News / Africa

Food Security Efforts Get Boost from International Experts


Joe DeCapua

Fifteen experts from around the world have been enlisted to help to help formulate policies to ensure food security and avoid a repeat of the food crisis of a few years ago.

They’ll serve as advisors to the Committee on World Food Security, an inter-governmental body of the United Nations.

Among those named to the High-Level Panel of Experts is Catherine Bertini, former head of the U.N. World Food Program.  Bertini, now a professor at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at the University of Syracuse.

“The state of food security today is unfortunately trending in the wrong direction.  We had for many, many years positive trends, even though there were still many hungry people.”

But that’s changed.  She says, “As a result of the economic crisis, the earlier food crisis of a couple of years ago, the fuel increases -- all of these contributed to more food insecure people, more hungry people in the world. And unfortunately that has continued.”

Growing agriculture

The food crisis resulted in an international effort to boost agricultural production.  Bertini says that’s helped.

“Governments – both governments of developing countries and of donor countries – have realized that we must invest more in helping more productive agriculture and especially poor farmers be more productive.  And as a result, the African countries agreed to work toward 10 percent of their budgets to help support agriculture.”

Former WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini
Former WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini

Bertini praises the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress for recognizing the need to invest in agriculture and support smallholder farmers.  Many of those farmers are women.

“There are very exciting new commitments to try to change the situation,” she says.

Helping to steer the steering committee

Bertini and the others form the steering committee to lead the High level Panel of Experts, a new advisory body to the Committee on World Food Security.

“Whether it is a nutrition perspective or a straight agriculture perspective or research or whether it is organizational issues about the way the international community handles these matters, I think all of those will be on our plate,” she says.

The first steering committing meeting is expected this month.

“It’ll be exciting just to be in the room with so many of these folks that have had such long history and credibly positive experiences in agriculture.  But when we’re together, I’m sure we’ll have all sorts of ideas about things that the governments should be paying attention to to try and improve the situation for the hungry poor around the world,” she says.

Going green

Bertini spoke from Accra, Ghana, where she took part in a green revolution event.

“The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is an African-led program,” she says, “chaired by Kofi Annan, and the CEO is…Namanga Ngongi of Cameroon.  And the mission of this organization is to raise the incomes and the production of smallholder farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa.”

Hundreds of people attended the AGRA conference this past week from around the continent, as well as donor governments, including the U.S.

“The whole mission here is to say, how can we work together in order to help smallholder farmers?  Now, one of the ways AGRA is doing this is very different than how any organization has done it in the past.  And that’s because they’re engaging the private sector.  Agriculture is after all a business,” she says.

Bertini says it is a business whether someone owns a single hectare of land or thousands.  She adds that a key part to the future of food security is the “inter-connection” between governments and the private sector.

“If banks can be convinced to lend money to poor farmers,” she says,” to be able to invest in their land, that’s going to make a huge difference.  If agro dealers who sell small amounts of fertilizer and seeds can be trained to help give extension advice and business advice to small farmers, then that’s another way those small farmers are going to succeed,” she says.

The other members of the steering committee are:

Derek Byerlee (Australia), chairman of the Standing Panel on Impact Evaluation of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher (Ethiopia), director general of the Environmental Protection Authority of Ethiopia.

Lawrence Haddad (United Kingdom), director of the UK Institute of Development Studies.

Sheryl Lee Hendriks (South Africa), researcher at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Alain de Janvry (France), professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Renato Maluf (Brazil), associate professor at the Federal Rural University of Rio Janeiro and president of the National Council of Food and Nutrition Security in Brazil.

Mona Mehrez Aly (Egypt), director of the Animal Health Research Institute of Egypt.

Carlos Perez del Castillo (Uruguay,) chairman of the Consortium of CGIAR centers.

Roelof Rabbinge (Netherlands), professor at the Wagenigen University in the Netherlands and Chairman of the Science Council of the CGIAR.

Maryam Rahmanian (Iran), research associate at the Centre for Sustainable Development in Iran.

Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan (India), agricultural scientist acclaimed by TIME magazine as one of the 20 most influential Asians of the 20th century.

Huajun Tang (China), research professor and vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Igor Tikhonovich (Russia), director of the All-Russia Research Institute for Agricultural Microbiology at the Russian Federation.

Niracha Wongchinda (Thailand), senior fishery expert.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs