the United Nations meets on the Millennium Development Goals, rising food
prices and global hunger are part of the agenda. Today, a new
public-private initiative has been announced to change the way the UN World
Food Program buys food in developing countries. VOA’s Joe De Capua reports.
It’s called the Purchase for Progress
Initiative – a joint effort by the World Food Program, the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation and the Howard G. Buffet Foundation.
Stevenson is the WFP’s director of policy, planning and strategy.
year," he says, "the World Food Program is feeding about 90 million people worldwide. And
Purchase for Progress is a new, innovative program looking at connecting
farmers to markets. It’s new and innovative in part because the world that
we’re working in has changed."
outlines the challenges facing the UN agency.
"We’re in a post food surplus world,
as evident from the food crisis," he says. "Issues of climate change are creating new
challenges for us - climate change and response to natural disasters –
droughts, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes, issues of civil conflict. And
overall, continued challenges that the world has and calls on the World Food
Program to assist in, to get food and nutrition assistance to those people who
initiative is primarily an agricultural effort to help double global food
production by 2050. However, Stevenson says that in many emerging markets there
is a lack of adequate incentives for farmers to increase production.
He says, "We
will have, for example, forward contracting where we work with the private
sector or farmers associations to guarantee a market for one, two or three
years, so that farmers can go and get micro credit or to invest in their land.
Because without that kind of market, all of the risk is on the small-scale
farmers. It’s very difficult for them to make investments when they’re not sure
if they’re going to get a return."
the WFP official in launching the Purchase for Progress Initiative is Rajiv
Shah, director of agricultural development at the Bill and Melinda Gates
He says, "In
order to succeed, and in order to help farmers and small farmers, in
particular, move out of poverty, you need to help them improve their
productivity. But you also simultaneously need to improve access to markets and
create the financial and commercial incentives, so that farmers are rewarded
for their additional efforts."
supporting the effort is Howard G. Buffet, president of the foundation that
bears his name. He says guaranteeing a market for small-scale farmers in
developing countries would have a dramatic effect on livelihoods and
less than a third of Ag (agriculture) production reaching markets in Africa," Buffet says, "it
just tells you how huge the opportunity is to reach out and to pull people out
of poverty and out of this environment of food insecurity and create a
situation where they can produce more. They can feed their families better. But
they can also sell into a market so that they can have cash and improve their
Buffet and Gates Foundations are donating tens of millions of dollars to the
Purchase for Progress Initiative.