Progress Since G-8 Summit: DuPont Doubles Its Ethiopia Seed Production Capacity

28 Sep

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin

The information under this topic is gleaned from a briefing document by the US State Department relating to the Feed the Future program. The event is engagement with civil society event. What I have done here is to quote the relevant paragraphs pertaining to Ethiopia, without any annotation.

I must, however, suggest that reviewing the entire document is very importance. A number of important questions were raised, which as Ethiopians we ourselves are interested in or concerned about. These range, among others, from the dangers of land grab to ethics of modern seed technologies that have the potential of being harmful to citizens of recipient countries.

The briefing is conducted by “Senior Administration Official”:

“In just this past May at the G8 at Camp David, we took this effort even farther by launching the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. That new alliance really represented a small subset of countries, at the time three and today with the additional three that we launched today, six, sub-Saharan African countries that have committed to make really tough and specific reforms to their policies and their regulation in the agriculture space to enable more investment and more productivity. It is — it included at the time 45 companies, now more than 60 companies, half from Africa and half from all around the world making more than $4 billion in private investment commitments to build business — seed businesses or fertilizer businesses or small-scale irrigation businesses or food marketing businesses — in these communities in a manner that would reach small-scale farmers, and it includes the United States and G8 countries committing to increase our investment in a manner that would allow these private sector investments to work.

At the end of the day, this effort is designed to move 50 million people out of poverty and hunger and reduce malnutrition amongst probably more than 15 million children who suffer from chronic stunting. And the three countries that we worked with and announced at Camp David were Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Ghana. Today we were proud working with our G8 partners to announce that joining this new alliance will be Mozambique, Cote d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso.”

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“What was particularly notable in today’s event, aside from launching the three additional cooperative partnerships, was that many of the companies that had made commitments in May reported on their progress today, and that’s important that these wonderful international meetings where everybody comes together actually results in something happening in countries. So DuPont, for example, talked about doubling their seed production capacity in just four months in Ethiopia, and that will allow them to reach now 32,000 small-scale farmers with improved seeds that will more than triple their production and productivity. We heard from partners in Tanzania, in Ghana, and in French companies that produce nutrition products for food aid programs, how they’re sourcing more from local farmers and how that’s having an impact already.”

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MODERATOR: Questions? Jo.

QUESTION: Is the (inaudible) beyond these six countries?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:

“It is absolutely. We have — we’re partnering initially where we can see real progress, and our goal is to eliminate large-scale hunger and extreme poverty that is agricultural-dependent in these countries. So — and it’s important to note that in order to be part of this alliance, countries have to make real commitments. They have to raise their level of domestic expenditure in agriculture and — to fight hunger considerably. All three of the initial partners have now almost reached the 10 percent of their public budget invested against this cause. They have to agree to put in place some tough policy reforms to improve land titling and access for women and families in particular, but also to restrict export bans of products and to reduce excise — or eliminate excise taxes on foreign direct investment that comes into this sector, all steps that had previously blocked private investment into the agriculture sector. But now that they’re making those reforms in Ghana, Tanzania, and Ethiopia are all, frankly, ahead of their timelines and schedules in implementing these reforms. We’re seeing that that is, in fact, unlocking real progress.”

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QUESTION: Within these discussions, in terms of land titling and things like that, do you have discussions about international land, sort of people’s international – foreign countries buying land in these areas, like in Ethiopia and in Tanzania?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, absolutely. The global community came together in Rome through the Committee on Food Security and established a set of norms they call the Principles of Responsible Agricultural Investment. As part of this G-8 initiative, we are encouraging investment, including investment in improving the quality and productivity of land, and large tracks of land. But we are asking that those investments conform to these internationally recognized Principles of Responsible Agricultural Investment. And the Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome is responsible for reporting on and implementing that. And the Director-General of FAO will be there tomorrow and has been a part of all of these deliberations and assures us that they are making real progress, especially in the six countries that we identified.”

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QUESTION: I just have a question about whether there was ethical considerations from the companies that you’re working with, whether there are concerns about —

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: — things like a GM seed.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: How do you monitor that in?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the countries themselves have regulations that govern what technologies they use and what systems they use to assess whether technologies are safe and productive. We heard today about a hybrid seed, which is not a transgenic variety, but how it’s in Ethiopia helping farmers triple their yields. We also heard about a program that the International Research Group is doing to help create drought-tolerant or water-efficient seeds in parts of East Africa that are very vulnerable to water stress affecting yields and creating localized hunger problems and even, as we’ve seen in the past, famine. So we’ve found that countries have the capacity to govern and use the technology that they want, and they make those judgments based on what’s scientifically safe and what are the benefits of different types of technologies.

Source: Background Briefing on Readout of the G8 New Alliance Event and Preview of the Secretary’s Participation in the Feed the Future: Partnering With Civil Society Event
 

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