Veneman Meets With West African Ministers at Conclusion of U.S. Cotton Tour
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman met with agriculture and commerce ministers from Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali at the conclusion of their week-long tour of U.S. cotton production, processing, marketing and research facilities.
WASHINGTON, July 26, 2004 – Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today met with agriculture and commerce ministers from Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali at the conclusion of their week-long tour of U.S. cotton production, processing, marketing and research facilities. The team, which has traveled to North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas since July 19, explored ways in which West Africa’s cotton industry can modernize its operations.
“The meeting today provided the opportunity to further discuss the priorities identified at last month’s successful Science and Technology Ministerial Conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso,” Veneman said. “At that conference, more than 300 participants from 22 countries, including four presidents and 18 ministers from West Africa, agreed that Africa urgently needs technical assistance and training to help develop transparent and predictable regulatory systems that encourage investment and the formation of public-private partnerships. These systems enable higher agricultural productivity, leading to improved food security, more jobs and increased trade and economic growth.”
While on the tour, the West African ministers and their Washington-based ambassadors met with representatives of various industry associations, companies and land-grant universities. They received an overview of the entire U.S. cotton industry from research, development and genetics to ginning, grading, marketing and exporting. They visited public and private sector facilities that perform these activities every day. In Washington, D.C., this week, the group met with U.S. cotton industry representatives to discuss investment needs and opportunities, and with U.S. government officials to discuss a range of available technical assistance and capacity building programs.
“The U.S. remains committed to helping Africa raise agricultural productivity, spur economic growth and alleviate hunger and poverty,” said Veneman. “Working together, these cooperative efforts and others like them open a new dialog for reform and growth that could create a decade of rising productivity and prosperity for Africa.”
Ministers participating in the cotton tour include Lazare Sehoueto, Minister of Agriculture, Husbandry and Fishery, and Fatiou Akplogan, Minister of Commerce, Industry, Community Development and Employment Promotion, of Benin; Laurent Sedogo, Minister of Environment and Standard of Living, and Benoit Ouattara, Minister of Commerce, Enterprise Promotion and Handicrafts, of Burkina Faso; David Houdeingar Ngarimaden, Minister of Agriculture, of Chad; and Seydou Traore, Minister of Agriculture, Husbandry and Fisheries, and Choguel Kokalla Maiga, Minister of Commerce and Industry, of Mali.
Commenting on the tour, Minister Sehoueto of Benin said, “My objective in this trip was to deepen my knowledge about innovations in order to prepare appropriate decisions for my government. I note that there are real opportunities to increase the incomes and well-being of all Benin farmers, not just cotton farmers.”
Minister Maiga of Mali said, “While the structures of our cotton sectors are quite different, there are many areas where our governments and our business people could work together.” According to Minister Ngarimaden of Chad, “We exchanged useful information about our production and marketing structures and exchanged ideas about cooperation in technology transfer and international marketing.”
Veneman pointed out that during the West African Ministerial Conference in Ouagadougou, a memorandum of understanding was signed between USDA and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation that will accelerate the transfer and dissemination of technologies developed by USDA scientists to West African researchers and then to the region’s small farmers.
In addition, West African ministers attending the ministerial adopted a resolution calling for greater research and investment in agricultural biotechnology and recommending the creation of a West African center for biotechnology. They also asked how best to use these technologies to address the serious problems of hunger and malnutrition and most benefit small African farmers, consumers and the environment.
More information about the Ministerial Conference and follow-up activities related to it is available on the Web at http://www.fas.usda.gov/icd/stconf/event6.html.