UN Buys Food From Small Farmers to Combat Global Hunger

MANILA, Philippines, October 29, 2008 (ENS) – The world’s largest food relief organization, the United Nations’ World Food Programme, has a new system of buying food that better supports the productivity of small farmers, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in Manila.

In the past, the WFP has purchased food on the international markets, said Ban. But under the new system, WFP will enter into multi-year contracts with small farmers to supply the required foods.

“Multi-year contracts, lasting up to three years long, will give farmers some income security. This will enable them to plan ahead. A steady income stream means farmers can afford fertilizers and better seed varieties, and adopt modern farming techniques,” said the secretary-general.

“This will encourage investment in land for long-term use. This will reduce land degradation, and increase agricultural productivity. Slowly but surely, farmers will move from aid dependency to income security, breaking the cycle of rural poverty,” he said, calling for “improved market access, better transport, and a truly fair and open trading system in agricultural products.”

Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon in Manila
(Photo by Mark Garten courtesy UN)

Speaking at a dinner hosted by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to celebrate the honorary doctorate degree conferred on him by the University of Philippines, Ban called for “fresh thinking, on agriculture and on development in general.”

“The challenge is too large for any one country, or any one organization,” Ban told the dinner guests. “That is why the United Nations is building an alliance with governments and non-governmental organizations, businesses and philanthropists. Together we hope to transform rural economies and put an end to mass hunger.”

He invited participation from the university, saying, “We need new models that will work in the Philippines, and that can help other countries come up with their own models. This university is well placed to contribute ideas. Help us make this happen.”

The World Food Programme was busy today, as it is every day, delivering food to the world’s worst disaster areas.

The WFP today airlifted 17 tons of high-energy biscuits to assist Yemenis affected by a tropical storm that struck Yemen last Thursday, killing 180 people and sending some 10,000 others fleeing from their homes.

Departing from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the rations will go to 210 affected households in the eastern town of Mukala.

Exposure to cold weather and access to safe food and water are major health concerns facing the at least 20 000 people displaced by today’s magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Pakistan’s southwest Baluchistan province.

At least 160 people are feared to have died in the earthquake and the number is expected to rise, with many people missing and feared buried under the rubble of hundreds of homes that have been damaged or destroyed.

Sometimes, World Food Programme workers cannot even reach hungry, displaced people to deliver aid.

Residents of a village in the Rugari area
north of Goma cower as the Congolese
army and rebels clash. (Photo by D.
Derda-France courtesy WFP)

Armed attacks have forced aid agencies to suspend humanitarian assistance to thousands of displaced people in eastern Chad. Aid workers warn that unless the security situation improves, more of the some 470,000 refugees and displaced people in the region could be affected.

UN records show that in 2008 there have been 124 attacks on humanitarian staff and on displaced persons and refugees, including carjackings and armed robberies. Four humanitarian workers have been killed, including the country director of Save the Children-UK.

Today in Goma, the capital of what Peter Schaller calls the Democratic Republic of Congo’s “spectacularly rich, yet spectacularly violent and dangerous North Kivu province,” people are frightened.

Schaller is the World Food Programme’s logistics chief in Goma. He said today by satellite link that violence directed in part against UN personnel and property has now resulted in “temporary no-go zones” for humanitarian deliveries to as many as 200,000 people displaced by the fighting.

Upland rice farmer in Bae Kan, North Vietnam.
(Photo courtesy International Rice
Research Institute)

“It’s getting harder and harder to reach the displaced,” Schaller said. “The streets outside are much quieter than usual. People are nervous. They are worried about what might happen next.”

Across the globe in Manila, Secretary-General Ban said he is worried too.

“My most immediate concern is that the financial crisis could reverse the progress made around the world in fighting poverty, and eclipse the global effort to address climate change,” he told the dinner guests at the University of Philipppines.

“Developing nations face the same pressures as the United States and Europe,” he said. “Yet many lack the resources to rescue their financial institutions or withstand runs on their banks. The danger is a succession of cascading financial crises.”

Secretary General Ban says he is determined to see that the financial crisis does not undermine global efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals.

“In the urgency of the moment, we cannot neglect those who are most vulnerable,” he declared. “In this time of global crisis, in the face of global threats, we must act in global solidarity.”

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