Obama highlights efforts to boost African agriculture sector

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 1, 2013 - President Obama used part of his trip to Africa over the weekend to highlight the administration's efforts to bolster the agriculture sector in Senegal and other African countries.

Obama said the New Alliance on Food Security program and the Feed the Future program are helping to promote development and deliver food aid in “new and creative ways.”

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“I just want to emphasize how important the work that we're doing on agriculture is,” Obama said. “Every dollar that we're putting in, we're getting a huge amount of private-sector dollars. We're focusing on how people become more productive as opposed to simply giving them food or giving them medicine.”

On his trip, Obama announced the administration will give $7 billion to boost efforts to provide electricity in sub-Sahara Africa.

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It's the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business,” Obama said. “It's the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it's the connection that's needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.”

Obama noted that in countries such as Senegal and Tanzania, about 70 percent of the people are involved in agriculture and in need of U.S. assistance.

“You can see each one of those small farmers suddenly increasing their income by 20 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent,” Obama said. “That then becomes the basis for a nascent middle class in those countries; that in turn can help create local manufacturers, local consumer goods. And eventually, these then become export markets for the United States.”

Obama said the issue does not only involve reducing hunger and poverty, but also “creating the basis for the entire continent to get incorporated into world markets in a way that ultimately will benefit not just Africa but also the United States.”

The New Alliance program seeks to combine policy reforms, targeted assistance, and private sector investments to grow Africa's agriculture economies, link smallholder farmers to markets, increase incomes and improve nutrition.

During the program's first year, private sector companies from Africa and around the world offered to invest more than $3.7 billion in New Alliance countries.

The administration said, as part of the program, Ghana Nuts, a former recipient of U.S. government assistance, is now a leading agro processor and signed a letter of intent under the New Alliance to promote soya and expand maize procurement and processing in Ghana.

The administration said the Feed the Future program, which is the administration's global hunger and food security initiative, focuses on smallholder farmers, and particularly women.

The program has helped more than seven million smallholder farmers adopt improved agricultural technologies or practices and brought nearly four million hectares of land under improved cultivation and management practices, according to the administration.

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