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World leaders must keep promise to fight hunger in Africa, Annan

afrol News, 16 October - Former UN Secretary-General Kofi A Annan, has called on world leaders to maintain their resolve to the fight against hunger in the face of a global food crisis compounded by current financial turbulence.

Speaking at a conference on hunger in Dublin today, Mr Annan, now Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA), challenged world leaders to keep on their promises.

“The world food crisis awakened the global community to the need for agricultural development to end hunger and spur growth in Africa,” said Mr Annan, adding “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, further adding, “We must replace the policies of neglect with a comprehensive programme of support to Africa’s smallholder farmers.”

Also speaking at 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.”

African population is said to be with highest proportion of undernourished people in the world according to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. A UN report last month also confirmed that sub-Saharan African countries have fallen behind track to meet Millennium Development Goal for reducing global poverty by half by 2015, with recent World Bank report also pointing that sub-Saharan countries will be among 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 Dr 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 Dr Adesina.

According to a statement issued today by AGRA, 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, group has observed that food prices have continued to rise at an unprecedented rate, leaving 300 million people in Africa hungry every day. “And while hunger surges,” concurred Mr Annan, “the incredible agricultural potential of the continent languishes.”

Mr Annan, during his speech, which also marked World Food Day, put forward some solutions, saying, “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.

He also challenged international community to consider establishing a new financial mechanism - a global fund for agriculture - which he said will provide financial resources needed to boost African smallholder agriculture.

Since May 2008, when food crisis surged, AGRA reports it 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.

Partnerships iclude developing improved varieties of Africa’s staple food crops such as maize, cassava, rice and sorghum; bolstering development of rural agro-dealer networks that will increase access to much needed, higher yielding seeds and fertilisers to remote farmers in six sub-Saharan countries; investing in master’s level education for African plant scientists; and launching a new programme to make available US$50 million in affordable credit to smallholder famers and small agricultural business in Kenya.

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

Last week AGRA and International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC) announced launch of a US$3.5 million project to strengthen Nigeria’s private sector in providing farmers with access to higher quality seeds, cheaper fertilisers, and greater access to farm and small business credit and loans. Since the food crisis struck, AGRA has also scaled up “agro-dealer networks” in five other countries: Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Uganda, and Zambia, building on similar work already undertaken in Malawi and Tanzania.

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

With support from a number of internation partners, AGRA works across sub-Saharan Africa and maintains offices in Nairobi, Kenya, and Accra, Ghana.

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