The World Food Program has launched a new joint initiative to help lift
small farmers across the developing world out of poverty. Three African
presidents, the first lady of Guatemala and Microsoft founder Bill
Gates were among those announcing the Purchase for Progress initiative
Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. From United
Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
new initiative will be launched in 21 pilot countries over the next
five years. It aims to help hundreds of thousands of small farmers gain
access to reliable markets so they can sell their surplus crops at
competitive prices, raising their incomes.
World Food Program
Director Josette Sheeran says more than half the 90 million people her
organization will help this year are poor farmers who cannot raise
enough food to feed and support their own families. The Purchase for
Progress program is intended to help them break this cycle.
mistake, this is a revolution in food aid, where food aid becomes a
productive investment that not only feeds today but produces solutions
for tomorrow," Sheeran said.
The Food and Agriculture
Organization has warned that the number of hungry has ballooned to more
than 900 million worldwide. Officials warn that could increase by
another 100 million people this year in the face of the triple shock of
the global food, fuel and financial crises.
Supporters of the
new project include billionaire Bill Gates, through the foundation he
and his wife run, as well as the Howard Buffett Foundation and the
government of Belgium. Combined, the three have provided more than $76
million for projects in Africa and Central America - most of
it coming from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gates said his foundation believes helping small farmers is essential
to reducing extreme poverty and hunger throughout the world.
them [the farmers] to participate in these markets is a real win-win
[situation]. It will increase the supply of food and it will increase
the well-being of these farmers," he said.
Paul Kagame, who was joined at the launch by his Ugandan and Tanzanian
counterparts, said the new initiative is a direct response to the
global food crisis.
"Farmers are being given an incentive to produce
for the market, to increase productivity, because they have a market.
And certainly through purchases they will have access to funds they can
invest in inputs, for example, improve seeds, fertilizer, and
technologies to increase productivity," he said.
Kagame welcomed the Purchase for Progress program and said it is the
duty of governments to make such initiatives work for their people.