Post-conference statement of the SAA 30th Anniversary highlighted at TICAD 6
The Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) which, over the past 30 years, has supported Africa’s smallholder farmers, celebrated the anniversary by organising an official side event at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in August in Nairobi, Kenya. This was the sixth TICAD, but the first to be held in Africa. The SAA side event- a symposium on “contributing to social security and jobs through agriculture: 30 years of Sasakawa in Africa”, was opened by Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, which has funded SAA since its inception in 1986. Mr Sasakawa pointed out that “our primary goal has been to improve the livelihood of Africa’s small- holder farmers and, as a means of achieving this goal, we have focused on developing human resources. I refer to the training of agricultural extension agents who are the backbone of our programs.”
Pointing out the significance of the symposium anniversary, Mr Sasakawa looked forward to “stimulating discussion and ground breaking ideas that will open up new directions for SAA in the next 30 years to come.”
In a keynote address, the President of the African Development Bank (AFDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, paid tribute to Mr Sasakawa for his outstanding leadership; “your passion, your commitment and, above everything else, your love of Africa”.
He called for Africa to “add value to its agricultural products. The formula for the wealth of nations is clear. Rich nations export value added products. Poor countries export their raw materials...if it is produced in Africa, value should be added in Africa. Doing so will increase Africa’s share in global markets. African farmers will not sweat for nothing.”
Following this address, a Memorandum of Understanding between the AFDB and SAA was signed by Chiji Ojukwu, Director of Agriculture and Agro-industry at the Bank and Professor Ruth Oniang’o, Chairperson of SAA. The MOU, which will promote agriculture and agri-business in Africa, was witnessed by Mr Sasakawa and Dr Adesina.
A tribute to SAA was also paid by Mr Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan. Speaking at the symposium, he said that SAA’s goals were to “make each individual farmer stronger, wiser and self- reliant. The need to foster a single value chain stretching from planting the seed to selling the goods in the market at the proper price, is the road out of poverty.”
He referred to the last words of one of the founders of SAA, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Norman Borlaug, to “take it to the farmer.” The SAA, he said, “is staying faithful to these words through the work it continues to do, in Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda.”
The Prime Minister was preceded to the podium by Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who recognised the role played by SAA in Nigeria in “promoting extension, farmer education and improvement in crops on the farm. We will always pay tribute to your efforts.”
A special message was then read at the symposium from the former US President Jimmy Carter, one of the three SAA founders. It included: “I commend SAA on its work with African farmers. Norman Borlaug and Ryoichi Sasakawa would be proud of what has been achieved. Congratulations to Yohei Sasakawa and The Nippon Foundation on their commitment to Africa’s farmers and their future.”
A panel discussion followed on “the changing face of agriculture in Africa,” chaired by Professor Ruth Oniang’o. This included statements from Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture on “adapting to climate change in the context of the Malabo Declaration”; Tesfaye Mengiste, Ethiopia’s Director General of Extension, on “conducive government policies for the benefit of smallholder farmers: Ethiopia’s experience”; Dr Amit Roy,SAA Board Member and former President of the International Fertilizer Development Corporation (IFDC), on “soil fertility and the productivity of smallholder farmers.”; and Dr Rebbie Harawa, Extension Head, Farmers’ Solution Program, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), on “the importance of access to markets for smallholder farmers”.
Japan’s corporate sector was represented on the panel by Masatoshi Kimata, President of the Kubota Corporation- the tractor and heavy equipment manufacturer based in Osaka. He spoke on “Japanese mechanisation for rice production as a contribution to African agriculture.”
A final contributor was Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation. He concluded, “thirty years from now, I hope you will invite me back. The world population will just reach nine billion. We have the greatest challenge human beings have ever faced: can we feed all these people? But the reason to be optimistic is that we have the legacy of Norman Borlaug and Ryoichi Sasakawa...”