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G8 Gets Praise for Re-committing to Food Security

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Joe DeCapua

At the G8 summit this past weekend, leaders renewed their commitment to food security.  They stood by their pledge to spend (US) $22 for sustainable agriculture by 2012.

The commitment was made last year at the L’Aquila summit in Italy.  So far, about $6 billion has been allocated.

Quite delighted

Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda is CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), a member of the Farming First coalition.  Farming First represents about 130 organizations worldwide.

“We are quite delighted that there was time spent on deliberating and linking to the L’Aquila agreement,” says Sibanda, speaking from Pretoria, South Africa.  “And the good thing is that at least our world leaders have agreed that accountability is the way forward.  And the Muskoka framework is a big step forward.”

The framework makes the G8 process more transparent

“For once we know what is discussed behind closed doors,” she says, “And they’ve made a commitment that by 2011 there will be a report back on food security and health, which is excellent, child health.”

The farming community around the world is pleased with the L’Aquila recommitment, according to Sibanda.

“In the past we’ve had figures that are floated and there is no follow-up.  So for us, the fact that we now have a framework that talks about the initial commitment of $22 billion – the fact that to date only $6.5 billion has been disbursed – and the commitment that by 2012 the balance will be delivered – I think it gives us something to hold onto,” she says.

How should the money be spent?

“The beauty for us in Africa is that Africa is now organized.  We now have the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Plan, which is a framework at a continental level where each of the member states has developed their investment plans prioritizing their investments,” she says.

For COMESA, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, she says, “They have prioritized infrastructure and trade and capacity development of institutions that are relevant for food security.

In West Africa, Sibanda says, “They’re looking at staples.”

Much of the G8 funds allocated to Africa have gone to the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Plan.

Food crisis recovery

Sub-Saharan Africa was hit hard when the food crisis began several years ago, and food prices on the continent remain very high, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture organization.

“What Africans have done is look inward and look at their potential,” Sibanda says, “We are well endowed with natural resources.  And Africa can feed itself and can be the breadbasket for the whole world.”

She says investment is needed in infrastructure, trade routes, technology -- “Investments that will build the human capacity that’s required for a food security region.”

“Currently,” she adds, “if you look at what we’re producing, it’s less than one-third the potential yield we can get from the staples….  And what we are missing there is really the technology to improve productivity and the trade routes that will allow the movement of food between surplus and deficit areas.”

Treat them right

To succeed, Sibanda says it’s important “to make sure our farmers have the right incentives.  What we’ve been lacking in Africa is this will to produce because there are a lot of subsidies that become a disincentive.”

The head of FANRPAN SAYS, “Farmers need to be given the dignity they deserve so that they become the producers, the backbone of the economy, and they get a decent price for their produce.  That’s what has been missing.”

At their summit, G8 leaders also voiced support for the $880 million Global Agriculture and Food Security program hosted by the World Bank, which includes such initiatives as the African Agriculture Fund.  In a statement they said, “We underline the critical importance of accountability for ensuring that these collective commitments are met.”

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