UN-backed project seeks to boost poor farmers’ income in developing world

24 September 2008

Hundreds of thousands of small farmers, especially in Africa and Central America, are expected to benefit from a United Nations-backed initiative announced today to provide them with reliable markets for surplus crops at competitive prices, thus bolstering fragile local economies.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the Government of Belgium have committed $76 million to Purchase for Progress (P4P) to transform the way the UN World Food Programme (WFP) purchases food in developing countries.

“The world’s poor are reeling under the impact of high food and fuel prices, and buying food assistance from developing world farmers is the right solution at the right time,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said.

“Purchase for Progress is win-win – we help our beneficiaries who have little or no food and we help local farmers who have little or no access to markets where they can sell their crops.”

Developed in partnership with the foundations, P4P will be launched in 21 pilot countries over the next five years. Innovations in WFP’s local food procurement practices, which are central to the agency’s new business model, aim to strengthen the role of smallholder and low-income farmers in agricultural markets and enable them to gain more from supplying food to WFP’s global operations.

WFP, the world’s single largest purchaser of food for humanitarian operations, will explore different ways to maximize gains for small farmers while minimizing any distortion to local markets. By supporting small farmers’ ability to produce and supply food to WFP’s global operations, P4P will help them increase their incomes, which is critical in addressing hunger and poverty at their roots.

“Developing new ways for WFP to purchase food locally represents a major step toward sustainable change that could eventually benefit millions of poor rural households in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed $66 million to fund pilot projects in 10 countries in Africa.

“P4P will help large numbers of small-scale farmers to become net producers rather than net consumers, ensuring that they stand to gain rather than lose from the current climate of rising food prices,” said Howard G. Buffett, President of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which has committed $9.1 million to support pilot projects in seven countries.

The Government of Belgium contributed $750,000 for the project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three other countries have not yet been funded.

 

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