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World leaders urged to prioritize food security, change development approach

Leaders of rich countries under the G8 and G20 have been called upon to adopt a smarter, more innovative, better focused, and cost-effective approach to reducing hunger and halving global poverty.

The International Food Policy Research Institute in a new policy report released on Wednesday said a new approach is needed to achieve the first Millennium development Goal of halving global poverty and hunger.

The cover of the IFPRI report

The IFPRI report, Halving Hunger: Meeting the First Millennium Development Goal through “Business as Unusual” says the new ‘business as unusual’ approach should lead to more political will and commitment to achieving the set target of halving the percentage of hungry people by 2015 that world leaders set in 1990.

The report is being released ahead of the G20 meeting in Canada this weekend. The meeting will bring together leaders of the 20 richest countries to discuss Global banking regulation, the European credit crisis, and sovereign debt burdens among other development issues. The IFPRI report says ending global hunger and poverty should be a top priority on the G20 meeting.

Shenggen Fan, the Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) says ending global hunger and poverty will not be ended by business as usual and world leaders should develop new approaches.

Fan told journalists during a press conference on Wednesday that the number of hungry people in the world is increasing despite promises by the G20 and G8 to increase funding for agriculture and efforts to achieve food security over the past 20 years.

Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI

“The objective of cutting hunger in half can still be achieved, but business as usual will not be enough. What is needed is “business as unusual,” Fanning said, adding that the new approach should see more focus on investing in agriculture and social protection, bringing in new players especially China, Brazil and India; adopting country led bottom-up approach; designing policies using evidence and experiments and creating a mutual accountability system for achieving food security.

See Shenggen Fan’s full statement to G8 and G20 leaders

Fan says apart from increasing investment agriculture and political will to improve agriculture productivity, the new approach should give more protection for the poor. He says investments to achieve food security and development like the recent rush by Asian and European companies to buy agriculture land in Africa should not hurt the poor.

“There is need for more investment in infrastructure and agriculture research, as well as helping improve poor countries’ ability to improve their agriculture,” Fan said.

He said smallholder farmers should be put top on the development agenda to end global hunger through helping them improve agriculture productivity, linking them to markets, putting in place agriculture price stabilization mechanisms, and involving the smallholder farmers in decision making, especially those decisions relating to agriculture and development.

Fan applauded regional initiatives like the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme through which African countries plan together on how to improve agriculture productivity and increase incomes of their citizens, more than 70percent of whom are employed in the agriculture sector. He said African countries have set good targets of investing more than 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture in order to achieve annual growth rate of 6 percent in agriculture, but they need more support from rich countries.

The full IFPRI report, Halving Hunger: Meeting the First Millennium Development Goal through “Business as Unusual” or direct PDF

By Gerald Businge, Ultimate Media

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