The week of June 24-30 was a busy one for the BvAT Executive Director, Dr. David Amudavi. He attended a BvAT Annual General Meeting (24-25 June), held collaboration partnership meetings with Biovision Foundation and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) (27-28 June) and finally attended the annual SDC/SECO conference whose theme was ‘Developing urban and rural areas sustainably: Two of Switzerland’s priorities in Africa’ held in Berne on 29th June. The conference, which attracted over 700 people, focused on how to develop urban and rural areas sustainably through improving seed systems for farmers and used the example of how SDC is supporting Chad to ensure farmers get high-grade seed of variety that can also better withstand the effects of climate change. Knowledge on seed management, training on how to identify good quality seed, how to maintain quality of seed and how to use quality seed, level of technology and infrastructure very important in this regard. The conference also underscored the fact that towns and cities can offer tangible opportunities to alleviate poverty, but with a check on the challenge of rapid population growth. SDC is also supporting efforts in this area as exemplified by SDC’s cooperation activities in South Africa where we have a comprehensive approach to urban development, supporting forward-looking and strategic urban planning particularly in terms of infrastructure and public funds.
The opening speech was made by Mr. Ignazio Cassis, Federal Councillor, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and a keynote address by Mr. Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) who observed that cities and can prosper if surrounded by prosperous and productive rural areas. Mr. Ignazio Cassis noted that humanity dictates that we help those in need and allow people to live in dignity and enable them to make intelligent decisions. He emphasized transparency in financing of SDC activities. He expects honesty, transparency and openness. Mr. Houngbo underscored five factors necessary for addressing challenges at the nexus of rural-urban areas: support farmers access high value markets, meet higher standards even on domestic markets, need more resilient and sustainable systems in the face of climate change, non-agricultural activities (health, schools, access to IT, entrepreneurial opportunities, etc.) must be financed and supported, private sector commitment must be encouraged, and favourable environment in terms of policies, budgets, and planning are important for agriculture to flourish.
There were two panel discussions, one on Better returns, better opportunities: Supporting the seed sector in Chad and a second one on Innovative approaches to urban challenges: South Africa, Switzerland and the World Bank team up. The conference was preceded by partner exhibition at which Dr. Amudavi had a poster and materials on the ecological organic agriculture initiative for Africa. Many participants visited the stand and received briefing about the initiative.