Remarks with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Kenya's Minister for Agriculture William Ruto at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
Secretary of State
SECRETARY VILSACK: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Mr. Minister, thank you very much. I come from the state of Iowa, where they say that that’s where the tall corn grows. Well, apparently, I’m where the tall maize grows. (Laughter.) And it is a pleasure and an honor to be here.
Earlier this afternoon, I had a chance to meet with one of the ministers from Namibia. And he said something that I thought was quite profound. He said people don’t eat democracy. But I would suggest that democracy’s future is tied to people being able to eat. And there is reason to be concerned throughout the world, for the number of hungry in the world is increasing. In 2008, our world experienced a global food crisis that affected 1 billion people; 265 million of them live here in Africa.
The FAO and the USDA projected the number of hungry will increase 11 percent in the next year. As President Obama has said, we need transformational change. And if you combat food insecurity, we cannot rely on simply providing food. We must help Africa produce enough food to feed its people and create economic opportunities for this continent.
We need a comprehensive approach focused on sustainability. We must address not only increasing availability of food by helping people in countries produce it, but we must make food accessible to those who need it and teach people to utilize it properly. First and foremost, the plans to establish food security must be country-developed and country-led. To maximize their success, they must be coordinated with other multilateral efforts.
Our commitment must be long-term to have the lasting impact needed to succeed in the 21st century. Efforts must be grounded in good government and transparent practices. And we must recognize the critical role that women play in this effort. I’m so proud to be here with the recipients of the AWARD fellowship. They are making a difference in the region. (Applause.) And I and others at USDA look forward to working with them to enhance their success in the future.
And with agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa accounting for roughly 20 to 30 percent of GDP and employing 60 to 70 percent of the workforce, we must help this area increase its agricultural output. We can provide seed technologies, explain the appropriate use of fertilization, share techniques to manage land effectively, create a strong post-harvest infrastructure – so many things that could help farmers increase their income. I can’t think of a better example of how we can partner with the people of sub-Saharan Africa and Kenya than the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute, where we are today. (Applause.)
USDA is proud to have partnered with KARI to prevent and control animal and pest diseases and improve food security, and develop and apply products and emerging technologies. KARI represents our commitment to tackle the challenges of global food insecurity. But more importantly, it highlights the collaborative effort and approach we must take to establish food security and prosperity around the globe. Your work in stem rust, wheat stem rust and hybrid seeds are part of the prescription for a more food-secure world.
Let me leave you, before I introduce Secretary Clinton, with a personal thought and perspective on why this is not only important to me, but important to everyone here. Yesterday, I visited a school where many of the children were orphans. Though I’ve never truly been hungry like so many in Africa, I can relate to the students I met because I too started out life as an orphan. As a child, I thought about books and baseball. The children I met yesterday just wanted one thing – to be fed and educated. If that’s not reason for us to do all we can together to create a world in which kids do not go hungry, I’m not sure what will move us.
There is no greater advocate for women and children than Secretary Hillary Clinton. While her title is Secretary of State, I view her as a world and global ambassador for women and children who suffer, who struggle, and who seek simply to provide for their families. It’s my pleasure and honor to be partnered with her and the State Department in our effort to provide greater food security.
Madame Secretary. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Tom. And it is a great delight for me to work with Tom Vilsack, who is such an accomplished public servant and a really wonderful human being.
I am very happy to be here, Minister Ruto. Thank you so much for your joining us and for your leadership on this critical issue. I want to also recognize Permanent Secretary Kiome for his work and commitment, and KARI Director Mukisira and all who work at KARI for their dedication.
I also want to recognize and introduce two members of Congress who are very important to our work with Kenya and to Africa: Nita Lowey, Congresswoman from New York – (applause) –who chaired the very important committee that actually determines in the House of Representatives where our foreign assistance goes, and she is very dedicated to improving the lives of people everywhere; and Congressman Donald Payne from New Jersey – (applause) – who has dedicated himself to improving relations between our country and the countries of Africa, and working to be a voice and an advocate on behalf of Africans. And I’m very pleased that Donald could join me. And then I want to recognize a long-time friend, someone whom I admire so much, Kenya’s own Wangari Maathai. (Applause.) Thank you for being here.
Across Africa this morning, as I was getting up in my hotel room, millions and millions of people, mostly women, rose before dawn to begin their daily work tending crops and caring for livestock. By now, they have walked for miles to collect water for irrigation and guide their herds on grazing land. For millions of Africans, farming is a lifeline, the only source of income and food. For the continent, as the minister reminded us, agriculture is the primary economic sector and an engine for future growth. And for the global community, agricultural development could help address one of the most urgent challenges we face: chronic hunger, which afflicts nearly a billion people worldwide, including one in three Africans, many of whom are children.
Here at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and at laboratories and greenhouses across the continent, African scientists are developing tools to boost productivity of Africa’s farms – part of a broad strategy to strengthen the entire agricultural sector, to increase income, to support rural communities, and to drive economic growth.
The benefits of a strong system of agriculture to Africa are great. The benefits to the world are equally so. Most of the arable land left on the planet is in Africa, while in some of the world’s most populous regions the land available for farming is shrinking rapidly. More and more, the world will look to Africa to be its breadbasket. And I hope that when the world looks to Africa to be its breadbasket, it is Africans and African farmers who will profit from becoming the world’s breadbasket. (Applause.)
But agriculture in Africa has been held back for decades by wars that have forced farmers to flee their fields, by diseases that too often strike the young and the strong, by climate change which has caused droughts and floods that destroyed cropland, as the people of East Africa know too well.
Farmers in Africa have also faced the lack of investment from the private sector as well as governments and the global community, while technologies that have helped farmers in other parts of the world haven’t yet been adapted to the extent necessary to Africa’s needs. Together, these challenges have eroded the foundation of African agriculture. But that foundation is being rebuilt. The scientists here at KARI are taking the lead. I’ve just met with researchers who are cultivating hardier crops that can feed more people and thrive in harsher conditions, disease-resistant cassava plants, sweet potatoes enriched with Vitamin A to prevent blindness, maize that can flourish in times of drought.
The breakthroughs achieved in these labs and others throughout Africa can go a long way toward making sure that farmers who work from sunup to sundown can grow enough to support their families and so people aren’t forced to pull their children from school or sell their livestock to survive a food shortage.
This is also time to innovate. And the innovation in other fields can help farmers. For example, telecommunications, micro-finance, even micro-insurance. In several countries, farmers are using cell phones to check on prices in nearby markets. In Uganda, they’re receiving text messages on their cell phones about how to diagnose and treat local crop diseases. And just last month, the Grameen Foundation, Google, and the South African cell phone company MTN came together to launch a service that will provide farmers with local weather forecasts and farming tips, along with other useful information like health advice.
Innovations like these are a crucial piece of what must be a comprehensive approach to agriculture, one that connects the tools developed in labs like this to the fields where the farmers are every day, the markets where the crops are bought and sold, the financial institutions where farmers access credit to invest in new seeds, fertilizer, equipment, and the classrooms where they can learn to grow more food with less labor and less water.
President Obama and his entire Administration, as evidenced by both Tom Vilsack and I being here, are committed to help strengthen the entire agricultural chain here in Africa and around the world. We think that is a critical tool for promoting economic growth and integrating Africa into the regional economy. We are convinced that investing in agriculture is one of the most high-impact cost-effective strategies available for reducing poverty and saving and improving lives. That’s why we have made this a signature element of our nation’s foreign policy. Very often, people in developing countries think that if we can only get a factory, if we can only get that business, whereas what is closer to home can actually produce more income and create more opportunities.
But I think it’s fair to say in Tom’s work in Iowa with farmers and the work that I did as a senator from New York and living in Arkansas for all those years, oftentimes people think, well, if you’re modern, you don’t do agriculture anymore. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. If you don’t do agriculture, you don’t eat. (Applause.) And that’s the most important goal of any society – to sustain itself and to sustain the next generation. Last month in Rome, the members of the G-8 and other countries committed $20 billion to end global hunger, but not simply through short-term food aid, but through longer-term investments. The United States has pledged $3.5 billion to this effort.
Now, we do not seek to impose a one-size-fits-all approach. We will partner with individual countries to help Kenya and others develop your own strategy for reform. We will work with partners outside government, including NGOs like AWARD, with foundations like the Gates Foundation, with Universities like Cornell, which has a long relationship with KARI here, to provide coordination, minimize duplication, and maximize results. The United States has been a proud supporter of KARI for more than 40 years. And we’re so proud that Cornell has a longstanding partnership as well.
With Kenya’s leadership in biotechnology and biosafety, we cannot only improve agriculture in Kenya, but Kenya can be leader for the rest of Africa. (Applause.) And so as we scale up our efforts, let us strive to support those who do the work. Women are the backbone of farming in Africa, just as they are in most of the world. They plant the seeds, they till the fields, they harvest the crops, they bring them to market, they prepare the meals for their families. So to succeed in this work, we must work with women. And so we need a good collaboration to make sure that women are equal partners with men farmers all the way through the process.
The AWARD program is a great example. It supports women scientists working to improve farming here in Africa and to fight hunger and poverty. And we need women represented in our laboratories as well as our fields. And I really congratulate the AWARD women for being pioneers in plant science. (Applause.)
When I was a senator from New York, I learned something that I was very surprised by, and that is that in New York, which people think of as Manhattan with tall buildings, or the Bronx or Brooklyn or Queens, New York state actually has agriculture as its number two industry. But many people living in New York City did not know there were farmers in other parts of New York. And I realized that if you could enhance the income of the farmers in what we call upstate New York, it would benefit everyone. So I’ve worked with farmers and farming and improving income and helping with crop selection and providing inputs like better fertilizers and better farming techniques and more value-added processing.
And even in New York, when I started about eight years ago, a lot of farmers weren’t getting their products to market in an efficient way. So when we talk about farming, we’re also talking about infrastructure, aren’t we, Minister? We’re talking about farm-to-market roads. We’re talking about storage and warehouse facilities, refrigeration facilities. We’re talking about local markets buying from local farmers. If Kenyan farmers were linked up with Kenyan buyers of food, everyone would benefit. Instead of importing food that you can grow right here in Kenya, grow it and then sell it to each other. That’s a win-win strategy for farmers and for the Kenyan people as well.
So we are pledged to work with you. We’re proud to stand with you in this partnership that we have been involved in for many years. We want to take it to the next level, and we want to see the results. We’re going to measure results, we’re going to be very clear about what we expect to see as we work together, because we don’t have a minute to waste. Children are malnourished, people are going hungry, money is left on the table, crops are wilting and dying in the field. We know we can do much better here and throughout Africa.
So I look forward to working with my colleague and partner in this effort, Secretary Vilsack, and with all of you here as well. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
SECRETARY VILSACK: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think they want to ask a few questions, Minister.
MINISTER RUTO: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. My questions are relevant not on agriculture, on something else. Number one, I would like to know for the Government of the United States of America, what specific actions are you likely to (inaudible) on Kenya in case the Government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, totally ignores The Hague or the local tribunal option in punishing masterminds of post-election violence? And number two, President Obama being of Kenyan descent, could he be having some specific developmental programs for Kenya? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, those questions are related and connected. As I said earlier this morning at the Convention Center, the United States Government has delivered a very clear message to the Government of Kenya. Our Ambassador, our Assistant Secretary of State for Africa have both spoken out about our belief that it is in Kenya’s interest to pursue a path toward justice of those who acted in a violent manner and supported violence following the last election.
We also, of course, believe that this is an issue that is better handled by Kenyans themselves. And we urge the government, including the parliament, to act expeditiously to set up a means, whether it’s in the existing system or a special system. And I don’t think anyone will believe it’s real unless there’s actual court proceedings and prosecution. That doesn’t mean people are guilty. They’re innocent until proven so.
But certainly, trying to bring to justice some of those who acted violently and preventing them from believing that they can act with impunity is critical to Kenya, but it’s important to the United States. And it is especially concerning to President Obama. He is very proud of his Kenyan ancestry. You hear him talk about it all the time. He talks about his father’s life, he talks about his grandmother, he talks about his relatives who are here. I don’t know if any of you came to his inauguration, but 10 percent of the crowd was from Kenya and probably 80 percent of them were related to him.
So he takes our relationship very seriously and very personally, and he wants to see the reform agenda go forward and he does not believe it can go forward unless people are brought to account. So there may well be some actions that he would consider directing, but clearly we wanted to deliver a message directly from the President, which I did. And we look forward to watching what Kenya does.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Janine Zacharia from Bloomberg. Given that you’re standing in a corn field and that you’ve said that agriculture is a signature element of your foreign policy, I was wondering if you could comment on what seems to be a consensus among food security experts that with U.S. corn and cotton subsidies as they are, they’ve distorted the global market so much for agriculture products that it’s making it impossible for African famers to compete; in other words, that it’s not just an issue of infrastructure or disease? Do you think as part of your food security push and what you’re doing here amidst the corn that it needs to be a reevaluation of some of those subsidies? And perhaps the Kenyan agriculture minister as well could comment? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’d also like Secretary Vilsack to comment. We are looking forward to a successful completion of the Doha round and looking at global subsidies. It’s not just the United States, as you know. A number of other countries have significant subsidies for agricultural products. And we do want to take a hard look at that.
At the same time, I want to reiterate a point that I made this morning. If African countries traded with each other, they would increase their share of global trade and increase incomes in each of those countries. It is mind-boggling that Africa trades with itself less than any other region.
So, yes, are there problems from elsewhere in the world? Of course. But the biggest problem is the 700-million-person market is not being addressed by Africans themselves. So I think there are a number of approaches we need to take.
And let me ask Secretary Vilsack to comment.
SECRETARY VILSACK: I would just add a couple of comments. First of all, Secretary Clinton suggested that we are open and taking a look at completing the Doha round, which is absolutely true. I think the United States is prepared to talk about subsidies, which you can calculate with some degree of mathematical precision. What we’re hoping to see as well through this negotiation is a continued opening of markets, of global markets for our products and for products around the world.
And secondly, I think it is appropriate to talk, as we have throughout the last several days, about a comprehensive approach to food security that does reflect on increasing the productivity of agriculture. As I speak to African agricultural leaders, they have expressed repeatedly and consistently concern about the capacity to increase productivity and the need for additional technology, the need for additional personnel and extension to their farmers, the need for appropriate fertilizer techniques, and the need to break down the barriers between their countries so that there can indeed, as Secretary Clinton suggested, be a free flow of trade within the continent.
All of that will increase the chances that children in this country and every country in Africa will be well fed. It will also increase significantly wealth-creation opportunities for this continent, which in turn will allow poverty to be alleviated. So it is a comprehensive approach that’s required.
MINISTER RUTO: The issue of subsidies is a very long debate, long drawn. I do not think it’s going to end on this platform. And it’s been there for long, and on that debate rages and goes on there is a lot that we can do to the African farmer to help alleviate the position of the African farmer in relation to food security. I think, as has been said by people here, there are very many areas that we can intervene both as governments and as regional bodies. One I strongly believe that (inaudible) varieties. It is our first priority before even we go to the debate on subsidy and that debate (inaudible) to go on. New varieties – high-yielding, disease-resistant – that will help the African farmer increase productivity; support in terms of micro-credit, support in terms of access to market, to better developed infrastructure; support in terms of access to information through technology transfer or knowledge transfer – these are the issues that are critical at the moment to the African farmer and to enhancing and increasing productivity at the moment. These are issues that are of particular concern to us as a country, issues of making sure that our farmers have relevant, cost-effective fertilizer and peat, as the program we are having today in Kenya would inform you.
But instead of arguing with others on the subsidies they are giving to their farmers, we have to look for avenues of how we want to support our own farmers. So that we can argue the issue of subsidies in another place, another day, because we cannot keep complaining and we cannot keep pointing fingers. We have a job to do. We need to feed our people. And I want to agree that we need to break down the barriers that impede trade between African countries.
QUESTION: Secretary of State, you have spoken very well about supporting agriculture in Africa, and you have spoken very well about the importance of employing new technologies in agriculture in Africa. However, these technologies, you very well understand, it’s very important that these technologies also enter the African parliament through a very strong private seed sector. And private seed sector needs to be supported in Africa – not only in Kenya – so that they can transform these technologies to farmers.
You have spoken about support given to Kenyans – to Kenya and to other African governments in terms of agriculture. What about the support that the private sector needs so that they can make those necessary investments in transforming these technologies to farmers?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that’s a very good point. And when we talk about a comprehensive strategy, it is not only government-to-government. It is private sector. It is nongovernmental organizations. It is civil society. So exactly what I saw when I was looking at the many different private seed companies, we will certainly look for ways to partner with you as well.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think you just have to talk in it – yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Iran’s president was inaugurated today. I wonder – do you recognize him as the true president of Iran? And how do you think that’s going to affect your engagement efforts?
And then if I may, you came face-to-face today with the women who you saved, or who you are trying to help. Could you please give your impressions on that and whether that motivated you to go away and look at new projects, or given you, you know, new ideas? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, with respect to Iran, obviously, United States and many countries spoke out against the flawed election and all of the irregularities, as well as the response to the legitimate demonstrations and protests of Iranians who did not believe that their votes were counted fairly and that the outcome did not reflect, in their view, the will of the people. That ferment and foment is still going on inside Iran.
We saw today a number of protestors outside the inaugural ceremonies. It is not abating. And that is for the Iranian people and the authorities to deal with, and we hope that there will be a recognition by this Iranian Government that they need to recognize the rights of the people of Iran, and to make democracy be more than just an election, and in fact, much more than a flawed election, as that last one was.
Having said that, we know that for purposes of actions in multilateral organizations like the UN, for other important matters, we don’t always get to deal with the government that we want to. It is not our choice. It is the choice of the individual countries as to how they determine their leadership. We are still clear in our policy that engagement is on the table for the Iranians, not only in a bilateral way with the United States, but in a multilateral forum like the P-5+1, which is the Security Council membership plus Germany, in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.
But as you know, we have not received any response. President Obama has made it clear that we’re going to take stock of where we are in September, evaluate whether or not engagement is operating. If there is a response, we intend to make clear as well that this is not an open-ended process, that there has to be movement and an effort to deal with the difficult issues between us.
Now just because we have held open the door for engagement does not mean we haven’t been working as well on possible responses to either the absence of engagement or the failure of engagement. We have been consulting broadly with our allies and partners and other nations around the world about a package of both incentives and sanctions.
On the sanctions side, there is a great opportunity to the international community to stand up against Iran’s nuclear program, and to impose consequences of significance. On the incentives side, we want the Iranians to know that although they are violating international regulations and rules, and though they cannot, in our view (inaudible) view of the majority of the international community become a nuclear weapons power, that under appropriate safeguards, they would be able to have a civil nuclear program that (inaudible) include the full enrichment and (inaudible) cycle.
So I think that our policy remains the same, and we take the reality that the person who was inaugurated today will be considered the president. But we appreciate and we admire the continuing resistance and ongoing efforts by the reformers to make the changes that the Iranian people deserve.
Finally, with respect to women in agriculture, and particularly, the women I met today, they are pioneers, they’re on the front line of the changes that need to come to Africa. I meet women like them not only on this continent, but in Asia, Latin America, literally everywhere in the world – women who are taking matters into their own hands, who are willing to go where other women have not gone, who are willing to ask tough questions about why they can’t have the tools they need to make a better life for themselves and their families. I admire them deeply because it’s not easy.
The women scientists that I met today are truly breaking new ground, and that ground which they’re breaking, we hope, will be fertile ground that will grow the seeds of progress and prosperity, and that will enable the 70 percent of farmers who are women to make a contribution that will transform agriculture, add to the gross domestic product of their country, give them more income to educate their children to have a better life.
We talk a lot in diplomatic circles about government-to-government relations, and of course, they’re important. And I had an excellent series of meetings with ministers of this government. But I have always been convinced that lasting change must come from the people. And in my experience, having women involved, having them lead this change movement that is so important – and it’s no accident that President Obama was elected on a slogan of change we can believe in – it is imperative that women be part of that. Otherwise, it’s not sustainable.
So I am very committed to working with women here in Kenya and across Africa to make the difference that I know can come when we have a good partnership between governments and with the people, and that is our hope and that is our commitment. Thank you very much. (Applause.)