“When the next history of the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) comes to be written in 30 years’ time, the year 2019 will be seen as a year of change, renewal and, perhaps, revitalization,” said SAA Chair Ruth Oniang’o in the organization’s 2019 annual report released earlier this fall.
Above all, SAA’s involvement in the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VII) held in August 2019 in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, was “particularly significant,” the report said, referring to a symposium which brought together government officials, agricultural experts, entrepreneurs and young farmers from both Africa and Japan for a series of engaging discussions focusing on youth unemployment in African countries. It also explored ways in which Africa and Japan can continue working together to improve agricultural opportunities available to young people.
At an official side event of TICAD VII it organized, SAA signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which will have major significance for smallholder farming and, indeed, Japan’s involvement in African agriculture in the future. “We truly look forward to this collaboration,“ the chair said.
Honoring the symposium, the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid special tribute to SAA’s “30 long years of continued devotion and engagement” in supporting smallholder farmers in Africa.
He commended the role that Japanese technology can play in innovation, as part of efforts to develop agricultural practices and develop human resources, committing the Japanese government, together with JICA, to assisting in doubling rice production in Africa by 2030, the report said.
“The year 2019 saw, too, a consolidation of our SAA outreach with the incorporation of SAFE (Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education) into the SAA structure, significantly increasing the number of African countries in which SAA is involved,” Chair Oniang’o said, noting: “So, with a strengthened organization, and after a productive year, we look forward to the new decade with confidence.”
The primary focus of SAA is improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers’ in the field, whilst the SAFE program is committed to delivering human resource development programs, in partnership with agricultural colleges and universities in Africa, according to the annual report.
SAA was established in 1986 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, and my late father, Ryoichi Sasakawa of The Nippon Foundation, in the wake of the devastating famine that ravaged the Horn of Africa in 1984/85.
For over 30 years, SAA has worked in 15 countries across the continent with the firm support of The Nippon Foundation. Currently, SAA operates, and has country offices in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali and Uganda, which are known as focus countries, with a SAFE program also operating in seven additional countries. So far, SAA has offered higher education courses for more than 6,500 mid-career extension agents in 26 universities in Africa.
For well over three decades since the formation of SAA, The Nippon Foundation has been its principal donor, providing over 300 million dollars in support of its programs−an unprecedented figure from a donor to a non-governmental organization on a continuous basis, the report said.
“I wish, on behalf of the Board and the whole SAA fraternity, to thank The Nippon Foundation and Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, and all our partners, for their unfailing support and for standing by us,” Chair Oniang’o said.
The Nippon Foundation and SAA have always believed in the agricultural potential of Africa and placed importance on advancing agricultural skills among smallholder farmers, who comprise about 70% of the population in Africa.
Nowadays, we have also focused on capacity building of extension agents to help shift the mindset of the smallholder farmers from producing for "eating" to producing for "selling". Agriculture must be seen as an attractive career option full of business opportunities. I sincerely hope that the younger generation in Africa will take agriculture on to a new era.
SAA’s annual report 2019 can been seen HERE.