5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development

Yokohama, Japan

Thank you for this opportunity to participate in this dialogue and to share my views as a representative of the NGO sector.

I believe there are many effective approaches to promote the sustainable growth of Africa. Today, I would like to share our approach, which has been through agriculture, and explain how it has impacted the growth of Africa.

In 1984, when a serious famine was devastating East Africa, The Nippon Foundation immediately delivered emergency food aid to appease the victims’ hunger. This was the start of The Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Africa Association’s 25-year endeavor of working hand in hand with the farmers of Africa. And we have been conducting the Sasakawa Global 2000 production enhancement agricultural programs in 15 sub-Saharan countries. Our early efforts were focused on reducing the number of children going to bed hungry.

Since then, our collaboration with national agricultural extension services has taken us to the field to work side by side with the smallholder farmers to strengthen their capacity and productivity. At the same time, to achieve this goal, we have trained, to date, over 4,000 extension workers in collaboration with 20 African Universities. With the cooperation of many stakeholders, farmers have successfully increased their food production.

However, once increased food production started to make steady progress, we realized that this alone is not enough to free farmers from the chains of subsistence farming. For farmers to truly improve their quality of life, we would need to help them generate stable cash income. With the aim of establishing an agricultural business model that reflects the needs of African farmers, we are helping farmers form strong farmer-based organizations, such as cooperatives, providing training on agro-processing, improved storage and collective marketing to allow for sales after harvest, and creating more public-private partnerships to help farmers sell their products at a higher value. Under this model, farmers are successfully generating stable cash income and this is allowing them to reinvest in their growing enterprises and their families.

What we are seeing in this field is “social innovation.” Hundreds of thousands of farmers who have taken part in our programs have been able to increase their food production and evolve from subsistence agriculture to producing products with higher market demand, giving them greater income and new opportunities to develop their businesses. This achievement was possible because of the contribution from our committed partners—the Japanese government, foreign governments, international organizations, and private corporations.

But in order to promote the further advancement of this social innovation, I believe it is vital that we broaden our close cooperation with participating governments and private corporations. Infrastructure such as roads and bridges and better access to affordable good quality farming machineries are just a few examples that will allow us to reach out to those rural farmers who are eager to participate.

We hope to further strengthen our cooperation with the various governments and private corporations to ensure that our social innovation through agriculture continues to contribute to the growth of Africa.