30th Anniversary of the Sasakawa Africa Association “Contributing to social security and jobs through agriculture : 30 years of Sasakawa in Africa”

Nairobi, Kenya

Thank you to all who have supported our programs for over the past 30 years. And as one of the founders of the Sasakawa Africa Association, let me also thank you for attending this symposium commemorating our 30 years in Africa.

We started the Sasakawa Global 2000 programs to provide emergency food aid when a widespread famine in 1984 struck several countries in Africa, in particular, Ethiopia. I saw children who could hardly open their eyes because they were so hungry, and it was then that I decided to deliver food, any amount possible, as soon as possible.

Food aid, however, is a temporary solution. In the end, it is only a means of emergency support. I strongly felt that in order to improve food supply in Africa, it would be necessary to help smallholder farmers with methods to increase food production. With the cooperation of Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug and former US President Jimmy Carter, who both agreed with this idea, I established the Sasakawa Africa Association in 1986. Over the years, Sasakawa Global 2000, commonly known as SG 2000, has conducted projects in 14 African states, and this year marks our 30th year.

Our primary goal has been to improve the livelihood of African smallholder farmers, and as a means to achieve this goal, we have focused on developing human resources. I am referring to the training of agricultural extension agents who are the backbone of our SG 2000 programs. SG 2000 has worked with national ministries of agriculture to train extension agents, who have then transmitted the necessary knowledge and skills to farmers. They do the important work of going into the field and working side-by-side with the farmers. In the process of forging bonds of trust with the farmers, they teach them effective agricultural methods and help the farmers apply them in daily life. I believe that the hard work and dedication of the extension agents have been responsible for the good results of these projects.

In order to expand their activities on a wider scale, we began offering courses at several universities in Africa to further train motivated extension agents. Over the past 23 years, with the cooperation of 24 universities and colleges, this program has graduated close to 6,000 outstanding extension agents. This is a remarkable capacity-building operation that we plan to continue.

Another means to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers is to support them in efforts to diversify their activities and thereby increase their income. With our support, rather than relying only on crop production, they are able to process the harvest and add value in the form of a high-quality product for sale on the market.

We actively support to strengthen Farmer Based Organizations or FBOs, which are groups of individual farmers. They would be able to pursue efficiency by purchasing seeds and fertilizer together and marketing the harvested produce collectively.

We also provide groups of young people who are looking for work, with agricultural equipment that would be too expensive for one person to own. With this equipment, they can then offer related services as a business, for example, shelling and milling maize, or threshing and polishing rice, which creates new work opportunities for young people and women.

In recent years, young people in Africa have been leaving their villages in search of higher-paying jobs in the city. In cities, however, there are not enough employment opportunities for all, and this has produced the serious issue of high unemployment among the young. By introducing new approaches to agriculture, we hope that it will attract the young people of Africa who are its future and strengthen the value chain.

When the Sasakawa Africa Association was founded 30 years ago, the agriculture sector of Africa was not the subject of much attention. Today, however, nations are aware of the importance of agriculture for development and economic growth. I hope that the leaders of each nation represented here will actively renew their commitment to the importance of agriculture in national policy and to further developing its possibilities.

In closing, please let me express my sincere gratitude to the agricultural specialists who so graciously gave us advice and worked tirelessly with us on these projects; to the dedicated extension agents who work closely with the farmers day after day to help them improve their lives; to Professor Ruth K. Oniang’o, chairperson of the Sasakawa Africa Association and its directors and staff who, inspired by a vision of a brighter future for Africa, have encouraged the extension agents; and to the donors who have shown that they believe in our projects and have generously cooperated in this effort. I would like to inform you that The African Development Bank and the Sasakawa Africa Association will be signing a memorandum of understanding today. I am pleased that we will now be joined in our efforts by such an experienced and enthusiastic partner.

Today’s symposium commemorates the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Sasakawa Africa Association. At this forum on the changing face of agriculture in Africa, world-renowned panelists will discuss issues facing smallholder farmers today. I look forward to stimulating discussion and groundbreaking ideas that will open up new directions for the Sasakawa Africa Association for the next thirty years to come.