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Horn of Africa/food security

Published on July 28, 2011
Food and nutritional situation in the Horn of Africa/Meeting of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Interview given by Bruno Le Maire, Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Rural Affairs and Town and Country Planning (Regional Development), to the “Libération” newspaper

Paris, July 26, 2011

Q. – What was the purpose of this meeting [of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO]?

THE MINISTER – It was convened at France’s request, to keep everyone committed and say that the international community hasn’t forgotten what is happening in Africa. There are two aims: to mobilize funding and – most importantly – to remind people of the absolute necessity of investing in agriculture in developing countries. President Sarkozy made it a major point of the G20.

Q. – The FAO says €1.1 billion is necessary over a year. It that possible?

THE MINISTER – More than €500 million has already been put on the table, about €100 million of it by Europe. The Prime Minister and Alain Juppé decided to double French aid from €5 million to €10 million. The United States and Brazil also stepped up to the plate. The donors are there, but we’ll have to take stock regularly to make sure the funds are released and assess the new requirements.

Q. – You’ve just come back from northern Kenya. What’s the priority?

THE MINISTER – The most urgent thing is to provide the World Food Programme with the financial resources to buy the food the refugees need. The Dadaab camp was built for 100,000 refugees; there are more than 400,000 and thousands more are continuing to arrive from Somalia. It’s a question of saving lives, particularly children’s lives.

Q. – You said at the start of the meeting that the international community had failed…

THE MINISTER – When there are tens of thousands of deaths from famine in the Horn of Africa, when the question has been raised for decades, you have to be clear-sighted enough to say the international community has failed. Taking the right decisions requires clear assessment. The idea that emergency aid is sufficient is false. In order to combat the droughts that are going to increase in number, you need massive investments in the agricultural autonomy of developing countries. That entails a major political change.

Q. – Meaning?

THE MINISTER – In the G20 framework, France made concrete proposals in June: putting emergency stocks in place, more transparency about production, the financial regulation of agricultural markets, and support for research to develop more drought-resistant seeds. We must invest in small structures, pastoral farming and irrigation, and abandon a system that hasn’t worked, in which the North feeds the South, for a more efficient system where the South makes progress in terms of its food autonomy.

Q. – With public money?

THE MINISTER – There too, we have to change our mindset. Those investments can’t be made only through official development assistance, even though it must play its role. We must make use of private investors, banks, manufacturers, large seed companies.

Q. – And put those countries at the mercy of the multinationals from the North?

THE MINISTER – The world isn’t waiting for us: the big companies are already investing. What we and the G20 want to do is precisely to regulate this market, fight more effectively against the destruction of agricultural land, and support investment so that it benefits countries and not private companies./.

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