On World Food Day, government and UN emphasise commitment to supporting the most vulnerable

The Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) honour World Food Day by reaffirming their dedication to work with communities, development agencies, and the private sector to end hunger in our lifetime. Tomorrow on October 17, which also coincides with the 67th anniversary of FAO, a commemoration ceremony will take place at Nharira Growth Point to raise awareness and understanding of ways to fight hunger in Zimbabwe.

Over the last year, communities on almost every continent have felt the devastating impacts of high food prices, natural disasters, climate emergencies and conflict, which have exacerbated hunger and poverty. This year’s World Food Day global theme is ‘Agricultural Cooperatives – Key to feeding the World’, which recognizes the role cooperatives play in improving food security. The World Food Day committee has partnered with the National Association of Dairy Farmers’ for this year’s event and have selected Nharira Dairy Centre in Chikomba district to showcase a successful cooperative in the dairy sector. More cooperatives in the fisheries and horticulture sectors will be there to share their experiences and best practices.

Worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people are members of cooperatives, providing over 100 million jobs which is 20 percent more than multinationals. Interest in cooperatives and rural organisation is reflected in the decision of the United Nations General Assembly to designate 2012 as the ‘International Year of Cooperatives.’

Tomorrow’s commemoration (October 17) will be graced by the Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development, Honourable Stembiso Nyoni (MP) and will draw an audience from stakeholders involved in agriculture, food, inputs, processing and cooperative sectors, as well as members of the local community.

World Food Day is particularly important this year, as 1.6 million rural Zimbabweans will be in need of food assistance at the peak of the hunger season between January to March 2013, as identified by the recent ZimVAC report. The United Nations, through FAO and WFP, seek to contribute towards reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition, as well as to improve the production and income of smallholder farmers.

”The key to attaining food and nutrition security at household level in Zimbabwe lies with the ability to support farmers to improve their productivity, diversify their production and commercialisation of their farming systems,” says FAO Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr. Gaoju Han. ”This can be effectively achieved when farmers are organised to produce for the market, meeting requirements in terms of quantity, quality and consistence for which cooperatives are reknown for. FAO is committed to strengthening the capacity of rural cooperatives and producer organizations, as well as assisting governments promote their growth and sustainability.”

WFP Country Director, Mr. Felix Bamezon says that hunger is the world’s greatest solvable problem. ”Solving hunger boosts economic development, builds the brains and bodies of the next generation and contributes to a stronger, more prosperous world,” he says.

”In Zimbabwe, WFP promotes the most effective ways to tackle hunger through economic and agricultural growth, and the poor must be able to share in that growth. Interventions that boost nutrition and strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable - pregnant women, new mothers and children in their first 1,000 days – are our top priority,” Bamezon says.

Nearly 870 million people suffer from chronic undernourishment worldwide—that’s one in eight people, an unacceptably high number.