The global downturn is threatening to reverse gains made – driven largely by agriculture – in combating poverty and food insecurity in Europe and Central Asia, a senior United Nations official said today.
Some 50 million people in the region have risen out of poverty since 1998, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In Central Asia alone, the number of hungry people dropped nearly 40 per cent to under 6 million in 2004-2006.
FAO studies have shown that the recession has especially weakened agriculture in the countries of Europe and Central Asia, a finding backed by the World Bank, which estimates that the region has been hit hardest by the crises.
“The significant improvement in living standards that have been achieved in the region in the past decade” could be adversely affected by the financial and economic crises, Jacques Diouf, the agency’s Director-General, said today.
He was addressing the agency’s 27th regional conference for Europe, under way in Yerevan, Armenia.
History has shown that “there is no more powerful engine for stimulating growth and eradicating hunger and poverty than investment in agriculture,” Mr. Diouf stressed.
Sufficient financial resources are needed, he underscored, with $44 billion annually of official development assistance being required to fund modern inputs, rural infrastructures and technologies to benefit small farmers in poor countries.
Boosting investment in Europe and Central Asia can help to combat fight food insecurity in other parts of the world, the FAO head pointed out. With enhanced resources, nearly 10 million hectares of arable land could be brought back into cultivation in Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine.
“Together, we can eliminate hunger from our planet,” he stated, but that requires that we “move forward from words to deeds and above all to do it quickly.”
Earlier this week, the FAO launched a launched a major online drive to spur action to eliminate hunger and highlight the fact that one in six people worldwide go hungry everyday.
Through the “1billionhungry project” people can voice their outrage about world hunger by adding their names to an online petition. The campaign uses a yellow whistle as an icon encouraging people to blow the whistle against this global scourge.
“We should be extremely angry for the outrageous fact that that our fellow human beings continue to suffer from hunger,” Mr. Diouf said.
“If you feel the same way, I want you to voice that anger. All of you, rich and poor, young and old, in developing and developed countries, express your anger about world hunger by adding your names to the global 1billion hungry petition at http://www.1billionhungry.org, Mr. Diouf said.
The online petition features a one minute video made by British actor Jeremy Irons in which he plays a character inspired by Peter Finch in the film “Network” where he says he is “mad as hell.”