IFAD President to African Union leaders: "Change must be cultivated from within"

By Kanayo F Nwanze

Tomorrow, a conference on the crisis in the Horn of Africa sponsored by the African Union will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. African leaders will be discussing how to help the millions of people affected by the drought and resulting famine. This conference is a good sign and I commend the African Union for taking this initiative. As President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), I have said before that Africa should not wait for the international community to solve its problems. Africa will conquer hunger when African governments give Africans the tools and resources they need to feed themselves. Change – real change – comes from within.

As an African and as President of a United Nations agency dedicated to helping rural people lift themselves out of poverty, I am also keenly aware of the need for partnership in what is a massive undertaking. It is imperative to deliver emergency relief to those who desperately need it now. At the same time, we need to look towards the future and commit to making medium- and long-term investments.

Along with climatic shocks, developing countries are already struggling with rising and more volatile food prices as well as the challenge of feeding growing populations. If donors, development agencies and governments do not attend to the medium and long term, the kind of tragedy we are seeing in the Horn of Africa will happen again.

Recently I travelled to Ethiopia and Nigeria to meet with government leaders at the highest levels, and I came away seeing hope for Africa’s future. In Nigeria – one of Africa’s most populous countries, known for its oil wealth – I saw hope in the news that the government plans to make agriculture a priority.

I believe that African countries need to do more to ensure that agriculture is put at the top of the national agendas. Although development aid is key to Africa’s advancement, the countries themselves will ultimately have to take responsibility for their own development. No nation, no people ever had sustainable growth that sprang solely from external support. Africa’s development must be made in Africa, by Africans, for Africans. Every food crop must be fully rooted in its own soil to flourish. Change cannot be imposed from outside, it must be cultivated from within.