From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Robert G. Mugabe (President of the Republic of Zimbabwe)

It is with great honour and pleasure that I address this important Summit of the World Food Summit: five years later, whose chief objective is to take stock of the progress we have made since 1996. I would like to congratulate the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization and his staff and all those who assisted him in organizing this Summit.

At the World Food Summit in November 1996, Heads of State and Government and representatives from 185 countries agreed on the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the Plan of Action on World Food Security. We set ourselves, then, the target of achieving food security for all and committed ourselves to an on-going effort to eradicate hunger in all our countries.

Today, as we meet to review progress, evaluate our performance and agree on future plans with a view to, once again, accelerating the implementation of the Plan of Action, we all admit that our target has not been met.

Agriculture plays a dominant role in Zimbabwe's economy and society. It is the main source of domestic food supply and the main source of raw materials for industry where two-thirds of our manufacturing and benefitiation processes are based on agricultural raw materials. Agriculture accounts for up to 18 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and 50 percent of our exports.

Government's agricultural policies are thus largely designed to raise total output in order to meet our local needs, create employment and provide raw materials for industry and exports to earn foreign currency earnings.

Since the 1996 World Food Summit, my Government has made some strides towards the implementation of the Plan of Action through the Zimbabwe Agricultural Policy Framework (1995-2020) and the launch of the Poverty Alleviation Action Plan (1996). We have also interacted with main stakeholders through the National Economic Consultative Forum.

Against this background, my Government has responded to the people's cry for land by embarking on a Fast Track Land Acquisition and Resettlement Programme in July 2000, which now enables people to fight poverty by directly working on their own productive and fertile land. Their own, I say with emphasis because land being the most important natural resource of any country must first and foremost belong to and be truly owned by the country's indigenous people. Hence, Zimbabwe's land must rightly belong to Zimbabweans, that being also the true test of our national sovereignty.

Where previously only a handful of colonial settler farmers were undertaking commercial farming, the country now has over 260 000 farming families on varying sizes of land, sharing a total of 12 million hectares of prime agricultural land.

Contrary to widely disseminated misrepresentations by our detractors, there is now a brighter future for our farming community across colour, gender and ethnic divides. Our Land Reform Programme is indeed a firm launching pad for our fight against poverty and food insecurity.

We applaud those members of the international community who have stood by us and shared our national vision as we implement our Land Reform Programme that provides our people with greater access to the most crucial natural resource.

Government has given priority to smallholder farmers by ensuring the provision of appropriate farmer training, the development and strengthening of rural institutions and adoption of policies that will facilitate access to credit, modern inputs and improved farm management, tillage and irrigation infrastructure. Hence, these farmers are now diversifying into high value enterprises such as dairy, beef, wheat, cotton, coffee, paprika and horticulture production.

Mr Chairman, to ensure gender equality and empowerment, Government, in consultation with other stakeholders, put in place a National Policy on Gender in 1999. Institutionalization of gender in agricultural policy and planning has resulted in a situation where most projects and programmes are now gender sensitive.

My Government has also established the Food Control Authority and a Committee on Infant Nutrition to ensure food safety for children. We are also engaged in multi-stakeholder consultations on the role of Genetically Modified Crops in the fight against hunger.

Mr Chairman, Zimbabwe, like most southern African countries, is facing food shortages in both rural and urban areas due to the drought and not to the Land Reform Programme, as some people say. This is a general situation in southern Africa and we have been working together in order to overcome the effects of that drought.

I want to take this opportunity to thank countries that have offered assistance to Zimbabwe and our Southern African region in this period of need.

Mr Chairman, the HIV/AIDS scourge has remained one of the biggest challenges facing Zimbabwe today as it has greatly affected the productive population aged between 15 and 49 years. More and more resources, in terms of time and funds, are being channelled to the care of the sick and financing medical costs. The combined efforts of Government and the public, as we embark on the AIDS Consciousness Campaign, have resulted in the creation of the National AIDS Council of which I, as President, am patron and the establishment of an AIDS Levy Fund being utilized to alleviate HIV/AIDS cases and to take care of orphans and widows so rendered by deaths from HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Mr Chairman, the alarming decline in the level of financial resources for development in the case of Africa, both in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is of great concern. I, therefore, hope that the momentum generated at the International Conference on Financing Development, held in Mexico recently, in March 2002, will be sustained.

My I conclude, Mr Chairman, by reaffirming my country's commitment to the global effort to reduce poverty and food insecurity.

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