Obama calls for more Africa farm aid

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Friday called for a new phase of African farm aid as 45 companies worldwide, including Cargill Inc., pledged more than $3 billion to ease threats to global security posed by scarce nutrition.

The "New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition" has a goal of pulling 50 million people from poverty in the next 10 years, Mr. Obama said in his first speech on food security before traveling to Camp David, Md., for the Group of Eight summit.

"As the wealthiest nation on earth, I believe the U.S. has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and nutrition and to partner with others" to end poverty, Mr. Obama said at a Washington symposium. Among the audience were U2 singer Bono and several African heads of state.

World food supplies are being stressed by rising demand in emerging markets and increased use of crops in biofuels, leading to higher and more volatile prices, according to a U.S. intelligence report released last week. Import-dependent countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sudan are especially vulnerable to food unrest, the report said. Competition for water will fuel instability in South Asia and the Middle East, the U.S. government said in March.

Food supplies gained global attention in 2007 and 2008 after a run-up in corn, wheat and soybean prices prompted riots in more than 60 nations, according to the State Department. The G-8 summit in Italy in 2009 led to a pledge for $22 billion in agricultural development assistance to boost food production in poorer countries.

The United States promised $3.5 billion,, and in 2010 unveiled a "Feed the Future" plan that focuses on farm development in poorer nations and generating additional investments from other donors. The new initiative is requesting an additional $1.2 billion over the next three years from existing and new donors.

The new pledges further involve the private sector in alleviating hunger and spurring development in poorer countries, said Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. "You cannot have stability and security as long as regions and countries and communities are deeply food-insecure."

Josette Sheeran, vice chairman of the World Economic Forum in Cologny, Switzerland, said,"Achieving the necessary productivity requires governments to get past the aid 'handout' era and even the 'hand-up' programs to encourage self-sufficiency."

We need "handshakes" among governments and businesses to integrate the continent's farmers with the broader world, she said.

World food costs have dropped 8.9 percent from a year ago and remain below levels in 2008. Still, rising demand will require 70 percent more food production by 2050 as the planet adds 2 billion people, the United Nations says.


First Published May 19, 2012 12:00 AM


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