UN wants tripling of agricultural development aid

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World leaders should more than triple the share of agriculture in official development aid to reach 17%, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on World Food Day (16 October).

“Underinvestment in agriculture 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,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

Meanwhile, agriculture’s share of official development assistance fell from 17% in 1980 to 3.8% in 2006. It is currently around 5%.

The UN agency’s message comes a month before heads of state and government gather in Rome for the World Summit on Food Security on 16-18 November to find ways to alleviate global food insecurity.

The Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations agreed in July to mobilise around €14 billion over the next three years to helping the world’s poorest countries develop their agricultural sectors, with a special focus on small farmers (EURACTIV 10/07/09).

According to José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, “the EU will be contributing with around €3 billion,” which comes on top of the bloc’s €1 billion food facility announced last year (EURACTIV 05/12/08).

Diouf said that the G8 initiative was “good news” and hoped that “the pledge is effectively translated into concrete action”.

€30 billion a year needed

Meanwhile, agriculture in developing countries will need around €30 billion a year in development assistance and investments to help farmers, Diouf argued.

That amount “is very low” compared with the €244 billion spent in 2007 to support agriculture in rich countries, the nearly €900 billion per year the world spends on armaments, and trillions found at short notice in 2008–2009 “to prop up the financial sector,” he said, putting things into perspective.

But Diouf added that not all should be left to the mercy of outside assistance. Developing countries themselves need to devote a portion of their national budgets to investing in agriculture and rural development “in line with the sector’s contribution to national GDP, employment creation and export earnings,” he said.

Improved governance

There are also “fundamental problems” that need to be resolved, the FAO director further stressed, describing the world food security governance system as “inefficient” to address both the present food crisis and future challenges.

The UN Committee on World Food Security, established as a result of the food crisis of the 1970s, is currently being reformed to include a wider group of stakeholders when following up on policies and to increase its impact on fighting food insecurity.

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