This is probably the last time that I can share some thoughts with you as CTA Director, since my 5-year term ends in February. I started my assignment in 2005 and found CTA to be an exciting institution offering a wide range of attractive products and services, but with a need to improve further. Through a participative process involving staff members, partners and clients, we made CTA's operations more efficient, better known to a wider audience and more demand driven.

CTA's Strategic Plan (2007 – 2010 and beyond) aims to improve CTA's efficiency, outreach, reputation and credibility. We have recruited new expertise in marketing, publishing, ICTs, media and human resource management. The introduction of a more commercial approach has enabled CTA to boost its outreach and visibility in the six ACP regions. An example of this is the increase in distribution of Spore (print run + 50%).

Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) are vital for all ACP countries and the World Bank's Development Report 2008 confirms this. Happily we can see that those countries that invested in agriculture increased their agricultural productivity (e.g. Malawi). Countries like Brazil, China and India have, for several decades, invested more than 10% of their GDP into agriculture with indisputable results.

For the past 25 years, agriculture has been under-funded. Despite the Maputo Declaration (African Heads of State agreed to invest 10% of GDP starting in 2010) a majority of African (but also Caribbean and Pacific) countries still do not invest adequately in ARD. That is partly because governments do not acknowledge or understand agriculture's real potential. Often they only look at official agricultural production statistics: according to these, agriculture contributes just 4–6% of GDP. However, when the whole value chain is taken into account, agriculture's share of GDP rises to 25% or more. It is vitally important to sensitise governments and the wider public to the value of agriculture, and the media has a crucial role to play. That is why CTA has recruited a media expert and dedicated its 2009 Annual Seminar to "The role of the media in agricultural and rural development". See http://annualseminar2009.cta.int

Youth is the hope of tomorrow. But why are agriculture and agricultural research in most ACP countries not proving more attractive to youth? Sadly, agriculture is seen as a poor man's sector and not as a business or an income creating opportunity. That perception needs to change and CTA has helped some countries to organise seminars on this topic. For CTA, youth is vital. Our internship and Young Professional Officers (YPO) programme brought fresh, dynamic expertise through the recruitment of up to 10 young graduates from ACP and EU countries.

Now, let's talk about money. Our budgetary management, commitment and disbursement rates went up and the annual operational budget increased by 25%. With more efficient products and services we were able to secure complementary funding from third parties. This is very positive but still CTA's budget is not enough to cope with the increasing demand from ACP countries and growing populations: €16 million for an ACP population of 1 billion, or 700 million people living in rural areas and from agriculture. That means €0.2/capita/year for information, communication and capacity building activities under CTA's mandate. You can see that CTA's budget is a drop in the ocean.

Another area of concern to me is the exponential population growth rate. All speakers at the conferences that I have attended so far, as well as many important publications refer to the prediction that the world's population will reach 9.2 billion by 2050. The main questions raised are how to feed these people, though competition with bio-energy, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and climate change because of global warming will also be major areas of concern.

Global warming is mainly man-made, according to scientific findings. A 50% rise in the population expected by 2050 will contribute significantly to this. And it is obvious that the majority of the 3 billion additional people will be born into poverty. Already today it is evident that we will not meet the Millennium Development Goals and halve poverty by 2015.

This is not sound development. I therefore make a strong plea not to accept the population growth rate as a fact, but to address it pro-actively. Didn't we hear it many times that we need to change our development paradigm radically and to stop doing business as usual? What needs to happen so that something happens?

CTA is aware of the importance of the topic and of its sensitivity. Therefore, our first Brussels Briefing this year is on 'population growth, agriculture and rural development' (27 January 2010). We will also dedicate our next Special Issue of Spore to this theme.

I am leaving CTA and much remains to be done. My successor will have the pleasure of continuing this exciting challenge, driving CTA to higher heights and reaching more and more ACP people who need our support. I wish her or him good luck.

My future professional path will certainly keep me busy working as a private development consultant and I am looking forward to having contact with you in the future.

Let me thank you for your continued interest in CTA's work and wish you all the best for 2010.

Hansjörg Neun

hneun[AT]t-online.de



 
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