The Sierra Leone Web


Statement by the President of Sierra Leone
H.E. Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
at the World Food Summit - Five Years Later
Rome, 11 June 2002

Sierra Leone has just emerged from a period of devastating turmoil and suffering. Our recent elections, which were pronounced as free and fair by all domestic and international observers, have ushered in a period of renewal. The aspiration of our people is for a long period of peace and stability that would allow rapid and sustainable economic and social development. For us, the role of agriculture and rural development is central to our prospects for meaningful economic development and poverty alleviation.

We are extremely pleased that the long standing efforts of the FAO in helping the world community foster agricultural development have been carried on vigorously by our current Director-General. This culminated in the World Food Summit (WFS) in 1996, which adopted the laudable targets to which my Government fully subscribed, namely to reduce the number of hungry people by half by the year 2015. Other laudable initiatives include the Special Programme for Food Security which has kept the candle of food production burning when it was not so popular among donors.

Unfortunately, because of the devastating rebel war, my country was one of those failed to meet the WFS targets. Instead of a reduction in the number of hungry people, we have in fact seen a sizeable increase since 1996.

Mr. Chairman, in my statement when I took the oath of office as President on 19 May this year, following the successful Presidential and Parliamentary elections in my country, I committed myself to do everything within my power to ensure that within the next five years, not Sierra Leonean should go to bed hungry. We are adopting what can be called a "right to food policy." This is a policy that recognizes the critical role that agriculture and rural development have to play in poverty alleviation in the Sierra Leone context.

I appeal to the international community to join hands with us in developing and implementing programmes that would help us achieve our target of raising average daily caloric intake from the present unacceptable level of 1800 calories to at least 2200 calories, and preferably 2400 calories by the year 2007.

To achieve our objectives we expect to concentrate on increasing our domestic food production not only to supply our domestic needs, but also to export many commodities, including our staple food crop, rice that our country continues to enjoy a comparative advantage in producing for domestic and regional markets. This is due to our abundant natural resources and a people willing to work hard to improve their living standards and generate a higher national income. In the short run, as we focus on the rehabilitation of our production capacity, we will also need to develop target programmes to ensure that hungry people who have limited capacity to access adequate supplies of food, receive assistance in the form of food-for-work or food donations for the most vulnerable such as our war victims.

We look forward to developing programmes with our partners that will ensure that we can take advantage of the opportunities provided by the new World Trade Organization regulations. We also need to take advantage of new technologies being developed by international and national agricultural research organizations such as the New Rice for Africa (Nerica) varieties that are being promoted by our own regional organization, the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA). Our partners will include the may NGOs that have helped us provide emergency assistance to our farmers during our crisis, and whom we now expect to move to substantive development work.

In this context, we renew our appeal to developed countries to continue to improve on the removal of their agricultural export subsidies, and to accelerate the pace of the debt relief programmes for highly indebted countries from which we have started benefiting.

Mr. Chairman, on our own part, my Government pledges to continue to create the enabling environment of peace and stability, transparency and good governance, in those areas where, you will agree, we have made substantial progress in the recent past, particularly over the past 12 months. We have ended the war. Disarmament and demobilization of our ex-combatants have been concluded. We have set up institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Commission, and despite the war the IMF and bilateral donors have commended our macro-economic management programmes. The crowning achievement was of course the conduct of free and fair democratic elections last month.

Over the next five years we will significantly increase the proportion and quantum of our national budget devoted to food security issues, so that we are well placed to provide the domestic funds needed to complement the investment we anticipate from international sources. In this regard my Government fully supports the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative. The international community, particularly the private sector, should be convinced that we in Africa no longer intend to do business-as-usual, and therefore should join us in matching forward improved conditions of living which the NEPAD initiative aims at bringing to the people of Africa.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, Distinguished delegates, I would like to commend the Director-General and staff of FAO for organizing this World Food Summit - Five Years Later, a conference which is providing all of us with the opportunity to take stock of the progress we have made in achieving the laudable goals we set for ourselves five years ago, and to map out a way forward.

I would like to express my Government's desire to participate in the proposed International Alliance Against Hunger, which we regard as a central pillar of the new way forward.

I thank you for your attention.