From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency John A. Kufuor (President of the Republic of Ghana)

It is generally accepted that most of the 800 million hungry people in the world today, reside in the poor parts of the world. Some of the factors that tend to characterize poor countries; factors like high population growth rates and bad governance have contributed to slowing down the laudable plans and targets set by the 1996 Summit.

It would also seem that the 1996 Action Plan has suffered from the lack of specifics on how the stakeholders were expected to work together and mobilize resources within a timeframe. This is assumed to be indicative of inadequate political will on the part of Member Nations for effective implementation of the Plan.

We must, therefore, use this review Summit to strengthen and empower FAO to be able to induce the rich nations with excesses of food to part with them for redistribution to the areas of greatest need.

The Organization must further be enabled to mobilize the resources and oversee the distribution to cut out inefficiency and corruption, especially on the part of the recipient nations. Bad governors, high population growth rates and conflicts, which contribute to hunger cannot be left as the exclusive concerns of the afflicted areas.

The very fact of this Conference shows the world has accepted to share in the responsibility of fighting hunger wherever it exists. Therefore, it must also share in fighting the causes of this menace.

These remedial measures must, however, be seen at short-term so that they do not leave permanent impressions of dependence of recipient nations on the handouts of the donors.

Medium to long-term solutions would be to help the poor countries improve upon their agricultural practices and increase their food production.

There exists enough research and climate, soil, technical tools and seed varieties to transform agriculture throughout the world. The results of the many research projects that have been conducted should be shared for the betterment of humanity.

Let me give you the example of what I know best, my own country, Ghana. It has fertile lands, waterways and a willing workforce. And yet, our own surveys show rather paradoxically, that the producers of food and agricultural produce are the poorest segment of our society. The subsistence farmers, in other words, form the majority of those who are hungry in our country. This is mostly because, like in many developing countries, our farming methods remain antiquated.

Agricultural production is predominantly rainfed and this accounts for the cycle of drought-induced famine that hits various parts of Africa with depressing regularity. We must modernize our farming methods to take out the backbreaking drudgery. We require access to improved seed varieties and there is a compelling need for a reliable and effective irrigation system that can support all-year-round production.

I believe that if investment is directed at this sector of the economy, and if the technology and research findings are made available to our farmers, through extension services, food production will be radically improved in Ghana, to provide the food security we need as well as help reduce poverty substantially.

Mr Chairman, the European Union and President Bush in Monterrey have pledged extra money in aid to help developing nations. The challenge should be not only on developing nations adhering to good governance and the rule of law, but also on the donors as well to ensure that the aid would empower the recipient countries to stand on their own feet.

In this regard, the G8 and the other donor countries should seriously consider giving grants, at least in part, in the form of relevant agricultural implements, and other inputs, as well as laying the infrastructure like building irrigation canals and systems and food storage facilities.

Mr Chairman, when our farmers are helped to modernize their farming methods, when their produce do not have to compete unfairly with produce from the rich nations, who still protect their markets and whose farmers tend to be heavily subsidized, then there will be a sustainable solution to the problem of hunger.

I believe that this Summit inspires hope. It provides evidence, if some were needed, that the world is indeed getting smaller and more responsive. It shows that the nations of the world are accepting they must be each other's keeper.

Hunger, wherever it exists, demeans all humanity. We have it within our will to eradicate hunger. Let us, therefore, make sure that this time, our resolutions are backed by specifics on time, resources and political will. I have no doubt we shall succeed.

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