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Bamako, Mali, 30 - 31 January 2006



1. The Technical Committee of the Twenty-fourth Africa Regional Conference (ARC) of FAO met from 30 to 31 January 2006, at the Centre International de Conférence (CIC), Bamako, Mali.

2. The meeting was attended by 189 delegates (including 25 at Ministerial level) from 40 Member Nations of the Region, 2 observers from Member Nations outside the Region, 5 representatives of the United Nations Specialized Agencies and 34 observers from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations; the list of delegates is given as Appendix B.

Opening Ceremony (Agenda Item 1)

3. The meeting of the Technical Committee of the 24th ARC was chaired by the Representative of the Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Masiphula Mbongwa, outgoing Chair. He conveyed to the participants and the people of Mali the greetings of the people of South Africa and expressed his gratitude for the wonderful hospitality the host country has extended to the delegates. He reminded the meeting of the need to continue implementing the resolutions agreed upon in Johannesburg in 2004 during the 23rd ARC for the development of the African agriculture as outlined in CAADP. Finally, the outgoing Chair expressed his pleasure to hand over to Mali the baton for the leadership of Africa on agricultural matters.

4. The Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Africa, Mr. Oloche Anebi Edache, welcomed the delegates on behalf of the Director-General of FAO, Dr Jacques Diouf. He expressed FAO’s appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Mali for hosting this Conference and for putting at its disposal the excellent facilities at the Centre International de Conférence (CIC), Bamako. He also thanked the National Organising Committee for its hard work. He noted that the Conference also provides an opportunity to stage numerous exhibitions and other parallel events planned by the national authorities that would enhance the participants’ stay in the Republic of Mali.

5. He referred to the last Conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in March 2004, which unanimously adopted concrete recommendations to ensure the implementation process of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) at the national, regional and continental levels.

6. He drew the delegates’ attention to the state of food security in the continent: the number of hungry and food insecure in Africa is expected to remain the same until 2015 if the current trend continues. The majority of Sub-Saharan countries is even worse off than at any time during the last three decades. The situation has actually been compounded by civil strife in several countries, natural disasters such as drought and desert locust invasion. To reach the MDG goal No.1, the Region will need to accelerate dramatically the pace of poverty reduction. With reference to the member countries’ common endeavour to find lasting solutions to the Region’s food crisis and other emerging issues, delegates were invited to study and deliberate on the too main discussion papers:

a. Enhancing the Competitiveness of Agriculture and Natural Resources Management under Globalization and Liberalization to Promote Economic Growth;

b. African Seeds and Biotechnology Programme.

7. Furthermore, the following information papers were submitted to the delegates:

- Policy and Regulation of Biotechnology in Food Production

- Fire in the Agriculture-Forestry Interface

- Agrarian Reform, Land Policies and the Millennium Development Goals: FAO’s Interventions and Lessons Learned during the Past Decade

- New Approaches to Information Access and Knowledge Exchange under WAICENT

8. The FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa then called on delegates to closely examine these papers and to come up with recommendations that would assist their governments to formulate and implement policies that could bring improvement in agriculture and food production in the region. In concluding he renewed the FAO’s commitment to place its technical expertise and experience at the service of all the member states in the region.

9. In his opening address, the Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Mali, His Excellency Mr. Seydou Traore welcomed the delegates and observers and stated that his country felt honoured for hosting the 24th ARC. He congratulated the Director-General of FAO, Dr. Jacques Diouf for his brilliant re-election, an acknowledgement of the good work FAO has been doing and a testimony of his commitment to eradicate hunger. The whole Africa shares the vision of a world freed from hunger. However, the realization of that goal entails not only the formulation of policies and programmes that are consistent with national realities, but also calls for enhanced sub-regional cooperation in the framework of the CAADP of the NEPAD.

10. He recalled the commitment of African countries to the Millennium Development Goals, especially the halving of the number of hungry and poor people by 2015. However, 10 years before the deadline it has been established that poverty has increased in Sub-Saharan Africa between 1990 and 2001 as against a worldwide decrease from 30 to 20 %. Africa missed the Green Revolution which benefited Asia. Africa has a low-input and low-productivity agriculture using 9 kg of fertilizer per hectare as against 100 kg in South-East Asia and 200 kg in industrialised countries. Less than 10 % of arable lands are irrigated in Africa as against 40% in Asia.

11. His Excellency Mr. Seydou Traore called for the development of appropriate seed technologies and rural infrastructures, the promotion of private investment, capacity building in respect of trans-boundary diseases, the formulation and implementation of a Pan-African Programme to eradicate the Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP). He welcomed the forthcoming International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development to be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He emphasized the need for a legislative framework for all required actions and acknowledged the assistance of FAO in the formulation of such frameworks. Under the guidance of His Excellency Amadou Toumani Touré, President of the Republic, Mali is currently formulating une Loi d’ Orientation Agricole. He insisted on the importance of human resources development for the implementation of the expected recommendations of this Conference, particularly as regards the control of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. He wished the delegates a nice stay in Mali and declared the 24th Technical Committee Meeting opened.

Election of Chairperson, Vice-Chairpersons and Rapporteurs

12. The meeting unanimously elected Dr. Zana SANOGO, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Mali as chair.

13. The meeting then elected, also by acclamation, the other members of the bureau as follows:

14. Adoption of the Agenda and Timetable. The Meeting adopted the Agenda and Timetable with an amendment to the title of document ARC/06/INF/5 which now reads as follows “Policy and Regulations of Biotechnology in Food Production”. The Agenda is given as Appendix A, while the list of documents is shown in Appendix C.


Enhancing the Competitiveness of Agriculture and Natural Resources Management under Globalization and Liberalization to promote Economic Growth (ARC/06/3)

15. The Technical Committee welcomed the presentation of this agenda item, introduced by FAO, which elaborated the issues and challenges of enhancing competitiveness along the supply chain by examining production related factors, marketing and infrastructure related factors with respect to national, intraregional and export markets. The paper also examined macro-economic policy factors such as national monetary, fiscal and customs policies, etc. that are crucial to enhancing competitiveness in agriculture and natural resources management under globalization and liberalization to promote economic growth and highlighted policy strategies and actions that need to be put in place to enhance competitiveness.

16. Enhanced competitiveness of agriculture (crops/livestock/forestry and fisheries), is crucial to economic growth and development in Africa and has to be addressed by increasing production efficiency, thus enhancing productivity and reducing costs of production. Competitiveness should also be promoted through increased value of market share in the global arena through effective trade strategies.

17. The technical committee had, in the context of globalization, examined the document presented by FAO and agreed with the issues raised and noted that there are two essential factors that affect agricultural competitiveness. In fact, in Africa it was noted that there is need to address constraints of generating economies of scale since most farmers in Africa are small and scattered over large areas, and have poor access to inputs and hence experience high average costs of production. At the same time, African producers face unfair competition in the world trade because developed countries subsidize their farmers. In fact subsidies in developed countries represent a hindrance to agricultural competitiveness in Africa.

18. The meeting noted that agriculture in Africa is low-input and has low productivity and there is need to develop strategies for increased fertilizer use, other soil fertility improvement systems and mechanization. It was recognized however, that competitiveness of agriculture can be achieved by strengthening family farms as they are the backbone of agriculture and at the same time promote the commercializing of agriculture.

19. In the last few years there have been major achievements such as increased cereal production that has been facilitated by a conducive enabling environment. Hence policy that addresses the lack of support services and low prices of commodities is key to competitiveness as it impacts on different aspects of production.

20. Technologies have to be adapted to the local conditions and research needs to be reinforced through development of human resources. Special attention should be given to development of technologies that enhance rain-fed agriculture while supporting small-scale and low-cost irrigation and water harvesting technologies especially for semi –arid and drought prone areas.

21. Strategies to bring together farmers, input suppliers processors, traders, agricultural banks etc., to chart out partnerships and develop cohesive programmes to promote competitiveness, should be considered. There are good examples where these partnership arrangements have shown significant results.

22. Intra-regional trade present challenges especially for the landlocked countries and special attention should be made to develop infrastructure such as feeder roads, rail and water transportation to open up these remote areas as well as developing improved marketing information systems.

23. Infrastructure development including marketing, electrification and irrigation, agro-processing, etc. is a major constraint in many African countries and there is need for a concerted effort by government and public-private partnership to promote financing in this area.

24. An assessment of what needs to be done to promote trade within Africa is required. There is currently lack of pooling of resources in trade negotiations and FAO can play a role in

i) capacity building to strengthen skills on international trade standards in order to enhance access to markets

ii) analysing in which commodities member countries have competitive and comparative advantages; and

iii) studies to develop common agricultural policies in the RECs

The technical meeting noted the need to articulate how the WTO Hong Kong meeting held in December 2005 will affect agriculture in Africa. It was pointed out that there are many resolutions made in such meeting but there is lack of effective follow up and implementation.

25. The poor access to financial resources and the lack of strategies for resource mobilisation were noted. Most farmers are out of range of banking facilities and the current micro-financing facilities are not adequate leading to low levels of investments. There is need to improve on current micro-financing strategies as well as develop strategy to facilitate Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) to improve investment and access by farmers. In addition, intermediaries in financing are required and FAO in consultation with specialized institutions can contribute to the organization of training in financing.

26. Competitiveness must include all the aspects of farming systems which integrate crop, livestock, forestry and fisheries at the farm level. There are many instances where livestock complements cropping by acting as a source of savings and financing.

27. Investment in research, technology development and dissemination and in developing capacity for adaptation of technology to country needs is crucial. Value added and processing activities are also crucial to enhanced competitiveness of agricultural products and to that end, appropriate measures should be put in place in the production areas.

28. Structural adjustment measures leading to the privatisation of marketing and disfranchising marketing boards left small scale farmers without access to support services including marketing information. Strategies for linking farmers to markets need to be re-visited to improve access to these crucial services and to facilitate the participation of farmers in the agro-industrial sector.

African Seeds and Biotechnology Programme (ARC/06/4)

29. Seed is one of the most crucial elements in the livelihoods of agricultural communities. Africa has been unable to take full advantage of the recent advances in seed sector development mainly because of weak seed production and distribution systems, inadequate supply of quality seed, lack of access to improved germplasm, weak entrepreneurial capacity of small- and medium-size seed enterprises, and inadequate implementation of seed policies and international agreements and conventions.

30. The Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) in Sirte, Libya, on 5 July 2005, in discussing the importance of improved seeds for increasing agricultural productivity and food security in the continent, recognized that African governments cannot alone confront challenges represented by developments in the international seed industries and by legal and technical issues which restrict seed exchange. The African Seed and Biotechnology Programme (ASBP) is proposed to provide a strategic approach for the comprehensive development of the seed sector and biotechnology in Africa, taking into account the different needs of the countries and regions. However CSO Representatives present at the Conference requested a 10-year moratorium on the uptake of GMOs.

31. Member countries participating in the FAO 24th Regional Conference welcomed the proposal and applauded the integrated approach of the programme. They requested FAO and its Member States to develop an Action Plan with clear indications of detailed activities, timeframes and allocation of responsibilities.

32. To improve on their proposal participants made the following recommendations:

a) Institutional arrangements should be clearly defined with emphasis on reliance on African expertise.

b) Duplication of efforts should be avoided by ensuring collaboration among the Regional and Subregional Organizations, including research and training institutions and taking into account existing programmes/initiatives at national, sub-regional and regional level.

c) Identify priorities for progressive implementation e.g. seed production starting with the main crops including forage and forests; policy and legal arrangements on seeds and Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA), and capacity building on technical issues such as seed quality control, phytosanitary, varietal uniformity aspects and traceability etc.

d) Encourage African research institution to resuscitate seed research and government to upgrade existing facilities.

e) Activities related to the use of biotechnology for improving seeds together with the envisaged initiative for capacity building to manage genetically modified organisms, should be in compliance with the relevant conventions, protocols as well as national policies and legal frameworks.

f) Access the level of investment in seed development, production and trade including funds for the conservation and use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and identify the conditions needed to increase such investments.

g) Participants from the A.U. Member States requested to receive a progress report on the development of the Action Plan at the next Summit of the African Union Heads of State and Government to be held in July 2006 in Banjul, the Gambia.

h) The budget of the Plan of Action should reflect the need to place strong emphasis on capacity building and potential funding services to be clearly identified. In revising the indicative budget presented in the document, a balance should be maintained by allocating more funds for capacity building and upgrading research institutions.

Policy and Regulation of Biotechnology in Food Production (ARC/06/INF/5)

33. Modern agricultural biotechnology has become a highly controversial issue which polarizes civil society in terms of the potential benefits and risks of adopting genetic engineering technologies and resulting products in food and agriculture systems. Africa as a region is grappling with policy and regulatory choices as it tries to position itself in the current global discussions. This paper reviews existing policy and regulatory instruments and summarizes discussions in the region on genetically modified products. It contains general considerations and recommendations for national, sub-regional and regional dialogue on the sensitive issue of incorporating genetically modified products in food and agriculture systems in Africa.

34. The introductory summary aroused considerable interest among participants who were reassured by the complementarity of this theme with that the African Seed and Biotechnology programme.

35. Participants called for national, sub-regional/regional initiatives aimed at:

i) reinforcing capacities in the formulation of national regulatory frameworks;

ii) reinforcing human capacities of National Biosafety Committees (in terms of critical mass and level of expertise) and

iii) reinforcing national and subregional capacities for the implementation of GMO diagnostic/analytical tools for informed decision-making that complied with the terms set out in existing conventions, protocols as well as national policies and legal frameworks.

36. Participants also stressed the need to have an understanding of the benefits and risks associated with the adoption and use of biotechnology products and called upon public research institutions to be in the forefront of research on biotechnology while ensuring effective public awareness and information sharing.

37. It has also been suggested that all available biotechnology options (including selection by molecular marker, micropropagation, tissue culture, cloning, embryo transfer and genetic engineering, etc.) be taken into consideration as a "continuum", each option being used according to its specific characteristics on a case by case basis..

Fire in the Agriculture-Forestry Interface (ARC/06/INF/6)

38. The document was introduced to the Committee as a paper recommended by the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC). The outcome of its discussion by this conference will be brought to the attention of the AFWC at its 15th session in Maputo, Mozambique in March 2006.

39. The paper highlighted the following key points:

• Fire has been used by people in Africa for many thousands of years and therefore should be considered a natural phenomenon. It is not fire as such that is a problem but the way it is (mis)-applied;

• Fire is probably the oldest land- and resource-use tool employed by people;

• Fire regimes for agricultural land-use purposes modify extensively landscapes.

• Fires in Africa contribute an estimated 24 % to global carbon dioxide emissions from biomass burning, and almost 10 % to global CO emissions from all human sources;

• Fires are a source of smoke, particulates, aerosols and precursor gases to the production of tropospheric ozone;

• Regional atmospheric circulation systems distribute the products of fires far from their sources. During this circulation, the gases and aerosols interact, with solar radiation serving as the catalyst;

• Regular burning may adversely affect soil quality;

• Community-based natural resource management programmes across Africa provide an opportunity for collaboration in managing fires;

• Capacity building programmes on fire management at local level will contribute towards enhancing participatory management and control of wild fires.

The paper was discussed by the Committee:

40. Delegates stressed negative impacts of fires in rural areas, as contributing to destruction of trees, crops, pastures, livestock and wildlife. They raised the need to sensitize local population and strengthen their capacity for fire prevention, control and management.

41. The Committee further recommended that FAO, in collaboration with relevant Partners, should pursue efforts to prepare Fire Control Manuals and provide training and equipment to village level fire brigades, as is done in some African countries.

42. The issue of the impacts of fire on carbon emissions and climate changes needs more documented studies. The Committee recommended that FAO and relevant Partners should pursue work on this issue in order to improve understanding and knowledge of both citizenry and political leaders.

43. Delegates commended the establishment of Networks and Working Groups on Fire in Sub-Saharan Africa. They urged FAO to strengthen these initiatives and to help countries make optimal use of remote sensing data for bush fire prevention and control at different levels.

44. The example of Mali where meteorological information is used by the citizenry prevent bush fire occurrence was strongly commended. It was recommended that FAO should help disseminate such successful national initiatives to other member countries in the region.

Agrarian Reform, Land Policies and the Millennium Development Goals: FAO’s interventions and lessons learned during the Past decade (ARC/06/INF/7)

45. The information note paper underlined that access to land is a crucial factor in the eradication of food insecurity and entrenched rural poverty in Africa, where the majority of the population are rural smallholders and nearly half of the population lives in poverty. Getting the land issue right, it was stated was fundamental to sustainable development and investment and economic national growth. It underscored that rising demographic pressures are generating land scarcity, overuse and degradation of land and natural resources, and that competition and inequities bear serious consequences for the poor and marginalized.

46. The paper highlighted that secure access to land provides a valuable safety net as a source of shelter, food, income and sustainable livelihoods, and that appropriate land policies, improved institutions and secure access to land contribute immensely to achieving the MDGs goals, addressing MDG1 (poverty and hunger eradication), MDG 7 (urban and peri-urban interface and environmental sustainability), and MDG 8 (global partnership for development) in specific. Fostering wide participation and empowerment through dialogue on local and macro levels is illuminated in the paper as critical to ensuring appropriate, equitable and fair agrarian reform.

47. In Africa it is noted that there are a number of choices in striking the right balance and appropriate mix toward strengthening policy, legal and institutional arrangements, for example: smallholder versus commercial development, statutory or customary rights-based regimes, extent of decentralized land administration, participatory processes. The paper noted that FAO is organising in March the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, hosted by Brazil, to build a sustainable global platform of exchange, partnerships and enhanced international cooperation.

48. Several members of the Committee shared their ongoing national experiences in policy formulation, design of legislative frameworks and implementation strategies and processes in land reform. This collective “wisdom” of sharing experiences to analyse issues was noted as critical for moving forward in land reform and for promoting sustainable agricultural investment. Many delegates noted that ICARRD to be held in March was a platform to strengthen this exchange of dialogue. The Committee thanked FAO for bringing land issues back on their agenda as a key rural development priority.

49. Several delegates cited decentralization as a national priority in the land and agrarian reform process, notably to ensure appropriate and sustainable land use and management, fostering investment while promoting smallholder production. Emphasis was made inter alia on reinforcing access and facility to ease registration processes at local levels to promote security of tenure (for example through “one stop shops”). It was noted that security of land tenure would enhance food security, investment and competitiveness in agriculture by smallholding rural farmers and thus promote their professionalisation and modernization of production practices.

50. The registration of diverse rights was acknowledged as pertinent to land and agrarian reform, stressing customary, collective and other diverse existing land holdings. Analysis of the local context of specific existing landholdings and forms of land use was highlighted as an important element in the process of determining appropriate policies and strategies for sustainable land reform, an initiative in which SADC informed the Committee that it is soon undertaking in partnership with UNDP Drylands Center and DFID.

51. The Committee expressed fervent recognition that land and agrarian reform is not just a technical issue, but also a social, political and economic, and of utmost national importance and concern requiring bold policies. In addition, it was emphasized that the sensitivities around land issues call for caution, iterative processes and most importantly, dialogue and consultation at all levels to ensure robust participation and inclusion from all stakeholders and actors concerned.

52. The Committee placed emphasis on processes in support of community-based management of land tenure arrangements such as diverse land administration processes including allocation, land sharing, land-use planning, land transfers, bequeathing, and notably land conflict and mediation. Land conflict was underlined as a pertinent area for further support, noted by several delegates as increasingly relevant in their contexts given the reality of decreasing land availability, increasing desertification, rising cross-border conflicts and migrations and continuing farmer-pastoral conflicts. It was noted that effective existing customary practices in local contexts should be used when possible in strengthening conflict mediation processes, as well as use of local land commissions.

53. Several delegates cited increasing land scarcity and fragmentation of landholdings as most concerning. Promoting balanced policies in support of land consolidation, commercial agriculture and investment while also protecting land rights and production systems of smallholders was stressed as a priority area for future focus. Reaching the right mix between investment and market-oriented agriculture with smallholding family farming was a topic of discussion from several member countries confronted with this challenge.

New Approaches to Information Access under WAICENT (ARC/06/INF/8)

54. The presentation indicated that FAO is enhancing its role as a Knowledge Organization and highlighted the current and future role of the WAICENT Framework in developing and strengthening its policies, processes and practices in creating, acquiring, capturing, sharing and using knowledge. Further indicted that FAO has a wide range of digital repositories of data and information available online that are heavily used by its audiences, and the Organization has developed standards in support of the effective management and dissemination of these resources. These resources and their associated standards constitute principal components of the WAICENT Framework, and FAO has created internal and external consultative processes to support and advocate for their use.

55. Recognizing the great importance of its Web site, FAO undertook a major survey of its audiences in order to establish their needs, from which a series of recommendations arose for development of the site and the processes which support it.

56. The conference noted the information contained in the presentation and the efforts being made to enable FAO enhance its role as a knowledge organization.


57. There was none.


Adoption of the Report of the Technical Committee

58. The meeting considered its report and adopted it after some amendments.

Closure of the Technical Committee Meeting

59. In his concluding remarks, Dr. Zana Sanogo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture Republic of Mali, thanked the FAO for the high quality of the documents prepared for the Conference and the delegates for their keen participation and diligence throughout the meeting. He also thanked the Rapporteurs and the secretariat for the long hours they devoted to put together an excellent and succinct report, making it easier for it to be adopted by delegates with only few amendments.


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