Full speech: U.S. Mission Launches Leveraging Excellence in Agricultural Development Program

As prepared for delivery
Speech for Her Excellency
U.S. Ambassador Deborah R. Malac
The Official Launch of the Inaugural
Leveraging Excellence in Agricultural Development Program
Monday, June 20, 2016
Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort

  • Your Excellency President, Yoweri Museveni,
  • Rt. Honorable Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda,
  • Chairman, National Planning Authority, Dr. Kisamba Mugerwa,
  • Coordinator, Operation Wealth Creation, Gen. Salim Saleh,
  • Governor, Bank of Uganda, Prof. Tumusiime Mutebile,
  • Honorable Ministers,
    Distinguished participants of USAID’s Leveraging Excellence in Agricultural Development Program,
    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    All protocol observed,

    Good afternoon! It is a pleasure to be here with you today to help kick-off USAID’s Leveraging Excellence in Agricultural Development Program and to address program participants and this very distinguished audience. Congratulations to all of you who were selected as the first ever participants in this exclusive program!

    It was nice to meet some of you before the start of the ceremony, and I hope that I’ll have an opportunity to meet the rest of you later today or in the near future.

    I am particularly pleased to be here to launch this program, which encourages collaboration among leaders in the public and private sectors to achieve a shared goal: maximizing Uganda’s agricultural potential.

    The vision for this new program is twofold: it will create a consultative group of leaders in agriculture and other related sectors who care about sparking explosive growth in agriculture; and, it will support and reinforce participants’ existing management skills, leadership experience and confidence to enhance their professional contributions, further accelerate their careers, and contribute to solving Uganda’s pressing agricultural problems.

    Uganda—like all countries—needs leaders to inspire, to counsel, to advise, and to help leverage Uganda’s significant potential to use agricultural development as a means of propelling economic growth.

    The new, innovative, and highly selective e Leveraging Excellence in Agricultural Development (LEAD) program brings together a diverse group of people from many walks of life: public service, business, academia, and civil society. It will provide participants with the opportunity to identify, discuss, and propose solutions to Uganda’s most deeply entrenched sector problems, particularly relating to production, trade, and youth employment. Participants will work across their disciplines to define and propose solutions to serious agriculture sector problems and then work together with those who are in positions of influence to bring about the desired changes for the benefit of Ugandans and Uganda.

    All of us, working together, are capable of accelerating Uganda’s transformation to a middle-income country and, above all, ensuring that the millions of farming households can earn a good living from agriculture. It is important that the public and the private sectors continuously work together to create a better enabling environment for smallholders to increase their contributions to agricultural success.

    For decades, a key goal of the U.S. government’s assistance has been to support the Ugandan people to leverage the country’s full potential, in agriculture as well as in all sectors of the economy. Our current agricultural development programs—including the Leveraging Excellence in Agricultural Development Program— operate under President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative—the United States’ flagship global hunger and food security initiative.

    Feed the Future strives to increase agricultural production and the incomes of both men and women in rural areas who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Feed The Future endeavors to improve agricultural productivity, expand markets and trade, and increase the economic resilience of vulnerable rural communities—especially in the face of increasing risks from climate change. Feed the Future seeks to unleash the proven potential of small-scale agricultural producers to deliver results on a large scale.

    In Uganda, Feed the Future aims to raise farming household incomes, create jobs, especially for youth, and improve the nutritional and economic status of approximately 2.4 million Ugandans in 38 focus districts.

    With Uganda’s population set to double in 24 years, pressure on the agricultural sector to meet Uganda’s needs will only continue to grow. Now is the time for bold ideas, and the formation of USAID’s Leveraging Excellence in Agricultural Development Program is intended to take advantage of this opportunity.

    It is our hope that participants in this inaugural program will identify ways to help remove policy and regulatory constraints in the agricultural sector, strengthen the capacity of the Ugandan Government to facilitate agricultural development and adaptation to climate change, and build the capacity of private sector and civil society organizations to help government implement sound policy choices. In short, we want to strengthen public-private cooperation.

    But, an enabling business environment alone will not transform Uganda’s agriculture sector. There must be greater production and productivity as well as improved access to markets, support to farmer groups, access to quality inputs, and a focus on demonstrating to youth that farming can be a successful business. These challenges are addressed through complementing Feed the Future activities; and now, we hope, by the Leveraging Excellence in Agricultural Development Program.

    Let me conclude by sharing some thoughts about leadership that I hope will contribute to reinforcing and building up your already-demonstrated management skills, leadership experience, and confidence in ways that will enrich your future professional achievement, accelerate your careers, and help serve the nation and the people. Leadership is about….

    • Creating, innovating, and sustaining a vision to achieve what seems impossible;
    • Lifting others up and empowering them to achieve their full potential;
    • Being accountable to, yet responsible for, those you lead;
    • Inspiring passion, being open to change, and cultivating high-trust relationships;
    • Acting with integrity and maintaining the highest ethical standards; and
    • Cultivating an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

    Entrepreneurial in spirit and team-based in approach, USAID’s Leveraging Excellence in Agricultural Development Program is grounded within the interplay of two core concepts—individual human potential and collective social responsibility. It represents an innovative approach to supporting a cadre of Uganda’s most high-achieving leaders as they use their unique perspectives to define and solve the most pressing problems facing the country’s agricultural sector. The program is highly adaptable, with flexible methodologies and distinct components all designed to take advantage of these incredibly gifted and talented individuals.

    In closing, to you the program participants, as you set off tomorrow morning for the program’s kick-off retreat, I challenge you to embrace fully the core concepts of the program, which are to solve problems, make change, and build trust.

    I urge you to shape this program so that it achieves more than you think is possible. Share your ideas, wisdom, experience, and unique talents. But also be ready to receive the ideas and contributions of others. Respectfully, but with passion and resolve, and above all a commitment to action, debate all ideas about how best to accelerate and sustain Uganda’s agricultural development. A very famous woman, whom I greatly admire, once said: “If your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough.” While Nobel Laureate and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s words were intended to inspire personal achievement, they are also apt in the context of LEAD’s objectives. As you discuss and think about how to realize Uganda’s agricultural potential, dare to dream big.

    As the head of the U.S. Mission in Uganda, I am keenly interested in your ideas, recommendations, and the solutions you put forward.

    I look forward to hearing how your work together unfolds. And I am requesting my USAID colleagues to ensure that I have another opportunity in the near future to meet your group again for a more intimate and substantive dialogue about Uganda’s agricultural future.

    Thank you!