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Aid Workers: Climate Change, Rising Prices Threaten Africa's Food Supply

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Humanitarian officials warn that climate change along with higher food prices and growing populations are threatening food supplies in Africa. World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran says that practical solutions need to found before the situation gets worse. Kari Barber has more from Senegal's capital, Dakar, where Sheeran met with officials and aid workers.

Sheeran says flooding caused by severe weather is just one of the factors putting more people at risk of not having enough food.

Extreme weather conditions forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in West and Central Africa this year. She says populations are increasing in areas where food is already scarce and food prices are on the rise.

"These kind of triple factors are really creating a situation where I feel we have to get ahead of the challenge," she said.

Food costs in some countries have sparked violent protests. Mauritania's president has ordered food to be stockpiled to stabilize prices. Protesters angry over the rising cost of living have torched stores in recent demonstrations.

Sheeran says those responsible for making sure food supplies are steady - governments and international aid organizations - need to look for concrete ways for people to adapt.

She says one example of a project that has worked has been planting trees in Mali. This has slowed or halted the advancing Sahara desert from taking over farmland. She says in a matter of time, those trees can then be used for wood or sold for income by the people living in the area.

Sheeran says there needs to be more focus and investment in measures to prevent food shortages before they start.

"We now know nine months ahead if we have a drought situation that will cause severe hunger in the Sahel," she said. "This is very important, it allows us to get ahead of that curve."

The head of the food aid agency says the percentage of people in the world who do not have enough food is actually down and new agricultural technology is helping in the battle against hunger.

Now, she says, there needs to be opportunities for African countries to take advantage of these developments.

"For the first time in human history we have the science and the technology and know-how to produce enough food," she said. "This is a great opportunity for the farmers in Africa to take part in producing in a major way the food supplies, not only for their own countries, but also to help with the world's supply."

According to the U.N., the Sahel, which cuts across the continent east to west below the Sahara desert, has the highest proportion of acutely malnourished children in the world. The U.N. says more than 300,000 children in West Africa die each year from hunger.

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