Stagnant Food Production, Rising Malnourishment Threaten Africa's Ability to Feed Itself, Delegate Says as Second Committee Considers Agriculture, Food Security

Report
from UN General Assembly
Published on 28 Oct 2010 View Original
GA/EF/3292

Sixty-fifth General Assembly
Second Committee
20th & 21st Meeting (AM & PM)

Given its stagnant food production and rising levels of malnourishment, Africa would not be able to feed itself unless the outside world helped with money and technology to spur agriculture across the continent, Malawi's representative told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today as it considered agriculture development and food security.

Speaking on behalf of the African Group, he said the continent's food security situation had deteriorated faster than in other regions over the last 50 years. It received 25 per cent of global food aid and at least 212 million of its people were undernourished in 2009, up from 44 million in 1996, he noted, emphasizing that agriculture and food security were among the surest ways for Africa to eradicate extreme poverty.

However, low-fertility soils, environmental degradation, scant technology and poor infrastructure were thwarting Africa's best efforts to develop the agricultural sector, he said. Smallholder farmers, mostly women, who produced at least 90 per cent of the continent's food supply, were particularly affected but lacked the money to make improvements. "Unless that trend is reversed, Africa will not be able to feed its population," he warned, stressing that realization of the Millennium Development Goals would remain elusive without outside support.

Echoing those concerns, Ethiopia's representative said the agricultural sector, which had suffered years of neglect and under-investment, must be placed high on the international development agenda, with greater spending on agricultural production - be it through official development assistance (ODA), foreign direct investment (FDI) or national-budget support. International agricultural development policies should focus on improving smallholder farmers' production and processing systems, he said, hailing the Secretary-General's report on agriculture and food security, but noting that it should have laid greater emphasis on the need for progress in implementing the outcome of the World Summit on Food Security.

Presenting that report for the Committee's consideration, the Chief of the Policy Analysis and Networks Branch in the Sustainable Development Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs cited it in noting that for the first time since 1970, more than 1 billion people were hungry or undernourished. That figure had dropped to 925 million as of September 2010, but still represented 100 million more hungry people than a decade ago. The number suffering from hunger worldwide had fallen from 20 per cent in 1990, but the world was still less than half way to achieving the first Millennium Goal of halving the number of hungry people by 2015.

He said that, while an emergency meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) last month had concluded that there was no indication of an impending world food crisis, new measures were still needed to check food-price volatility and manage associated risks. The world was taking considerable global action to prevent a crisis through emergency food aid and revitalization of the agriculture sector. For example, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme established in April had given grants to Bangladesh, Haiti, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Togo for the long-term growth and sustainability of smallholder farmers.

Noting that the Programme was expected to receive $1.5 billion in pledges over the next three years, he urged Governments to invest more in agricultural research and rural infrastructure; make affordable inputs available to support smallholder agriculture; prioritize under-nutrition as a problem in national development plans; and empower rural women by giving them equal access to productive resources, financing and markets.

Nepal's representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, called on the international community to reverse the declining trend of ODA for the agricultural sector, and urged it to live up to the commitments made at the 2009 L'Aquila Food Security Summit, especially by investing $20 billion over three years to encourage rural development. The global food, financial and climate-change crises had gravely affected the efforts of least developed countries to achieve agricultural development and food security, he said. They had also suffered from decades of under-investment in key infrastructure, over-dependence on a few primary commodities, and high prices for seeds, fertilizer and pesticides.

To break the vicious cycle of low productivity and rampant poverty, he continued, there was a need to invest in irrigation, to transfer knowledge and technology and to integrate the management of farming systems, without undermining time-tested indigenous knowledge and practices. He also expressed deep concern over agricultural subsidies and called for an early conclusion of the Doha Development Round, in order to ensure the creation of non-distorted, non-discriminatory and equitable markets that could promote agricultural and rural development in least developed countries.

Australia's representative shed light on steps that his country was taking to help least developed countries and others struggling with food security and agriculture development, saying it would spend $292 million on aid this year, and double its development assistance to $1.8 billion over the next five years to that end. Australia would also contribute $50 million to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme.

Also during the meeting, the representatives of Yemen and Morocco introduced six draft resolutions on several agenda items.

Other speakers today were representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, or ASEAN), Mauritania (on behalf of the Arab Group), Guyana (on behalf of the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM), Switzerland, United States, India, South Africa, Cuba, Saint Lucia, Iran, Botswana, Sudan, Thailand, Ukraine, Nicaragua, Oman, Congo, Sri Lanka, Peru, Morocco, Japan, Jordan, Afghanistan, Qatar, Mongolia, Russian Federation, Myanmar, Libya, Israel, Venezuela, Uganda, Niger, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, Brazil, Mexico, China, Senegal and Chile.

Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) also spoke.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Iran.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 29 October, to hold a panel discussion titled "Advancing sustainable development: What should Rio+20 achieve?"

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to take up its agenda item on agriculture development and food security. It was also expected to hear the introduction of six draft resolutions on various agenda items.

Before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on agriculture development and food security (document A/65/253), which states that two years after the 2008 global crisis over food prices, food insecurity persists in 29 countries worldwide, and more than one billion people remain hungry or undernourished. However, the international community's concerted efforts to coordinate action on food and nutrition aid, increase resources for sustainable agricultural development, and improve support for smallholder farmers and farmers' organizations have helped strengthen social safety nets. Those efforts are undertaken alongside country-led policy initiatives and are supported by regional and international strategies.