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Speaking at a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete announced the launch of a new initiative designed to alleviate hunger in his country and propel agriculture into a new era of productivity.
The initiative, called A New Vision for Agriculture, is the result of joint efforts between 17 global partner companies and the governments of Tanzania, Vietnam and the United States.
Also participating in the press conference were Hugh Grant, Chairman and CEO of Monsanto, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
In his opening address, President Kikwete described the challenges his country faces, including "ensuring food security, eradicating widespread rural poverty and promoting sustainable economic growth."
He also outlined the evolution of his thinking about cooperating with corporate partners. After realizing that most of Tanzania's existing agricultural interventions were solely government-led, Kikwete said he decided to seek assistance from business interests. "[I felt] we should find ways of involving the private sector in the development of agriculture in Tanzania. We came up with a new vision we called Kilimo Kwanza, which means ‘agriculture first.'"
According to Kikwete, the initiative promises to create more than 500,000 jobs and lift 2 million people out of poverty.
In his own remarks, Hugh Grant took the opportunity to put the world's agricultural challenges into perspective. "By the time we trudge home tonight through the ice and the snow, another 200,000 people will have arrived on our planet."
To meet the needs of a growing population, A New Vision for Agriculture is designed to achieve what Grant called the "20-20-20" plan: increase crop production worldwide by 20%, reduce the emissions from agriculture by 20% and reduce rural poverty by 20%.
Wrapping up the press conference, Rajiv Shah announced that USAID was contributing $2 million to Tanzania's "catalytic fund," designed to help launch A New Vision for Agriculture.
"In the current environment of rising food prices," said Shah, "we believe it is smarter and more efficient to support agriculture in order to prevent the more costly and harmful famines, food riots and failed states that will result if we do not make these investments."
Download a copy of Realizing a New Vision for Agriculture: A roadmap for stakeholders
Watch the press conference [You will be redirected to the World Economic Forum's channel on Livestream.com. Please click on Press Conferences and then select the video titled "Launch of the New Vision for Agriculture."]