Glasgow MSP Humza Yousaf today ended his week-long landmark visit to Malawi and Zambia during which he hoped to strengthen links between Scotland and the two African nations.
Mr Yousaf, External Affairs and International Development Minister, met with business leaders and ministers to discuss issues of education, renewable energy and climate change during his trip, and also visited Scottish Government funded aid projects.
He visited one such project in Lusaka, Zambia, where Scottish Catholic development agency SCIAF runs the Kulima programme using a £2.7 million grant from the International Development Fund, which also financed a Promoting Rural Food Security Programme in Zambia between 2008 and 2012.
Over 80 per cent of rural households in Zambia live in poverty and experience hunger on a daily basis, and unsustainable agricultural practices mean harvests are often inadequate. Through the Kulima programme, however, rural communities are taught organic farming methods to improve food production and increase yield. Families are thus given the resources and opportunity to help raise themselves out of extreme poverty.
Mr Yousaf met with both farmers and project managers to see the difference that SCIAF is making in people's lives, and praised the Kulima programme as "a great example of the sort of project the Scottish Government is proud to support".
"Visiting farms involved with the Kulima programme and talking to farmers made it clear what a difference the programme is already making since we first partnered with SCIAF and the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre in 2008," he said.
SCIAF's Programme Officer Stephen Martin also gave thanks for the partnership between SCIAF and the Scottish government, noting that "Scottish money is changing lives and reducing poverty here".
Mr Yousaf is the first Scottish Government Minister to visit Zambia, and his trip coincided with the journey of the Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton which arrived last week in both Malawi and Zambia as part of its circuit of 288 member nations and territories.
Ahead of his trip, Mr Yousaf noted the "unrivalled" opportunity the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games is offering "to make new connections and deepen existing relationships" with other countries. Now he has completed his journey, he says the relationships Scotland is building with the African nations is "life-changing".
"This visit to Zambia and Malawi has cemented the strong and important relationship Scotland has with both countries.
"Our nations have much to learn from each other. This visit has made clear to me that not only do we have a shared past, we also have an important shared future," he concluded.