New York

22 September 2008

Secretary-General's remarks at side event "A Response to the World Food Crisis: Smallhonder Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development in Africa"

I thank all of you for being here to discuss what is literally a life and death issue. The steep rise in food prices is putting countless lives at risk

I thank all those who have answered appeals by the United Nations and other organizations for contributions to cover emergency relief. But the news remains grim, particularly in the Horn of Africa, where the number of people at risk is still rising.

Food aid is essential as a temporary measure, but this must be quickly followed by long-term solutions. This side event will allow us to examine available options.

The majority of Africans live in rural areas where small farmers are the main food producers. Solving the food crisis means addressing difficulties they face in producing and marketing their output.

Many small farmers are women who also face terrible discrimination, particularly when it comes to land ownership. Such laws and practices are morally unacceptable and must change.

Increasing investments in agriculture and the rural economy is a necessary first step. The Maputo declaration of the African Union summit of 2003 sets a target of spending 10 percent of national budgets on agriculture and rural development. All African governments signed up to this declaration. It is crucial to make it a reality.

More such investments will also help attract international support and private sector investments. Currently only four percent of official development assistance (ODA) goes to agriculture, compared to 20 percent in the 1980s. This must also change.

The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme drawn up by the African Union has many good proposals. If the Programme is implemented now, Africa will move from food scarcity to food exporter in a few years time.

Investments must be used to improve productivity in African agriculture. Most farmers rely on rainfall for their crops and changing weather patterns makes this strategy even more risky today. Presently only seven percent of Africa's arable land is irrigated, so whenever the rains fail, crops also fail. And this has been happening with increasing frequency of late.

Investing more will help small farmers adopt new technologies and modern farming methods. It will help provide agricultural extension services, more storage facilities, better roads and access to markets.

For our part, I have stressed greater coherence in the work of the United Nations in Africa. The UN is working with the NEPAD Secretariat and African Union to support the New Partnership for Africa's Development, which is the continent's own development blueprint. We want to maximize the impact of our work in Africa by “delivering as one”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The global food crisis requires a comprehensive and coordinated global response. My High-Level Task Force has developed a Comprehensive Framework for Action involving the UN, donor countries, civil society and the private sector. This framework will coordinate our activities in a “global partnership for food”.

Food security can be achieved through the right combination of policies, technologies and investments. During the green revolution in Asia, most countries spent between eleven and fourteen percent of their national budgets on agriculture. The sector also received a good deal of international support. We must now intensify our efforts to cause a green revolution in Africa.

Demand for food in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to double by 2015 from its level in 2000. We have to make sure that African farmers are at the forefront of meeting this demand.

Distinguished Guests,

It is now my honour to present to you the President of Mozambique, H.E. Armando Emílio Guebuza.

Thank you very much.