Countries must invest in food security strategies to reduce poverty – UN official

2 March 2012

Governments need to prioritize food security strategies and invest in their agricultural sectors to reduce poverty, a United Nations official said today, stressing that supporting small farmers was particularly important to prevent food crises.

David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition, told a news briefing in Geneva that one of the main challenges the world faces today is ensuring that it can meet the demand for food for nine billion people by 2050.

To tackle this challenge, he said, countries should focus on making sure that they have the necessary measures in place to be able to provide food for their population. However, this has become more complex in recent years due to volatile food prices.

During 2007 and 2008, rises in food prices triggered a crisis which saw riots in more than 35 countries as prices soared by as much as 30 to 50 per cent and 700 million people suffered from hunger. Since then, prices have remained inconsistent due to uncertainty in the world economy as well as changes in demand and shortage of supplies.

Mr. Nabarro, who coordinates the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, said one of the UN’s priorities was to continue to sustain efforts in the 22 countries that experience recurring food crises, such as Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and parts of Uganda and northern Tanzania.

He also stated that one the main lessons learned by the international community in the past years was that repeated bursts of humanitarian aid were not the answer to help these countries in the long term. Instead, funding for programmes that increase their resilience and investing in small farmers, who produce most of the food in Africa, proved to be a better strategy.

Long-term investment in Ethiopia meant it had been successful in providing a safety net to its citizens, while in Kenya poor infrastructure had hindered the ability to move food from plentiful to drought-hit areas, he noted. In Somalia a general lack of access led to famine being declared, and communities were still trying to recover.

Mr. Nabarro underlined that the Task Force, comprising the heads of more than 20 UN departments, will continue to engage with these countries and will pay particular attention to fighting malnourishment in children and increasing communities’ resilience to climate change.


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