Statement by the director-general of FAO
Statement by the independent chairman of the FAO council
Country statements and general debate on the food and agriculture situation in the region
Report on FAO activities in the region 1994-95 (ARC/96/2)
14. The Director-General made his statement during the inaugural ceremony, which is reproduced in Appendix G.
15. In his statement to the Conference, Mr J.R. Lopez-Portillo recounted the intense preparatory activities undertaken at all levels for the organization of the World Food Summit and said that scrutiny of related reports and statements had led to the identification of interesting issues, problems and interactions which affected food security. He referred to some of these as problems associated with economic stress, extremely low incomes, inadequate economic development, low grain stocks, and qualitative changes in supply and demand which had pushed up prices. He mentioned that a fundamental interaction that had to be considered was the linkage between population growth, consumption patterns, inadequate technologies and resulting environmental degradation which was the basis for sustainable food production and food security. In its turn, this also affected social and political stability, triggered migration and resulted in security concerns at regional and sub-regional levels.
16. He noted that the World Food Summit would provide the right solutions for such linkage problems which would include self-reliance and more focused international effort. The Summit would give indications for very effective solutions, at all levels on, inter alia, the possibilities for better use of scarce water resources, adaptive use of indigenous plants, appropriate land tenure solutions, appropriate considerations relating to women in development, better terms of trade, focused aid and debt relief which would result in increased resources to countries of the region, and so on. He hoped that tills Conference would provide the necessary inputs from the African perspective and wished the participants success in their deliberations.
17. The Conference heard the presentations of the various delegations under this agenda item as well as those from WFP, OECD, UNICEF, IGAD and the World Institute of Phosphate. The Conference congratulated the Director-General of FAO, Mr Jacques Diouf, for his wise leadership and expressed satisfaction for the efficient way he had handled crucial issues affecting FAO and its Member Nations especially those of the African region. They agreed with and thanked him for his initiative to convene the World Food Summit (WFS) and hoped that its outcome would provide much needed solutions to their food and agricultural problems. Most of the countries intimated that they had implemented the necessary mechanisms to prepare for the WFS and that not only would their delegations to the WFS be led by their heads of state but that these heads of state had shown solidarity by accepting to join the International Board of Patrons of the Summit. The Conference reiterated the usefulness of collaboration and cooperation to achieve common goals and enumerated impediments affecting the development of their countries for which solutions were needed. Some of these impediments were specific to individual states and sub-regions. In particular the Conference:a. reaffirmed that food security was particularly crucial to African countries as it was the key to political stability without which economic and social development would be difficult to attain;
b. recalled the experiences by African countries from the worst food crisis ever which had resulted in escalating famine, hunger, suffering and death and noted the range of causes, both natural and man-made, including recurrent droughts, civil wars, poverty, debt crisis, excessive population growth, environmental degradation and hostile external economic environment;
c. noted that the adverse environmental, climatic and other developmental constraints notwithstanding, there were significant success stories in which African countries and sub-regions had overcome such handicaps and recommended that these needed to be properly analyzed and brought to the attention of the Summit so that African countries could be considered equal partners rather than subordinates in the development process;
d. realized the importance of food security strategies, improvement in household access to food, including increased food production, post-harvest handling, liberal credit facilities and improved food habits as approaches for controlling and preventing nutritional disorders including protein, calorie and micro-nutrient deficiencies;
e. observed that development plans which favoured increased food security had been formulated and other special measures such as feeding in schools, establishment of definite food and nutrition enhancement policies had been instituted in countries and that these were showing positive results;
f. acknowledged that strategies which involved increased women's participation in policy and decision making contributed to increased food security and recommended that the related necessary education programmes and policies be implemented by countries;
g. realized that environmental protection policies such as afforestation, land reform and preservation, protection of water resources, adequate transportation, conservation and utilization of natural resources, soil revitalization, etc., contributed to food security and urged FAO to assist countries with their research and technology transfer/exchange in these areas, for example, in the use of draught power for irrigation (land preparation and water lifting); and
h. noted the varied conditions that led to internal upheavals, internal and external migration which had adverse implications for food security and recommended that neighbouring countries and the international communities cooperate in finding common solutions.
18. The Conference acknowledged the kind sentiments expressed by the various delegations, commending the good work of the Organization in the region during the past biennium. It noted that the greatest challenge facing Africa continued to be the steady decline in per caput agricultural production, with most of the countries, particularly the Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs), having very low and inadequate food production. The Conference further noted that food insecurity continued to be exacerbated by the high rate of population growth, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation (particularly desertification) and political instability, and in this regard, appreciated that FAO had redirected its efforts to promote food security in the region through increased food reliance. The Conference thus urged FAO to continue this good work in particular, and the other developmental assistance projects, in general. The Conference in particular:a. commended the implementation of the Special Programme on Food Production in support of Food Security in LIFDCs in ten African countries and recommended that the Programme be expanded to cover more countries in the region;
b. supported the Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES) for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases and called for donor support for the implementation of the long-term programme for the control of Locust;
c. observed that FAO's activities to promote Technical and Economic Cooperation among the member states of the region were being actively pursued and strengthened in cooperation with OAU and other Inter-Governmental Organizations, and was informed of the many and varied Technical Cooperation Networks that had been initiated as a major vehicle for promoting Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) in the region;
d. acknowledged that FAO, through its Investment Centre had continued to assist members in the preparation of investment projects;
e. appreciated that cooperation with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) had been strengthened and that in this regard, a database on NGOs had been established in RAF and noted the achievements of the FAO/NGO Regional Consultation on the World Food Summit (WFS) which was successfully organized prior to the Conference;
f. welcomed the recent changes introduced to make the programmes and policies of FAO more effective especially the decentralization of its technical assistance to the region; it noted with appreciation the facilities offered by the Governments of Ghana and Zimbabwe for the expanded Regional Office for Africa and the new Sub-Regional Office for Southern and Eastern Africa, respectively; and
g. endorsed the focus of the 1996/97 programme which included such innovative programmes as, conservation and rehabilitation of African lands; the expansion of irrigated agriculture; implementation of farmer participatory training in IPM; aquaculture and fisheries management; agro-forestry; improvement of access to economic and social services; supporting existing national and regional capacity building and promotion of technical and economic cooperation among African countries.