Africa can feed the world: it needs solid institutions and sound policies #wca2010

This morning, there was a certain buzz in the venue hosting IFAD's fifth West and Central regional implementation workshop. It was like a big family reunion with all the West and Central Africa IFAD-funded projects coming together for this annual event. Everyone was happy to see each other and to catch up.

Despite our fear of holding an "internet-less" meeting - because of a cable being cut in the neighbourhood - thanks to all the internet Gods and angels, we were blessed with connectivity!!! You can follow us on this blog, on IFAD's Facebook page and also on IFAD's twitter channel. If you tweet, please use hastag #wca2010

We were honoured to have H.E. Khadim Gueye, Senegal's Minister of Agriculture who officially opened IFAD's fifth West and Central regional implementation workshop and welcomed the over 170 participants coming from 24 West and Central African countries.

The minister highlighted that Senegal and IFAD's partnership goes back to more than 30 years ago. His Excellency mentioned that thanks to this excellent partnership Senegal is making big strides in achieving food security and reducing rural poverty. In his remarks, Minister Gueye said: " IFAD-funded projects and programmes in Senegal are deemed among some of the best rural development projects in West and Central Africa".

His Excellency also commended IFAD's participatory approach in developing Senegal's 2011-2015 Country Strategic Opportunities Programme. He congratulated participants for designing a demand-driven workshop, where for the first time, the project themselves had taken ownership of the process - a workshop by IFAD-funded projects and programmes for IFAD-funded projects and programmes.

Minister Gueye concluded his remarks by saying: "We're looking forward to the outcome of your workshop so that we can transform and diversify African agriculture make it both modern and efficient".

Mr Beavogui, director of West and Central Africa division in welcoming participants underscored the purpose of annual regional implementation workshop, namely to:
  • exchange, discuss, share and learn from each other
  • improve project implementation
  • discuss the challenges and opportunities for implementing sound value chain projects and programmes
In his welcoming speech, recognizing the important role women and young people play in agriculture and especially in African agriculture  Beavogui said: "We need to build the future of agriculture and make farming an attractive business both for women and young people."

"We will use the outcome of this workshop to inform future  IFAD interventions in the region".

Later during the day, at the press conference attended by almost 30 journalists, Beavogui  said: "We need to communicate to bring about change and to change means to learn". He then made a strong case for investing in African agriculture by saying: "Africa has 52% of world's arable land and has the potential to feed the world in 2050, what it needs, are solid institutions and sound policies"

We used the press conference opportunity to inform the journalists present that on 6 December, IFAD will be launching The Rural Poverty Report 2011: New realities, new challenges: new opportunities for tomorrow's generation.

During the inaugural session, in her statment, Ms Bintou Djibo, UN resident coordinator said: "The fact that IFAD has recently opened an office in Senegal is a testimony to IFAD's commitment to eradicate poverty".  Djibo reminded the audience that both the international development community and developing countries still need to overcome a number of challenges to achieve the MDGs.

"The recent economic down-turn and the looming population growth are posing new challenges for the development world in general", said Djibo. "This means to achieve results, we need to not only mobilize additional resources but continue using our resources in the most efficient and effective manner".

In his opening remarks, Mr Thierno Ba, director of IFAD-funded PRODAM project in Senegal, asked the gathering and especially his fellow project coordinator to focus more on results and to systematically show impact of development projects. "Let's put all our experience and innovations to ensure food security for our country and Africa", concluded Ba.

After the inaugural session everyone came together for the customary "family photo". These mementos are highly cherished and in a way also they mark certain milestones both in our professional and personal lives. For one thing, we can see how much we've aged or how much we have not changed!!!!

My take away messages from this morning's session which finished with a chat show on challenges and opportunities for integrating value changes into operations, are the following:
  • Women in Africa constitute the majority of farmers, yet they receive less than 10 percent of small farm credit and own only 1 percent of land. Yet they are the ones that make sure there is food on the table and only if they had the same level of education and experience as men they could increase the yield of their crop by 22 percent
  • Africa can feed the world. It has 52% of arable land. What it needs solid institutions and sound policies
I am now sitting in a working group where participants are discussing the linkages between value chains and  rural entrepreneurship. Looking around the room and listening to the experiences of colleagues from Senegal, Ghana and other countries it is obvious that this continent has so many good experiences that it can use to build a better future not only for itself, but as Mohamed Beavogui mentioned also feed the world.

When there is a will there is a way!!!