TICAD7 Official Side Event: Sasakawa in Africa – Building on the past, looking to the future

Yokohama, Japan

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of African Development Bank, Your Excellencies, Honorable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is my pleasure to welcome you to our symposium, the official side event for TICAD7 (*). First of all, I must thank the partner institutions who are here with us today. Without you, we would not have been able to achieve this far. I am honoured to have this opportunity to share our experience of our journey on the capacity building program in agriculture implemented by the Sasakawa Africa Association, or SAA and The Nippon Foundation.

SAA was established in 1986 by the former US President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, and my late father, Ryoichi Sasakawa of The Nippon Foundation. You may be thinking: “why starting with agriculture?” 30 years ago, numerous organizations, including national governments in Africa and international aid agencies, focused on supporting industrialization in Africa. However, we did not. We always believed in the agricultural potential of Africa and placed importance on advancing agricultural skills among smallholder farmers. They comprise about 70% of the population in Africa. We believed that training of farmers would allow us not only to solve food issues in Africa, but that it would also improve the quality of life of the farmers. This is where we started. We trusted that Africa would grow with the development of agriculture with local farmers.

So what was the most efficient way for a Japanese NGO to reach out to them? Our answer was to involve government extension agents in agriculture because once they were trained, they could transmit their knowledge and skills to smallholder farmers. Through this model over the period of three decades, we demonstrated the use of appropriate technique and good agronomic practices to millions of smallholder farmers in 16 countries in Africa. We also offered courses at a higher education level for more than 6,500 mid-career extension agents in 26 universities in Africa. The trained extension agents went from farm to farm, teaching sophisticated skills to the farmers. Together with them, we were able to improve the quality of life of millions of smallholder farmers.

As time went on, agriculture in Africa changed. Nowadays we are also paying more attention to income-generating activities in addition to food production. In doing so, we focused on capacity building of extension agents to help shift the mindset of the smallholder farmers from producing for “eating” to producing for “selling . ”

I am hopeful that the younger generation in Africa will take agriculture onto a new era. In our programme, groups of young people got together to offer their services to local farmers using post-harvest machinery such as thresher and rice mill. In addition, social media is connecting different groups of farmers, allowing them to share knowledge and best-practices. Agriculture must be seen as an attractive career option with full of business opportunities. More chances should be given as an encouragement for the development in Africa.

In closing, I am pleased to announce that Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and SAA have just concluded a partnership agreement for agricultural extension this morning. Now, we are encouraged to take even further action to live up to this agreement with such a prestigious organization. I would also like to give my deepest gratitude to all the members of African Development Bank who have made this symposium possible.

For the development of Africa, we need your continuous support.

I am hopeful that agriculture will take Africa into a bright future full of hopes and dreams.

Thank you very much.

(*) TICAD7: The Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development