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FAO Director-General meets with former President of Ghana

“Governments must pursue integrated rural development as the basis for modern agriculture” – John Kufuor

FAO Director-General with President Kufuor at FAO Headquarters on World Food Day 2014.

17 October 2014, Rome - The public sector must pursue integrated rural development as the basis for modernized and commercial agriculture, former President of the Republic of Ghana John Kufuor said at FAO yesterday a meeting with its Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, yesterday.

“The public sector should provide the environment for the private sector, the farmers, to grow efficiently and this the public sector can do by pursuing integrated rural development as the basis for modernized and commercializing agriculture,” he said.

In Ghana’s case that meant focusing on opening up a network of rural roads, electricity supply, potable water, health services and affordable credit for farmers and extension services to provide education in agriculture so smallholders can know best where to plant, how to manage harvesting , storage and marketing, he said.

 “Farmers cannot do it without cooperation of the public sector,” Kufuor stressed in his keynote speech at the annual World Food Day ceremony at FAO headquarters on October 16.

Ghana’s success developing agriculture

Kufuor, who grew up in Ghana’s cocoa growing area, noted that he found public finances overloaded with debt when he took power in 2001 and had to take hard choices including turning for assistance to the multilateral institutions, pledging to roll back the public sector.

One measure he cited as a cornerstone of success in Ghana’s more than tripling of per capita income from 2001 through 2007 was the decision to slash taxation on the country’s cocoa farmers.

Long the producers of the country’s main cash crop and agricultural export, Ghana’s cocoa farmers were increasingly shifting to citrus to avoid hefty levies on the world price for their traditional product. Kufuor ordered the reversal of fiscal pressure on the sector, leaving 60% of the international market price for cocoa to the farmers rather than only 40%.

That, along with helping cocoa farms obtain pesticides and fertilizers, triggered 133% growth in cocoa output to 730,000 tons in the four years to 2005. “It was magical,”Kufuor said. “The farmers were happy, there was money and a ripple effect into other areas of the economy and the whole world hailed Ghana. This is how it happened.”

Where family farmers, who account for 60% of Ghana’s population, constitute the majority of the population, “states must help them improve their efficiency and transmit know-how,” Kufor said. “Everybody will benefit.”

John Agyekum Kufuor and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silvawere chosen to jointly receive the 2011 World Food Prize for their personal commitment and visionary leadership while serving as the presidents of Ghana and of Brazil, respectively, in creating and implementing government policies to alleviate hunger and poverty in their countries.

Today, Ghana has achieved both the Millennium Development Goal 1 hunger target and the World Food Summit goals.  

Science and research to adapt to climate change

FAO Director–General praised the President for calling on world leaders to ensure that farmers in their countries apply what he describes as climate-smart technologies for enhanced food security in his capacity as UN’s Special Envoy on Climate Change.

“Climate change is coming so fast,” Kufuor said. “The only way we can face it is by mastering science and technology. All governments should listen to the recommendations by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on how to mitigate the impact of climate change in people’s lives and agriculture,” he added.

FAO leadership

Kufuor praised FAO Director-General’s leadership: “He carries himself as a true leader and he comes across as a true technocrat who has also got the feeling drive to help people. He is a citizen of the world.”

The President recalled their meeting at the last African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June this year: “He was there involving himself with people, talking solutions. He has done well. I believe he is a fantastic global leader.”