[15th December 2010]

Ambassador presides over ARI Graduation Ceremony

H.E. Ambassador Ben Ogutu was the Guest Speaker during the 38th Graduation ceremony at the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) which was held on December 11, 2010. Located in northern Japan in Tochigi prefecture, ARI is an international training centre for grassroots rural leaders. Each year, the Institute conducts a nine (9) month Rural Leadership Training Programme on sustainable agriculture, community development and leadership.

Upon completion, participants return to their rural villages and communities to work side by side with their people, passing on their newly acquired skills and knowledge to promote development from within. To date, ARI has trained over 1,150 rural leaders from 51 countries throughout Asia, Africa and the Pacific. So far, 23 Kenyans have gone through the ARI training. Among this year’s 29 graduates was one Kenyan, Mr. Baya Katana.

Read The Ambassador’s full address on the occasion below.

REV. DR. TAKAMI TOSHIHIRO, HONOURABLE PRESIDENT OF ARI
DIRECTOR, MR. OTSU KENICHI
CHAIRMAN AND BOARD OF DIRECTORS ARI,
VOLUNTEERS AND FRIENDS OF ARI,
DEAR GRADUANTS
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

DRIVERS OF FOOD SECURITY

I wish to take this opportunity to thank you most sincerely for inviting me as a guest speaker during the 38th Commencement Service at the Asian Rural Institute. I feel greatly honoured and proud to be associated with ARI.

As we share in the joys of this great day, I wish to echo the philosophy of the founding father of ARI Rev. Dr. Toshihiro Takami. He inculcated the basic tenet of investing in persons who will in turn dedicate their whole lives to provide sustainable livelihoods for others and indeed posterity. Your graduation and subsequent return to serve your communities bears further testimony to this.

Ban ki moon the Secretary General of the United Nations in April 2008 during the launch of the high level task force on the global food security crisis said that “Food and nutritional security are the foundations of a decent life, a sound education and the achievement of millennium development goals”. Without sufficient and healthy foods therefore humanity is bound to regress and our dream of achieving the MDGs by 2015 will be futile.

Food security as defined by the World Food Summit 1996 “exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifestyle”. Food insecurity is today a major global challenge with more than 800 million people experiencing food insecurity.

I am sure you are all aware of the effects of food insecurity. These include but not limited to, ill health, shorter life expectancy and stunt growth in children especially very young children. Food insecurity has also been found to be directly correlated to the social economic development of a community.

Food insecurity is caused by poverty, poor health, insufficient water supply for effective agricultural production, environmental degradation, gender inequality, disaster and conflict as well as unbalanced trade patterns among others.

Agriculture, particularly in the developing world has profound implications for the future of global food security. Increasing investment in agriculture is vital to achieving greater food production, thereby ensuring global food security and poverty reduction.

There are about 500 million small hold farms worldwide supporting around 2 billion people. In many developing countries, smallholder farmers produce most of the food consumed.

Smallholder farmers are often extremely efficient producers per hectare and can contribute to a country’s economic growth and food security. For example, Viet Nam has gone from being a food –deficit country to become the second largest rice exporter in the world. It achieved this largely through developing its smallholder farming sector. In 2007, the poverty rate fell below 15% from 58% in 1979.

In order for smallholder farmers to help improve world food security, they need secure access to land and water as well as to rural financial services to pay for seed, tools and fertilizers. They need roads and transportation to get their products to markets. They also need technology to receive and share market information on prices. They need agricultural research and technology to improve their resilience to rapid economic and environmental changes and to raise agricultural productivity. They will need stronger organizations, so they can have greater bargaining power in the marketplaces and influence national, regional and global agricultural policies.

Above all, they need a long-term commitment to agriculture from their own governments and the international community, backed by greater investment.

In South Asia about 70% of the population, and about 75% of the poor, live in rural areas. Most of the rural poor depend on rain fed agriculture, livestock, fragile forests, and/or casual often migratory employment. Agriculture employs about 60% of the labour force and contributes 22% of the regional GDP. Agricultural development will thus be a critical component to attain the Millennium Development Goals of halving the number of poor people by 2015.

In Africa, agriculture remains the backbone of our economies and contributes to over 30% of the gross domestic product (GDP). It provides 60% of all employment in Africa. Over 70% of the continent’s population live in rural areas and is heavily dependent on agriculture for its livelihood. Therefore agriculture is not only the key to economic growth but is also the determinant of equity in development and fundamental to reducing poverty and hunger.

The African Union has put in place an agricultural strategy to improve on food security. This is the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP). This strategy aims at pursuing a minimum 6% annual agricultural growth and ensuring sufficient funding from governments to agriculture and related investment. Under the programme African governments are to put in place sustainable land and water management programmes, improve rural infrastructure and trade related capacities for market access, increasing food supply and improve agricultural research technology dissemination and adoption.

In our East African Sub-region, our leaders recently held a summit in Arusha on food security and climate change. They adopted a protocol to boost food security in the region. The protocol is to ensure the EAC is food secure by the year 2015. The East African Community Food Security Action Plan 2010-2015 has set priority areas which will lead to the achievement of food security and agricultural production. The priority areas are the provision of enabling policy, legal and institutional framework; Increase food availability in sufficient quantity and quality; improve access in the region and lastly enhance the efficiency of food utilization, nutrition and food safety.

In Kenya, the government’s agricultural policy aims at achieving three prong objectives namely feeding its population, creating strategic reserves and exporting. However agriculture is predominately rain-fed. This means that food production is heavily depended on rainfall. Inevitably whenever Kenya experiences drought and famine and which seems to happen now every three years, food security is hampered.

In Kenya 46% of the population is food insecure that is they cannot afford two meals of quality food a day. This year Kenya has been declared food secure. However predictions of Lanina indicate high probability of drought hence insecurity in 2011. These are the contradictions brought about by reliance on rain fed agriculture. It is for this reason that agriculture is now one of the major focuses of our bilateral cooperation. Towards this end assistance of Japan is not only targeting irrigation but more importantly provision of farm inputs to rural farmers who account to over 80% of the population.

Kenya is also borrowing form successes of Japan in One Village One product (OVOP) through assistance of METI JICA and JETRO. Kenya is currently engaged in several projects including those aiming at value addition of local products emanating from OVOP. All these are part of TICAD IV initiatives to increase agricultural production targeting rural areas.

I must commend ARI for recognizing the importance of the grass root people in achieving food security. Indeed if we are to achieve food security and ensure that we maintain a sustainable agricultural production, then you distinguished graduants are the right people to lead the process. You are thus the Drivers of Food Security. Unless we empower our rural people to first of all feed themselves we will never get ourselves out of the yoke of hunger and food aid.

There is an Oriental saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for one day, teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. This is exactly what ARI has done to you. However yours is an even bigger challenge in that you are expected to provide leadership and expertise for the grassroots communities to be self-sufficient. ARI has taught you to fish and hopefully you will replicate the same and thus feed your communities for a lifetime.

Dear graduants, upon return to your respective countries your communities will be dependent on you in their quest to achieving sustainable production. We have full confidence in your ability to deliver given the commitment and hard work you have exhibited during your stay in Japan. I therefore urge you never to forget the ideals you have learnt here in ARI and in times to come, to do all that is within your ability to enable others especially at the grass root level to enjoy the fruits of your exposure which have come courtesy of ARI.

The permanent link which has been developed between people of the Institute and the Japanese in general should be kept for posterity. In Kenya we say “Milima na milima haikutani lakini binadamu hukutana”, that is to say, Mountains do not meet but human beings meet. I hope one day you shall be able to meet and share the joys of your accomplishment.

As you return to your communities with knowledge in your hands, and an open heart to serve, success will follow you all the way. Congratulations to you all.

THANK YOU

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