UN says more investment in agriculture needed to tackle world hunger

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for more investment in agriculture in the developing world to tackle the problem of food insecurity. Jacques Diouf told Parliamentarians attending the 121st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union that more than one billion people are going hungry because of under-investment in agriculture during the past two decades.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

A recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program finds most of the more than one billion hungry people in the world live in developing countries. It says no region is immune and hunger is expected to increase everywhere, even in the developed world.

Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, says 30 countries were in a situation of grave food crisis, requiring emergency assistance. He says 20 of them are in Africa and 10 in Asia and the Near East. “The events of the last three years, triggered by soaring food prices and followed by the financial and economic turmoil, have demonstrated how fragile our global food system is. This year’s increase in hunger is not the result of poor harvests or a shortfall in supplies, but rather is caused by the economic crisis which has reduced the incomes and job opportunities for the poor,” he said.

Diouf says under-investment in agriculture and rural development is one of the root causes of the recent global food crisis and the difficulties encountered by the majority of developing countries in dealing with it effectively.

“If people go hungry today it is not because the world is not producing enough food but because it is not produced in the countries where 70 percent of the world’s poor live and whose livelihoods depend on farming activities. The challenge is not only to ensure food security for the one billion hungry people today, which is certainly an enormous task, but also to be able to feed a world population that is expected to reach 9.1 billion in 2050,” he said. He has urged nations to increase food production by 70 percent by 2050, and remarked that “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The FAO chief says studies show GDP growth originating in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as GDP growth originating in other sectors of the economy. He says the solution to food insecurity lies in boosting agricultural production and productivity in poor countries where food shortages are chronic.

Diouf says production has to be increased in the most needy areas, by the most needy people. These are smallholder farmers in rural households.

He says investment in agriculture in developing countries would amount to $44 billion in official development assistance a year. He says the returns from that investment in tackling world hunger would be enormous.

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