World leaders look at ways to tackle hunger

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pretoria - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe will on Monday join 60 other world leaders in Rome to seek a solution to reducing global hunger.

The World Food Summit, starting today, will look at strategies to tackle the crisis of food insecurity, as over a billion people suffer from chronic hunger.

The three-day summit is hosted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and is seen as a way to come up with key actions towards the eradication of hunger.

South Africa has indicated that its support for the summit is informed by its desire to improve and strengthen the international multilateral system in its efforts to find a global solution to an international problem of food insecurity, that not only affects Africa, but also South Africa's poor, both in rural and urban areas.

"The visit takes place within the context of strengthening North-South Dialogue and directly corresponds to South African foreign policy objectives of creating a better world for all by eradicating poverty and promoting food security particularly on the African continent," the Presidency said.

According to the Presidency, South Africa will call for measures to strengthen the international resolve, by agreeing to implement commitments already made in previous meetings, particularly the commitment by G8 countries at L'Aquila.

During the previous G8 summit in L'Aquila, donor countries committed $20billion to agricultural development.

The situation of world hunger is said to be aggravated by the global economic crisis.

An estimated 1.2 billion people globally are said to be severely affected by the food crisis with the majority in developing countries.

In South Africa alone, 2.2 million households are regarded as food insecure and vulnerable. It is estimated that this group utilizes more than 60 percent of their income on purchasing food.

FAO blames this on the global financial crisis and a hike in the price of basic food commodities.

The summit is expected to adopt an Outcome Document, emphasising the world's collective commitment to fight hunger and poverty.

The Deputy President is accompanied by Minister Tina Joemat-Pattersson of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Deputy Ministers Mathume Joseph Phaahla of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and Ebrahim Ebrahim of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

Meanwhile, efforts to strengthen agriculture and enhance food security received a boost yesterday, thanks to new initiatives with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and a Brazilian university.

The $1 billion agreement signed in Rome by FAO and IDB will fund agricultural development in 26 least developed countries that are members of both the Bank and FAO.

The agreement aims to help leverage additional resources and bring total investment in the IDB-FAO programme to $5 billion by 2012.

"This agreement comes at a critical moment, when the international community recognises it has neglected agriculture for many years. Today, sustained investment in agriculture, especially smallholder agriculture, is acknowledged as the key to food security," FAO said in a statement.