Ouagadougou, 16 April 1996
Mr. Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,
Mr. Deputy Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity,
Distinguished Ministers and Heads of Delegation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In convening the 19th FAO Regional Conference for Africa in Burkina Faso, a country considered a striking example of all the ills that impede agricultural development in Africa, you have deliberately chosen to place yourselves at the heard of the food problem of Africa.
This conference, which is to serve as a springboard to define a common solution to the problems of hunger and poverty, will undoubtedly be seen an important instrument in our daily struggle against underdevelopment.
Mr Director-General of FAO,
I should like on this solemn occasion to pay tribute to all the work you have undertaken on behalf of Africa since taking up office at the head of the important organization that is FAO. At a time when human solidarity is crumbling dangerously and when multilateral co-operation is seemingly running out of steam, you have been able to attract the attention of the world to the food situation on the continent, while at the same time endeavouring to equip it with the means to develop its capacities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We cannot fail to observe that the goal set by the World Food Conference in 1974 of eliminating hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition "within a decade" has not been achieved. The world food situation is as worrying as ever. This is most certainly an appropriate occasion to commend the initiative taken by FAO to convene the World Food Summit in Rome from 13 to 17 November 1996.
This Regional Conference, which is one of the preparatory meetings for the World Food Summit, will, we hope, enable us to incorporate the African dimension of the problems and their solutions into the draft policy declaration and plan of action.
It is also an invaluable opportunity for the African countries to examine, without reserve, one of the fundamental problems of survival, namely rural poverty and destitution and their attendant hunger, malnutrition, disease and hate which in turn cause fratricidal and ethnic wars.
As we reflect on these unhappy circumstances, let us nor forget those hardworking farmers who, day after day, strive to earn a living from agriculture, and let us also spare a thought for the multitudes of impoverished women and children. At the same time, let us bear in mind the paradox of the opulence, surplus and waste that exists in our world and which calls for stronger solidarity and collective responsibility on the part of the international community.
At this juncture, we pay special homage to those countries and international organizations which continue to significantly increase their assistance to agricultural development in Africa.
And let us not for a moment forget the inestimable role played by non-governmental organizations in the African rural environment. Their daily work among the rural populations makes them key interlocutors in the formulation of our agricultural policies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The African position that you are called upon to adopt here in Ouagadougou should no longer follow the well-trodden path of endless repetition but should, instead, engage in a concerted, dynamic approach, exploring new horizons that will combine technological progress, water management, agricultural and livestock research, improved land quality and rural organization in a better integrated collective environment.
It is on this basis that the issue of increased agricultural production and food security can be adequately addressed.
We, in Burkina Faso, consider food security an integral part of human security. With this perspective in mind, and taking into account our capabilities and experiences, we have placed agricultural and livestock production at the heart of our development policy.
The main thrusts of our approach include:
- the modernization and diversification of production through manageable technology;
- water management and protection of the environment;
- the involvement of the youth in the production process by encouraging them to settle on their own land;
- the mobilization of national savings to finance the agro-pastoral sector;
- the promotion of small-scale farming;
- the fostering of rural co-operation to facilitate the formation of producers' associations;
- the processing of our local produce and the promotion of their consumption;
- and finally, regional and South-South co-operation.
We remain firmly convinced that only the unswerving determination of Africans to do more and better, relying overwhelming on themselves and their own ability to shape their destiny, can release this continent from hunger, malnutrition and under development.
Honourable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to express the gratitude of the people of Burkina Faso to FAO for the confidence shown in appointing us to the International Sponsoring Committee of the World Food Summit.
We should like to take this opportunity to call on all African Heads of State and Government to participate actively in this Summit. On our part, we assure you that we will do all we can to ensure an effective African participation at this very important event.
With this hope, and wishing you every success in your work, I declare open the 19th FAO Regional Conference for Africa.