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Statements

Curriculum vitae of Dr Jacques Diouf

 


Statement on the occasion of World Food Day 1997
Plenary Hall, FAO
Rome, Italy, 16 October 1997



His Majesty Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, King of Nepal,
His Excellency Lamberto Dini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic,
Excellencies,
Most Reverend Monsignor Wagner,
Madame Gina Lollobrigida,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In November last year, FAO organized and hosted the World Food Summit, in order to raise awareness of the intolerably high level of hunger in the world and the urgent need to adopt a global strategy to ensure the food security of present and future generations. Representatives from 186 countries committed themselves to a Declaration and a Plan of Action to lay the foundations for achieving the goal of ensuring that all people, at all times, have sufficient, safe and nutritious food to lead healthy and active lives.

More than 800 million people on the globe, of whom 200 million children do not have the very minimum of sustenance to stay alive. Their capacity for growth and daily activity are stunted by malnutrition and chronic undernourishment.

On this World Food Day, which marks the anniversary of the Organization, I would like to focus on a most essential commitment of the Summit: to increase investment in food security. For if the goal of food security for all is to be reached there must be significant increases in food production and improved access to food.

Much of the investment in food security is, and will continue to be, overwhelmingly private and carried out by the millions of small farmers, traders, village artisans, entrepreneurs and others engaged in the production and distribution of food. Many are women and earn less than the equivalent of US$ 200 per year.

The challenges they face cannot be underestimated: securing better water control to counteract the harsh vagaries of climate and using improved inputs in a sustainable manner to increase yields from scarce arable land.

Yet by their labour, by their small savings, by their investment they contribute around three quarters of the total investments required to achieve food security in the world's poorest countries. Such basic on-farm and related private investment needs to be strongly supported.

The remaining one quarter, about US$ 41 billion each year, consists of public investments to create and maintain the conditions for profitable private sector activity in agriculture.

World Agriculture: Towards 2010 estimated that total investments of US$ 166 billion will be needed each year to secure the increases in food output required in developing countries over the next fifteen years. This implies an increase of 23 percent over the present level.

If official multilateral and bilateral financial support provides the same share as in the past, external commitments of some US$ 15 billion will be needed annually to help the poorest countries meet the public investment requirements.

Unfortunately, however, external official development assistance to agriculture has fallen steadily in the last ten years from about US$ 16 billion in 1988 to under US$ 10 billion in 1995, in large part to the detriment of the world's poorest countries with predominant rural sectors. FAO is cooperating with its investment partners to reverse this dangerous trend, and I am pleased to report that some significant progress is being made in this direction.

Fundamental to the development of efficient food systems is the creation of a policy framework which stimulates the flow of resources that can contribute to food security. Policy adjustments in some countries have already demonstrated the beneficial effects of securing land tenure, mobilizing savings and encouraging farmers and other private investors.

Scarce public resources must be directed to better focused agricultural research and extension, small-scale land improvement and water control systems, reliable infrastructure, reinforcement of credit, building and reform of institutions.

Naturally, the challenges and priorities of investment in food security differ in each region of the world.

Special attention must be given to women who, in much of the developing world, produce and process up to 80 percent of basic foodstuffs. Providing them with training, access to inputs, credit and market, means investing at the most fundamental level.

Supplying the cities is also a major challenge as by the year 2010 it is estimated that the population of the world's cities will have almost doubled. This unprecedented expansion calls for massive investments in food distribution, storage and marketing facilities. It requires also special social programmes to allow the urban poor to have access to food directly.

But public sector and private investments are particularly needed to promote employment opportunities in rural and peri-urban areas.

To ensure concrete follow-up to the World Food Summit in some 86 such low-income food-deficit countries which endure chronic food deficits, are heavily dependent on food aid and lack the foreign exchange to pay for commercial food imports, FAO has launched the Special Programme for Food Security.

The Programme aims to use the normative and field experience accumulated by the Organization over more than fifty years to test under the real conditions of the farmers fields through people's participation more effective and sustainable ways of farming - including improved water control, crop intensification, diversification into small animal production, aquaculture and inland fishing.

The first phase consists of two to three years of pilot operations of a pre-investment nature, encompassing a thorough assessment of all relevant socio-economic issues at micro and macro levels, to identify constraints to production, access and social equity. The second phase focuses on assistance to governments to improve their agricultural policies with a view to create an environment favourable to investment in production, processing and trade. It should also be an opportunity for advising governments on investment plans required to address the limitations in infrastructures and other physical facilities.

Of the 86 low-income food-deficit countries in the world, 19 now have fully operational grass-roots pilot projects under the Special Programme. Activities are rapidly expanding to cover over 50 other countries from which requests for assistance have already been received. I believe that this is an important, indeed vital endeavour, and that the strong momentum now underway must not be lost.

In this priority programme, I am pleased to note active partnership arrangements with relevant financing institutions such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, as well as with UNDP and a growing number of bilateral agencies. Several advanced developing countries have kindly agreed to provide a critical mass of field technicians and coordinating experts in the framework of the South-South Cooperation scheme, for the transfer of know-how to participating farmers of other developing countries.

FAO is also determined to ensure a coordinated approach to food security issues, in particular at country level, and in this spirit has initiated the new ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security, jointly with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and in close cooperation with the World Food Programme as well as other concerned partners.

The achievement of the food security goals set out in the World Food Summit's Plan of Action will come through deeds and facts, in particular on the ground, in developing countries. The international community will fail if it continues to focus simply on conferences, meetings, seminars and consultancy reports. The plight of the poor and the hungry will not be improved through intellectual debates only. The battle for the fundamental human rights to change the dependency and the unacceptable decay which are brought by malnutrition and undernutrition will be won by concrete action to support farmers in their fields throughout the seasons. They need to be helped from dawn to dusk by people sharing their anxieties and hopes, their sadness and happiness. They require each passing day more knowledge and resources to harness and improve water use, provide high yielding seeds and plants, better fertilizer and integrated pest management techniques, improved storage and post-harvest facilities.

It is mainly through the increased capacity to produce cereals, vegetables, tubers, chickens, sheep, goats and fish that it will be possible to bring the supply of food to a level where it can be met by a demand in line with the low income of the poor.

This is the road of the Special Programme on food security. It is not a paved asphalt. It is full of stumbling blocks, pot holes, mud and puddles like the farm tracks that rural people take every day to work the land and that the women use to go for water or firewood. But it is the arduous, laborious and difficult road to success. I am sure that on this long journey FAO will not feel lonely as it will have by its side, across seas and continents, not only people of kindness and goodwill but also governments with vision and compassion.

 

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