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At UN food summit, economist Jeffrey Sachs urges more investment in agriculture

At UN food summit, economist Jeffrey Sachs urges more investment in agriculture

Addressing a major United Nations conference on food security under way in Rome, prominent economist Jeffrey Sachs today urged greater investments in agriculture as a means of saving millions of people from starvation and death.

"The world has the means and the know-how to end hunger and poverty but it has lacked the ability to move from words to action," he said in a speech at the "World Food Summit: Five Years Later." "There is absolutely no excuse for a further lack of progress in the fight against hunger and poverty," added Mr. Sachs, who was recently named Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City. He also serves as a Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals.

Arguing that small contributions could add up to large gains, he said, "We in the rich countries need to put aside 5 cents out of every $100. This investment could serve to save millions of people from starvation and death."

He blamed the current lack of progress on the absence of political will. "If the rich countries provide important investment to agriculture and rural areas in poor countries, the poor will live, they will grow out of poverty and have a better future," he said. "So far, the rich countries have not really made the commitment to resolve the world hunger problem."

Mr. Sachs stressed the need to finance efforts to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals, which include halving the number of hungry people in the world - from 800 million to 400 million - by the year 2015. "Without added assistance from the rich countries, we will not make any progress," he said, adding, "We also require leadership from poor and rich countries, from industry, non-governmental organizations and scientists."

In addition, he hailed as "realistic" an anti-hunger drive being championed by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). That effort calls for a twin-track approach to fighting hunger, combining agricultural and rural development with targeted programmes to help more of the world's neediest people to gain adequate access to food.