3 July 2003, Maputo -- UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf,
Wednesday called on African leaders to clearly indicate the key
role of agriculture in the economic development and the
reduction of poverty and food insecurity in their countries, by
giving greater priority and allocating adequate resources to the
Dr. Diouf's remarks were made
at a conference of Ministers of Agriculture of the African Union
to discuss the agricultural programmes of the New Partnership
for Africa's Development (NEPAD). President Joaquim
Chissano of Mozambique opened the conference, which was also
attended by the Interim Chairman of the Commission of the
African Union, Mr. Amara Essy.
"There is now a growing recognition of the
key role that the agriculture sector must play in economic
development and poverty reduction and the need to reverse trends
in resource allocations to agriculture," Dr. Diouf
said. He urged Africa and NEPAD to take advantage of this
changed environment by devoting more of their national budgets
Agriculture supports 70
percent of the people of Africa and is the leading sector of the
African economies, according to Dr. Diouf. But African
agriculture has fallen on hard times, with production and
productivity falling substantially in recent years. The average
cereal yield in Africa as a whole is only about one third of the
average yield in Asia and less than half of the yield in Latin
million people, one third of the population of Africa, are
chronically undernourished," Dr. Diouf said.
"Around 40 million people are currently facing food
emergencies caused by natural and man-made disasters. In
addition, FAO estimates that, in sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS has
already killed around 7 million agricultural workers since 1985
and that 16 million more may die before 2020."
Africa uses only 1.6 percent of its
available water compared to 14 percent in Asia. As a result,
only 3.8 percent of arable land in sub-Saharan Africa is
irrigated compared to 14 percent in Latin America and the
Caribbean and 40 percent in Asia.
"There is a need for a comprehensive
programme, focusing on water harvesting and conservation and
efficient use, irrigation and drainage," said Dr.
Diouf. "Such a programme would generate substantial
and sustainable increases in farm production as well as reduce
the vulnerability of rural communities to future
Dr. Diouf also said that
Africa lacks modern farm inputs such as high yielding seed
varieties, vaccines, fertilizers, and storage and processing
facilities are non-existent or inadequate. He said the
continent's rural infrastructure is "grossly
To stem the
continuing decline of Africa's agricultural sector, Dr.
Diouf called for the swift implementation of NEPAD's
Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)
by the continent's agriculture ministers.
The CAADP calls for action in agriculture under four
pillars: investment in water control and land management,
expansion of rural infrastructure such as roads and storage
facilities, direct action to increase food supply through
competitive production and the provision of safety nets for
vulnerable groups and support to science and adoption of
technologies for long-term productivity.
Dr. Diouf compared the $19.3 billion annual cost of
implementing the programme to the $19.6 billion Africa spends
annually, based on 2000-2001 figures, to import agricultural
FAO Information Officer
+36 06 570