The United Nations rural development arm announced today that it is providing up to $200 million for poor farmers during the upcoming cropping season as it tries to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of millions of people facing hunger and malnutrition due to soaring food prices.
“The capacity of the world’s 450 million smallholder farmers to respond by growing more food is at risk because of spiralling energy and fertiliser prices,” said Lennart Båge, President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). “Poor farmers are not reaping the benefits of higher food prices because they cannot afford the fertiliser or seeds to plant next season’s crops.”
Speaking after a meeting of the agency’s Executive Board in Rome, he called for concerted comprehensive and coordinated action to be taken by the international community to prevent the slide of millions into abject poverty.
“Poor rural farmers are central to any solution to today’s global food crisis and the long-term problems of hunger and poverty,” Mr. Båge noted.
He called for a three-pronged strategy: providing emergency food aid to feed the hungry today; supporting, in the short term, smallholder farmers in their bid to plan next season’s crops; and longer-term investment in agriculture to ensure food security, nutrition and rural development.
“The world has under-invested in agriculture and rural development for far too long,” the President stated. “It is high time to put this right.”
Yesterday, the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said that surging food prices are thwarting the agency’s ability to feed the world’s hungry.
“We can buy 40 per cent less food than we could last June with the same contribution,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said in a video conference from Rome, voicing concern that as many as 100 million people face being pushed deeper into poverty.