An agricultural revolution is about to explode in the developing world, sparked by a $20 billion commitment aimed at boosting efforts to feed the billion people worldwide suffering from chronic hunger, a senior United Nations official said today on the eve of historic high-level talks aimed at detailing the reforms.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be joined tomorrow at UN Headquarters in New York by representatives of 100 countries, including heads of State, to discuss the recent pledge made by leaders of the so-called Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries to mobilize $20 billion to boost food security.
“Lack of enough food to eat, or food insecurity, is the ultimate degradation for humanity,” David Nabarro, Coordinator of the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis, told reporters in New York.
“It weakens and imperils individuals,” said Mr. Nabarro. “It disempowers and destabilizes societies, and insufficient food has long-term disadvantage for women and children in particular. It can scar them physically and mentally for life.”
Mr. Nabarro noted that food price hikes in 2008 led to rioting over food shortages in more than 30 countries. “The whole of the United Nations system worked together mobilizing billions of dollars and saving millions of lives by providing food assistance, setting up safety nets and ensuring urgent support for agriculture that had been badly imperiled.”
The cost of food remains high in the developing world despite coming down in global markets and there are still one billion people acutely hungry, with the global economic crisis threatening to worsen the situation.
In recent months, “We’ve seen the emergence of a new approach to food security that has been taken up widely,” said Mr. Nabarro. “In short, we’re going to see a revolution in agriculture during the next five years.”
He said that the 500 million smallholder farmers, especially women farmers, will be at the centre of the agricultural agenda.
There will be a greater focus on national planning for food security, a transformation of markets and trading systems in the agricultural sector to work more in the interest of poor people and their countries, the greater incorporation of social protection and safety nets in development programmes and a re-engagement in the fight against malnutrition, which affects 50 million women and children at any one time, he said.