Kofi Annan, Chair of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and former UN Secretary-General, today warned that the already shameful global record of the number of people living in hunger and poverty is likely to get worse instead of better. In a keynote speech today to the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Mr. Annan said the combination of growing populations, rising food prices and constraints on food production has the potential to turn a serious crisis into a permanent disaster.
"I passionately believe that, along with tackling the linked problem of climate change, delivering global food and nutrition security is the challenge of our time. If countries cannot come together successfully to deliver food security – this most basic of human needs – our hopes for wider international cooperation are doomed," he said.
Mr. Annan called on the global community to keep their promises to make more resources available to farming in the developing world, where the greatest potential to increase food production exists, and not just repackage existing commitments. He also urged support for a uniquely African green revolution that enables smallholder farmers to grow food commercially and sustainably.
"There is nowhere where the legacy of past mistakes has had a more damaging impact, nor are the opportunities for the future greater than in Africa, where my own efforts are focused through AGRA," said Mr. Annan. "Africa is the continent which has perhaps the greatest opportunities to help find solutions to global food insecurity. Even within existing cultivated land, a doubling of cereal yields would turn Africa into a major food surplus region."
Mr. Annan urged the global community to invest in research that emphasizes new crops and techniques, particularly in the developing world, to boost harvests and ensure land can stay productive despite climate change. He said there is also a need to increase private sector investment and open up access to credit for farmers, particularly women who make up, in many regions, the majority of farmers and who are most often cut off from capital.
In addition, Mr. Annan said there was a need to attract more young people into farming and agro-related businesses in rural areas, so that the sector will grow and benefit from innovation.
The AGRA chair also called for improvements in global governance, removal of unfair trade restrictions, and the stabilization of commodity prices so that fair pricing can stimulate production to help meet increased demand, maintain global food stocks and hold prices down in the future.
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