African development conference ends with food action plan

May 30th, 2008 - 5:16 pm ICT by admin  

Yokohama ( Japan), May 30 (DPA) Threatened by soaring global food prices, African leaders and their development parties Friday called for urgent action to ramp up food production on the continent at the conclusion of a three-day development conference in Yokohama, Japan. Participants at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) agreed that the continent must aim to double rice production in a decade and to expand irrigated land by 20 percent in five years with assistance from Japan.

“The biggest challenge is the implementation” of the measures listed in the concluding action plan, Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete said at a joint press conference on Friday in Yokohama.

To meet the goal of increasing food supplies, the Yokohama Declaration called for microfinancing for farmers and development work to increase the amount of irrigated areas in Africa.

“With the follow-up mechanism, the implementation is reassuring,” said Kikwete, representing the African Union.

Among other key measures listed in the action plan were boosting economic growth by promoting trade and foreign investment, strengthening health systems through training health workers and enhancing Africa’s food production capacity.

Achieving an eight-point set of UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015 will be a “difficult task” for the continent as it continues to struggle with changes in the climate and inadequate health care and education, said the declaration.

But the UN representative to the conference was hopeful as UN initiatives and the TICAD action plan are mutually reinforcing, she said.

The 51 participating African countries as well as donors and international organizations also agreed on the need to urge the Group of Eight (G8) nations to honour their commitments to African development.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, chair of the July G8 summit in Toyako, said he would call on the international community to urgently address the issue of global food security at the Food and Agriculture Organization meeting in Rome next week and at the G8 meeting.

For its part, Japan was to provide agricultural assistance to African nations with an aim of doubling rice production in the region from the current 1.4 million tons in the next 10 years.

Japan also decided to offer a 92.1-million-dollar programme for climate change adaptation in cooperation with UN Development Programme.

“I believe it’s important to build partnerships where we share wisdom and experience” not only with African nations but with China and other Asian nations, Fukuda said, comparing the situation to Japan which was able to “recover and stand on its feet” after World War II with the help of its partners.

Japan was seeking to maintain its influence in Africa in the face of rapidly expanding aid and investment in the region from emerging donors, particularly China and India, while calling African leaders’ support in Tokyo’s bid for a permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

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