MADRID- -Managing Director Amb. Ali Mchumo joined more than 40 government ministers, heads of international organisations and other major players in the global campaign to meet emergency food needs, reinvigorate agricultural systems and increase investment in agriculture, at the ministerial-level meeting January 26-27, chaired by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Spanish Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero in Madrid.
In his statement (PDF), Amb. Mchumo emphasised that while there is emerging consensus regarding solutions to global food shortages and emergencies, it is imperative to address the structural issues and underlying causes in order to solve the problem once for all.
“If we do not do this at the present time, we shall continue to convene emergency food summits every four or five years, as we have done in the past,” he said.
He added, “Among the structural issues underlying food shortage, we need to seriously address the matter of supply capacity limitations under which commodity producers operate, legal and economic empowering of small-holders; enabling environments including an equitable, predictable and rules-based international trading system and adequate investment and other support services to small-holders.”
He briefed delegates about the relevance of the Common Fund’s contribution to the food security issues, saying that “the theme of this meeting is inherently linked to the mandate of the Common Fund, through its financing of commodity development projects in developing countries, especially in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).”
He offered a number of examples of successful global initiatives supported by the Fund, enabling smallholders to enhance productivity in commodities and especially in food production. He indicated that the Common Fund currently finances several targeted commodity interventions, leading to higher yields and productivity in a rice project in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, which doubled rice yields. Due to this successful experience, the project has now been replicated in several Central American countries.
Furthermore, in 2008, Amb. Mchumo indicated the Fund approved another strategic rice project in Africa to improve food and rural incomes, and to reduce dependency on rice imports in Cameroon, Central African Republic and Chad through innovative interventions that promote competitive domestic rice production and marketing.
The project has introduced improved rice varieties – particularly newly developed rice hybrids (“NERICA”), which are especially well adapted and available for various African agro-ecological zones.
“We’ve also undertaken a project to improve potato value-chain in West Africa and in other countries in East Africa and at the same we are now assessing a request from the Caribbean member-countries to promote tuber and root crops as a food security measure, through our collaboration with the European Commission (EC).”
Amb. Mchumo also mentioned the potential of the AU/NEPAD Comprehensive Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). “This is an important instrument to launch a clear initiative to address food security in Africa drawing international, national and regional players.”
He said funds mobilized under the CAADP umbrella, and other initiatives to advance the cause of food security, need to be operationalised in co-operation with recognized and experienced institutions in the agricultural and commodity development sector. “In this regard, institutions which have practical experience and sound record should be identified and enlisted to become partners in the follow-up and implementation of measures to achieve world food security and thus ensuring greater impact and outreach to those who need more and are most vulnerable,” he noted.
Amb. Mchumo added that the Common Fund welcomed the proposed global partnership on agriculture and food security. “We support the idea of such partnership provided it will be truly all-inclusive and involve all institutions, which can play a constructive role in this important area, because the current co-ordination mechanism has left out a number of institutions that have a positive track record on enhancing commodity and food production.” Published January 27, 2009.[END-2009]