Global perspective Human stories

Rural development and market access keys to fighting hunger in Africa: UN

Rural development and market access keys to fighting hunger in Africa: UN

A firm commitment to investment in agriculture and rural development was key in any effort to alleviate hunger and poverty in Africa, the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

Jacques Diouf, who was chairing a panel discussion held at UN Headquarters in New York entitled Agriculture and Sustainable Food Security in Africa: Meeting Basic Needs, said that domestic and international mobilization of resources to increase productive capacity on the continent was crucial for alleviating extreme poverty and malnutrition.

"Many of the health problems that afflict people in Africa stem from, and are exacerbated by, hunger and malnutrition. Poor health, in turn, impairs productivity and constrains social and economic development. The importance of breaking this downward spiral cannot be overemphasized," Mr. Diouf said.

Furthermore, the Director-General said, "African countries urgently need more equitable market access for their agricultural products, particularly for higher-value processed products, and substantial infusions of technical and financial assistance in overcoming domestic supply constraints."

In 1996, Heads of State and Government attending the World Food Summit in Rome pledged to halve the number of the world's hungry by 2015. They will meet again in Rome next November to review progress in implementing the Plan of Action adopted in 1996.

More than 800 million people -- 180 million of whom live in Africa -- still suffer from hunger and undernutrition in the world. According to FAO, unless further efforts are made to accelerate progress in the fight against hunger, the World Food Summit goal will not be achieved before 2030, 15 years late.