Friday, October 15, 2010

Africa: Hunger - change is now within our grasp says Kofi A. Annan

Source: AGRA

In a keynote speech today, former UN Secretary-General and Chair of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Kofi A. Annan underlined the urgent need for a uniquely African green revolution to bring food security and overcome hunger throughout the continent.

In his speech at the World Food Prize annual international symposium just ahead of World Food Day on 16 October, Mr. Annan:

  • Described how over recent decades, Africa became the only continent which does not grow enough food to feed itself.
  • Warned that food supplies will come under increasing pressure with growing populations and Africa set to be hit hardest by climate change.
  • Applauded the increasing focus on food security for development from African governments, international donors, civil society and the private sector.
  • Set out the steps needed to achieve a uniquely African Green Revolution.
Mr. Annan said: "Africa is the only continent which does not grow enough food to feed itself. It alone has failed, in recent decades, to see agricultural productivity keep pace with its growing population. Africa was bypassed by the science-based agricultural development, built on the ideas of Norman Borlaug, which so dramatically transformed food production in Asia." He recalled how desperately needed investments for agricultural research and development, for rural infrastructure and for support to smallholder farmers, were slashed by national governments, and were made worse by the dramatic decline in ODA assistance.

Mr. Annan argued: "Never before has there been such a collective drive for change. This encompasses civil society organizations, philanthropic foundations and multinational corporations. Food and nutrition security now sits firmly and rightly at the top of the development agenda. And this unprecedented coalition is having an impact. I saw some of this progress for myself when I recently visited farmers in Mali and heard from them the difference that access to high-yielding seeds and fertilizer are making to their livelihoods."

He explained that "the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is helping to build the systems needed and strengthen the links in the entire value chain to make smallholder farming productive, profitable and sustainable."

"We are doing this by identifying, supporting and extending proven, local solutions for the benefits of famers, particularly in those areas with the greatest potential to become Africa's breadbaskets."

"We cannot forget that the women who produce most of Africa's food are particularly disadvantaged economically and socially. We need practical measures from field to market to remove these obstacles so they have a voice and a stake right through the value chain" Mr. Annan said.

He concluded: "The way forward is clear. We need to build on our successes, listen to the farmers, innovate as we go and scale-up what we know works. Like any successful revolution, the goal must always be permanent reform. If we stand together – governments, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community and farmers – and sustain our efforts, a unique African Green Revolution is within our grasp. It will be a huge step towards banishing hunger and meeting our ambitions for a just and peaceful world."

The World Food Prize international symposium, informally known as the Borlaug Dialogue after Nobel Laureate and World Food Prize Founder Dr. Norman Borlaug, brings together the world's foremost leaders in global agriculture, food, and development. In September 2010, Mr. Annan was awarded the Norman E. Borlaug Medallion by the World Food Prize Foundation in recognition of his commitment to improving food security as Chair of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa