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Former U.N. Secretary-General Annan Discusses Africa’s Agriculture Potential At IFAD Conference

Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general who now heads the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), discussed the possibilities for agriculture in Africa and called for reforms to improve farming on the continent in a speech given Saturday during the opening day of the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) annual meeting in Rome, Italy, the Jakarta Post reports (Asrianti, 2/21). 

Annan said Africa has the potential to develop an agricultural system that can provide enough to ensure global food security for decades, according to an IFAD press release (2/19). The market for food crops in Africa is an estimated $150 million per year, Annan said, “equating it to untapped goldmine,” The Standard writes. “This far exceeds the revenue Africa receives for internationally traded cash crops like coffee, cocoa, tea, and cut-flowers. Food – primarily for domestic consumption – must be our focus,” he said (Jamah, 2/20).

At the meeting, which had governors from IFAD’s 167 member states, Annan urged the delegates “to support policies and investments for Africa that support the expansion of staple food crops, a coherent approach to investment across the agricultural value chain and, importantly, a focus on smallholder farmers,” according to the IFAD press release (2/19). “Small-holder farmers are the mainstay of African agriculture. They have to be right at the heart of Africa’s green revolution. We need to ensure small-holder farmers are well organised and given the knowledge and support to play their full part in the transformation of food production,” Annan said in his speech, The Standard reports (2/20).

IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze focused on the meeting’s theme of supporting rural youth in order to build vibrant rural economies, which can be a key part of reducing hunger, poverty and other problems, according the U.N. News Centre.

Nwanze said, “Give them the skills and confidence they need to run profitable farms or start businesses, and they will become the upstanding citizens and community leaders of tomorrow. Ignore them, and they will have little option but to leave their homes and families to search for work in the cities, seeking better lives but oftentimes finding only more misery.”

“The meeting takes place amid growing concerns about food shortages,” the news service writes. U.N. Messenger of Peace Princess Haya Al Hussein of Jordan touched on these concerns in her keynote speech, which “called for an urgent and effective global response to food shortages and world hunger, and urged donors to fulfill their commitments to food programmes” (2/19).