From the podium

From the podium


His Excellency Paul Kagamé (President of the Republic of Rwanda)

Let me thank the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for their undaunted and laudable efforts to strive for the achievement of food security for all.

Six years ago we gathered here in Rome to chart out a strategy to banish hunger and malnutrition. At that time, a framework for global commitment for sustainable food security for all people of the world was established through the Rome Declaration. The commitment to reduce the number of the hungry by half no later than 2015 is a worthy goal and can be achieved, especially given the tremendous leaps in technology.

We cannot reconcile the fact that today we live in a world of abundance and yet in many areas of the African continent, we witness extraordinary situations of food insecurity, chronic hunger, starvation and malnutrition on a daily basis. It is proper, therefore, that we take stock of the progress we have made and address the constraints we face.

In Rwanda, despite the devastation caused by the 1994 genocide, we have made modest progress in a number of areas, all of which serve as a precondition for food security. We have made strides in the area of governance, including the holding of grassroot elections; the decentralization process; the reform of our judiciary; the establishment of an innovative justice system that will address the concerns of the victims of genocide; and the on-going constitution-making process.

Nonetheless, our economy is still unable to support capacity-development of the rural population in technology utilization and market infrastructure so as to effect sustainable changes in agricultural production. This is compounded by the scourge of HIV/AIDS and by the average population density of 319 inhabitants per km2 running to 1,000 persons per km2 in the high agricultural potential areas.

Such a high density has accelerated the decline in productivity due to soil erosion, and has resulted in fast forest depletion because of the need to serve the population's domestic fuel needs. However, I am pleased to report that we have made substantial progress in terms of increasing food production and ensuring food availability in the last six years. In order to realize our objectives, we have put in place domestic policy measures that include intensification of agriculture by the use of such inputs as fertilizers, high yield varieties of seed and the application of appropriate technology.

The Government has emphasized policies relating to the commercialization of agriculture, rational soil and water use and research and extension. Another policy measure in place is the stabilization of food supplies by prioritizing and promoting the growth of food crops that have an impact on food security. These are rice, maize, beans, sorghum and potatoes. These crops have been selected on the basis of their adaptability, acceptability, nutritive value and marketability.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, our success in addressing the food security problem on a sustainable basis will depend on political will and our determination to work together. Donor Governments, the private sector and civil society in all our countries will have to work with the poor so that they too are empowered to influence policies. We are aware, however, that we in the developing countries have additional responsibilities. Our primary duty is to establish a framework for peace, good governance, development of an infrastructure that stimulates economic growth, and the creation of an environment conducive to local and foreign investment. But we can only achieve these if our goods have access to the markets of the developed world without quota restrictions or imposition of duties, and if other forms of non-tariff barriers are removed.

For example, the current agricultural subsidies in the developed world of approximately US $ 1 billion a day in addition to the limited access to these markets by developing countries, create unfair competition. Without increased trade, these countries are likely to depend on Official Development Assistance forever. While this Official Development Assistance is needed in the short-term to bridge the gap between weak trade investment, it will never provide adequate resources for financing development. Experience has shown that trade expansion, investing in people, high savings rates and good quality infrastructure can vanquish poverty in a generation.

It is in this context that Rwanda is committed to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). NEPAD is a vision which encapsulates the need to create conditions for development in terms of peace, security, good governance, to minimize risks and to reduce costs of doing business on the African continent. We do realize that Africa has to mobilize its own resources within a framework of international partnership, based on mutual accountability.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, if we can address our gaps in technology, in scientific research, in infrastructure, as well as in the human capacity, we will attain food security for our people. If we have the political will and we have the means, let us transform our laudable objectives into tangible results. I wish this Summit successful deliberations.

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