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Bamako, Mali, 2 February 2006

Excellency, Mr President of the Republic of Mali,
Mr Prime Minister,
Mr Chairman of the Council,
Distinguished Ministers,
Honourable Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a great pleasure for me to be here with the participants at the Twenty-fourth FAO Regional Conference held in this capital of Mali which is so rich in history and symbols of Africa's glorious past.

I should like to express my deep gratitude to President Amadou Toumani Touré, to his Government and to the people of Mali for their warm welcome and generous hospitality. Their profound attachment to the dignity and solidarity of the peoples of the continent that was the cradle of humanity no longer needs to be demonstrated.

(State of food and agriculture in the world)

Hunger and poverty are now recognized as the two major scourges of humanity. While the number of hungry fell by 23 million during the first half of the 1990s, it rose by 20 million during the second half of the same decade. Yet, the World Food Summit (WFS) held in 1996 and the Millennium Summit set the goal of halving the number of undernourished people by 2015.

Global per capita food production has risen steadily during the past 30 years. Yet, some 852 million people are undernourished in the world, including 815 million in the developing countries, 28 million in the countries in transition and 9 million in the industrialized countries. In 2000-2002, 27 percent of the African population, some 210 million people, suffered chronic undernutrition. Unless the current trend is inverted, the number of undernourished people on this continent will increase between now and 2015, when almost half the world's poor will live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Development of Agriculture in Africa 2004-2005: outcome
Food production

Africa is the only region in the world in which average per capita food production has fallen steadily over the past 40 years, while agriculture accounts for 17 percent of GDP, 57 percent of employment and 11 percent of exports.

Animal production is also struggling to meet demand. Cattle production is rising by 1.4 percent per year, sheep production by 2.5 percent and goat production by 4.3 percent, while the human population is growing at 2.6 percent. The importation of animal products, often at dumping prices and of suspect quality, is increasing – thus rendering the subsector unattractive for investment.

Fishery products and aquaculture

Africa’s fish production has fallen during the last ten years, with per capita consumption dropping from 8.8 kg in 1990 to about 7.8 kg in 2001. Africa’s coastal waters are overexploited and its fishery resources are clearly diminishing. Yet, its immense inland water and aquaculture resources remain untapped. The result is an increase in imports of fish whose quality is not closely controlled.

Forestry sector

Africa’s forests perform important ecological, economic, social and cultural functions. In some countries, the forestry sector is the second conributor to GDP.

The forests of the Congo Basin represent the world’s second largest tropical forest after the Amazon. Yet, deforestation is advancing at more than 600 000 hectares per year.

FAO will therefore continue to work with Government and subregional organizations to develop policies and programmes for the sustainable management and the conservation of African forest ecosystems.

Agricultural commodity trade

The continent's share of world trade in the 1990s amounted to 1.2 percent, down from 3.1 percent the 1950s. Africa's share of global agricultural exports has dropped significantly, from 8 percent in 1971-1980 to 3.4 percent in 1991-2000. Imports of agricultural commodities have been rising more rapidly than exports since the 1960s and Africa, taken as a whole, has been a net agricultural importer since 1980. Its agricultural deficit reached US$20 billion in 2001-2003.

FAO continues to provide various forms of support to African countries, in particular for building capacity in areas relating to agricultural trade. After the conclusion of the WTO Framework Agreement, FAO held seven regional workshops, including two in Africa, to clarify technical issues associated with the trade negotiations. The Organization has also thus prepared regional programmes for the nine African regional economic communities in response to the sanitary and phytosanitary requirements of the WTO. FAO will continue to examine the major issues relating to the international agricultural trade and to provide technical assistance to African countries.

The constraints


Only 7 percent of Africa's arable land is irrigated, compared to 38 percent in Asia. The proportion is only 4 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. The region uses less than 3 percent of its water resources, the lowest percentage of the developing world, compared to 20 percent in Asia and 10 percent in South America. The real percentage growth of irrigated land in the region only amounts to an average 0.88 percent per year and in many cases is in fact negative. Very high priority should be given to investment in irrigated agriculture because of its important potential for safeguarding production and raising productivity.

Rural infrastructure

The network of rural roads is largely inadequate and transport costs are high. Traditional storage practices cause losses of as much as 40 percent of harvest. Key infrastructure needed to make agriculture competitive includes markets, packing and refrigeration plants, slaughterhouses and fishing ports.


The region’s low use of fertilizer is another major constraint to productivity and competitiveness. Africa only applies 23 kg of fertilizer to each hectare of arable land, compared to 151 kg in Asia. The figure for sub-Saharan Africa is 9 kg. The Twenty-third FAO Regional Conference for Africa, held in Johannesburg in 2004, recommended that the Heads of State and Government give priority to developing Africa’s fertilizer industry so that farmers use more fertilizer. I am pleased to note that a Fertilizer Summit is planned for June 2006 to look more closely into this matter. FAO is ready to provide its support to this important meeting.

Pests and diseases

Pests and transboundary animal diseases continue to ravage Africa. We are all aware of the extensive damage caused by the recent desert locust invasion and the serious threat posed by avian influenza. FAO has always advocated an approach that is essentially based on prevention, with the training of national officers in early detection and in the control of these scourges, together with the mobilisation of international expertise and financial resources. The joint FAO/OIE initiative entitled "Global Framework for Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases" is a step in this direction with the primary objective of reinforcing national veterinary services and capacities through North-South and South-South partnerships, but also of helping regional networks to better determine intervention measures and to improve their related understanding.

With regard to plant protection, measures have been taken to standardize quarantine systems, especially in the framework of the International Plant Protection Convention. FAO is leading the African programme on pesticide stocks which involves a large number of partners. A project coordinating unit will be set up within the NEPAD Secretariat, thereby providing an additional opportunity for cooperation between the two organizations.

Financing (at national level – 10% of the national budget)

If adequate resources are to be mobilized, Africa's ministers of agriculture and their colleagues in finance and planning will need to work together to honour the commitments made by the Heads of State and Government in Maputo in July 2003 to allocate at least 10 percent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development within five years.

FAO will continue to collaborate with the African Union, the NEPAD Secretariat, the ADB, the IMF and other institutions in defining a mechanism to monitor budgetary allocations as stipulated in the Maputo commitment.

The CAADP and its implementation

Since its adoption in Rome in January 2002 by the African ministers of agriculture, NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme has become a government priority in the region. A programme of this nature needs to be dynamic if it is to reflect changing regional priorities and correct shortcomings. In follow-up to the recommendation of the African Heads of State and Government meeting in Maputo in July 2003 and in Sirte in February 2004, FAO has prepared complementary project documents on the livestock, fisheries and forestry subsectors. The document on livestock was approved in Kigali in December 2005 by the AU ministers responsible for livestock production, while the other documents are being reviewed by the appropriate bodies of the Union. FAO is providing an additional assistance to ensure there is synergy between the NEPAD action plan for livestock production and the action plans of the economic communities and other regional organizations in Africa.

FAO has provided technical assistance valued at US$7 million for the preparation in 48 countries of the CAADP's National Medium-Term Investment Programmes and bankable investment projects. A total of 200 such projects have been finalized with an overall value of US$7.3 billion in 37 countries.

FAO's Special Programme for Food Security is in operation in 44 African countries. In 15 countries, it has been expanded to become a national programme. In addition, 500 experts and technicians are at work in 25 African countries under Special Programme South-South Cooperation. The integration of national and regional activities is ensured by regional economic organization programmes to enhance quality and harmonize zoo- and phytosanitary standards.

Other initiatives


In the region, only one-third of seeds pass through a system of control, while the other two-thirds come from the informal sector. Viable systems of production and certification should therefore be urgently established. On this subject, an African seeds programme is being formulated and its effective implementation could help to remove this constraint.

(Agenda of the Regional Conference)

The Regional Conference will be looking closely at two priority topics:

Outcome of the 33rd Conference of FAO

As regards the 33rd Session of the Conference of FAO which took place in Rome in November 2005, the Conference adopted a budget of US$765.7 million for the 2006-2007 biennium, which represents zero nominal growth plus security expenditures and US$6 million for priority programmes. The Conference also looked at my proposals for reform of the Organization. Among other aspects, it approved certain changes to the organizational structure at Headquarters from 1 January 2006 together with the implementation of decentralization proposals in one region and the opening of another subregional office. I have decided to start this exercise with the African region and the Central Asian subregion.

FAO will also have to raise some US$15 million in voluntary contributions to cover the transition costs linked to reform.

The Programme of Work and Budget 2006-2007 is therefore being revisited to accommodate these initial changes in organizational structure at Headquarters and the decentralized offices, and to place a special emphasis on the dissemination of knowledge and the building of capacities in developing countries. In this connection, I intend to present you with a document on the follow-up to the Conference and the implementation of FAO reform. I hope that the related proposals to be placed before the Council in November will receive your support.

The Conference also decided to convene an International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, which will be held from 7 to 10 March this year in Porto Alegre, Brazil. I am confident that the African countries will participate actively in this meeting.

(Side events/Parallel events)

Finally, yesterday, the Ministerial Meeting of the African Union examined the state of food security in Africa and implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme. It also discussed the establishment of a system to monitor the allocation of at least 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture and rural development in the next five years and the proposed merger of the Comprehensive Programme action plan and that of the Sirte Declaration on Agriculture and Water. FAO is willing to help the African Union to implement the decisions of the meeting. This gives me the opportunity to thank the Chairperson of the Commission and the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture for the excellent cooperation that exists between our two institutions.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Fewer than ten years separate us from 2015, the date by which the leaders of the entire world have pledged to halve the level of hunger and extreme poverty. Today's dramatic situation calls for political commitment at the highest national, subregional and continental level for the necessary urgent actions to be undertaken. FAO and the technical ministries have worked hard and the bankable programmes and projects have been drawn up. It is now for the ministers of the economy, of finance and of planning to implement the commitments that were made in Maputo and Sirte by their Heads of State and Government so that we can banish from the world's television screens those images of starving African children dying of hunger. Africa's revival will be just an idle dream and a pious hope if its governments have to continue each year to seek emergency aid to feed their populations.

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


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