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Director-General  Qu Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu
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29 August 2019

TICAD 7 Thematic Session 3: Agriculture


First of all I would like to start by thanking His Excellency Takamori Yoshikawa, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, for bringing us together in this session to discuss Agricultural issues in Africa.

A lot of friends here from Africa know me because I have a long-term commitment to Africa myself.

The challenges ahead of us are enormous. Today, there are 257 million undernourished people in Africa; this means that one out of every five African is in hunger. We need to double food production in Africa in order to meet food requirements by 2030.

FAO continues to focus its activities in Africa on promoting sustainable food systems and rural development as a contribution to unlocking the enormous potential of the continent’s agriculture and agribusiness. To achieve this goal, FAO is supporting Africa in bridging the agricultural productivity gap while maintaining sustainability through its focus on capacity development, value-chain approach, as well as the introduction of innovation and digitalization. We have a large gap but the potential is there. We are going to launch a “Hand-in-Hand” Initiative to fill in this gap, getting support to help Africa, as well as landlocked countries and small island countries in vulnerable regions. We will offer concrete actions in times to come.

Innovation will be the catalyst for the food systems transformation we need in Africa. Today, a wide range of appropriate technologies are promoted by FAO such as mechanization – I have visited a lot of countries in Africa where the younger farmers are willing to use more small and medium sized machinery which can be offered by countries like Japan.

We also need to protect cultivation, digitalization of machinery hire services and irrigation. We have to improve the irrigation efficiency because some countries are suffering from drought and climate change.

Emerging digital technologies present an opportunity to make breakthrough advances. They have the potential to optimize inputs, efficiently manage sustainable mechanization, enhance food storage techniques and reduce food losses and waste. The honorable minister from Japan mentioned that because it got a strong consensus from the G20 Agriculture Ministers Meeting this year. We will be dependent on innovation and digitalization. Africa in that sense is not much behind because in this area, as of years ago, a lot of countries already had access to broadband. But the point is we want to improve accessibility in the countryside of Africa.

A recent example of successfully disseminating and scaling-up innovative approaches by FAO is the implementation of Fall Armyworm early warning and monitoring systems. With all the effort from Asia, from Europe, we can stop the loss caused by the Fall Armyworm.

The adaption of innovative technologies such as drones, mobile apps for data collection, communication, education and extension services have significantly improved monitoring of Fall Armyworm habitats across Africa.

Better access to quality seeds of well-adapted and nutritious crops and varieties is also one of FAO’s key priorities in the Region. 

FAO is therefore very pleased of its role within the Coalition for African Rice Development, which achieved the target of doubling rice production in Sub-Saharan Africa from 2008 to 2018.

Ladies and gentlemen,

FAO pays special attention to creating opportunities for youth and women in the rural areas.

Considering that over sixty percent of Africa’s people are under the age of 25, innovation in food and agriculture may be crucial to tap into this valuable resource for the betterment of the continent.

Just before this meeting, we had a joint launch together with UNIDO. We are going to have more involvement in youth employment in agri-business Africa. UNIDO has a lot of experience from other developed nations and FAO will offer technical support assistance to UNIDO. We want to select some pilot projects in individual countries in Africa that are willing to have closer cooperation with this initiative. I think that with this initiative, we will create something that is countable, visible, and helpful for the youth in Africa, especially farmers.

When rural women are empowered to have equal access as men to key resources, services and opportunities, they become a key driving force against hunger and rural poverty.

Another TICAD Initiative that FAO is proud to participate in is the Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP) that works to empower smallholder farmers including women and young people. Results indicating that the income of farmers has increased significantly through this initiative are very encouraging.

Numerous approaches have been developed by FAO to address the need for relevant skills and knowledge of youth. FAO’s Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools methodology for instance, supports vocational training tailored to youth in rural settings. The scheme has been applied in over 20 countries, benefitting over 35,000 young women and men.

FAO is also focusing on the need to strengthen dryland farming and welcomes the African Initiative for Combating Desertification to Sstrengthen Resilience to Climate Change in the Sahel and Horn of Africa (Al-CD).

As agriculture is heavily impacted by climate change, we need to learn from each other, and share experiences and best practices between regions. FAO as a trusted partner and neutral broker is ready to facilitate and contribute in this exchange.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The potential for a thriving agri-business is based on improving processing of the raw materials, guaranteeing quality and safety and ensuring market access.

As to market access, an important milestone was reached earlier this year with the Agreement of the African Continental Free Trade Area coming into effect.

Codex offers the basic element for international trade standards across countries. For capacity building of the Codex we urgently need assistance from developed countries so that African producers can produce internationally recognized quality for trade within Africa and also export products to other regions. That’s real capacity building for agricultural upgrading.

In that respect, addressing the issue of food safety standards for traded food products is vital. Safe food boosts agriculture, allows market expansion and enables economic prosperity. For that, substantial efforts and investments are needed to improve food safety standards and competitiveness of agri-products in Africa. There is no shortcut in this regard.

FAO is eager to support African States in addressing regulatory frameworks for managing food safety standards, transport as well as quality infrastructure and technical capacities for food safety enforcement.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need political willingness and leadership commitment for a transformative change in agri-food systems in Africa. FAO stands ready to provide its technical expertise and policy consultation and work hand in hand with all partners for a better tomorrow!

Thank you for your attention.