Remarks by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah at the ECOWAS Food Security Business Meeting in Dakar, Senegal

Monday, June 14, 2010
ECOWAS Food Security Business Meeting

His Excellency, President Wade,
His Excellency, ECOWAS Commissioner Salifou,
Distinguished members from ECOWAS and the NEPAD community
Ministers from around West Africa,
Partners from Canada, Spain, United Nations and so many wonderful technical leadership organizations;

I appreciate this chance to be with you today. I am really honored by your efforts. I would like to recognize the hard work of Yamar Mbodj who was instrumental in organizing us here today doing the tremendous amount of work that it takes to bring us all together against one common mission. I believe this is a unique turning point for agriculture and food security and hunger for West Africa. The United States shares the determination of African leaders here today to make agriculture and food security the top priorities for Africa's development, and we welcome this opportunity to collaborate with and support your planning efforts.

In his inaugural address, President Obama pledged that the United States would stand alongside people in developing nations to, and I quote, "to help their farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds." We know food security facilitates stable communities and resilient nations. We know agricultural development growth is more effective at reducing poverty than general economic growth. And we know children need nutrition to learn and grow, especially in those critical early years of their lives. President Obama followed up his inaugural address with a promise to commit at least $3.5 billion over three years to food security and agriculture assistance.

This program which we call Feed the Future, represents our renewed commitment to combat chronic hunger and poverty. It represents our availability to bring the entire United States Government together to partner in a new and different way.

At the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, in July 2009, almost one year ago, the heads of 40 states and international organizations committed to "act with urgency" against the crisis of global hunger, a crisis, that has gotten worse each of the last three years. They committed more than $22 billion to this cause, and perhaps more importantly, we committed to do things differently in our partnership with your countries:

  • First, we committed to investing in country-owned plans. And the plans that are the subject of today's meeting in this week's conference highlight a new opportunity for our investment;
  • Second, we committed to strengthening strategic coordination among key stakeholders. We recognize you should not have to report individually to so many different donors and partners and we stand ready to work with partners to streamline this process;
  • Third, we supported a comprehensive approach from the research lab to the consumer and every step in between and we intend to follow through with that;
  • Fourth, we committed to a renewed partnership with multilateral organizations. And I'm excited by the presence and partnership of the African Development Bank and World Bank at these meetings and in these plans;
  • And fifth, we committed to delivering our commitments and achieving results. And so today and through the course of the week, we will make special commitments to the plans that have been developed.

Indeed, these five principles draw on the successful example of the African Union and NEPAD partnership to create and execute CAADP (Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program). Since 2003, those of you in this room have been reading that process and we applaud the 12 countries that have signed CAADP compacts and the efforts of the remaining three to be signed by the end of July.

The United States and our L'Aquila partners have committed to investing in exactly these types of country-led, evidence-based strategies. We now know, for example, thanks to research of the International Food Policy Research Institute and many others, that doubling staples production in West Africa, while eliminating tariff and non-tariff trade barriers in the region can:

  • Reduce consumer food prices by 25%;
  • Reduce producer production prices by 10%;
  • " Accelerate growth rates significantly through agriculture, value addition, agro-processing and exports; and, most importantly
  • Reduce the number of poor in West Africa by over 45 million people.

Consistent with this opportunity and with the strong and impressive African leadership on display today, the United States will significantly increase our commitment to these countries-owned plans.

In 2008, the United States Agency for International Development spent less than $60 million in food security in this region. In 2010, we will spend more that $116 million, a more than threefold increase.

This can not be an endless planning loop. We need to now take actions and make commitments with our partners to the plans that you are developing, and we will do so.

In addition, the United States will more than double our investments in research to support new innovations, such as improved crop varieties, that can change the lives of millions. We will also provide training to more 100 managers and leaders of civil society, private sector, and government from each of the West African countries participating.

And across all that we do, we must remember that women are at the center of our work. Women in this region are responsible for half of the world's food production and in countries in West Africa, produce between 60 and 80 percent of all food. They produce in West Africa more than 70 percent of agricultural labor. We must collectively measure our success and the success of the African agriculture plans that are developed by our ability to drive resources, benefits, extension services and technical support to these women producers. And we need more women in significant leadership roles. I joined a meeting this morning with the Dr. Florence Chenoweth who does so well in Liberia, accelerating its agriculture transformation. This is why we are now doubling our investment in the AWARD program (African Women in Agricultural Research for Development), a program conducted with the CGIAR to strengthen and support women scientists.

We know that these types of programs, from research through marketing, value addition, and production will work in West Africa. In 2008, in response to the increased spike in food prices, the United States began expanding our programs in these areas:

  • In Mali, farmers using new seed varieties increased their yields and their sales of commodities like rice, potatoes, and tomatoes by 140 percent.
  • In Liberia, our direct support helped establish the country's first certified rice program in almost 30 years.
  • Across the region, working with ECOWAS and the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union, USAID helped reduce the cost of using regional trade corridors by 14 percent. And we will remain committed in expanding investments in regional trade opportunities and regional approaches agricultural development, very much consistent with the theme of this meeting
  • In Ghana, USAID support to small farmers and producer groups has generated $31 million in sales for their agriculture products.
  • And here in Senegal, USAID support generated $22 million in sales for agricultural firms and producer organizations, created 8,000 agro-industry jobs, and increased small farmers incomes by almost 200 percent.

While there are many individual successes such as these, and we know that collectively our programs can continue to achieve these successes, the beauty of the plans that you are developing this week are that they will allow us to be focused and strategic in scaling-up these successes and really reaching small farmers that need this support. This is not an easy task and it requires those of you in this room working together to make very hard choices about how to allocate limited financial and human resources. Even under the most optimistic investment environment between the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the United States, the European Union, the UK, Spain, Canada, France and so many other partners, the aggregate amount of investment in African agriculture from abroad will still be less than is necessary to reach every single farmer with every single service and every single benefit. And that is why your ability to focus these plans on the highest priorities and to do so with almost a stubborn focus on prioritization will be the difference between success and failure.

Consider which value chains and which geographic ecosystems should be at the top of the list - whether this is the Northern region of Ghana or the rice value chain here in Senegal. We must be able to identify these priorities so we can invest in them together and invest in them at scale.

I also urge you to continue your impressive efforts to include the private sector and civil society in the development and implementation of these plans. The private sector brings more than just simple financial investment: it's a vehicle for organizing human capital and technical expertise in ways that are unique, and can add real value to agricultural markets at home and abroad.

Civil society, especially farmers' organizations and women's organizations can offer unique capabilities to reach those most in needs and those most vulnerable to hunger and starvation.

Thanks to the leadership of many African governments and regional organizations, and the African Union Commission for getting us to this point today, we are now poised for real agricultural revolution in West Africa. We applaud the work you are doing, we recognize the value of very careful and diligent technical review that has taken place over the last several days and weeks. And the United States is committed to being your partner on the long but focused path, to achieving food security and eliminating hunger and suffering in this region. Our efforts will be led by two members of our team that are here today: Ambassador William Garvelink, our Deputy Food Security Coordinator for Development and Ambassador Patricia Haslach, our Deputy Food Security Coordinator for Diplomacy. Africa has seen a dramatic decrease in agricultural investment over the last several decades. Everyone in this room knows that that decrease in investment led to disasterous results. Agricultural productivity got cut to less than half of its number

compared to 1980, and more that 2 hundred million people are now hungry on the continent of Africa and that number keeps going up year after year.

We applaud your efforts to come together and turn that around and we want to work with you to break the cycle of hunger once and for all on this continent.

Thank you very much.

Dakar, Senegal

Last updated: June 01, 2012

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