Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Global Food News: New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition Unveiled at 2012 G8 Summit

This past weekend, the 38th annual "Group of Eight" (G8) summit was held in Camp David, Maryland.  Food security was among the topics discussed at the summit--a forum during which representatives of eight of the world's economic powers (the current G8 core members are the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the UK) strategize toward the resolution of pressing world issues--and members of the G8 pledged their support of US President Obama's New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. 

In signing off on the New Alliance, the G8 representatives committed their nations to working with African governments (Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia, President Mills of Ghana, and  President Kikwete of Tanzania were in attendance), NGOs, and private sector leaders in an effort to "lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years through inclusive and sustained agricultural growth." President Obama said, of food security, "It's a moral imperative, it's an economic imperative, and it is a security imperative,"and briefly outlined the steps to be taken in adopting the Alliance, referring to the commitments made by G8 representatives regarding food security in Africa during the 2009 summit in L'Aquila, Italy (G8 members pledged to supply 22 billion dollars in aid to poor countries that could supply feasible plans to alleviate hunger):

So G8 nations will pledge to honor the commitments we made in L’Aquila.  We must do what we say; no empty promises.  And at the same time, we’ll deliver the assistance to launch this new effort.  Moreover, we’re committing to replenish the very successful Global Agricultural and Food Security Program.  That's an important part of this overall effort.
Next, we’re going to mobilize more private capital.  Today, I can announce that 45 companies -- from major international corporations to African companies and cooperatives -- have pledged to invest more than $3 billion to kick off this effort.  And we’re also going to fast-track new agricultural projects so they reach those in need even quicker.
Third, we’re going to speed up the development and delivery of innovation -- better seeds, better storage -- that unleash huge leaps in food production.  And we’re going to tap that mobile phone revolution in Africa so that more data on agriculture -- whether it’s satellite imagery or weather forecasts or market prices -- are put in the hands of farmers so they know where to plant and when to plant and when to sell.
Fourth, we’re joining with the World Bank and other partners to better understand and manage the risks that come with changing food prices and a changing climate -- because a change in prices or a single bad season should not plunge a family, a community or a region into crisis.
And finally, we’re going to keep focusing on nutrition, especially for young children, because we know the effects of poor nutrition can last a lifetime -- it’s harder to learn, it’s harder to earn a living.  When there is good nutrition, especially in those thousand days during pregnancy up to the child’s second birthday, it means healthier lives for that child and that mother.  And it’s the smart thing to do because better nutrition means lower health care costs and it means less need for assistance later on.
Obama's plan has received much public support, as well as its fair share of backlash, notably from well-respected NGO Oxfam International.  Representatives from Oxfam expressed dismay that G8 countries have yet to produce the aid money pledged three years ago, and the worry that a heavy reliance on foreign government intervention and private capital could be detrimental to small farmers. Oxfam's Lamine Ndiaye spoke of the latter concern, saying, "Smallholder farmers need the freedom to pursue their own growing strategies, not take overly-prescriptive tips on farming from G8 leaders, or one size fits all technologies from far away CEOs.” Undoubtedly, the New Alliance can be no panacea; but only time will tell how successful this new multilateral approach will be in alleviating African (and global) hunger and malnutrition.

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