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Highlights for Wednesday, 18 May 2005

On the final day of the World Agricultural Forum (WAF) Congress, participants met in three roundtable sessions on finance, partnerships and markets during morning and afternoon sessions. In the closing session, Hon. James Bolger, Chairman of the Advisory Board, WAF, expressed a sense of hope for the future of agriculture and agri-food systems. 

During a morning panel on finance, panelists highlighted the use of small banking schemes, including cooperative and commercial banking, in Central America, Africa and Europe. A second roundtable on partnerships explored how to merge private and public sector initiatives to increase corporate social responsibility and improve the livelihoods of local farmers. A third panel discussed agri-food systems and how to meet consumer demand for sustainable products along the supply chain. Above Photo: Hon. James Bolger (left) congratulates Leonard Guarraia (right) for his leadership during the Forum.


James Bolger (right), Chairman of the Advisory Board, WAF, summarized the discussion of the previous day's sessions. Deborah Perkins (left), Executive Director and Head of Food and Agribusiness Research, Rabobank International, chaired the session on financing for agriculture, noting that many banks lack an understanding of agriculture. 


Above photo L-R:  Jonathan Campaigne, Urszula Budzich-Szukala, Carlo Barbieri, Deborah Perkins, John Hatch, and Rolando Ariel Perez

Carlo Barbieri
, Professor of International Relations, ICCREA, said working with the cooperative banking system helped the cooperative banks in Italy rediscover their roots. Jonathan Campaigne, Executive Director, Pride Africa, said small holder self help groups and cooperative banking has been unreliable in Africa and explained how a network for sharing information on financing and marketing was developed in Africa. Urszula Budzich-Szukala, Director, Agroline Rural Development and Credit Programme, said that at the start of its accession to the EU, Polish agriculture was not functioning in market conditions, which led to inefficiencies and unemployment. Rolando Ariel Perez, Managing Director, Maple Commercial Finance Group, said one of the outcomes of the WTO Uruguay Round was the creation of a cash exchange for agricultural products in Latin America. John Hatch, Founder and President, FINCA International, described a village banking system serving millions of clients and providing access to credit, a safe place for savings, and empowerment for the villagers.

Above photos L-R: Dick Fleming, President and CEO, St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, inquired about panelists’ experiences in building equity for farmers and entrepreneurs. Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President Bharti Kisan Union, India, drew attention to the suicide rate of Indian farmers who cannot repay their loans and questioned how loss making ventures can be turned into profit making so farmers can repay their loans. Jose Garcia Gasques, Coordinator General of Strategic Planning, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply of Brazil, drew attention to the Brazilian microcredit experience, which began in 1994, and where the rate of return is around 99%. Hassane Amina Wangari, WABNET, highlighted her experience with microcredit, saying that microfinance is the best way to fight poverty and to return dignity to women. 


Above photo L-R: Jim Thompson, Tensie Whelan, Paul Carothers, and David McLaughlin

Tensie Whelan, President, The Rain Forest Alliance, explained its certification initiatives on coffee, bananas and timber, noting that the goals and objectives include improved rural livelihood and well-being in Central America and Mexico. Jim Thompson, Global Development Alliance Secretariat, USAID, noted that of the US$112.6 billion of US aid flows, about 45% consists of private capital flows to the developing world. Highlighting his company’s experience with corporate social responsibility, David McLaughlin, Senior Director of Environmental and Social Performance, Chiquita Brands International, said its values-based management approach is based on certification schemes for social and environmental sustainability and food safety. Paul Carothers, Vice President of Global Public Affairs, Kraft Foods, discussed Kraft’s sustainable coffee programme, which uses the Rainforest Alliance Partnership to sustainability mainstream coffee markets.

Martha Jimenez
, Vice President for Policy/Development, TransFair USA, said fair trade certifiers try to align the interests of farmers, industry and consumers.

James McDonald
, Vice President of Policy and Programs, Bread for the World, clarified that of the US$16 billion in US aid, US$6 billion is used for development purposes and the rest is used for foreign military spending.

Philip Kiriro, President, East Africa Farmers Association, asked if farmers with high quality crops will be driven out of business because of tariffs and regulations.



Above photos L-R: Rob Horsch, Heinrich Toepfer, James Bolger, David Hughes, Anan Sirimongkolkasem and Ken Roberts

Heinrich Toepfer, Chairman, Agriworld GMBH, discussed his experience in the international grain trade, saying that successful farmers have one crop in the field, one crop in the store, and one in the bank. Anan Sirimongkolkasem, President, Thai Broiler Processing Exporter’s Association, mentioned that the Thai poultry industry brought in over US$1 billion a year before the Asian bird flu epidemic, and that the industry is currently sustained because of government support. Rob Horsch, Vice President of International Development Partnerships, Monsanto Company, said Monsanto helps countries by using technologies where markets aren’t relevant and that technological innovation and business system innovation are two drivers of growth. David Hughes, Professor, Imperial College London, said challenges in the agri-food system include, inter alia: how to communicate the social attributes of products to far away shoppers; complications of the WTO negotiations; and how supply chains will be measured on social and commercial performance. Ken Roberts, Assistant Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), US Department of Agriculture, discussed what is in the agri-food business for developing countries and said the FAS is helping in post-conflict situations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vera Weill-Hallé
, Director of the Resource Mobilization Division, International Fund for Agricultural Development, asked how African countries can follow the successful Thai model of exporting tapioca.  

K.N. Sharma
, Secretary, International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, emphasized that countries cannot build up food security without first establishing food sufficiency and good governance. 


Above photos: View of the closing plenary and closing remarks of Leonard Guarraia, Chairman and CEO, WAF and Hon. James Bolger, Chairman of the Advisory Board, WAF.

As the WAF Congress drew to a close, Bolger summarized the Forum�s discussions and said the Forum put into context how agriculture can help achieve security and global peace. He said lessons learned from each of the thematic sessions include, inter alia, that: the outcome of political initiatives will have an impact on how we collectively feed the world; water is the sustainer of all life; biofuels should be used where there is agricultural waste, in particular in developing countries; scientific research and technology transfer will lead to greater productivity and support the needs of the human race; and markets do work, but operate differently in many countries. He indicated that the role of science was not widely discussed at this Congress, but that it is a key tool to feed today�s world. Leonard Guarraia, Chairman and CEO, WAF, thanked the Board of Directors, the Forum organizers, and participants for having a constructive three-day session and closed the Forum at 3:38pm Central Time.