4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development
The Nippon Foundation’s links with Africa date back to 1984, when Ethiopia was severely afflicted by drought and famine. One of the guiding philosophies of The Nippon Foundation is the notion that, “The world is one family: all mankind are brothers and sisters.” With this in mind, we provided emergency relief aid for the people of Ethiopia, who were in urgent need of food supplies at that time.
This led us to consider how we might contribute to solving the acute problem of poverty in Africa. We concluded that any solution must involve agricultural development, since farmers make up almost 70 percent of Africa’s population. As a result, in 1986 we launched a project called Sasakawa Global 2000 in cooperation with President Jimmy Carter and agronomist Dr. Norman Borlaug, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner and father of the “Green Revolution.”
Sasakawa Global 2000 aims at increasing agricultural production by promoting the use of small amounts of fertilizer and good quality seeds through local extension workers. Recognizing the importance of capacity-building, we also funded education programs at 13 universities and colleges in nine countries in Africa. To date, over 2,000 extension workers will soon have graduated from these universities and are helping to develop their countries through agriculture.
The Nippon Foundation has contributed to both technical training and human resources development over the past 22 years. Seeking a solution to poverty together with farmers and extension workers, we have spent more than US$180 million in 14 countries. The result has been a doubling or tripling of harvests by participating farmers in areas where the program has been introduced. And yet, Africa has not witnessed the kind of “Green Revolution” that took place in Asia.
Even if farmers boost their harvests, there are no organized markets where they can sell their produce. Or, when markets exist, farmers lack access to them. As a result, increased production doesn’t translate into the hoped-for cash return, so their quality of life does not improve. In this regard, the biggest difference between Africa and Asia lies in the fragility of the infrastructure underpinning economic activity. And a single stakeholder such as The Nippon Foundation can only do so much to make a difference.
While there have been attempts by different stakeholders, working independently to deal with these issues, these approaches have limitations. It is essential that there be an alliance of all stakeholders if we are to deal in a constructive way with the entire spectrum of agricultural policy, including infrastructure-building and market development. Many people have emphasized the importance of this, but as we all know, such an alliance has yet to be realized.
To give one example of what can be achieved when different stakeholders come together for a common goal, I would like to mention the work The Nippon Foundation has been engaged in to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem. An alliance consisting of the WHO, governments, a pharmaceutical company and NGOs including The Nippon Foundation has seen each member play its part in helping to reduce the number of countries where leprosy is a public health problem from 122 in 1985 to just two today.
It is my hope that all the countries represented here today will be able to rise above their national interests and come together to build an alliance for the altruistic goal of lifting Africa from poverty. The Nippon Foundation stands ready to play its part.
I should also like to highlight a problem for Africa’s agricultural development that needs to be urgently addressed, which is the soaring price of fertilizer. This has dealt a serious blow to African farmers. I propose that all of us press hard to have this issue taken up at G8 summit in July.
In conclusion, we believe it is the mission of The Nippon Foundation to share in the hardships of others as if we are all brothers and sisters, and to work together as members of the same family to overcome any problems. Therefore, we are committed to helping Africa’s farmers improve their quality of life, which we see as key to solving the issue of poverty, and The Nippon Foundation pledges to work closely with you to this end.