U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY DR. CARY FOWLER: It is so exciting to see all of you. Thank you for making the long journey. I know a number of you came from quite a distance. Maybe some people are even coming to New York for the first time. So, grab one of us who are a little bit more local than that and we’ll give you some tips.

Thanks to The Rockefeller Foundation for hosting us. Catherine, Emily, Roy and your whole team here, just incredible. So, thank you.

Just a couple of thoughts maybe for you to consider as we get into the discussions today and tomorrow. You know, at our first meeting we said that our goal was to look at a long list of African traditional and indigenous crops, and narrow that down somewhat to those that had the greatest potential for adding nutrition to diets in Africa.

And we said our goal was to create an indicative list, not a definitive list, not a list that we were going to impose on anyone, but an indicative list. I think that’s still our goal, even today and tomorrow, is to come up with this indicative list.

It’s important because we really want to create, and I think part of the power that we’re going to have is talking to people about the methodology that we follow at this meeting. This has not been a series of meetings where each of us comes in with our favorite crop. Though everybody in the room has one. But if we just came in and said, well, we have to have, you know, I have to have my favorite crop on the list, that wouldn’t be very impressive to anybody who was not in the meeting later.

So, what we’ve tried to do is have a scientific objective process to identify those crops that are most important or have the best potential for nutrition. And then to take that list and ask ourselves, well, how are they going to do? Let the facts and the data fall where they may.

And if we do that properly, I think we will have created a foundation for a discussion in agricultural development and food security efforts that is a starting point because I think what we want is for others, aid agencies, development organizations, NGOs, governments to use what we’re doing here as a floor from which to base their own work and to take it further.

We hope that other agencies and institutions and processes will improve upon what we’re doing and build upon what we’re doing. If we do that, I think we’ll succeed. So, we want to be sensitive, as I’ve said, not just to put our favorite crops on the list and to think about it through that lens, but instead to ask ourselves well, what’s most important for the people who are potentially going to eat these crops and for the farmers who are going to grow them. Let’s look at it through the consumer lens and farmers lens.

If we do that, I think we will have embedded facts in mentality and the consciousness of people who work in this area. And that’s I think what we’re here about. We’re not here to create a new institution with a big secretary or anything like that. We’re here to influence people’s thinking and people’s actions.

What does that mean in terms of VACS? I think it means a couple of things. It means that we put nutrition and soil first. Those are the starting points to work on the fundamentals of knowing what kind of soil you’ve got and what you can do with it and what kind of crops or agricultural system do you need that will provide good nutrition. And then, on the basis of what’s going to provide good nutrition and where and how it can be grown.

And the question is which crops are best suited to that kind of situation. That’s what we’re working towards. And so, I think what we’re really working towards is to create a movement to create a change of consciousness and to have influence that is sustainable much beyond any kind of project or particular initiative.

We’ll talk a little bit more about that as the day goes on, but I think that’s those are the thoughts I would like to share with you and. 

U.S. Department of State

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