Leaders should show resolve to fight hunger

Dublin, Ireland— Former UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan, speaking at a conference on hunger in Dublin last week, called on world leaders to maintain their resolve to the fight against hunger in the face of a global food crisis compounded by a financial one.

Dublin, Ireland— Former UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan, speaking at a conference on hunger in Dublin last week, called on world leaders to maintain their resolve to the fight against hunger in the face of a global food crisis compounded by a financial one.

“The world food crisis awakened the global community to the need for agricultural development to end hunger and spur growth in Africa,” said

Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA). “The world financial crisis now threatens to undermine the political will needed to keep promises.”

“But the financial crisis cannot be an excuse for inaction,” he continued. “We must replace the policies of neglect with a comprehensive programme of support to Africa’s smallholder farmers.”

In Africa, decades of neglect of agriculture, on national and international levels, has resulted in a 12 percent decline in per capita food production since 1980.

Since the global food crisis began, food prices have continued to rise at an unprecedented rate, leaving 300 million people in Africa hungry every day. “And while hunger surges,” said Annan, “the incredible agricultural potential of the continent languishes.”

Also speaking at the Fighting Hunger conference, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, AGRA’s Vice President for Policy and Partnerships, said, “African farmers are no different than farmers anywhere else in the world.

They have entrepreneurial spirit, yet they don’t enjoy the same kind of support. Farmers from the USA to China, from the European Union to the Philippines, receive  agricultural subsidies from the government. Not so African farmers.”

Africa contains the population with the highest proportion of undernourished people in the world according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

A United Nations report last month confirmed that sub-Saharan African countries have fallen behind track to meet the Millennium Development Goal for reducing global poverty by half by 2015.

And a recent World Bank report finds that sub-Saharan countries will be among the largest losers as a result of food price increases in terms of trade balances with other countries.

“African farmers are undersupported. They do not want continuous emergency solutions or ongoing humanitarian aid.

They need a revolution in  policies that will address the underlying long-term problems they face,” said Adesina, “including the poorest soils in the world, lack of support from their own governments and donors, and limited or no access to markets, insurance, fertilizers or improved seeds.” 

“The time for bringing forth a Green Revolution for Africa is now,” said Adesina.

Annan, during his speech, which also marked World Food Day, spoke of solutions. “On a global scale, to make a Green Revolution for Africa a reality, external financing for African agriculture must increase from the current US$1-2 billion per year to roughly US$8 billion by 2010,” he said.

“The international community should consider establishing a new financial mechanism—a global fund for agriculture—to provide the financial resources needed to boost African smallholder agriculture.”

Since May 2008, when the food crisis surged with full force, AGRA has dedicated tens of millions of dollars to programmes seeking both medium- and long-term solutions to help African small-scale farmers, but which will also help farmers improve their upcoming harvests.

AGRA is a partnership-based organization that strives to help millions of small-scale farmers across Africa to rapidly and sustainably increase their productivity and lift themselves out of poverty.

More than 200 million people in Africa are chronically hungry and 33 million children under age five malnourished.

Per capita food production has declined in Africa for the past 30 years and farm productivity in Africa is just one-quarter the global average.

In the current global food crisis, the continuing rising costs of fertilizer and  fuel raises concerns for agriculture experts. Increasing prices, exacerbated by floods and droughts, continue to pose additional challenges for farmers throughout Africa.

The previous week AGRA and the International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC) announced the launch of a US$3.5 million project to strengthen Nigeria’s private sector in providing farmers with access to higher quality seeds, cheaper fertilizers, and greater access to farm and small business credit and loans in Nigeria.

Since the food crisis struck, AGRA has scaled up “agro-dealer networks” in five other countries: Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Uganda, and Zambia.  This builds on similar work already undertaken in Malawi and Tanzania.

In June of this year, AGRA forged multilateral and bilateral agreements of cooperation with major forces in international agriculture -- in Rome with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Food Programme, and in Washington, DC with the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Earlier this year AGRA launched an initiative in Kenya to establish a loan facility of US$50 million in partnership with Equity Bank Limited and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

The initiative accelerates access to affordable financing for 2.5 million farmers and 15,000 agricultural value chain members such as rural input shops, fertilisers and seed wholesalers and importers, grain traders and food processors. 

Since May, AGRA has targeted the development of higher-yielding, resilient staple food crops such as cassava, maize, soybean, sorghum, cowpea, rice, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, beans, and bananas in 11 countries: Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Malawi,
Mozambique, Rwanda, and Burkina Faso.

“Agriculture is the key to poverty reduction and broad-based economic growth in Africa,” said Adesina. “The developed world needs to rapidly scale up its financing for African agriculture to help lift millions out of poverty.”

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is a dynamic partnership working across the African continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.


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