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Director-General  Qu Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu
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Yokohama, 30 August 2019 

Statement at the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) TICAD 7 side event

 

We work for the people, to feed the people, so we have to work hard. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Japanese government for organizing this important platform to help Africa. Helping Africa is helping yourself. Helping Africa is helping our future.
 
Agricultural development in Africa is one of FAO’s highest priorities, particularly in light of the rising trend of hunger on the continent. About 20 percent of the African population is undernourished. 
 
The challenge of feeding everyone has become more difficult by the increase in extreme climate events, rapid population growth, conflicts, migration of rural youth, as well as economic slowdowns.
 
In Africa, the Agricultural sector is performing below its potential. About 60 percent of Africa’s population depends on agriculture for jobs and livelihoods, yet its contribution to the gross domestic product was only 21 percent in 2016 and yields are only 56 percent of the international average. We have a big potential. We can transfer technological experience from Japan and Asia to Africa.
 
But Africa is also the continent of opportunities, home to half of the world’s uncultivated arable land (about 202 million hectare).
 
We need to take strong actions to develop the agriculture sector in Africa and sustainable mechanization is an important part of the solution, as it reduces both harvest and post-harvest losses and is the low-hanging fruit that can bridge the gap between actual and potential yield in Africa.
 
We need to relieve farmers of hard manual labor, particularly women, who have the double burden of working in the fields as well as caring for their households. Why do fewer and fewer people want to work in agriculture? Because it’s industrious work. We should help Africa to reduce labour and manual labour especially.
 
Through appropriate mechanization, small scale farming can be transformed to a more market-oriented business, improving labor productivity and enabling farmers lift themselves out of poverty. To achieve this, we need to enhance access to mechanization services.
 
We have a lot of experience from Japan, Korea, and China that we can share with Africa and I hope JIRCAS can be the leading agency to support this.
 
FAO and the African Union launched the Framework for Sustainable Agriculture Mechanization in Africa last year. The framework contains sustainability principles that are essential for any mechanization strategy. These include: 
 
First, approaches and technologies must be environmentally sustainable and not damaging to the soil.
 
Second, mechanization should create opportunities for young people to engage in agriculture in a different way. This means not only in the production side, but in the entire value chain, including post-harvest mechanization and supporting services. 
 
And third, mechanization must provide clear mid- to long term economic benefits.  
 
Mechanization efforts need to recognize the fundamental importance of capacity development. People are the most important resource, and appropriate training must be given to individuals and institutions. Men, women, youth and elderly all have their roles to play.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, let us look now at the rice sector in Africa.
 
Rapid urbanization in Africa has triggered a change in diets and rice has become a key commodity. Rice demand has increased at a much faster pace than African rice production is able to support. 
 
The African market for imported rice and rice products is estimated at 7 billion dollars. This is an immense opportunity for local producers. 
 
With the aim of upscaling the rice sector in Africa sustainable mechanization is key. 
 
But the need for mechanization doesn’t stop at the production stage, it is also important in post-harvest processing, storage and distribution. 
 
Japan, as a traditional rice producing country, could play a pivotal role in supporting the development of Africa’s rice value chain, including manufacturing of required machines, parts production, servicing, and operation. 
 
Another essential element to further develop sustainable rice systems is innovation.
 
For example, we have to further explore the potential of perennial rice in Africa. This system is currently being tested in some countries based on previous experience in Asia. 
 
Rice straw and other biomass generated in diversified systems can be used to improve soil health, but also as animal feed and in other industrial usages.
 
Private sector engagement is also of great importance in promoting new adapted technologies and can be fostered and brought to life as new business in Africa.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, in 2008, Japan initiated the setup of the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD). FAO continuously supported the coalition throughout the past decade. 
 
It is a pleasure to be here today to witness the official launch of the second phase of the Initiative. 
 
Thank you for your attention.
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