Organization of the conference
Election of chairman, vice-chairmen and rapporteur
Adoption of the agenda and timetable
Statement by the director-general of FAO
1. The Eighteenth FAO Regional Conference for Africa was held at the Boipuso Conference Centre, Gaborone, Republic of Botswana, from 24 to 28 October 1994.
2. The meeting was attended by 126 delegates from 32 Member Nations of the Region, 26 of which were represented at ministerial level; seven observers from Member Nations outside the Region, the observer from the Holy See, seven representatives of the United Nations Specialized Agencies, ten observers from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and one observer from a multilateral financial institution. A list of participants is given as Appendix B of this Report. The list of the documents for the meeting is given in Appendix C of the report.
3. The Independent Chairman of the FAO Council, Mr. J. R. Lopez-Portillo also attended the Conference.
4. The Inaugural Ceremony for the Conference was held at the Boipuso Conference Centre under the Chairmanship of the Director-General of FAO, Mr. Jacques Diouf, and was formally opened by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire.
5. In his opening address, His Excellency the President, Sir Ketumile Masire, welcomed the delegates to the Conference on his own behalf and that of the Government and the people of Botswana. He said that it was a singular honour for him and a pleasure to have been invited to inaugurate the meeting. He recalled that FAO's mandate entailed the alleviation of poverty and hunger, a daunting challenge. He went on to enumerate some of the factors which contributed to the situation in which millions of people were living under conditions of hunger and malnourishment. He expressed his confidence that the Director-General, as head of this Specialized Agency, would live up to the important challenges of his office.
6. The President also took the opportunity firstly, to welcome the re-admission of the Republic of South Africa to the Organization which represented victory over apartheid and a return to healthy, political and economic development, and, secondly to welcome the Republic of Eritrea whose participation in the Regional Conference represented the end of a long liberation struggle.
7. The President pointed out that the Conference was taking place at a time when approaches to overcome social and economic challenges needed re-examination. He noted that the high expectations of earlier years for major economic and social transformation in African countries had not materialized. Progress had been achieved in areas such as life expectancy, literacy, school enrollment, health care and education, and, rather significantly, in the improvement and expansion of capital stock, especially physical infrastructure. However, in many countries of the Region, the state of disrepair and lack of maintenance of infrastructural assets left much to be desired, a clear sign of retrogression. Regrettably, Africa had actually witnessed declining per capita income, declining food availability, depletion of agricultural resources and increasing ecological degradation. A very large number of Africans were suffering from malnutrition.
8. The President referred to the increasing recurrence of droughts in recent years which bore testimony to the vulnerability of basic life-support resources in the countries, noting that increasing population pressures had been accelerating the processes of desertification and environmental deterioration. The productive capacity of land was being diminished by soil erosion and decreasing organic matter, leading to losses of rangelands and vegetation cover. The resultant effects of all of these factors were increased malnutrition, hunger, famine, abject rural poverty, economic dislocation and social disintegration.
9. The President indicated that, as with rural poverty, the solution to these environmental problems required a combination of policy reforms which included land tenure reforms, investment in land conservation, rehabilitation and institutional capacity-building coupled with strong technological intervention. He mentioned some of the measures that Botswana had initiated to confront these problems. These included the adoption of a National Conservation Strategy to ensure effective coordination between the conservation of natural resources and sustainable development, as well as a capacity for drought management.
10. The President wholeheartedly welcomed the Director-General's new initiative, in the face of all the aforementioned challenges, to make FAO more dynamic by restructuring the Organization and decentralising its activities. The President advised that approaches to development had to be community-based, consultative and participatory so that such key actors as farmers and their leaders could be actively jointly involved with Government technical and extension services. He requested FAO to work in collaboration with bilateral and multilateral institutions, in order to assist the Region in generating increased technical and investment resources to support the development of agriculture in Africa. However, he cautioned that policy initiatives to improve agricultural outputs must be taken by the African governments themselves. The full text of the statement of His Excellency the President is contained in Appendix E.
11. In his reply, the Director-General of FAO, speaking on his behalf and that of the delegates, expressed thanks to His Excellency the President for having delivered the opening address to the Conference, and said that this was indeed a great honour and privilege. He referred to the words of wisdom contained in the address and said that the outstanding achievements by the Republic of Botswana he had described were indeed confirmation of the capability of the President and the people of Botswana to turn words into action. He congratulated the President on his recent re-election and promised FAO's continued support to the President, the Government and the people of the Republic of Botswana, within the limits of its resources. He then declared the Inaugural Ceremony closed.
12. The Conference unanimously elected Mr. Roy Blackbeard, Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Botswana, as its Chairman. In a short speech accepting his election, the Minister expressed his gratitude for the confidence placed in him by delegates in electing him Chairman of the Conference. He said that he felt greatly honoured, and that this was an honour not only for him but for the whole of the Republic of Botswana as well. He apologized for any difficulties the delegates might have experienced in connection with the Conference arrangements due to the Conference being hosted at short notice and the pressure of simultaneously preparing a similar meeting. Also, he had been in office for only a few days. He promised that the situation would be quickly rectified, however, and informed delegates of the arrangements that had been made for them. He looked forward to working with the delegates and the rest of the Secretariat in successfully conducting the affairs of the Conference.
13. The Conference then elected Mr. Ndimira Pascal Firmin, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of the Republic of Burundi, as first Vice-Chairman; Mr. Filibus Bature, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Nigeria to FAO, as second Vice-Chairman, and Mr. Frederik Coetzee, Chief Director, Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of South Africa as Rapporteur.
14. The Conference adopted the agenda and timetable as reproduced in Appendix A to this Report.
15. The Director-General initially expressed his sincere thanks to the Government and people of Botswana for agreeing to host the Conference, and for the warm welcome and generous hospitality received. He then welcomed the delegations to the Conference and said that their presence was proof of the intention of the governments of the Region to come to grips with the major challenges of food and agriculture on the African continent. He also expressed his pride and delight as the first son of the continent to head the Organization.
16. He recalled that the Africa Region was beset by immense difficulties in meeting the food requirements of its population, that the agriculture sector was in a permanent state of crisis and that it was aggravated by sundry conflicts that helped to prolong the massive recourse to food aid. In this regard, there were many challenges and problems and new ways needed to be found with the support of FAO to overcome them. The Director-General informed the Conference of the serious state of malnutrition in the countries of the Region and of declining per capita food supplies. Recent trends had only served to confirm this situation. The predicted huge deficits in cereal production signalled a critical food situation and overall food insecurity in the continent.
17. The root causes for the situation were erratic rainfall, development policies that had generally failed to foster food and agricultural production, and the absence of such significant technological innovations as the "Green Revolution" that substantially increased productivity as had been the case in a number of Asian countries. Institutional weaknesses and insufficient infrastructure had accentuated these difficulties. Other causes included: the very high rate of population growth, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation (particularly desertification), political instability, social unrest, and civil wars resulting in massive population displacement, coupled with an unfavourable international economic environment and the heavy burden of external debt.
18. The Director-General stressed, however, that there was hope in the continent's capacity to meet these challenges. The potential existed, most African countries had courageously implemented rather painful reforms, and had made efforts to revive their economies with notable results. Irrigation was a viable weapon in the recovery mechanism which FAO supported. In this connection FAO planned to undertake a special study to assess the irrigation potential and thereby endeavour to solve some of the crucial problems inhibiting its application in Member Nations. Other areas in the recovery mechanism in which FAO was active included the forestry, livestock and fishery sectors.
19. The Director-General briefed the Conference on the new directions and related activities in connection with FAO policies and programmes. These encompassed the following areas: the restructuring exercise, food security, forestry, fisheries. Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC), use of genetic resources, the role of women, AIDS, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Organization, and the World Food Summit.
20. Regarding the restructuring exercise, already mandated by Resolution 10/93 of the Conference, he said that the new structure made a much closer distinction between global and operational functions of the Organization, which were to be decentralized to improve efficiency and bring the activities of the FAO closer to the field. A special programme had been introduced to make a swift and significant impact on food security in the countries, while safeguarding their natural resources and ensuring the equitable distribution of the benefits of increased production. A second special programme related to the prevention of Transboundary Transmission of Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES) had also been instituted.
21. With regard to forestry, action had been taken to refocus priorities which would increase FAO's presence in the sector. Similarly, the fisheries programme had been reinforced and resources were being made available for aquaculture development. Ministers responsible for forestry and fisheries would be invited to the next session of the respective technical Committees to review developments and make appropriate recommendations. A new agreement to promote TCDC for priority programmes in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors had been formulated and submitted to the governments for approval. FAO was also assisting with the implementation of AIDS prevention programmes for the rural youth in some countries of the Region and evaluating AIDS impact on agricultural production.
22. In connection with the FAO's Fiftieth Anniversary, the Canadian Government, in conjunction with the Government of the Province of Quebec, had kindly agreed to host the observances to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of FAO at Château Frontenac in Quebec. This would include, in particular, an International Symposium on the problems of food security and an extraordinary meeting of the Ministers responsible for agriculture and development cooperation. Considering the paramount importance of food security, there had been an increasing sense of the need for a top-level meeting which would review developments in the world food situation since the World Food Conference 20 years ago, would analyse the outlook for the year 2010, and would raise international community awareness of the risk of famine to humanity. Such a meeting would also provide the occasion for promoting commitment at the highest political level, as well as in the realm of public opinion, thus enabling corrective measures to be taken in time. This was the background to his proposal to convene a World Food Summit in early 1996. The International Symposium and Ministerial Meeting, to be held in October 1995 in Quebec, would provide the occasion to put the finishing touches on preparations for the Summit. The full text of the Director-General's statement is in Appendix F.
SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS
Country Statements and General Debate on the Food and Agriculture Situation in the Region
23. Under this Agenda Item, delegations presented their country statements. The Conference also heard statements by two observers from FAO Member Nations outside the Region, as well as from the delegate of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Meeting for the first time since the election of the first African to the high office of Director-General of FAO, Member Nations were unanimous in expressing their best wishes to him in the fulfilment of his duties. The Member Nations noted that the new dynamism being clearly manifested in the functioning of the Organization was a good sign, and promised their full support to the Director-General.
24. Most delegations agreed that although there were significant differences between countries in regard to their agricultural patterns and ecosystems, there were many issues in which their experiences, aspirations and measures for solving agricultural sector problems were similar. Agriculture was still the dominant sector of their economies, contributing the largest share of the GDP and providing, by far, the largest source of employment for their peoples. The main producers in the agricultural sector were smallholders. Agricultural production lagged behind population growth, environmental degradation was rampant, and poor soil and water management, desertification, frequent droughts, and explosions of human, animal and plant diseases were endemic. An almost apathetic external economic environment complicated the situation.
25. Some of the countries of Eastern and Southern Africa reported that although there had been increases in production in recent years, the effects of years of recurrent drought still haunted their agricultural production horizons. The Conference was informed of schemes initiated for utilizing large bodies of available water, but the lack of the required large financial and technical expertise had prevented countries from realizing the benefits of such attempts.
26. Measures introduced by countries to improve the performance of their agricultural sectors included liberalization and privatization of their economies. Most of the countries had also introduced structural adjustment programmes in one way or the other with variable success. The Conference recommended that analytical studies be undertaken to assess the impact of structural adjustment programmes and draw the appropriate conclusions. Countries had attempted to foster integrated and self-sustaining economies through diversification of agricultural production, import substitution and modernization of the sector. In this connection, one of the innovations introduced involved the establishment of special national task-forces to advise on the utilization of resources for the development of the agricultural sector on a priority basis in a free market economy.
27. The Conference noted that in regard to the central role played by women in Africa in food and agricultural production, countries had introduced special measures addressing their specific needs as agricultural producers, income earners and household heads. It was also noted that as the ongoing rural to urban drift mainly concerned rural males, it had the effect of increasing the burden on women farmers to maintain agricultural production levels and food security at household levels. The Conference urged countries to continue to implement measures necessary to establish appropriate databases on the socio-economic situation of rural women and their needs, and to ensure that programmes for sustainable agricultural development incorporate the gender-disaggregated information.
28. Agricultural research, extension and training were recognized to play a central role in the development of the agricultural sector, and now figured as a key area of activity for investment programmes. Countries that had introduced the systems approach, in association with marketing, in order to stimulate the productivity of farmers had found it successful. In this regard, the Member Nations praised FAO for assisting them to implement their national programmes. Acknowledging the important role of external financial assistance to supplement their efforts, the Member Nations recommended that FAO intensify its efforts to assist countries in attracting the necessary external funding.
29. Recognizing the important relationship between food, nutrition, health, national development, peace and security, countries had pursued policies for improving the nutritional status of both their urban and rural population through educational programmes on food production, storage, processing and preservation, primary health care and nutritional surveillance. Special attention was being given to the most vulnerable groups in society especially with regard to women and children.
30. The Conference was informed of other vital areas in which countries had taken appropriate action, such as ensuring that impact studies to ensure environmentally-sustainable methods were applied in regard to all programmes, to reverse the imbalance in the uneven distribution of agricultural lands, and to allocate one percent of national budgets for a national disaster fund. The principle of the comparative advantage in production that certain countries and areas held over others was also recognized and utilized.
31. In his statement, the observer from the United States of America reiterated his country's support for the recent initiatives undertaken by the Director-General. He briefed the Conference on activities and projects through which his Government had cooperated with the Organization in implementing programmes in the Member Nations of the Region. He advised on actions that should be taken by the countries themselves to improve the performance of the agricultural sector, and reaffirmed his country's support for the Organization.
32. In his statement to the Conference, the observer from the Netherlands expressed his delight that FAO had, with much justification, given prominence to the problems of food security concerns in the Region. This should be encouraged from the grassroots to the highest level. He further enumerated his country's assistance to the countries of the Region in collaboration with the FAO in such areas as training and implementation of studies on agricultural subsistence and development.
33. The representative of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) expressed his thanks to FAO for the invitation to participate at the Conference. He was appreciative that FAO had introduced such topics for discussion that were of immediate relevance to the problems affecting the agricultural situation in Africa. The OAU had strengthened its cooperation with UN Agencies such as UNCTAD, UNIDO, and had jointly prepared the Common African Agricultural Programme (CAAP) framework with FAO. The follow-up activities in regard to this study would be communicated to the Member Nations in due course.
34. The Conference reaffirmed its awareness of the need to strengthen African regional cooperation and recognized the importance of addressing, in a concerted manner, the problems of rural poverty and rural insecurity. The Conference reaffirmed its support for the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Africa (CIRDAFRICA), and called on all African Member Nations to demonstrate their support for the Centre as a viable institution working for the promotion of sustainable rural development across the continent.
Taking note of the Programme of the Director-General as approved by the 106th Session of the Council of FAO;
Noting the concern of Member Nations to ensure food security, especially through irrigation;
Considering the inherent risk of recurring drought for agricultural production, especially in the arid and semi-arid zones;
Considering the need to intensify agricultural production in order to confront the growing needs of African populations and in view of the launching of a Green Revolution for Africa;
Noting the irreplaceable role of water management in attaining food security on a continent where 4 500 billion m3 of water flows unused each year into the seas and oceans and only 6 percent of the arable land was under irrigation;
a. To undertake to update its study "African Agriculture - the Next 25 Years", and especially. to update its study on the irrigation potential in Africa so as to have the most realistic data available.
b. To establish, as for the Near East, an African Commission for Land and Water Development which would undertake, inter alia;i) The promotion of improved land and water use techniques for sustainable agriculture and rural development;
ii) The compilation of a land and water development and conservation database which would serve as a forum of exchange for land and water use-related problems; and
iii) The formulation of recommendations of ways and means for FAO to enhance its assistance to the countries of the Region for the development of efficient water use for both irrigated and rainfed crops.
For Member Nations
c. To formulate policies and programmes to harness water for agriculture with a view to sustainable development.
For the International Community
d. To assist Member Nations to develop and implement programmes for harnessing and conserving water for the sustainable development of agriculture for food security.
e. To provide assistance to Member Nations for the formulation of irrigation policies and the development of irrigation programmes based on participatory management and the promotion of private irrigation.