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15.09.2005 General News

FAO warns world cannot afford hunger

By GNA

Accra, Sept 15, GNA - As world leaders met at the UN Summit in New York, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Wednesday called on the international community to honour commitments to cut world hunger in half by 2015.

The Rome-based food agency in a statement received in Accra urged governments and private sector corporations "to adequately fund actions and initiatives that reduce hunger through rural development and reduction of rural poverty, while at the same time strengthening direct access to food by the most vulnerable".

In a publication on mobilizing resources to reduce hunger that FAO issued for the UN Summit, the organization warned: "It is unacceptable that 843 million people in developing and transition countries continue to be hungry and that more than one billion have to live on less than one dollar a day."

Unfortunately, said FAO, the rate at which hunger was being reduced was painfully slow, "slower than what is required to meet the World Food Summit goal, especially in Africa". At the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, Italy, leaders from 186 countries pledged to reduce the number of hungry people in the world by half no later than year 2015.

According to FAO, to reduce hunger, it was essential that a larger share of new development funding be allocated to agriculture and rural development than in past decades.

The vast majority of the world's poor live in rural areas and research shows that agricultural growth especially if focused on small farmers, is the most important engine for the creation of employment and income for the poor.

"The low level of public expenditure in national budgets and the long-term decline in official development assistance for agriculture and rural development in developing countries are totally at odds with the importance of agriculture in the national economies, especially for the poorest countries which depend on agriculture." According to FAO, private investment was the key for total capital formation in agriculture and it was the responsibility of governments to make this possible through research, public investment regulation, financial incentives, and by building capacity.

"Agriculture is practised by farmers, not by governments. However, inadequate public funding for essential public goods such as infrastructure, research and capacity building, extension and market development has resulted in disincentives to private -sector activity and investment."

FAO, with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme, jointly produced another paper being circulated at the UN Summit - Eradication of poverty and hunger - that outlines a concise strategy to meet the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on hunger and poverty reduction. FAO says there are "encouraging signs of a strengthening of resolve to reduce poverty and hunger and meet the MDGs".

"For example, the recent decision by African countries to increase the share of national spending on agriculture and rural development to 10 percent is a most encouraging step toward overcoming public under funding of the agriculture sector."

FAO noted that many donor countries were pledging a substantial increase in development assistance and cited the promise by the countries of the European Union to double Official Development Assistance and the debt cancellation announced by the G8 concerning 18 of the world's poorest countries. 15 Sept. 05

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