Former UN Secretary-General Kofi A Annan, has called on world leaders to maintain their resolve to fight against hunger in the face of a global food crisis compounded by a financial one.

“The world food crisis awakened the global community to the need for agricultural development to end hunger and spur growth in Africa,” said Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA).

Speaking at a conference on hunger in Dublin on Thursday, Mr. Annan said the world financial crisis now threatens to undermine the political will needed to keep promises.
“But the financial crisis cannot be an excuse for inaction,” he noted, adding “We must replace the policies of neglect with a comprehensive programme of support to Africa’s smallholder farmers.”

In Africa, decades of neglect of agriculture, on national and international levels, has resulted in a 12 percent decline in per capita food production since 1980. Since the global food crisis began, food prices have continued to rise at an unprecedented rate, leaving 300 million people in Africa hungry every day. “And while hunger surges,” said Annan, “the incredible agricultural potential of the continent languishes.”

Mr. Annan’s speech, which also marked World Food Day, spoke of solutions. “On a global scale, to make a Green Revolution for Africa a reality, external financing for African agriculture must increase from the current US$1-2 billion per year to roughly US$8 billion by 2010,” he said. “The international community should consider establishing a new financial mechanism—a global fund for agriculture—to provide the financial resources needed to boost African smallholder agriculture.”

Also speaking at the conference, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, AGRA’s Vice President for Policy and Partnerships, said, African farmers were no different from farmers anywhere else in the world.

According to him, African farmers have entrepreneurial spirit, “yet they don’t enjoy the same kind of support. Farmers from the USA to China, from the European Union to the Philippines, receive agricultural subsidies from the government. Not so African farmers.”

Africa contains the population with the highest proportion of undernourished people in the world according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

A United Nations report last month confirmed that sub-Saharan African countries have fallen behind track to meet the Millennium Development Goal for reducing global poverty by half by 2015.

And a recent World Bank report finds that sub-Saharan countries will be among the largest losers as a result of food price increases in terms of trade balances with other countries.

“African farmers are undersupported. They do not want continuous emergency solutions or ongoing humanitarian aid. They need a revolution in policies that will address the underlying long-term problems they face, including the poorest soils in the world, lack of support from their own governments and donors, and limited or no access to markets, insurance, fertilizers or improved seeds,” said Adesina
“The time for bringing forth a Green Revolution for Africa is now,” he added.

Since May 2008, when the food crisis surged with full force, AGRA has dedicated tens of millions of dollars to programmes seeking both medium- and long-term solutions to help African small-scale farmers, but which will also help farmers improve their upcoming harvests.

These most recent AGRA partnerships involve developing improved varieties of Africa’s staple food crops such as maize, cassava, rice and sorghum; bolstering the development of rural agro-dealer networks that will increase access to much needed, higher yielding seeds and fertilizers to remote farmers in six sub-Saharan countries; investing in master’s level education for African plant scientists; and launching a new programme to make available US$50 million in affordable credit to smallholder famers and small agricultural business in Kenya.

Credit: Alliance for a Green Revolution []