Global Hunger and Food Security: Excerpts from Secretary Clinton's Speeches In Africa
Secretary of State
Excerpts from Remarks at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya, August 5
"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.
"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.)
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"We also are working to build new partnerships (inaudible) society and nongovernmental organizations and to encourage more trade and investment, and particularly the development of the agricultural sector. The people of Liberia have proven their strength, their resourcefulness, and their resilience. They hold their own future and the future of their country and their children in their hands. But the people of the United States are proud to stand with them and you, President Sirleaf, in working to deliver the kind of future that the people of this country deserve.
"Well, I’m going to let the president address this, but of course, it’s a sign of support. We indeed have looked at the entire record that President Sirleaf brings to office, her performance in office, the accomplishments of the government she leads. And we are (inaudible) and will continue to be so because we think that Liberia is on the right track, as difficult as the path might be. And we will not underestimate the difficulties.
"We just had a briefing from the agriculture minister, who is over there. (Inaudible) post-conflict era inherited a devastating agricultural sector. All the livestock were gone. They have been killed, eaten in the course of the conflict, which drives people from their homes, which forces them to have to survive. Many of the plant life was (inaudible) regeneration of agricultural productivity was decimated.
"I look at what President Sirleaf has (inaudible) in the past two years, and I see a very accomplished leader dedicated to the betterment of the Liberian people, who has been consistent in her leadership on behalf of solving the problems that Liberia faces, to let Liberians (inaudible) a peaceful future with prosperity and opportunity.
"Well, first, with respect to our aid, we have provided a great deal of aid, and a significant amount directly to the government (inaudible) government (inaudible) providing technical assistance and other kinds of support (inaudible) to increase the capacity of the government to serve the people.
"We are working to train the police force, which is something that the Government of Liberia places a very high priority on. We are working to help train the military. We are working in just about every sector of society. And some of it is direct support and some of it is to experts who have experience in performing the jobs that Liberia needs performed.
"So it’s a mix and it will continue to be a mix, but we work very closely with the Liberian Government. We take their lead on what their priorities are, and we will continue to do so. Later today, I’ll be announcing some help for the airport. We think it’s important to try to upgrade the airport so that you can get more flights in and out of Monrovia that can then enhance the economic growth of the country. We have a very large food security program that President Obama has announced, and Liberia will be a good partner state to work with. So we will be working with the government, with small and medium-sized farmers and food processors.
"So there’s a variety of approaches that we try to do to find the best way to solve the problems or to deliver the results. We are constantly asking ourselves, as is the government here in Liberia: Is this the best way, and how can we do it better? And we will (inaudible) that, because our goal is to help you solve the problems and create the environment for further growth. That’s what we want to do, and to help you solidify democracy and good governance and the rule of law, and root out corruption and have a security force that will protect your people. All of that is what the Liberian Government and the Liberian people have requested. So we will continue to work on that.
"And I have no other – nothing to add to your second question that I haven’t already said."
"Right now, only 15 percent of the Liberian people work in the formal sector. So job creation and raising incomes is a critical task before you. So we will work with you to strengthen the private sector, enhance trade opportunities, and rebuild infrastructure, including roads, electrification, and information technology. (Applause.) We are assisting your government with natural resources management, food security, education for children, and adults who missed the opportunity to go to school because of the war. And this country is a focus for our Malaria Initiative.
"I want to congratulate Liberia for recently gaining eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I started my trip in Africa in Nairobi at the AGOA conference, and I and the U.S. Trade Representative and our Secretary of Agriculture emphasized that we want to do more to help countries access and utilize AGOA, and we want to help Liberia to work to achieve more products that can be exported duty-free into the United States market. (Applause.)
"We can’t mince words; you know that. In the briefing that I and my delegation received from the minister of agriculture, I was stunned when she said there are no livestock left. At the end of the conflict, anything that could be eaten was eaten. People (inaudible) rebuilding agriculture, rebuilding the tools that are needed for each individual to pursue his or her destiny is what this is all about. The talent and resources exist here (inaudible) overcome division, expand opportunities, and ensure that prosperity is more broadly shared across society."