Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Appendix D. Statement by the FAO Director-General to the Twenty-Third FAO Regional Conference for Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa, 04 March 2004

Your Excellency Mr Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic,
Distinguished Ministers,
Honourable Delegates,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is for me a great pleasure to be in this country, symbol of Africa’s renaissance, to address the Ministers and other leaders of African agriculture participating in the Twenty-third FAO Regional Conference for Africa in this splendid Sandton Centre. I should like to express my gratitude to President Thabo Mbeki and to his Government for their warm welcome and their generous hospitality.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

(State of food and agriculture in the world)

During the first half of the 1990s, the number of hungry declined by 37 million. In contrast, during the second half of the decade, it increased by 18 million. Positive achievements in many countries have been countered by setbacks in many others. In 1999-2001, there were 842 million undernourished people in the world, including 798 million in the developing countries, 34 million in the countries in transition and 10 million in the industrialized countries. At this rate, the World Food Summit’s objective of halving the number of hungry people by 2015 will only be achieved in 2150.

In 2003, world cereal utilization totalled some 1,970 million tonnes, exceeding production by 100 million tonnes.

The prices of many commodities that developing countries export are now lower than ever. Coffee and cotton are the most spectacular examples, but cocoa, sugar and bananas have followed the same path. Thus, world coffee prices plummeted from about US$135 per tonne in the mid-1990s to less than US$50 in these last two years. Developing country earnings from cotton exports contracted from US$3.5 billion in 1996 to under US$2 billion in recent years. Moreover, forty-three countries earn more than 20 percent of their total export revenue and more than 50 percent of their total agricultural revenue from just one agricultural commodity.

After the failure of the Cancun Ministerial Conference, negotiations have resumed following the meeting of the WTO General Council in December 2003. Commitment towards achieving the Doha Development Agenda for agriculture was confirmed at the Round Table held on this subject on 2 December 2003 during the 32nd Session of the FAO Conference, for a fair trade policy is essential for rural development and food security. In this context, the role of FAO’s Committee on Commodity Problems is more important than ever. It is with this in mind that I intend to invite representatives of the ministries of trade to the next session of this Committee in February 2005.

At constant 1995 prices, external aid to agricultural development fell from US$27 billion to between US$10 and 15 billion during the 1990s, whereas the amount should be doubled and agriculture’s share of national budgets should be increased to make any significant progress in reducing undernourishment.

(Round tables on financing for agricultural development)

It is to mobilize such financial resources that FAO has decided to jointly organize, with the regional development banks, round tables on financing for agriculture to be held in parallel with each of its 2004 Regional Conferences in the developing regions.

(World Food Summit: five years later)

During the World Food Summit: five years later of June 2002 in Rome, the Heads of State and Government resolved to accelerate implementation of the Summit’s Plan of Action and called for an International Alliance Against Hunger.

National alliances are thus being formed in member countries to mobilize governments, parliaments, NGOs, civil society, the private sector and agricultural organizations.


The developing countries need to take up the challenge of agricultural productivity and market competitiveness to improve their food security.

Soil is under accelerated degradation, affecting 21 million hectares of arable land and threatening the irreversible loss of 6 million hectares. In the arid and semi-arid areas that cover 45 percent of the world’s land surface, the integrated management of land, water and fertilizer can significantly mitigate this situation.

Urban and periurban agriculture and home and school micro-gardens would rapidly improve the level of nutrition of the urban poor, with relatively modest levels of investment. FAO has undertaken such projects in all regions of the world, using Technical Cooperation Programme resources and TeleFood funds.

Livestock sustains some 800 rural poor and meets 30 to 40 percent of total food requirements.

Transboundary animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, haemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, swine fever, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and avian influenza, are sources of concern for trade and public health. Yet some real progress has been made. The number of rinderpest-free countries already exceeds 105 and is growing steadily, but the countries concerned, the regional and international organizations, the NGOs and the donors will have to work in concert to eliminate the last reservoirs of infection. The battle against old and new epidemics is a major challenge that FAO and its partners are seeking to wage under the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES).

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources has been ratified by 34 countries. It will come into force upon ratification by 40 countries, probably during the first half of 2004. This is an area in which FAO encourages the safekeeping of indigenous knowledge, especially as regards agrobiodiversity.


A Ministerial Meeting on Forestry will be convened in 2005 to study the recommendations of the Regional Commissions and to make strategic decisions on the future of the sector.


At global level, almost 10 percent of fish stocks are depleted and 18 percent are overexploited, mainly because of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, more efficient new technologies and excess capacity of fishing fleet. The situation is aggravated by the absence of monitoring and surveillance of vessels, particular by means of satellite transponder technology.

FAO will therefore be convening a meeting of Fisheries Ministers in Rome in 2005 to give fresh impetus to the actions needed in this sector.

(Sustainable agricultural development)

As regards sustainable agriculture and rural development, FAO is proceeding with the formulation of a four-year project for mountain regions, in collaboration with 250 civil society organizations in 90 countries, and working closely with 65 governments and intergovernmental organizations.

The International Conference of Small Island Developing States will be held in Mauritius in August 2004. FAO is actively involved in this initiative and will organize a Ministerial Conference on the Development of Agriculture in Small Island States in Rome in 2005.

Although they account for 60 percent of agricultural production in the developing countries, women have unequal access to productive resources. FAO is striving to tackle this problem, devising specific indicators for appropriate policies.

(Emergency situations)

As of end of 2003, 38 countries were faced with serious food shortages requiring international assistance. Yet, food aid in cereals fell to 7.4 million tonnes in 2001-02, down 2.3 million tonnes or 23 percent from 2000-01.

Eight million small farmers and agricultural workers died from HIV/AIDS between 1985 and 2000 in the 25 most affected countries. To deal with this situation, FAO’s strategic response is centred on agricultural and rural policies, and on programmes, projects and institutional frameworks.

Mr President of the Republic,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

(State of food and agriculture in the region)

Africa is the only region in the world in which average per capita food production has been constantly falling for the past 40 years. If current trends persist, the number of undernourished persons on the continent will increase between now and 2015, in contrast to the other developing regions.

In 1999-2001, 26 percent of the African population were chronically under nourished, a total of 207 million people.

The current levels of undernourishment and the alarming trends provide ample justification for giving high priority to agricultural development in Africa.

What is more, agriculture accounts for 17 percent of GDP, 57 percent of employment and 11 percent of export earnings.

The continent’s countries suffer the consequences of variability of output, relatively low yields and heavy dependence on the export of primary commodities, in a context of low elasticity of supply and high volatility of price. Africa's agriculture is undercapitalized, underperforming and uncompetitive.

There are many root causes for this. There is, for example, the insignificant use of modern inputs, with only 22 kg of fertilizer applied to each hectare of arable land compared to 144 kg in Asia. The level is even lower in Sub-Saharan Africa, which uses 10 kg per hectare.

The selected seeds that spurred the success of the Green Revolution in Asia and in Latin America are barely used in Africa. There is also a profound shortage of rural roads and storage and processing facilities.

Another factor strongly influencing the continent’s poor agricultural performance is water. Africa fails to make good use of its water resources, whether these be surface waters, ground waters or runoff waters from rainfall. It only uses 1.6 percent of its available water reserves for irrigation as compared to 14 percent in Asia.

Only 7 percent of Africa's cropland is irrigated against 40 percent in Asia, and if we exclude the five most developed countries in this regard - Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Madagascar and South Africa - the proportion for the remaining 48 countries drops to 3 percent.

Yields from irrigated crops are three times higher than yields from rainfed crops, but agricultural activity on 93 percent of Africa's arable land is dependent on extremely erratic rainfall and therefore seriously exposed to the risk of drought. Eighty percent of food emergencies are linked to water, especially water stress.

This inadequacy of water control and lack of infrastructure constitute the structural limitations that largely explain why Africa's agriculture is unproductive and uncompetitive.

Between 1990 and 2000, the highest average annual loss of forest cover was recorded in Africa, with 0.78 percent, compared to 0.41 percent in South America and 0.2 percent at world level.

During the past ten years, Africa's fish production has stalled and per capita fish supply has only diminished. Apparent supply has dropped from 9 to 7 kg per person per year. At the world level, fish supplies are increasingly sourced from aquaculture, which now accounts for almost 30 percent of global output, but in Africa aquaculture’s contribution is insignificant.

Mr President of the Republic,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

(Agenda of the Conference)

(CAADP/NEPAD activities)

This Regional Conference will be called upon to discuss implementation of the NEPAD Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) which was approved at the Special Ministerial Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Africa held in Rome on 9 June 2002. This Programme received crucial support in July 2003 at the Second Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in Maputo, where the Heads of State and Government approved the Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa. Since then, FAO has stepped up its assistance to member countries in support of their actions. In September and December 2003, it hosted a meeting of representatives of the 18 member countries of NEPAD’s Implementing Committee, the African Developing Bank, the World Bank, IFAD, WFP and civil society to examine ways of supporting implementation of the Comprehensive Programme.

Today, you are invited to exchange information on the measures that you have taken individually and collectively to implement the Maputo commitments and the Comprehensive Programme and to examine the question of its financing. FAO will report on its cooperation with Member Nations in this process. Its support has focused on updating national strategies for food security and agricultural development towards the year 2015, and on preparing for 50 countries medium-term programmes and legislative programmes, as well as bankable projects to put before advisory financing groups. It will also help member countries to implement the commitment in the Maputo Declaration to allocate, within five years, at least 10 percent of respective national budgets to agriculture and, importantly, to install a tracking system to monitor achievements.

(Integration of forestry, fisheries and livestock into the CAADP)

The Conference will also examine a precursory proposal to integrate fisheries, forestry and livestock components into the Comprehensive Programme, formulated in collaboration between NEPAD and notably FAO. A draft consolidated text will be drawn up in the light of the Conference’s discussions. This document will be examined by the ministers responsible for each sector and will also be submitted for review to NEPAD and the African Union before being submitted in turn to the Heads of State at the Third Summit in July 2004 in Addis Ababa.

(Food security reserve systems in Africa)

In follow-up to the Maputo Declaration, FAO has submitted to your attention a background paper on regional food security reserve systems. This is part of a larger study involving WFP and other partners.

The Special Programme for Food Security, proposed as a NEPAD programme by the Regional Conference in Cairo, should serve as a catalyst, with the Regional Programmes for Food Security, for concrete implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.

(Implications of CAADP implementation on fertilizer production and use in Africa)

The implications of the Comprehensive Programme on fertilizer production and use in Africa will also be examined. Any rapid improvement in agricultural productivity will largely depend on the availability and use of fertilizer, drawn mainly from an increase in local production.

(Agricultural trade)

Africa only accounts for 3 percent of world agricultural trade. The international community needs to adopt rules that are fairer to all and that will allow the non-subsidized smallholders of developing countries to find outlets on markets. Producers are at the mercy of fluctuating markets and the support given to agriculture in the developed countries which reached US$318 billion in 2002. FAO will continue to provide related support to Member Nations, notably in training and information.

Mr President of the Republic,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

With the right leadership and the political will, Africa must and can change its present agricultural situation. We already have encouraging examples from a number of countries.

This political will was resoundingly affirmed in the historic Declarations of Maputo on agriculture and food security in Africa and of the Extraordinary Summit of Sirte on water and agriculture.

Voiced commitments must now translate into coherent, realistic and effective programmes under preparation with the support of the Organization. We will also need to mobilize internal and external sources of funding.

I wish you every success in your work and thank you for your kind attention.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page