Saturday, June 16, 2007

Africa has ignored agriculture - Annan

Africa has ignored agriculture - Annan
By Kingsley Kaswende in Cape Town
Saturday June 16, 2007 [04:00]

Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan has said African governments have ignored agriculture over many years. Annan was speaking at a press briefing at the World Economic Forum on Africa, at which he accepted to be chairperson of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

"For the past 15 years governments have ignored agriculture. Interest in agriculture has dropped dramatically. It is only recently that this is beginning to change. Advocacy for the green revolution has only grown during my administration as secretary general," he said.

"It is very clear that we cannot pull our people out of poverty without the green revolution, without agriculture, without helping our farmers especially women who do most of the work."

He said 16 of 18 undernourished countries in the world were in Africa, a situation that needed change.

Annan said he was deeply honoured to be taking up the chair of the Green Revolution and hoped to use it to help drive forward progress on an issue critical to wider African development.

"Africa is the only region where overall food security and livelihoods are deteriorating. We will reverse this trend by working to create an environmentally sustainable, uniquely African Green Revolution. When our poorest farmers finally prosper, all of Africa will benefit," he said.

The Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa, which was established last year with an initial US$150 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, seeks to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families across Africa to lift themselves and their families out of poverty and hunger through sustainable increases in farm productivity and incomes.

It is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, and will be working throughout the continent on a wide range of interventions across the agricultural "value chain," ranging from strengthening local and regional agricultural markets, to helping improve irrigation, soil health and training for farmers, to supporting the development of new seed systems better equipped to cope with the harsh African climate.

Earlier Alliance board member Strive Masiyiwa, who is also Econet Wireless chief executive officer said the number of hungry people in Africa is rising very rapidly.
Over 250 million people live on less than US$1 per day and crop and cereal yields have been stagnant, he said.

"The capacity for Africa to feed itself is under threat from global climatic change. Africa's food imports are projected to rise from US$6.5 billion to US$11 billion by 2020. But it does not have to be that way," Masiyiwa said.
"We can change this."

He said Africa had the technology, knowledge, the will and resources, both human and material to change the situation.
"We believe there is an inspiration, a common convergence of the green revolution," he said.

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