Innovative approaches to meeting the hunger MDG in Africa
Presentation by Jeffrey D. Sachs, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the MDGs and Director, UN Millennium Project
Millennium Project Hunger Task Force High-Level Seminar, 5 July 2004, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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Your Excellencies: our wonderful host Prime Minister Meles; UN Secretary-
General, the world’s greatest political leader; AU Chairperson, Excellency
Alpha Konare; Dr. Jacques Diouf, great leader of FAO; distinguished
delegates, among whom are many of the world’s leading scientists,
including those on the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Hunger and
the InterAcademy Council Panel whose recent report will be presented later
this afternoon; and many friends.
This seminar is a moment of historic opportunity but it is also a moment of
great need. You, the African leaders, inspire us. We know that the future of
Africa is bright. But we also know that the work ahead is hard.
You are here because Africa, alone among all the major regions of the
world, has yet to have its Green Revolution. Food yields per hectare are the
lowest in the world, and have increased little if at all in recent years. Food
production per capita has been declining.
Today, as the Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated, you are here to launch
the 21st Century African Green Revolution.
Why a “21st Century” Green Revolution? Not only because we are at the
start of our new century, but because we have new powerful tools of 21stcentury
science and technology that can enable Africa to increase food
production markedly and in an environmentally sustainable manner.
African leaders are at the forefront of this battle. When I meet with Prime
Minister Meles and President Museveni I feel like I am attending a
development seminar. They are ingenious, deeply knowledgeable, and bold.
But Africa still faces critical challenges, indeed challenges that are unique to
the continent, including:
Africa can at least double, and perhaps triple, food yields by 2015. We know
of a number of specific interventions that have been scientifically proven
and practically demonstrated to be effective. These include:
A climate vulnerable to drought and instability, coupled with rain-fed
agriculture. The vulnerability to climate instability is increasing due to
long-term global climate change. A recent scientific study found that
every 1 degree Celsius increase in ambient temperatures led to a 10
percent decrease in the fertility of rice crops.
A rural population very far from ports and navigable rivers, leading to
extremely high over-land transportation costs
A rural population vulnerable to resurgent malaria -- resurgent due to
growing drug resistance -- and now the HIV/AIDS pandemic
Widespread deforestation and biodiversity losses that are intensified by
rapidly growing rural populations
Farm soils that are gravely depleted of nutrients, leading to falling food
productivity and increased hunger
Lack of financing for science and technology solutions
THE WORLD HAS PROMISED TO HELP. The world promised in the UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change to help stop the long-term
climate change which is already ravaging the continent; the world promised
to increase official development assistance in September 2000 at the
Millennium Summit in New York, and then again in 2002 at the
International Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey, Mexico.
In the Monterrey Consensus which emerged from that conference, the
signatories, including the rich countries stated: “We urge all developed
countries that have not done so to make concrete efforts towards the target
of 0.7% of GNP as official development assistance (ODA) to developing
Investments in soil health technologies, as Dr. Pedro Sanchez will tell
you about later today, through agro-forestry techniques as well as
Water harvesting and irrigation investments, coupled with improvement
in access to safe drinking water
Roads connecting rural communities to markets
Community-based health workers to deliver basic health services
Community-based agricultural extension workers to improve farm
management and to spread technological innovations
Effective anti-malarial control
Rural small-scale electrification through off-grid systems and improved
cooking fuels to eliminate indoor air pollution
Improved seed varieties to increase food output. Monsanto is on the
verge of announcing a drought resistant seed variety, which it has
committed to sharing with Africa to increase production in droughtvulnerable
Spread of microfinance in providing access to credit.
But despite the promises of help, we are getting band-aids, not solutions. No
climate change treaty is yet in force, and the United States, the largest
emitter of greenhouse gases, has opted out of the Kyoto Protocol. Regarding
official development assistance, “concrete efforts” towards 0.7% are still not
evident in the largest donor countries, and, again, notably not in the U.S.,
where the share of ODA in GNP is a mere 0.14 percent.
The MDGs will not be met in Africa under the current circumstances.
Failure to make progress on hunger and the other goals comes at a cost. Of
course, there is the wholly unnecessary suffering of the poor, but there are
also the emergency outlays of the rich.
This is illustrated in the case of the United States of America, which last
year provided $500 million in emergency food aid to Ethiopia but only
around $5 million for agricultural development. It is time to reverse that
ratio. It is a much better investment to spend on long-term solutions that
would enable Africa to feed itself rather than short-term emergency food
Similarly, the developed world is spending much more on arms and war than
on long-term solutions. It is time the world realized that there can be no
peace with chronic hunger. The fight against hunger is a fight not only for
health and prosperity, but for peace itself.
Your Excellencies, what to do?
First, every low-income country should develop an MDG-based Poverty
Reduction Strategy including National Action Plans to address specific
challenges of hunger, education etc. The UN Millennium Project, NEPAD,
WFP, FAO, and other agencies stand ready to help, if requested by the
governments. Governments need to develop a rigorous and detailed “needs
assessment,” identifying the appropriate strategies for scaling up the
investments in infrastructure, health, and education, and calculating the
financing needs to do so.
Second, significantly increased ODA is needed. The work of the UN
Millennium Project has shown that ODA would need at least to double, from
a current level of around $60 billion per year to a minimum of $120 billion
per year. This is a conclusion also reached earlier by the World Bank and
the Zedillo Commission in the lead-up to the Monterrey Consensus.
Let me speak for a moment to the donors, to the rich world where I come
from: Let us be honest with ourselves about our policies. We in the U.S.
have pursued tax cuts on the order of $250 billion a year, and defense
spending of $450 billion a year, and yet we are managing ODA of only
around $15 billion per year. Something is wrong when military spending of
$450 billion per year outpaces development aid by a ratio of some 30 to 1.
Ironically, all of that military spending is not buying peace and stability,
which can only be achieved with shared prosperity.
Other large donors, including Germany and Japan, are very far from the 0.7
target, and have yet to demonstrate “concrete efforts” to reach that target.
To the African leadership here: You have led the effort to launch a new war
against malaria and led the effort to launch a war against HIV/AIDS. You
have helped to spur the establishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB
Today you can lead the 21st Century African Green Revolution. I would
recommend that in your declaration of this Summit, you call on the donors:
Please permit me one more thought about the debt. Africa’s debts continue
to cripple the continent. The HIPC initiative was a step in the right
direction, but is not enough. “Debt sustainability” should not be defined
according to arbitrary ratios of debt to exports or to government revenues.
Debt sustainability should be defined in the context of the MDGs.
To redouble their efforts to meet the MDGs, and specifically to at
least double the level of ODA, and to direct it towards the poorest of
the poor, especially towards Africa.
To demonstrate their readiness to be true partners by:
At least doubling, preferably tripling, the level of assistance from
IDA at the World Bank (thus, from around $8 billion to $25
billion) and to convert the program from loans to grants for the
At least doubling, preferably tripling, the level of the next
replenishment of the African Development Fund, and similarly to
make it a grant rather than loan facility for the poorest countries
Canceling 100% of the debts of the highly indebted poor countries.
You need to make it clear that you will re-channel the funds in a
clear and transparent way to investments needed to meet the
Adopting a specific 10-year Global Plan of Action to Achieve the
MDGs at the time of the High-Level 5-Year Review of the
Millennium Declaration that will occur at the United Nations in
Opening their markets. It is truly shameful that the US spends $3.1
billion in cotton subsidies on around 26,000 cotton farmers, while
depressing market prices for impoverished cotton in Uganda and
Burkina Faso and other countries of Africa.
Is debt servicing compatible with achieving the MDGs? In dozens of the
world’s poorest countries, the debts ought to be cancelled in their entirety, to
help the debtor countries meet the MDGs. The creditors ought to do this, on
the basis of their long-standing commitments, including Goal 8 of the
MDGs. But if the creditors do not do this, Africa is pushed to a choice:
should it save its dying children or should it pay its debts? I say it should
save its children. Unilateral debt repudiation is preferable to death by debt.
Of course, I stress once again that the creditors should do this first. No
creditors should ever force a country to choose between debt servicing and
the survival of its children. And when the debt servicing is ended, whether
by actions of the creditors (preferably) or the debtors, the debtors still have
the utmost obligation to ensure that the debt service saving is channeled to
the urgent needs of health, education, nutrition, and basic infrastructure – in
short, to meeting the MDGs.
The world has the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to this
package of measures in major events at least three times next year: in the
report of the Blair Commission on Africa, at the G-8 Summit, and most
importantly, at the meeting of world leaders at the UN in September 2005.
We are here today because these great challenges can be met. We are here
because you, the leaders of Africa, are true revolutionaries. You have been
revolutionaries for freedom and now for the escape from hunger and
poverty. Today, you launch the 21st Century African Green Revolution that
will help lead to a continent and a world of peace and dignity.