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UN Agencies Call For 'Green Revolution' in Africa

Three of the most important international organizations that deal with food, agriculture, and rural development are calling for an African Green Revolution. The World Food Program (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and International Fund for Agricultural Development say they will work together to help African countries increase their food production to overcome hunger and create a more prosperous future. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The U.N. agencies say Africa is not winning the war against hunger. They estimate 854 million people go hungry every day. They are particularly worried about the number of undernourished people, which has grown in Africa by 45 million during the past 15 years.

Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, David Harcharik, says a Green Revolution in Africa is not only possible, but necessary. He says the program would be tailored specifically for African conditions.

"If an African Green Revolution is going to be successful, it has to reach as many farmers as possible," he said. "Most of these farmers are subsistence farmers now. I think the Green Revolution has got to find some way to reach out to them and help them increase their agricultural productivity. But, I do not think that that in itself would be sufficient. There has to be a way for farmers to market and sell produce that they produce beyond their own immediate family or village needs."

Harcharik says international trading rules have to be adjusted to give African farmers greater international market access and a fairer chance of exporting their products.

International Fund for Agricultural Development Vice President Kanayo Nwanze says a Green Revolution must be based on African traditions and values.

"It must be a bottom up approach. It must be community based and emphasis must be on rural communities with the targets being women and children given the important role that is played by women in African agriculture," he noted. "We have very clear evidence that investments into women farmers actually increases the chances of better nutrition, better education, better clothing for children."

Nwanze says bad, corrupt governments in Africa are holding back progress. He says African leaders must root out corruption in their political systems and be more transparent if they want to move forward and create a better future for Africa.

The U.N. agencies agree that the amount of Overseas Development Assistance must be increased. But, they say the international community will be more willing to increase their financial commitments to Africa if they see African governments investing more of their national budgets in their own agricultural production.