Switzerland - President Paul Kagame has said that Africa can address the problem of food insecurity, if the arable land on the continent is put to good use.
The President made the remarks while speaking at a World Food Program (WFP) event, held alongside the World Economic Forum in Davos- Klosters, Switzerland, under the theme “nourishing people, invest in the next generation”.
Discussions at the event centered on nutrition and food security in developing countries and ways to strengthen Public Private Partnerships.
The event was also attended by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon and World Bank president, Robert Zoellick.
Kagame stressed that no one in Africa should go hungry when the continent has huge potential.
“There should be no reason why any child, family, woman in Africa should go hungry because, and I say this with conviction, based on the huge potential in Africa, that is not properly harnessed and if we get a number of things correct, that problem would be solved,” he said.
“…if you look at the arable land in Africa that is not put to good use for food production, if you look at the food situation globally… if we resolve the problems of access and distribution, there are serious challenges but also immense opportunities.”
The President called on leaders in both the public and private sector to strengthen the already existing partnerships, and move forward from words to action, stressing that neither can deal with these issues alone but instead a partnership must be forged, linking the business sector to the farmers.
“In our case, we have encouraged the private sector to play their role, not only in the production of food, but also to understand that as they combine this objective of food security and nutrition and turn it into a business and, therefore, are dealing with a healthy population, they find that making a difference in many people results into good business along the whole value chain,” Kagame said.
The President, recognized some of the innovations made by the WFP such as the purchase for progress project, through which the organization buys food locally, where it is available, and sells it to other parts of the country that need food.
He, however, pointed out that, it is not always enough to address the issue of food security.
“…What one needs to do is go to the people and talk to them, sometimes they have food around but they are not feeding their children properly. We increased awareness, interaction and education and resolved the problem to a very big extent, one year along, the cases of malnutrition had decreased by 60 percent,” Kagame noted.
In response to a question by Cherie Blair, wife of former British prime Minister Tony Blair, on the level of inclusiveness of women in the process, President Kagame highlighted the emphasis Rwanda puts on ensuring that women remain part and parcel of the process.
“In a practical sense we have addressed the issue of land tenure and rights to land by women which did not exist previously and we have, therefore, found that women are integrated in the production process themselves,” the President said.
“From our own experience, it is very critical that women become part and parcel of the production processes our country is involved in, and we have gone beyond just talking about it.”
In his remarks, World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, commended Rwanda for her successful projects such as the one cow per family and the school feeding program, saying that other countries can draw lessons and address the issue of nutrition.
President Kagame thanked the World Bank and World Food program for the strong partnerships they have with Rwanda.