African States must give high priority to agricultural research to cut hunger

With more than 850 million people worldwide suffering from chronic hunger, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today urged African countries to give high priority to agricultural research and development to meet the goal of halving the number of hungry by 2015.“If current trends continue, the World Food Summit target may not be accomplished until 2150,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf warned of the 2015 target first set at the 1996 UN food summit and reaffirmed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000.“The current levels of undernourishment and the alarming trends provide ample justification for giving high priority to agricultural development in Africa,” he told the opening session of the two-day Dakar Agricole Forum, convened by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal to formulate a new vision to reduce the world agricultural divide.The first challenge today is to fight and eradicate hunger and poverty from the face of the earth and concurrently sustain the environment, Mr. Diouf said, referring to another MDG of slashing extreme poverty in half, also by 2015.Despite the continuous growth in the world economy and sufficient food availability at the global level, more than 850 million people are chronically hungry, he stressed.Several African Heads of State and world leaders are expected to attend the Forum. Talks will focus on the role of science and technology in agricultural development, which are crucial to solving the global problems of hunger, poverty and environmental degradation, taking into account the various constraints in the least developed regions, and on ways and means to stimulate development and promote international trade.“In Africa, the main condition for agricultural development is the control of water and the building of rural roads, storage facilities and markets,” Mr. Diouf said.Only 7 per cent of arable land in Africa is irrigated, as against 40 per cent in Asia, and only 4 per cent of its renewable water resources are used, as against 14 per cent in Asia. Fertilizer consumption in Africa is only 9 kilograms per hectare compared to 100 in southeast Asia and 206 in industrialized countries, according to FAO. read more

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