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Bamako, Mali 3 February 2006

Honourable Members of the Government of Mali,
Distinguished Ministers and Heads of Delegation,
Messrs Presidents of the Institutions of the Republic of Mali,
Mr Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO),
Mr Independent Chairperson of the Council of FAO,
Honourable Heads of Diplomatic and Consular Missions,
Distinguished Representatives of Subregional and International Organizations,
Mr Governor of the District of Bamako,
Mr Mayor of the District of Bamako,
Mr Mayor of Ward IV,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is now my honour, on behalf of His Excellency Mr Amadou Toumani Touré, President of the Republic, to proceed with the closure of this 24th FAO Regional Conference for Africa.

I should like first to express the satisfaction of my Government and all the people of Mali with your participation and your most effective and constructive contributions to this meeting, which has been an opportunity for us to renew our support for the ideals of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

I should also like to congratulate you on the quality of the debate which enabled us to reach appropriate recommendations whose implementation will, I am sure, provide the African continent with an opportunity to make up for time lost and to steer towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Distinguished Ministers and Heads of Delegation,

We have agreed that the main topics of this meeting reflect our shared concerns over the sustainable development of agriculture and food security. This latter aspect is vital for any sustainable development and is of particular relevance to our continent.

Your frank and fruitful discussions have examined the state of Africa’s agriculture and food security and have highlighted the major challenges that lie ahead and means of best dealing with those challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You have noted that the heightened competitiveness of agriculture, in its broadest interpretation, is a fundamental requisite for economic growth and development in Africa; and that this can be achieved by increasing production through enhanced productivity, lower production costs, effective marketing strategies to boost Africa's share of world trade, the opening up of production areas and increased producer access to rural electrification.

You have also noted African agriculture's heavy dependence on and vulnerability to climatic conditions, the worrying degradation of its food and agriculture situation, population pressure and its attendant consequences, and the low exploitation of its potentials for agricultural growth.

Your observations have led you to identify the best ways of changing this situation. Some of the actions you have highlighted are:

• the building of research and extension capacity for the generation and dissemination of technologies and techniques to intensify production systems that are adapted to local conditions;
• the formulation and implementation of participatory strategies for the increased use of mineral fertilizer;
• the development of technologies for irrigation and hydro-agricultural works;
• the elaboration and implementation of strategies to establish linkages between farmers and markets, on the one hand, and to encourage partnerships between the public and private sectors to facilitate producer access to financing, on the other.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As regards seeds and the use of biotechnology, you are in agreement over the need to set up an African Seeds and Biotechnology Programme whose implementation and synergies with national programmes will give Africa the seeds resource base it needs for an effective agricultural sector.

However, given that modern agricultural biotechnology is still the subject of fierce controversy, you have called for national, subregional and regional initiatives to build capacity in the formulation of national regulatory frameworks and install diagnostic and analytical tools for genetically modified organisms.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With regard to the age-old practice of bush fires, you have wisely called for the building of national and producer capacity to prevent, control and manage this scourge.

Your discussions have highlighted the timeliness of the International Summit on Agrarian Reform. However, mindful of the sensitivity of this issue, you have put forward two major recommendations for the identification of strategies and support measures to enhance farmer access to land:

• implementation of coherent land management policies that take the social, political and economic dimensions in to account, together with legislative frameworks that are conducive to investment, while safeguarding the interests of the smallholdings that still account for the bulk of Africa's agricultural production; and
• establishment of a framework of dialogue and consultation that includes strong grassroots participation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your plenary session has also dealt with the FAO reform proposals that the Director-General presented to the Conference in November 2005.

You have also looked at the revised proposals that resulted from the outcome of the Conference and have given them your unanimous endorsement.

I therefore urge you to keep a close watch over their implementation and to provide your steadfast support the Director-General, Jacques Diouf, as he faces this new challenge.

Mali joins you in commending FAO on the progress of its activities in Africa, especially in the fields of plant protection and food security. However, these achievements now need to be consolidated on the basis of the opinions you have just voiced.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I should like, on behalf of the Government and people of Mali, to reiterate my sincere thanks and profound gratitude to all the FAO member countries for their confidence in entrusting us to chair the Regional Conference.

We took over the baton in the full knowledge of our responsibility. And I assure you that my country spared no effort in seeking to live up to your expectations.

We congratulate our sister Republic of Kenya for being chosen to host the 25th session of the Regional Conference and assure her, here and now, of our willingness to help with its organization and to share the experience we have gained.

Before concluding, I should like once again to commend all the participants on their valuable contribution to the quality of the debate and on the relevance of the outcome of the meeting.

I wish our illustrious guests a safe and agreeable journey home and hereby bring the 24th FAO Regional Conference for Africa to a close.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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