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UN agencies call for more emphasis on aid for agriculture and rural development

UN agencies call for more emphasis on aid for agriculture and rural development

While welcoming recent donor initiatives to increase development aid and aid coordination, three Rome-based United Nations agencies called today for more funding to help boost agriculture and rural development in the world's poorest nations where hunger is often the major cause of suffering.

In a paper prepared for the substantive session of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), currently meeting in New York through the end of the month, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), also welcomed the G8 agreement to immediately wipe out some $40 billion in debt owed by 18 developing countries without cutting overall funds available to those or other developing countries.

However, the agencies said that despite the fact that the majority of poor people live in rural areas and that hunger is a major cause of poverty, initiatives aimed at agriculture and rural development and on direct food assistance have been sorely lacking.

"The poorest countries are those with predominately agricultural economies and societies, and the three agencies said there is ample evidence that transforming rural lives and livelihoods is essential for successfully reducing hunger and poverty," the agencies said.

The agencies called for increasing resource mobilization, combined with greater aid efficiency and focusing the aid where the poor are concentrated – in rural areas. They also called for better harmony between actions on aid and those on trade. Increasing developing country access to world agricultural markets and making their agriculture more competitive domestically and internationally will greatly enhance the impact of development assistance.

Meanwhile, with the G8 summit also focusing on climate change, the FAO gathered a group of natural resource experts in Rome to discuss ways of giving poor countries incentives under the Kyoto Protocol to improve the use of fuel wood and reduce deforestation, loss of vegetation cover and land degradation.

The Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism does give credit for afforestation and reforestation projects, but does not provide incentives for a more sustainable fuel wood and charcoal production and use, which could lead to a reduction of deforestation and land degradation.

FAO says that some practical ways in which poor countries could receive payments for reducing emissions while improving the living conditions of their people include introducing more fuel-efficient domestic stoves and substituting the use of non-renewable biomass with biogas, bioethanol, agricultural residues and sustainably produced and harvested fuel wood.