Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
August 6, 2022
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good morning, everyone. I’m really delighted to be here today. I came to this region to have an opportunity to hear from farmers, and particularly women farmers, some of the challenges that they are facing as it relates to food insecurity. In particular, we are hearing that with the cost of fertilizer, they’re having difficulty with their crop yields. We are concerned about that and look forward to working with them and supporting them through USAID.
As you may have heard yesterday, we have just provided $2.5 million to support fertilizer and to support production in this region. We know that there are many causes for this food insecurity. COVID, clearly a major, major cause. Climate change – I’m hearing that the rains – heard from Zachary the rains have come later. But we also know that conflict – the war in Ukraine – has led to a decrease in the availability of fertilizers.
So we are hoping to work with this community and other communities across the continent of Africa to help you adjust to and deal with these challenges. So thank you very much. I look forward to taking some of your questions.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Fertilizer – you heard the price has just gone up. It has ballooned. It’s not only that, it’s also not available simply because there’s something happening in Ukraine. How do we wean ourselves of these – Russia and Ukraine – so that we have self-sufficiency?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I gave a speech yesterday in Accra. And in that speech, I noted that the resources on this continent, the resources in Ghana, are here. And we have to take advantage of the resources that we have at hand so there is not that dependency on fertilizer and grain coming from as far away as Ukraine and Russia.
So what USAID, what the United States government broadly is doing, is working with farmers. Working with farmers like Zachary. Working with women farmers to help them to use the fertilizers that they have more efficiently, but also use better seed varieties and better methods so that they can get higher yields.
Ghana can be a breadbasket, not just for Ghanaians but for this entire region. And if we are all working together, if we’re all successful, Ghana will become that breadbasket. And that is how we wean yourself away from the dependency that many Africans have on grains and fertilizers coming from as far away as Russia and Ukraine.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We have our next question from Francis from AP.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Hi, Francis.
QUESTION: Ambassador, on this trip, you’ve been talking about helping farmers. And the one issue that you haven’t touched is the threat to democracy. West Africa, has had its fair share, Kenya is going to be mentioned as a possibility of problems. How can you hold our leaders accountable, or [inaudible] stymie their attempts?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Again, I talk about the three C’s that have contributed to this food insecurity crisis, and that one of those C’s – conflict – actually jeopardizes democracy. And so we have to engage with countries like Ghana, where you do have a democracy. And let me just say, no democracy is perfect, even our own. But those countries that have the foundation for democracy have to be supported and have to be built up.
When we look at the neighborhood that Ghana is in, there have been four coups in this neighborhood in the past year. And so we have to ensure that those countries that are stable remain stable, give them the resources and the support, so that they don’t succumb to the kinds of deterioration in democracy that we have seen elsewhere in the world.
So I do want to commend Ghana for being a stable country in this region. I want to encourage Ghana and other countries in the region that are democracies to keep working on building their democracies and making their democracies stronger. What democracy is about – it’s about the people. It’s about all the people that we see here – these farmers, these women – and supporting their ability to feed their children. And if they are able to do that, their democracies will continue to grow stronger.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our last question will go to Martina from Joy News.
QUESTION: The farmer mentioned – Zachary mentioned – that funding is one issue. The woman also mentioned funding. Are we able to avert any food crisis? We’re looking at funding and also other factors that are contributing to poor yields now.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes, I mean, clearly, funding is a major issue. And that’s why USAID, the Administrator for USAID, was in Africa last week announcing significant funding that will support farmers in helping them to deal with this crisis. We have to get through this crisis. And the only way that can be done is if we all work together as partners.
The $2.5 million that you heard that we announced that will support just those farmers dealing with fertilizer, and more than 600,000 farmers have been supported here in Ghana with these programs. And while the U.S. is the largest funder, we need others to step up to the plate, as well, to provide funding so that we can get out of this crisis.
We hear from many other visitors to Africa that the war in Ukraine – and it’s U.S. sanctions that are causing this crisis. And what we believe and we want you to hear is that that war has caused this crisis. It is Russia’s unprovoked attack on on Ukraine, blocking Ukrainian grains and fertilizers from getting to the market, Russia holding back on its own fertilizers. And what I would say to Russia is instead of taking – instead of blaming others for what you are doing, accept your responsibility, stop the war in Ukraine and start making a contribution to food insecurity.
MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. Thank you, everyone.