Organization of the conference
Election of chairman, vice-chairmen and rapporteur
Adoption of the agenda and timetable
Statement by the director-general of FAO
1. The Seventeenth FAO Regional Conference for Africa was held at the Accra International Conference Centre, the Republic of Ghana, from 20 to 24 July 1992, under the theme "Sound Environment for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa."
2. The Conference was attended by 167 delegates from 35 Member Nations of the Region, 28 of which were represented at ministerial level; nine observers from Member Nations outside the Region, representatives of the United Nations Specialized Agencies including Mrs. Catherine Bertini, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), and 12 observers from intergovernmental organizations and representatives of national liberation movements recognized by the Organization of African Unity (OAU). A list of participants is given as Appendix B of the Report; while Appendix C contains a list of Conference documents.
3. The Independent Chairman of the FAO Council, Mr Antoine Saintraint, attended the Conference.
4. The Director-General of FAO, Mr Edouard Saouma, welcomed the delegates on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He paid a special tribute to the Chairman of the Provisional National Defence Council and Head of State of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings under whose wise leadership Ghana's economy had made remarkable progress in overcoming the structural imbalances that were major obstacles to the economic and social development of the people. He observed that the food and agricultural sector had been accorded high priority in Ghana, and that the sector response to policy measures had been impressive, with cocoa production .doubling in less than a decade.
5. The high-level representation at the Conference, the Director-General observed, was a manifestation of the keen interest of Member Nations in the items on the agenda. He paid tribute to the Ghanaian authorities for all the courtesies and warm hospitality extended to the delegates and for the excellent facilities provided.
6. The Chairman of the PNDC, Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings extended a hearty and warm welcome to the delegates. In his inaugural address, he regretted the continued pain, indignity and dehumanizing effects of recurrent food shortages in the Africa Region. Referring to the issues to be considered by the Conference, the Head of State acknowledged the relevance of the agenda to Ghana's agricultural situation.
7. He informed the Conference that approximately seventy percent of Ghanaians were engaged in agriculture. Since they were illiterate, however, they could not take full advantage of the Conference deliberations and recommendations. He expressed the hope that ways would be found to bring the rich knowledge of the Conference within the reach of small-scale farmers, whose labours continued to ensure the nation's survival.
8. The Chairman observed that since the Conference was taking place after the recent United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the theme chosen for the Conference, "Sound Environment for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa", was pertinent. He invited delegates to prescribe simple solutions that addressed the basic issues and not just the symptoms.
9. He regretted that the hopes generated by the "Earth Summit" had been frustrated by its failure to address the problem of reconciling environmental preservation with the legitimate concerns of poor countries. He underscored that future generations should not be deprived of the opportunity to enjoy their lives on an earth capable of sustaining and enhancing their well-being. He referred to the menaces created by soil erosion, desertification, deforestation, declining rainfall, bushfires, crop failure, over-grazing, hunger and malnutrition which hampered man's legitimate-pursuit of a normal means of livelihood.
10. The Chairman, in conclusion, regretted the perpetuation of unfair international economic relations. He appealed for rational exploitation of resources that would preserve the environment. He further appealed for substantial amounts of resources to support research endeavours, and for the implementation of appropriate development policies, strategies and programmes that would best transform African traditional agriculture into a modern system incorporating improved technological packages for sustainable agriculture without degrading the environment. The full statement is given in Appendix E.
11. At its first working session, the Conference elected, by acclamation, Mr Ibrahim Adam, Acting PNDC Secretary for Agriculture of the Republic of Ghana, as its Chairman. In a short acceptance speech, the Minister expressed his appreciation to the delegates for the honour bestowed upon his country in presiding over the Conference. He stated that the Conference was being held at a very important moment for the African Region since it had followed the "Earth Summit" held in Rio de Janeiro. He appealed to delegates for their cooperation in discharging the responsibilities conferred on him.
12. The Conference then elected, by acclamation, the Honourable Louis Nduwimana, Minister of Development, Tourism and Environment of the Republic of Burundi, and the Honourable Themba N. Masuku, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives of Swaziland as its First and Second Vice-Chairmen, respectively. Mr Assefa Yilala, Alternate Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to FAO, was elected Rapporteur.
13. The Conference considered and adopted its agenda, as reproduced in Appendix A to this Report.
14. In his keynote address, Mr Edouard Saouma, the Director-General of FAO, praised the pioneering leadership role played by Ghana, since its independence, in promoting the notion of African nationalism leading to the attainment of political independence in many African countries. He recalled that it was in Ghana that Pan Africanism and the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had been promoted. It was with similar sentiment that the meeting which led to the establishment of the FAO Regional Office for Africa had been held in Accra some 30 years ago.
15. The Director-General recalled that since the last Regional Conference in 1990, several measures had been adopted. The move towards democracy, the changing political situation in South Africa, the willingness of certain major creditor nations to alleviate or even to cancel the debts of several African countries raised expectations for rapid economic and social progress. He commended both the World Bank and the African Development Bank that had also increased their allocation of resources for African development projects and were assisting many countries in managing their economies. He stated that FAO was pleased to associate itself with these endeavours by making effective contributions in their achievements. In particular, FAO had supported measures to conserve and to rehabilitate African lands, to develop technical cooperation among developing countries, and to strengthen regional cooperation and integration efforts.
16. The Director-General regretted that the expectations for rapid economic and social development had been frustrated. He observed that Africa had been facing devastating challenges, in particular, as related to high population growth, environmental degradation, the unfavourable economic climate, and adverse human activity. The consequences of these unmet challenges had resulted in widespread social dislocation, and were unfortunately leading to social conflicts. Emigration had reached alarming proportions; while African economies as a whole continued to depend exclusively on raw materials to enhance their development and pay for their imports. He stated that while exports in volume terms grew by four percent a year, export earnings declined by six percent annually due to declining export prices. There were no immediate prospects for improvement in the effort international terms of trade. Governments did not have the means to manage their surpluses or to subsidize agriculture. Likewise, African farmers continued to receive inadequate assistance and could raise their incomes only by producing more by utilizing methods that, in the absence of inputs, gradually undermined the resource base. He said aid was obviously not a viable solution, and only served as a derisory palliative.
17. Referring to Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) currently being implemented in many African countries with the support of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Director-General doubted their effectiveness because of conflicting aims to reduce expenditures and contain demand on the one hand, while increasing output supply and effort earnings on the other. However, weak economies and national poverty levels had prevented a reversal of the course of events, and the adverse impact on vulnerable population groups had been particularly devastating, especially in undermining food security. International aid had mitigated the consequences of this situation, but the level of overall assistance had been modest. The Director-General also cautioned against wars, tensions and destabilizing domestic conflicts as destructive human actions that threatened the fate and future of Africans.
18. The Director-General observed that Africa, nevertheless, had its winning cards: the countless small-scale farmers and its natural resources. A prerequisite for success, however, was the political commitment to achieve sustained growth in the agriculture and food production sectors through incentives, inputs, institutions and infrastructures.
19. In conclusion, the Director-General appealed to the international community to recognize Africa's importance to the world and to assist the continent in overcoming its economic depression. FAO was proud to feature among the most fervent defenders of African interests and he requested that care, flexibility and delicacy be used in understanding the African situation. The full text of the Director-General's statement is attached as Appendix E.