By James Laraki (January 20, 2013)
AS we move closer to the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, there are growing concerns that many governments, especially in the developing world are not doing enough towards global efforts to eradicating hunger and poverty. World leaders are concerned that many of these countries are not being responsible enough, even though there is evidence of severe rural hunger and poverty in these countries.
A concerned Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General, José Graziano da Silva, has called for a significant increase in responsible investments in agriculture to eradicate hunger and feed a growing world population.
In a joint statement with the German Minster of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Ilse Aigner, issue over the weekend ahead of the agriculture ministers’ Berlin Summit 2013, they stressed that investments in agriculture are still too low in those regions where rural poverty and hunger are most severe.
"We need to concentrate our efforts on the farmers. Farmers are the key players in the rural environment and here lies the greatest potential for generating added value, both in terms of economic development and in guaranteeing food security in these countries," said Aigner. "The German government spends over 700 million euros each year on food security and rural development in developing countries. One of the goals here is to achieve sustainable yield increases. This is done by promoting locally based training and education, for example, and we have initiated a number of important agricultural training schemes."
"Agricultural investment has long shown itself to be one of the most effective and sustainable means for reducing hunger and poverty. We need to invest more. And, equally as important, we need to invest better," said Graziano da Silva. "It is up to national governments, assisted by the international community, to create conditions where farmers can invest more and to increase their own investments in ways that generate economic and social benefits, as well as environmentally sustainable results."
Estimates at present indicates around 870 million of the world's poorest people, or one in eight, are suffering from hunger and have inadequate access to food. And most of them live in rural areas in developing countries.
The two leaders called upon governments to contribute to the development of guidance for responsible agricultural investments, an issue that they said will be discussed by governments, civil society and private sector representatives at the Committee on World Food Security.
Investments in agriculture should target the poor in the rural areas of these countries, the minister and FAO chief said.
They called for investments that ensures agricultural and food systems less vulnerable, more equitable, less wasteful and more environmentally friendly. “The world's more than one billion farmers should be at the centre of new investment strategies, because they are, by far, the largest investors in agriculture, after public and foreign private investors,” they added.
According to FAO estimates, farmers in low and middle income countries invest almost 170 billion dollars a year in their farms, about $150 per farmer. FAO estimates indicates that this represents three times as much as all other sources of investment combined including public investment, private sector investment and official development assistance.
The two leaders called on governments to pay special attention to smallholder farmers, who need support to overcome barriers that prevent them from producing more food, saving and investing, and coping with new challenges and risks related to climate change.
Minister Aigner and the FAO chief underlined that farmers need a supportive environment that makes agriculture attractive for investments. They called for good governance, clear and fair incentives, and access to good infrastructure, public services and information in rural areas. The two leaders challenged national governments to ensure these conditions are in place.
In PNG we need to do our own assessment of where we are in terms of our efforts towards contributing to a world free of hunger and poverty. We should also consider that investing in innovative agriculture to be one of the most effective and sustainable means for reducing hunger and poverty. And our focus should be in the rural areas. This is simply because masses of our population live there and core problems of wide spread poverty, growing inequality, rapid population growth and rising unemployment are direct effects of stagnant and declining economic activities.
Many may argue that hunger and poverty is not that severe in PNG, but we need to act and take a more responsible investment approach in innovative agriculture to contribute to eradicating hunger and poverty, as well as for our own food security, and to cope with new challenges and risks relating to climate change. That means there must be significant increase in public investment and we need to create an enabling environment for investment in agriculture to be more attractive.
Current investments in agriculture continuous to be a disappointment as the national government and our major development partners have shifted their focus to other areas of development. Continuous negligence to this vital sector in PNG and other developing countries is of concern, so is the FAO chief and other responsible world leaders.
Photo: Peanut farmers of the Markham valley. We need to focus on rural areas to contribute towards global efforts to eradicating hunger and poverty.