G8 leaders are being called on to make stronger ties with Africa a top priority at their meeting in Deauville, France, especially regarding food security and poverty reduction. The International Food Policy Research Institute [IFPRI] warned of another food crisis unless action is taken.
“For the last decade or so, the partnership between Africa and the development agencies or the development partners, has been strengthened significantly. But I think there’s still room to improve. In particular, the G8 countries should really, really think seriously to meet the commitments they have made before,” said Shenggen Fan, IFPRI director general.
It could happen again
At the L’Aquila summit in Italy in 2009, G8 leaders pledged to take action to deal with the food crisis, which saw prices rise and supplies fall. The conditions triggered riots in a number of countries in 2007 and 2008.
Fan said, “When the G8 met in Italy, they committed $22 billion to support smallholder agriculture in developing countries, particularly Africa. Today, that commitment is still there [but] they have not met much of the commitment yet.”
He warned the world is poised to have another food crisis, unless the pledge is paid in full.
“I think it’s already coming. In the last 10 months, the wheat price has increased by a hundred percent. Maize price has also increased by 100%. In addition, prices for meat, dairy products have also increased,” he said.
Feeling the effects
When food prices increase many poor, not only just the consumers, but also even producers, suffer,” he said, and added, “If it happens again, we will probably lose the progress we have made in the last decade or so.”
He warned women and children are the most vulnerable to volatile prices and markets. Hunger and malnutrition, he said, can permanently damage a child’s brain development. “We need to fix this problem.”
He rejected the idea of spending cutbacks on agriculture because of the global recession.
“Agriculture is so critical in terms of hunger reduction, poverty reduction and also in terms of future growth. If we do not invest in agriculture…more people will suffer from hunger and poverty,” he said.
The U.N. Millennium Development Goals are due to be achieved in 2015. The goals cover a wide range of issues, including poverty, hunger and health. Fan said the $22 billion in promised agricultural investment would help in reaching those goals.
“I think $22 billion is a good start, but it’s definitely not sufficient. More resources are required. And more importantly, these resources have to be spent more efficiently to achieve certain development goals by improving policies, governance, management and institutions,” he said.
IFPRI reported African countries have taken the initiative to improve their agricultural sector.
“They have made progress in the last decade or so. Many countries have increased their spending in agriculture. We have seen some successes in many parts of Africa. Agriculture growth is accelerating, but we need to continue to do that,” said Fan.
G8 leaders meet May 26 and 27.