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MOS Coveney & Costello developing agri-food Africa

Agriculture, Trade, News/feature, Ireland, 2012

A strong and sustainable agriculture sector in Africa has the potential to tackle under-nutrition and rural poverty across the continent, speakers at an international conference on agriculture in Trinity College Dublin said today.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney and Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello are keynote speakers at the conference, ‘Scaling Up Agriculture: Sharing Challenges and Experiences of Modernising Agriculture in Ireland and Africa’.

The conference, which is part of this year’s Africa Day programme, follows the launch of a €2 million Africa Agri-Food Development Fund by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in March.

Speaking at the conference today, Minister Simon Coveney said:

Ireland's history and experience in modernising and scaling up agriculture and related business and technology is a success story. The Irish agri-food sector is starting to realise its full potential but the road to get to where we are now has provided us with valuable lessons, many of which will also be of relevance to the African agri-food sector and which we are delighted to share. This experience and know-how will be made available through the Africa Agri-Food Development Fund.

“I am pleased to note that since the launch the establishment of the Fund has been validated, as catalytic funding to stimulate private sector involvement is now seen as an integral part of development policy. I am hosting a seminar for the agri-food sector on 14 June next to discuss next steps in implementation of the Fund. We know that the potential is there for Africa to achieve the development in its agri-food sector that has been achieved elsewhere and we stand ready to play our part in assisting them on that journey.”

Minister Joe Costello said:

“To harness the potential of the agriculture sector in Africa, we must work to increase  productivity; prioritise women farmers and build value chains which give farmers a fair payment for their produce and develop markets which add value and create jobs in processing.

“Building a productive agriculture sector in Africa will help tackle under-nutrition and rural poverty across the continent. In order to succeed, we must all work together: African governments providing leadership; banks providing affordable credit and development partners - including donors like Ireland - funding innovation and technical expertise. Crucially, it involves a lead role for the private sector, which can create jobs

“I am also pleased to announce €4.8 million in funding to support research and education partnerships between Irish and African higher education institutes.  The research partnerships have a strong focus on hunger, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, health and education.”

Professor David Taylor, Department of Geography, Trinity College Dublin and Chair of the Trinity International Development Initiative, said:

"Poverty, health, hunger and malnutrition - all interrelated problems- are at the core of the development challenge facing African countries.  Climate change poses a major threat to food security - and therefore to health - in many parts of the continent, and is likely to have greatest impact on the poorest.

"The 'Scaling up Agriculture' conference is therefore very timely.  Agriculture is once more at the centre of the development agenda, having suffered from low levels of investment in scientific research.  As we have heard at today's conference, there are good news stories concerning agriculture on the continent.  Looking to the future, Ireland - with its well-developed food production and research sectors - has an important role to play in ensuring food security in Africa."

Other speakers at today’s conference include Ambassador of Kenya, Ireland, Catherine Muigai Mwangi; Dr Philip Damas, University of Agriculture, Tanzania and Mr Kevin Friel from the Irish Dairy Board.

Press Office

23 May 2012