OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, June 22, 2004 (ENS):
The United States is encouraged by the commitment of
African leaders at an agriculture conference to regional
cooperation on policy, reform, economic growth and increased
investment in agriculture, says Dr. J.B. Penn, U.S.
under secretary for agriculture for farm and foreign
Penn spoke in Ouagadougou Monday at the opening session
of the Ministerial Conference on Harnessing Science
and Technology to Increase Agricultural Productivity
in Africa: West African Perspectives. Penn led the U.S.
delegation to the conference.
The first day of the three-day meeting focused on making
the most of scarce water resources. Today, delegates will
hear presentations on genetically modified crops.
Penn said more research should be directed to African
staple crops such as cassava, cowpeas, sweet potato,
millet, sorghum and value-added foods.
He also said there are more products, including products
derived from biotechnology, coming from research in
the developed world for use by producers in the developing
Penn said the conference supports current U.S. initiatives
in Africa to end hunger, build trade capacity and provide
access to adequate supplies of clean water to poor people.
In a video message to the ministers, U.S. Agriculture
Secretary Ann Veneman reminded them that efforts engaging
them at this conference were begun last year in Sacramento,
California, at the Ministerial Conference and Expo on
Agricultural Science and Technology.
"At that historic conference," Veneman said,
"we explored ways to use science and technology
to boost agricultural productivity in an environmentally
sustainable way to reduce global hunger and poverty."
“One of the most powerful presentations at the
Sacramento Ministerial was made by Dr. Norman Borlaug,
often called the Father of the Green Revolution,"
Veneman said. "He talked about how increased agricultural
productivity supports economic development, income growth,
and political stability, and how technology will make
the difference between feeding growing populations,
and continued hunger and poverty."
"He challenged African ministers directly,"
Veneman reminded them, "and his comments really
hit home when he said: 'You missed the Green Revolution.
You cannot afford to miss the gene revolution.'"
She announced that several African researchers, policymakers,
and university faculty will be funded for study under
the new Norman Borlaug International Science and Technology
Fellows Program. "They will work with U.S. universities,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture, international research
centers, and other U.S. government agencies, nonprofit
institutions, and private companies," Veneman said.
||"He challenged African
ministers directly," Veneman reminded them,
"and his comments really hit home when he said:
'You missed the Green Revolution. You cannot afford
to miss the gene revolution."
Penn told delegates that eight African countries, including
five from West Africa, were selected to be the first to
submit proposals for supplemental aid from the Millennium
"Agriculture should be an important component
in these proposals," Penn said.
"By cultivating and applying our knowledge and
by working together, we believe that the power of technology
can be harvested to unleash the productive and economic
potential here in Africa," he said.
Unlike countries in Southern Africa that have rejected
U.S. genetically modified food aid, the four West African
presidents who spoke on opening day said they welcome
more research into new agricultural technologies, including
President of Burkina Faso Blaise Compaoré said
he welcomed the parts of the conference that would focus
on agricultural biotechnology. Compaoré said,
"The third millennium will be the millennium of
Participants at the opening session heard from Amandou
Toumani Touré, President of Mali; Mamadou Tandjá,
President of Niger and chairman of the West African
Economic and Monetary Union, and John Kufuor, President
of Ghana and chairman of the Economic Community of West
More science should be directed to Africa's problems
such as water resource management, soil degradation,
deforestation and hunger in a population that is growing
much faster than the continent's agricultural productivity,
Officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation Monday
signed a Memorandum of Understanding to share and disseminate
agricultural technologies to improve African production
systems, increase food security, reduce poverty, expand
agricultural trade and commerce on a sustainable basis,
and provide new opportunities for African farmers. The
agreement is expected to involve a variety of USDA agencies
as specific technological needs are identified.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All