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CARY FOWLER: Well, good morning. Judging from all the smiles and the laughter before we officially convened, it looks like this is kind of a reunion of sorts and I’m happy about that very much to see old friends and some future friends as well.

Let me also thank FAO for organizing this meeting and the Rockefeller Foundation for their real collaboration with us and working on this endeavor. And, of course, the African Union for the partnership we’ve had over the past months.

So, we’re here to identify the crops that are most nutritious and productive and agricultural systems in Africa. And eventually to assess the relative impact of climate − that climate change will have on those crops for the purpose of providing some type of guidance for future investments in this area.

We know that there’s no formula. There’s no agreed ready definition, even for nutrition, perhaps. But, there’s certainly no formula that we can feed into a computer, and it’ll spit out the answers for us. But I’d like to think that that millions of years of natural selection plus our own education and training, has maybe given us the wisdom to make our own judgments about this. Despite the fact that we don’t have perfect information and we don’t have as much data as we would like, and we probably never will, but we will move forward nevertheless.

I know we all believe in developing agricultural systems that provide good nutrition for everyone. And we all believe that diversity has a major role to play in that, in providing that nutrition and, also the resilience in agricultural systems.

But I also point out that we have a lot of diversity in the room today, and we would be wise to value that diversity as well and all the ideas and the perspectives that that come from, you know, such a diverse group.

I want to acknowledge that there have been many efforts in the past to work on the crops that we’re going to be talking about, and that’s evidenced in all the different names that are associated with those − that group of crops from traditional and indigenous to neglected to underutilized, forgotten − and I’m sure there are a few more words. But, the African Orphan Crops Consortium World Vegetable Center, various other institutions and organizations, large and small, have been working on these crops for a long time.

If we come up with a different list of crops or even a slightly different number than some of the other efforts have come up with, it’s not in my opinion, a criticism of their efforts. It’s just a recognition that this is a process and this what we’re doing here in the room today is a new process.

It’s, also, I think bears saying that it’s not just a scientific process. It’s a consensus building and commitment building process. If it were a scientific process, we could probably go to the bookshelf, pull off one of these studies and say here, here’s the answer, but this is not what this is about, because we have to bring everyone along, including people who are not in the room today.

So, we have a diversity of voices of expertise that will enrich the next meeting that we have when we focus on climate, and I think that’s part of what will give the legitimacy and persuasiveness to the work that we’re doing.

I would hope that after today, after tomorrow, after the next meeting that that all of you would be ambassadors for what we’re doing because we’re going to need to spread the word. This is not an academic exercise that is amongst the initiated. We want to really spread the conclusions of this far and wide.

Couple more points, though the African Union, and FAO and State Department are co-sponsors of this, we’re not the owners. I want to stress we are not the owners of this. This is not about dictating programs or funding or anything like that.

What we want to do is to highlight certain work and certain crops and to promote them. And if we’re going to highlight and promote them, we have to focus − so, that’s the whole purpose of narrowing it down to a discrete number.

At the end of the process tomorrow, I suppose this first step, we’ll want to begin to think about a report coming from this meeting that’ll have our list of crops and an explanation around it as to why we came up with this list. We want that to be a consensus list. I usually define consensus is something we can live with. It’s not maybe our first choice individually, but it’s something we can all live with.

And in that regard, I would just urge that we participate in this meeting, or think of ourselves as here in in your individual capacity, not as representatives of a particular institution. So, you know we’re very aware that that there’s some institutions in the room that work on a set group of crops. We know what those crops are. We don’t need too many reminders of that. But, we need to come here putting that aside a little bit and having a good clean discussion about the entire range. So that at the end of the day, the report that we sign on to − we sign on to as people with institutions listed as affiliations for identification purposes.

And I think the other thing to say is that the list of crops that we do come up with, I think of at least − I think personally as an indicative list, it’s not meant to exclude all the other crops. It’s not meant to say that all of the other crops are not important. It’s just to say, well, let’s focus on these for the moment. Institutions will make their own decisions about how they deal with that.

So with that said, let me also mention that my staff has been working long and hard on this. And two of them are sitting right over here − Simone and Vieshnavi. Probably you’ve met them, if not, you will this week, next day or two. I really am grateful for what they’ve done. So, FAO, AU, thank you again for everything you’ve done and let’s get to work.

U.S. Department of State

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