Organization of the conference
Election of the chairman, vice-chairmen and rapporteur
Adoption of the agenda and timetable
Statement by the director-general of FAO
1. The Sixteenth FAO Regional Conference for Africa was held in the Conference Hall of Hotel Atlas Asni, Marrakech (Morocco) from 11 to 15 June 1990.
2. Delegates from 43 Member Nations of the Region, including 28 countries represented at ministerial level, as well as observers from countries outside of the Region, the Permanent Observer from the Holy See, an observer from the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and observers from intergovernmental organizations attended the Conference. A list of participants is given Appendix B; while Appendix C contains a list of Conference documents.
3. The independent Chairman of the Council of FAO attended the Conference.
4. In his opening statement, Mr. Edouard Saouma, Director-General of FAO, thanked the Government of His Majesty the King of Morocco for his warm hospitality and for the excellent facilities made available to the Conference. He then invited the Moroccan Prime Minister, His Excellency Azzedine Laraki, to take the floor.
5. In his opening statement, the Prime Minister welcomed Delegates on behalf of His Majesty, King Hassan II. He paid special tribute to FAO under the able leadership of Edouard Saouma who had spearheaded the development of world agriculture, particularly in Africa. He pointed out that in most countries in Africa, per capita income averaged about US$ 400, that population growth easily outstripped domestic production, and that the dominance of the agricultural sector in African economies remained unchallenged.
6. He regretted that despite Africa's considerable natural resources the economic situation of the Continent remained precarious under the effect of factors such as: malnutrition, natural and manmade disasters, pests and diseases, the increasingly heavy debt burden, and the continued decline of the terms of trade.
7. The Prime Minister also referred to changes in international economic relations, particularly in the context of the multilateral trade negotiations of the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT), and the recent political changes in Eastern Europe. He expressed the hope that these changes would result in better world economic relations, particularly through improved access to developed country markets and better terms of trade. The Prime Minister exhorted the African countries to greater vigilance and closer cooperation. He urged FAO to intensify its assistance to African agriculture, particularly through the preparation of sectorial research and studies, and to help in the preparation and execution of projects, with particular attention to environmental protection and efforts to control desertification, locusts and the major livestock diseases. He then outlined the development plans approved by His Majesty's Government to modernize Moroccan agriculture, particularly in the sectors of irrigation, training, research, environmental protection, the response to natural disasters, and economic incentives.
8. At its first working session, the Conference unanimously elected His Excellency, Othmane Demnati, Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform of the Kingdom of Morocco, Chairman of the Conference. In a short address. His Excellency Othmane Demnati welcomed Delegates to Morocco and thanked them for having confided the guidance of the Conference to him. Requesting the support and cooperation of the delegations, he wished the Conference full success in its deliberations.
9. The Conference then elected Mr Joao Pereira Silva, Minister for Rural Development and Fisheries, Cape Verde, as First Vice - Chairman, and Mr A.L. Thoahlane, Minister of Health, Lesotho, as Second Vice-Chairman. Mr M.J. Tchicaya, Ambassador of Congo in Italy and Permanent Representative to FAO, was elected Rapporteur.
10. The Conference adopted the Agenda and Timetable. The Agenda is reproduced in Appendix A.
11. In his opening address, Mr Edouard Saouma, Director-General of FAO, paid tribute to His Majesty, King Hassan II and thanked the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco for its generous hospitality.
12. The Director-General then referred to the present situation in Africa, which was and basically remained a supplier of raw materials. Not only had non-renewable resources been virtually mined, the overexploitation of renewable resources increasingly outstripped their natural capacity to regenerate.
13. The Director - General drew the attention of the Conference to the growing gap between the high annual population growth rate of 3 percent and the correspondingly smaller increase in agricultural production; an annual 2 percent. He recalled that Africa's physical resources were limited; only 20 percent of the land was suitable for agriculture. Nevertheless, 10 million km2 of land currently unproductive due to disease vectors could be cultivated if reclaimed. Natural or manmade disasters, the resurgence of diseases and plagues old and new, recurrent drought and civil strife, which had decimated millions of Africans, continued to hamstring the development of African agriculture. The Director-General informed the Conference that there were currently no less than 20 African countries experiencing situations of emergency.
14. The Director-General also referred to the unfavourable economic climate: declining demand, skidding prices - which perpetuated the Continent's state of dependency, agricultural export prices being set outside the Region.
15. Internal difficulties were aggravated by external constraints: declining terms of trade, the debt burden, the adverse world economic situation - entailing a regression in world markets. To surmount these difficulties, the Director-General recommended a series of measures, especially debt relief, which had so far given rise to initiatives which, though praiseworthy, were simply not enough. He recommended setting remunerative and stable prices for Africa's raw material exports and the implementation of realistic domestic strategies tailored to the specific circumstances and requirements of individual countries.
16. The Director-General appealed to the Conference for a critical reappraisal of the impact of food aid, particularly its influence on agricultural development. He asked for a thorough analysis of aid-in-kind in the form of agricultural inputs, and for the tireless pursuit of its objectives. He also mentioned the need for regional cooperation in order to develop South-South trade in Africa. He underscored the need for manpower training - the vital human capital essential to development.
17. As one encouraging sign, the Director - General mentioned Namibia's achievement of political independence and informed the Conference that he had already opened an FAO Office in Namibia. He also mentioned the recent advent of political détente in South Africa, which hopefully would lead to the complete and definitive disappearance of apartheid.
18. The Director-General also referred to FAO's work in Africa, making special mention of the threat to livestock from screwworm fly. Concerning this, FAO had established a special unit modelled on the Emergency Centre for Locust Operations (ECLO), responsible for mobilizing financial resources and coordinating operations. He regretted, however, that current financial difficulties hampered the work of the Organization and asked delegations to add their voices in an appeal to countries in arrears with their contributions to the Organization to honour their obligations.
19. Before concluding his statement, the Director-General referred to two items on the Conference Agenda, i.e.. combatting malnutrition and land degradation. He drew the attention of the Conference to the deleterious impact of malnutrition on human health and welfare, and recommended the adoption of measures and mechanisms to reduce malnutrition and environmental degradation. A full text of the Director-General's address is attached as Appendix D.