TEXT of letter from Kenya President Moi to U.S. President Bill Clinton

August 21, 2000

Excellency, I convey to you and to the American people warm greetings. I recall with great pleasure our recent meeting in Washington at the Summit on Africa when we had the opportunity to exchange views on a wide range of issues of mutual interest.

I wish to take this opportunity to write to you on a matter of great interest to my people and country. As you know, Kenya is basically an agricultural country and farming provides the basic needs for our families and communities. Yet in the face of growing population and environmental challenges, current farming methods are proving incapable of meeting our requirements for food security and economic growth. It is therefore imperative that we in Kenya embrace appropriate technologies and policies to transform our agricultural system to become more productive and profitable. It is in this context that we must view the new developments in biotechnology as offering great hope and promise.

While the Green Revolution was a remarkable success in Asia it largely bypassed Africa. Today the international community is on the verge of the biotechnology revolution which Africa cannot afford to miss.

The recent announcement of a vitamin-A enriched rice (golden rice) offers great potential for all of us to address the issues of malnutrition and human health, particularly for poor children and for nations which are major consumers of the commodity. I understand that this important invention was developed with assistance from the government of Switzerland and the Rockefeller Foundation. While enriched rice could offer some benefit to our population, the staple crop in this region is maize.

Africa therefore needs a similar programme for the development of "golden maize". Scientific evidence indicates that deficiency in Vitamin-A weakens the immune system. Sufficient intake of Vitamin-A can improve ability to cope with the effects of chronic disease and may reduce the incidence of infections like malaria. Such as programme would also meet the objectives of the First Lady's Global Vitamin-A Partnership effort. I would therefore be grateful if you could join me in the endorsement of this idea to explore possibilities whereby United States technical and financial resources could be committed to this important endeavor.

Africa risks a biotechnology gap if we fail to participate in this project just in the same way that concern has been expressed about the digital gap in information technology without which deliberate intervention may result in a further marginalization of our continent. I am therefore specifically requesting that support and co-operation of your government and private foundations to help us to respond to the challenge of closing the biotechnology gap.

If we, as Kenyans, are to fully participate in this exciting revolution, we must develop our local capacity to address our unique needs for increased food production among our small scale farmers. Thus, support for biotechnology training programmes, curriculum development and improvement of laboratories is urgently needed. We note that a USAID-funded program in Egypt has been instrumental in building Egypt's biotechnology capacity. This has had the positive effect of augmenting that country's participation in international debates on biotechnology, such as the biosafety protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity. I would like to propose that we explore opportunities for support as an additional agenda item in our forthcoming discussions.

Ambassador Andrew Young during his visit to Kenya recently, informed me of a promising U.S. private - public initiative named "Healthy Harvest" which will focus on application of biotechnology in Africa. Through this initiative I look forward for fast realization of this vision and would like Kenya to be among the first participants in this worthwhile venture.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Daniel T. arap Moi
President of the Republic of Kenya

His Excellency William Jefferson Clinton
President of the United States of America
Washington, D.C.

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