12 December 2002, Rome/Abuja -- Implementing concrete regional projects which focus on developing Africa's agricultural potential are essential to improve food security in Africa. The message was given by Dr Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), during a high-level meeting on the development of agriculture held in Abuja.

The meeting (11-12 December 2002) was organised in the Nigerian capital by FAO, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the African Development Bank (ADB). It was attended by President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, President Omar AlBashir of Sudan, high-level officials from BAD and NEPAD as well as officials from African regional economic and bilateral and multilateral aid agencies. Discussions focused on the role of African regional economic organizations in implementing regional programmes for food security within the NEPAD framework.

Implementing the programme of infrastructure and above all developing energy, communication and storage facilities will enable Africa to achieve its full agricultural potential Dr Diouf said. He welcomed the agricultural development programme prepared by the NEPAD.

The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), prepared in collaboration with FAO, has an annual cost of 17.9 billion dollars, gives priority to the control of water, developing rural infrastructure and access to markets and increasing and diversifying agricultural production. It will be completed by the agricultural research component.

The Abuja meeting, "should allow further discussions between the African Regional Economic Organizations and development partners in order to move from a continental programme to bankable regional projects to be implemented on a national level," Dr Diouf told delegates.

"This step is of urgent character," FAO's Director-General said, adding that African agriculture faces crisis due to ever more frequent droughts, and occasional flooding, because it is too dependent on climatic hazards.

"Increasing production is essential for overcoming hunger," Dr Diouf said and added, "A more productive and diversified agricultural activity is also needed, and water needs to be brought under control, so that jobs can be created, income-generating activities developed and access to markets improved."

"It was with this in mind that, in 1994 and in partnership with the countries of Africa and the donors, FAO launched its Special Programme for Food Security which makes it possible, through South-South cooperation, to transfer simple and low-cost techniques and to remove socio-economic constraints," he said, adding the Programme encourages the creation of a favourable macro-economic framework for investment growth.

"The African Development Bank, NEPAD and FAO are ready to work closely with economic organizations to define steps, calendar and the necessary means for the speedy preparation of bankable projects," Dr Diouf said, adding he was convinced that the high-level experience and competence of participants at the meeting would enable them to meet their objectives.

In his speech Dr Diouf reminded world leaders that during the World Food Summit in 1996 they had undertaken commitments to eradicate world hunger and set an immediate objective of halving the number of malnourished people by 2015.

"At this very moment, there are 200 million people in Africa suffering from chronic malnutrition and, each year, some 30 million require emergency food aid which amounted in 2000 to 2.8 million tonnes," Dr Diouf said adding that there was a long way to go in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Mafa Chipeta
Chief of Policy Coordinating Services, FAO
(+39) 348 1552743

Madhy Bamba
FAO Regional Office for Africa
(+233) 24319157

Joseph Johnson
FAO representative in Nigeria
(+234) 94137543