Remarks by President Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda at The UNGA “Partnering For Food Security Event” – New York, 26 September 2009.
“PARTNERING FOR FOOD SECURITY ”
Thank you very much, Secretary of State Madame Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. This discussion on partnering for food security is important and timely. I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on our situation in Africa and Rwanda.
I am pleased to state that, in Africa, there are many positive stories to reflect the progress that has generally been made. There are many cases from Malawi that we have seen or heard from, and these stories speak for themselves.
The attention to agriculture involves financial and human resources, commitment, together with improved partnerships with bilateral and multilateral institutions. These are combining to make a fundamental difference. And again, this has built on the country-led strategies, as has already been mentioned by the Secretary of State.
It is my view, therefore, that the 2009 G8 Summit that reflected on food security and pledged substantive amount of financial resources came at a time when our continent is in a much better position to take advantage of these opportunities. And we can use these resources to eradicate hunger, globally.
In Rwanda we have learned from many sources, and put in our own efforts to embark on the journey of improving our food security. First, public and private sector leadership in our country is engaging farmers, in order to make them part of the solution. We have increased public investment substantially, and our farmers have been responding with good results. This combination is leading to improvements in such key areas as improved seeds and fertilizers, land conservation, cooperatives, better post-harvest storage facilities, irrigation — as opposed to total dependency on rain-fed practices — and later on, critical also, the markets.
Farmers’ access to financing and credit is very important, and continues to increase via microfinancing and innovative public/private partnerships.
Since the initiation of our strategy in the year 2006, considerable impact is being realized. And for two years now, we have realized food surplus. In the past 2 years, we reduced our banana import — the main staple food in Rwanda — by 90 percent. Our exports of beans, cassava, and potatoes have increased by over 30 percent.
Food security is improving in all parts of our country: 29 of our 30 districts in Rwanda have reached adequate household food levels; 95 percent of households in Rwanda are, therefore, producing the FAO-recommended or above the recommended level of 2,100 calories per person per day.
It is important to highlight the fact that the majority of Rwandan farmers are women. Securing food security, therefore, contributes significantly to women’s socioeconomic empowerment. By their own strength, and through public policy and legislative measures, we have in our country taken considerable measures to remove barriers to women’s participation in our transformation process, including agricultural sector.
Another key element of country-led food security strategy is the alignment of development assistance with the national policy priorities. This cooperative effort is vital for success, including greater donor appreciation for the need to shift from food aid that breeds dependency to building productive capacities for domestic entrepreneurship, business development, and markets. Most of our development partners increasingly support and operate through this framework.
In the agricultural sector, for example, the world food program has shifted from food donations to supporting farmers, through increased productivity and linkage to markets. Likewise, the World Bank moved from free distribution of fertilizers to establishing a fund to assist farmers purchase such (inaudible).
These combined efforts have led to notable growth rates in our country. The agricultural sector grew from 0.7 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2008, thereby lifting the national GDP to slightly over 11 percent.
We have just begun our journey in Rwanda of consolidating food security with still many challenges ahead. But our prospects are improving, and hold greater promise and hope for Rwandans. With the 2009 G8 Summit resolutions and pledges by the U.S. administration that are translated into consistent support, together with the high-level engagements such as this one today — graciously made possible by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary of State Clinton — a world free of hunger is achievable. And let us act together and make this vision a reality. I thank you very much, Madame Secretary.