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Sierra Leone’s Minister of Agriculture elected Chair of the Committee on Agriculture

By Festus Tarawalie in Rome

 Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, was on Thursday 2 October unanimously elected Chairman of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Committee on Agriculture (COAG). This flagship technical committee, which is the most important technical Committee in FAO, was set up in 1971 and brings together almost 200 member countries of FAO. Delegates of COAG have been meeting for five days in the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy since 29 September. The chair of COAG is elected for a fixed term of two years. As one of FAO’s Governing Bodies, COAG provides overall policy and regulatory guidance on issues relating to agriculture, livestock, food safety, nutrition, water for agriculture, rural development and natural resource management.

Dr. Sesay’s candidacy was nominated by the Africa Regional Group (ARG), backed by the group of 77 countries plus China (G77+China) comprising delegates from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Near East, while the other candidate was from Switzerland and was backed by the OECD countries made up of the European Union, North America and the Oceania. However, the OECD countries later withdrew their candidature and Minister Sesay was unanimously elected on consensus basis!

sam sesay

The current chairman of the Africa group of countries of the G77+China, the Liberian Ambassador to Italy and Permanent Representative to the UN offices of FAO, IFAD and WFP Dr. Mohamed Sheriff championed the cause of Dr. Sesay’s election to this prestigious position. Dr. Sesay will be working in a Bureau comprising representatives from the seven regional groups of FAO including Africa, Europe and OECD countries, Latin America, Asia and the Near East.

It would be recalled that Sierra Leone’s participation at the UN agencies in Rome (FAO/IFAD/WFP) has picked up steam since Dr. Sesay was appointed Minister of Agriculture by His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma in 2007. Now, the country is a fully paid up member and is benefiting from programmes promoted by the aforementioned agencies, including the emergency response to the ongoing Ebola virus crisis. FAO has also pledged during bilateral meetings between the FAO Director General and the Minister held on Wednesday 1st October to assist in the Ebola and post Ebola recovery period of Sierra Leone.

Dr. Sesay brings to this committee years of technical and hands-on experience in the field of development and agricultural economics, including policy analysis, monitoring and evaluation, agricultural statistics as well as general agriculture and food security. It may be recalled that he is also the Champion Minister of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme process (CAADP) of the African Union since 2009. Dr. Sesay, who has been Minister of Agriculture of Sierra Leone for seven years, was the brain behind the Malabo Declaration of the AU Heads of State and Governments in late June this year, which, among others, re-commits the Heads of State to the Maputo Declaration 2003 for their countries to undertake the CAADP process, provide at least 10% of their national budgets to agriculture and promote at least a 6% annual agricultural growth rate. Also, the Malabo Declaration further commits the African Heads of State to eradicate hunger by 2025, increase intra-regional trade by three times from a current 11%, to double agricultural productivity by 20125, etc.

It is important to note that this is the first time since ten years that Africa has not occupied this position until Dr Sesay’s election into the position. Since 1972, Africa has only held it five times and only for a cumulative period of seven years. For Sierra Leone, she was not even a member of the COAG until during the tenure of His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma.

In addition, Dr Sesay succeeded in having Sierra Leone in the Executive Board of the World Food Programme (WFP) for the period 2013 – 2015.

 

Acceptance Speech

Dr. Joseph Sam. Sesay

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security of SIERRA LEONE

Newly Elected Chairman

COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE OF THE FAO (COAG)

FAO, ROME, ITALY.

2nd October 2014 

On behalf of the G77 and Africa, and also on behalf of my country SL and my President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, I wish to express my profound gratitude and appreciation for the respect and opportunity accorded my candidature and election as Chair of the COAG. I consider this responsibility as demanding additional time, resources and efforts on the part of my Government and my personal self. These, having consulted with my President before vying for the position, will avail for the successful conduct of the COAG.

As the AU Champion Minister of CAADP and luckily also the longest surviving Minister of Agriculture in Africa, I have been in the forefront in Africa and beyond to put Agriculture on top of other development priorities.

I wish to assure you that, with the support of the COAG Secretariat, its Bureau, the Africa Regional Group, the G77 and the whole of the COAG, we will have a very successful COAG during my tenure, that of the Vice and the Bureau.

Let me, at this juncture, appeal to ALL of you for your full support and to kindly request that we now re-direct all our attention and support to the success of the COAG from today onwards.

Before ending, I will be remiss if I don’t recognize and pay tribute to my predecessor, who I’ll describe as the “Maradona of COAG”, AmbassadorMario Arvelo of the Dominican Republic for a marvelous job done in managing his two year tenure and in ably managing this 25th COAG! I kindly request that you avail yourself for information, consultations and advice hereafter.

Let me also thank my President for allowing me to submit my candidature in spite of what is going on in my country Sierra Leone, the Africa Regional Group, the Group of 77, the OECD and the rest of all of us present here for the confidence.

I thank you

 

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