership: it was designed, is led and belongs to Africa. Decades of frustrated experiments have shown that no one can impose solutions from the outside.
True and sustainable development needs to grow from within. That is what CAADP is about.
FAO partnership with the African Union and NEPAD dates back to the establishment of CAADP in 2003.
As we celebrate the first 10 years of CAADP, our challenge is to sustain the momentum going forward.
The goals that this Summit will set for the next 10 years will clearly indicate where our focus should be.
And CAADP must be a key driver if Africa is to end hunger by 2025.
With this in mind, I would like to share a few thoughts on opportunities that exist for the agriculture sector.
First, I want to call attention to the rising demand for food in national and regional markets in Africa. So far, these growing markets are being fed largely by food imports.
Over the last 20 years, Africa’s food import bill went up from 7.5 billion to over 44 billion dollars per year. Today, 44 percent of rice and 60 percent of wheat consumed in Africa is imported.
This can change.
African can nourish itself. This can be done by enhancing productivity, increasing production, reducing post-harvest losses and strengthening national and regional markets.
This effort can also bring added value in two ways: first, recovering and promoting local crops, animals and fish that lead to better and more diversified diets, and providing access to markets for small-scale producers, specifically women and youth.
Second, let’s remember that Africa has seven out of the ten fastest growing economies in the world.
Agriculture can help make this growth inclusive, helping improve the food security that is still absent from the lives of one-fifth of the African population.
Third, let´s recognize that Africa remains predominantly rural, that over half of Africa´s population is under 25, and that around 11 million youths are expected to enter the labour markets every year for the next decade.
I share the strong conviction that the agriculture sector and agri-food system can provide diverse opportunities to young people whether in farming, food processing and marketing or food service industries.
And as you noted in your 10th CAADP Platform Meeting in South Africa, last March 2014: agribusiness won’t work without youth.
Fourth, let me highlight that smallholder and family farmers work on over 60 percent of the land in Africa, and that about 60 percent of farms are smaller than one hectare. Transforming African agriculture must start with the sustainable modernization of those family farms.
In this effort, women deserve special attention. By investing in women we support their role in farming and throughout the food chain, improving the food security and nutrition of millions of poor families in Africa.
Fifth, we must remember that 70 percent of the world’s food insecure population lives in rural areas in developing countries.
Innovative types of social protection programs can help them build resilience and provide access to critical inputs leading to increased food production.
Innovative school feeding programs generate multiple win-win situations, benefitting farmers, children and the communities by locally sourcing school meals from family farms.
These are the elements that we need to consider and strengthen to make growth more inclusive.
The African Year for Agriculture and Food Security and the International Year of Family Farming can help build momentum in this direction.
The question that remains is how can we increase our support to Africa? How can we do more, better or differently in Africa?
For FAO, the answer is very clear: our support will be more effective and useful when it responds to your needs and is adapted to your realities
We are already responding to your priorities by implementing three regional initiatives that were approved at the FAO Regional Conference for Africa:
The first initiative supports the renewed partnership to end hunger in Africa by 2025;
The second initiative supports sustainable productivity and production and inclusive agri-business development; and
The third initiative aims at building resilience in African drylands, with an emphasis on the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.
The importance of investing in sustainability and in building resilience becomes even more pressing with climate change, as mentioned before me by Dr. John Kufuor, former President of Ghana.
This is not only a problem for tomorrow.
African ecosystems are already being affected today. And poor rural communities are among the most vulnerable because they have fewer coping mechanisms and usually live in already marginal production areas.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to emphasize that nothing that FAO is doing is an isolated effort.
We are working with sub-regional, regional and international partners, including IFAD, WFP and the donor community.
And that is why I am keen to put FAO at the service of governments and in support of the programs of the African Union and NEPAD.
This is a renewed partnership that also involves non-state actors.
We need to strengthen farmers and their organizations.
Our renewed partnership also includes a strengthened component of South-South Cooperation. As an example, let me mention the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund for Food Security.
This is an innovative mechanism through which African countries support actions to improve the food security in other nations in the region.
Later today, we will sign 4 regional projects worth 20 million dollars and benefitting a total of 24 countries.
I am also pleased to announce that the trust fund will soon invest 4 million dollars to support NEPAD’s efforts to create rural jobs, with a special focus on youth and women.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
There is a lot to do.
But I am convinced that Africa can nourish Africa, generating income and much needed jobs for the youth along the way.
CAADP has made possible important advances in African agriculture development. Now, we are building on that momentum to take the next steps, expanding our attention to include not only the sustainable and inclusive modernization of agriculture, but also social protection to promote food security.
We count on you for that.
Thank you for your attention.