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Africa: Agriculture Strategic, Neglected
Nov 16, 2003 (031116)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"Unfortunately, development partners have paid much less attention
to agriculture and rural development over the past two decades,"
commented Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO), in a speech last week. "The World
Bank, the major funding source for Africa, targeted 39 percent of
its lending in 1978 to the agricultural sector in Africa. By 2002,
this proportion had dropped to 6 percent."
Dr. Diouf's speech, excerpted below, also highlighted over $318
billion a year in subsidies provided by rich countries to their own
agricultural sectors. This contrasts with only $8 billion a year
for investment in agriculture in developing countries. He noted
that developing country governments as well were still neglecting
this key priority.
Among the FAO initiatives addressing this neglect is last month's
launch of AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture),
aimed at making current agricultural research accessible to
researchers, students, and agricultural extension workers in
developing countries. This new program, described in a press
release in this issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin, will provide free
access to over 400 scientific journals for institutions in selected
developing countries. These include 39 African countries and 30
other countries. Please forward this announcement to your contacts
among librarians and researchers in these countries. Note that a
similar initiative for scientific journals in health, from the
World Health Organization, is available at
Of related interest:
For a statement earlier this year from the executive director of
the World Food Program on the world's double standard towards the
food crisis in Africa, see:
For additional updates on agriculture in Africa, see
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Online scientific information on food and agriculture for poorest
AGORA offers students and academics free or low-cost access to
[For more information on AGORA see
http://www.aginternetwork.org/en; FAO news releases are available
at http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom; the AGORA website is also
available with French, Spanish, and Arabic interfaces]
14 October 2003, Rome -- Students, researchers and academics in
some of the world's poorest countries will gain free or low-cost
access to a wealth of scientific literature under a new initiative
announced today by FAO and a range of public and private sector
The AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture)
initiative will provide access to more than 400 key journals in
food, nutrition, agriculture and related biological, environmental
and social sciences.
The demand for scientific literature in developing countries has
gone unfulfilled for many years. Gaining access to current
scientific information has become a daily struggle for thousands of
students, researchers and academics.
A promising example
While students are unable to access the literature and acquire the
knowledge they need, researchers and academics are confronted with
mounting difficulties in publishing their findings in peer-reviewed
journals, updating their teaching curricula and identifying
"The AGORA initiative is a promising example of the International
Alliance Against Hunger in action," according to Anton Mangstl,
Director of FAO's Library and Documentation Systems Division.
International Alliance Against Hunger is the theme of this year's
World Food Day - 16 October - which marks the anniversary of FAO.
"By bringing together bilateral agencies, UN agencies, private
foundations and international scientific publishers, AGORA
demonstrates that the public and private sectors can work together
to build greater momentum towards building a world without hunger,"
Mr. Mangstl said.
Founding publishers of AGORA are : Blackwell Publishing ; CABI
Publishing ; Elsevier ; Kluwer Academic Publishers ; Lippincott,
Williams & Wilkins; Nature Publishing Group ; Oxford University
Press ; Springer Verlag ; and John Wiley and Sons.
Funding and support is also provided by Cornell University Mann
Library, Rockefeller Foundation, the United Kingdom Department for
International Development and the United States Agency for
Eric Swanson, Senior Vice-President of John Wiley and Sons, Inc,
and Chair of the International Association of Scientific, Technical
and Medical Publishers said: "There can be few things more
satisfying to a scientific publisher than to contribute to a
practical program to make valuable information easily available in
places where it will be used to improve health, nutrition and
education of the world's poor."
"I look forward to working with FAO, academic institutions and the
computing and telecommunications industries to make this important
initiative live up to its full potential," Mr. Swanson also said.
"FAO is committed to strengthening capacity for knowledge
generation and dissemination as a contribution to achievement of
the goals of the International Alliance Against Hunger and as a
follow-up to the World Food Summit," Mr. Mangstl stated.
The AGORA website has been developed in close cooperation between
FAO and Cornell University, with funding provided by the
Rockefeller Foundation, based on tools and systems developed by WHO
for a similar service in health called HINARI.
FAO Media Relations Officer
(+39) 06 570 53473
AGORA: Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture
[Selected additional information from AGORA website]
Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) is an
initiative to provide free or low-cost access to major scientific
journals in agriculture and related biological, environmental and
social sciences to public institutions in developing countries.
Launching in October 2003, AGORA will provide access to over 400
journals from the world's leading academic publishers.
Led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,
the goal of AGORA is to increase the quality and effectiveness of
agricultural research, education and training in low-income
countries, and in turn, to improve food security. Researchers,
policy-makers, educators, students, technical workers and extension
specialists will have access to high-quality, relevant and timely
agricultural information via the Internet.
Who can participate?
Potential users will be required to register with FAO, and access
to AGORA will be password controlled. The AGORA Publisher Partners
are opening access free to relevant institutions in the following
countries. Individual publishers reserve the right to add to or
delete from this list. The countries, generally with an annual GNI
per capita per annum of US$1000 or less at 31 December 2000, have
been selected by the Publisher Partners and will be amended by them
from time to time.
Eligible African countries
Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African
Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic
of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea,
Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali,
Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and
Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo,
Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
and 30 countries outside Africa...
Within these countries AGORA will benefit not-for-profit national
academic, research or government institutions in agriculture and
related biological, environmental and social sciences. Eligible
institutions whose staff and students may have access to the
journals are: universities and colleges; research institutes;
agricultural extension centers, government offices and libraries.
How to Sign Up
To join, please complete the online AGORA registration form. Only
one registration is required per institution. We will send your
instructions for getting started.
Food Security in Least Developed Countries
Food and Agricuture Organization of the United Nations (Rome)
November 10, 2003
Address by Dr Jacques Diouf, Director-General, FAO to the Council
on Foreign Relations
[Excerpts only; for full text see
I wish to thank you, Ambassador Lyman and the members of the
Council on Foreign Relations, for inviting me to address this
august gathering; it is a great honour for me and the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). To me, this
confirms the high priority that the Council on Foreign Relations
attaches to our mission - "food security for all".
Developing countries have made major advances over the past 30
years in providing more and better food to their populations.
Average per capita food consumption increased by nearly 30 percent
at the end of the 1990s in these countries - despite a near
doubling of their population. Furthermore, the proportion of the
undernourished in total population decreased from 37 to 18 percent
for all developing countries over the same period - indeed a
significant accomplishment. The gains from past agricultural
growth, however, have not translated into food for all. Sadly, the
proportion and absolute number of undernourished people has
actually increased in some countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and the
For those 49 nations considered the world's least developed, the
proportion of the undernourished has remained unchanged at 38
percent since the early 1970s. Today nearly 800 million people in
the developing world remain hungry and poor - and 650 million of
them live in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Small Island
Developing States (SIDS), as a whole, are much wealthier, with
higher per capita incomes, less undernourished people, and a much
lower share of agriculture value-added in total gross domestic
product. However, ten SIDS are also considered least developed.
These SIDS are generally much poorer, have a high proportion of
undernourished people, and derive as much as 50 percent of gross
domestic product from agriculture.
Today I will share my thoughts on the challenges of water and rural
infrastructure in these LDCs and SIDS, with a particular focus on
Africa. I will briefly explain why FAO believes that investment in
these areas is so important and conclude with some thoughts as to
concrete areas for action and investment.
Seventy-five percent of the population in LDCs lives in rural
areas. Seventy-one percent of these people are involved in
agriculture. Thirty-three of these countries are in Africa - a
largely rural continent in which agriculture accounts for about 60
percent of the total labour force, 20 percent of total merchandise
exports and 17 percent of gross domestic product. LDCs are
increasingly dependent on food imports, with food aid reflecting a
considerable external dependency. In 2000/2001, Africa received 3.8
million tons - worth about US$ 1.9 billion - of food aid - more
than 25 percent of the world total - to assist millions of people
suffering from food emergencies due to droughts, floods or civil
strife. Latest forecasts indicate that Africa's share of total
cereal food aid might actually have increased to over 30 percent in
2001/2002 and 2002/2003.
SIDS also face unique challenges due to relatively narrow resource
bases that preclude greater economy of scale in agriculture,
fragile natural environments, vulnerability to the adverse impacts
of climate change, and isolation from external markets. The threats
associated with climatic fluctuations, such as hurricanes or
sea-level rise, and the potential impact on food and water
security, are recurrent and real for these countries - rich and
Regrettably, what LDCs and some SIDS have in common are chronic
hunger and extreme poverty - poverty that is persistent, often with
70 percent located in rural areas. People suffering from hunger and
chronic food insecurity are vulnerable to disease and are
economically marginalised, unable to contribute to output or
demand. FAO estimates that developing countries have - on average
- lost one percentage point from their potential annual economic
growth due to the insufficient energy intake of their populations.
Such losses are much higher in LDCs, particularly those in
sub-Saharan Africa where some 200 million people - 33 percent of
Africa's population - are chronically hungry.
FAO has identified three principal causes of hunger and food
insecurity: first, low agricultural productivity due to
technological, policy and institutional constraints; second, high
seasonal and year-to-year variability in output and food supply -
often the result of unreliable rainfall and insufficient water for
crop and livestock production; and third, the lack of off-farm
employment opportunities that contributes to uncertainty and low
incomes in urban and rural areas. I am sure you will agree that the
true causes and consequences of food insecurity and poverty are
thus inextricably linked to the challenges of rural development.
Much of the solution to these challenges lies in the expansion of
Global food production will have to increase 80 percent by 2030 in
order to feed an extra 2 billion people - yet investment in
agriculture and rural areas has declined in most developing
countries. Some 1.2 billion people do not have access to water,
twice as many do not have access to sanitation, and 80 percent of
all disease in the world is due to contaminated water or poor
sanitary conditions - yet, the numbers of people without water or
sanitation is expected to double by 2025.
We must change this. FAO has proposed three ways to address the
challenge of water. First, we must focus on short-term, small-scale
irrigation projects at the village level. FAO supports many village
level projects, including the development of low-cost and
relatively simple technologies designed for irrigating crops by
small farmers. Only seven percent of total arable land is irrigated
in Africa - with 3.7 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa - the lowest
regional percentages in the developing world. Secondly, we need to
rehabilitate irrigation systems over the medium-term - including
the upgrading of management and related physical infrastructure.
Third, we must focus our efforts on the longer-term development of
water basins. Countries with shared river basins, particularly,
need to agree on appropriate water management mechanisms, including
resource allocation and control of environmental externalities.
Long-term development activities will need to be pursued jointly
within appropriate institutional frameworks, developed by countries
that share transboundary waters.
SIDS are particularly challenged by water. These countries suffer
most from coastal erosion, land loss due to rising sea-levels and
intrusion of sea-water in groundwater aquifers. Changes in rainfall
intensity and extremes due to climatic fluctuations increase the
scale of flooding, landslides and soil erosion. Water security is
not only limited to quantity aspects, but also quality. However,
many of the mitigating actions that could alleviate water and
climate-induced challenges are external to SIDS.
I would now like to address the challenge of rural infrastructure.
Agricultural productivity increases, due to improved land and water
management, are largely without benefit unless supported by
investments in infrastructure that in turn facilitate market
development and access. The statistics on rural infrastructure in
Africa are alarming: slightly more than 20 percent of Africa's
population lives in landlocked countries - more than twice as many
people as in other developing regions; less than 14 percent of all
roads in Africa are paved and air freight is less than 1 percent.
Power generation capacity per capita in Africa is less than half of
that in either Asia or Latin America.
Unfortunately, development partners have paid much less attention
to agriculture and rural development over the past two decades. The
World Bank, the major funding source for Africa, targeted 39
percent of its lending in 1978 to the agricultural sector in
Africa. By 2002, this proportion had dropped to 6 percent.
Similarly, total lending for agricuture over the same period
declined from 13 to 3 percent at the Inter-American Development
Bank, 27 to 9 percent at the Asian Development Bank and 28 to 13 at
the African Development Bank. This trend must be reversed.
Governments of many industrialized countries are committing high
levels of sustained support to their agricultural sector - despite
its relatively minor contribution to overall gross domestic
product. Transfers to the agricultural sector in OECD countries
totalled US$318 billion in 2002. It is a telling comparison to note
that overseas development assistance to agriculture in rural areas
in developing countries has been totalling a mere US$8 billion per
annum in recent years, of which US$4 billion is destined directly
for agriculture. To be clear, I am not questioning the objectives
in supporting agriculture in developed countries. Rather, I urge
that such support be given in ways that do not distort markets and
out-compete farmers in the world's poorest countries.
Virtually none of the industrialized countries in today's world has
embarked on a path of sustainable economic growth without first
developing its own agricultural sector. I contend therefore that
the 50 percent decline in international financial and technical
support to agriculture in developing countries over the 1990s has
been a misguided policy. Agriculture is often the virtual
foundation of many of the economies in developing countries. And,
often, most of the poor in these countries depend directly or
indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. Furthermore, I
must note that the decline in international support has been in
direct contrast to the global pledges to commit resources to reduce
hunger. Sadly, it may also have misled governments of poor
countries to neglect their rural areas in domestic policies and
In conclusion, and I am sure that you would conclude the same, that
beyond being a moral imperative, all countries - rich and poor
alike - must support increased investment in agriculture and rural
development in the poorest countries. We can and must change
current policies through enhanced political will at all levels. We
must commit resources for concrete action, such as those that
address the challenges of water and rural infrastructure in a
sustainable way. Sustainable investment does not reduce, but in
fact strengthens the opportunity for poor countries to benefit from
their own comparative advantage - which often lies in the
Thank you for your kind attention.
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