From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Isaias Afwerki (President of the State of Eritrea)

Mr Chairman, Honorable Heads of State and Governments, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the people and government of Italy for hosting this international food security Summit in this beautiful and historic city of Rome.

I would also like to express my appreciation to the FAO for organizing this important summit to address the issue of global food security. In particular, I would like to commend the Director General, Dr Jacques Diouf, for his leadership. Our shared purpose here is to reflect on the achievements and challenges of the World Food Summit that was held in this building five years ago, and to collectively develop concrete ways to meet the challenges of global food security in the long-term.

Certainly some progress has been made to-date. But the achievements are not adequate. Prospects for a global food security would remain bleak if the international community continues business as usual. However, with foresight and decisive actions, food security can be assured.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Allow me now to outline what we consider to be major areas of strategic focus towards global food security.

First, cooperation in the area of security and peaceful resolution of conflicts is critical. The importance of peace and stability for economic and social development cannot be exaggerated. Without peace and stability, we cannot enhance trade and investment; we cannot build and expand
infrastructure; and we cannot preserve and enhance our fragile ecosystems. Accordingly, close cooperation between our countries in matters of security, resolution of conflicts, cross border crime control. resettlement of refugees, and law enforcement are crucial. We should indeed do everything
possible to develop and enforce workable mechanisms to secure peace and stability in our regions.

Secondly, development of infrastructure is vital. Infrastructure in our continent, including our roads and highways. air and marine transport, communications, and energy and water systems are inadequate. Under these circumstances, investment cannot be productive nor can economic development occur and be sustained. Water and land resource development is critical in regions such as ours where rainfall is erratic and droughts all too common. Moreover, the dearth of financial resources and technological know-how limits our ability to develop adequate infrastructure. This is thus an area where increased international cooperation and partnership is needed.

Thirdly, it is widely accepted that trade and investment are the engines of growth and development. Developing nations can make greater leaps toward food security through a more open access to world markets than they can through other forms of cooperation. We believe that developed economies should open their markets further for goods and services from developing countries. Furthermore, we subscribe to the concept of regional economic cooperation and integration that would allow for more efficient trade and mobility of productive resources, and we are committed to do our share towards its realization.

Fourthly, to eradicate poverty and to ensure food security through sustainable growth and development, we need to adopt sound and enabling macroeconomic policies that promote trade and investment. Furthermore. we need to develop efficient and competitive financial markets, and effective legal and institutional framework that encourage private-public partnership.

Finally, science and technology can play a critical role in meeting the challenges of food security in developing countries. The main challenge is how to increase food production in humid, sub-humid and semi-arid tropical regions where the farming systems are fragile and complex. Most farmers in these areas are poor, land holdings are small and productivity is low. These are the farming systems about which we need to have better knowledge and understanding. Given the limitations of land and water resources, most of production increases should be expected from intensification of agriculture on existing land. Towards this end, science and technology must, and can play, a major role in increasing food production and farm income to improve the livelihood of the poor.

In this context. I call upon the FAO and other concerned organizations to redouble their efforts so that developing countries take advantage of advances in science and technology that could be adapted in agriculture. It is critical that the developing world is not left behind in the process of such
technological innovation.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me now to briefly review the realities in my own country. Eritrea's strategy toward achieving food security is based on rapid, sustainable and widely shared economic and social development. We are committed to the principle of self-reliance, but we will not strive for food self-sufficiency. Our food policy is two-pronged: first, we focus on domestic food production where we have comparative advantages; and secondly, through rapid income growth and foreign exchange generation, we supplement domestic food production by importation from world markets.

Within this overall national strategy of food security, the concrete programmes that we have pursued in the past decade include:

 Intensification and income diversification in order to maximize sustainable domestic food production to the highest possible level;

 Ensuring sustainable land management systems through integrated water shed development and community-based natural resource management;

 Increasing irrigated and supplementary irrigated agriculture, mainly through spate irrigation and micro-dam construction so as to mitigate the negative effects of erratic rainfall;

 Substantial investment to rehabilitate the fisheries industry;

 Diversification of livestock production with emphasis on short cycle animals;

 Enhancing women's traditional contribution to food security through better access to land, credits, inputs and capacity building;

 Promotion of voluntary farmers cooperatives to pool their resources to optimize their production and marketing potential;

 Restoration of the environment through massive soil and water conservation initiatives including hillside and crop land terracing, check-dam construction, establishment of micro basins and closures, and, tree planting in degraded catchment areas;

 Institutionalisation of demand-driven, participatory research and extension services,

These and other equally important measures taken had resulted in promising economic trends. Prior to the recent border conflict with Ethiopia, GDP growth stood at an annual average rate of 7% for five years in a row. Unfortunately, our focused and determined efforts were disrupted by the war. Now, however, with a better prospect for peace, we can again concentrate our efforts to pursuing the path of rapid and sustainable development.

In conclusion, the Government of Eritrea seizes this occasion to reiterate its strong commitment to the full realization of food security at house-hold and national levels by the year 2015. I would also like to assure you that my Government would do everything possible to contribute its fair share in the attainment of this noble target at regional and global levels.

Thank you.

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