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 agricultural services.
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
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 world.
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
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.
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 Challenge Corporation.
"Agriculture should be an important component in these proposals,"
"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,"
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 biotechnology.
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
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 African States.
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, they said.
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.
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