UN welcomes US commitment to boost agriculture in poorer countries

6 August 2009

A senior United Nations official today welcomed United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent statements in Kenya as a clear signal that Washington is committed to boost sustainable agricultural development in the world’s poorer countries as a way to root out global hunger and poverty.

Mrs. Clinton’s comments, in which she called for more agricultural aid money to be spent in poorer countries, show a clear US resolve to act upon the $20-billion pledge for sustainable agricultural development made at last month’s G8 summit of industrialized nations in L’Aquila, Italy, UN Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President Kanayo F. Nwanze said in a news release.

“After the historic pledge of $20 billion for sustainable agriculture development, the world is eager to see concrete actions that will translate into improvements in the lives of poor people in developing countries. There is no time to lose,” he declared.

“The initiative, as well as Secretary Clinton’s remarks, reflects a shift in emphasis – from dependence on food aid to greater investment in agriculture as a key to eradicating poverty.”

In a speech at the 8th Forum of the African Growth and Opportunity Act in Nairobi, Mrs. Clinton noted that while past US assistance has yielded gains, “we have spent too many dollars and too many decades on efforts that have not delivered the desired long-term results,” according to a State Department transcript.

“Too much money, for example, has stayed in America, paid salaries to Americans, furnished overhead to the contractors that were used. Too little has reached the intended target or contributed to lasting progress,” she added.

Mr. Nwanze thanked Mrs. Clinton for keeping the global spotlight on agriculture and rural poverty. “Investing in agriculture – and in particular smallholder agriculture – is indeed the most cost-effective way of reducing poverty, saving and improving lives,” he said.

The L’Aquila Food Security Initiative has been hailed as a major commitment to root out hunger and poverty, prompted mainly by the recognition that the global economic slowdown has pushed 90 million more people into extreme poverty.

“With a significant increase in the flow of external resources to agriculture, much will still depend on how these resources are spent; most importantly, whether higher commitments for agricultural development will trigger a matching response from developing countries by putting in place the right policy framework to support farmers,” Mr. Nwanze said.

Rome-based IFAD works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes, and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, it has invested over $11 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries, empowering some 340 million people to break out of poverty.

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