Thursday, May 26, 2011

Agriculture is crying out for attention from the G8

Larry Elliott in the Guardian's "PovertyMatters" blog (UK): Two-thirds of the people in sub-Saharan Africa are employed on the land but agriculture is responsible for only 4% of government spending. One billion of the 6 billion people in the world go hungry every day, yet for decades donor countries have tended to concentrate their efforts in other sectors of development – notably health and education.

However, one small benefit of the otherwise alarming increase in global food prices over the past three years has been that attention is now being paid to how to increase food yields and agricultural productivity in those parts of the world still awaiting their equivalent of Asia's green revolution.

The G8 and G20 agreed in 2009 to commit $22bn to increasing food security, but so far only half of that sum has been spent or is on course to be disbursed. So, with the G8 meeting in Deauville on Thursday, it was a good time for Bill Gates to put pressure on the rich countries of the west to make good on their promises. Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $1.7bn to agricultural development, told a meeting in Washington that three-quarters of the world's poorest people rely on small plots of land for their livelihood, and that making them more self-sufficient was money well spent by donors, despite pressures on budgets.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation, said in an interview with the Guardian this week that Bill Gates's speech was meant to signal the start of a major push on agriculture during this year. "There is a clear understanding that, after decades of neglect, agriculture is on the global agenda," she said. "America and the rest of the developed world have an important role to play, because investments in agriculture have high returns."…

In the Congo, spreading cassava chips to dry, shot by Ken Wiegand for USAID

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