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FAO Head Calls For More African Agriculture Investment To Boost Food Security

Country and donor under-investment in agriculture has hindered food security across Africa, Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said on Thursday at the group’s 26th Regional Conference for Africa in Luanda, Angola, Reuters reports.

“This situation clearly demands our urgent and undivided attention,” Diouf said, adding that political will and government policies could help the continent develop the agricultural capacity to produce enough food for its population. Since 2009, more than 265 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have been classified as malnourished, while 30 percent have gone hungry, according to Diouf.

“He said only nine African countries had kept a promise made at an African Union Summit in 2003 to allocate at least 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture. At the same time, the share of assistance from rich countries used to fund agriculture in developing nations has fallen from 19 percent in 1980 to around five percent, he added,” the news service writes (Almeida, 5/6).

The recent global economic downturn has put “agriculture and food security at the heart of national and regional development policies and programmes, which allows [us] to look to the next decade with greater optimism,” he said, the U.N. News Centre writes. Diouf said governments should support small farms (5/6).  

Diouf also “commended” Angola’s policies aimed at encouraging agricultural development, PANA/Afrique en ligne reports. He said the country’s policies are structured to ensure food security and create jobs. “We want to assist the African countries to prepare a continental programme of farming development, attracting US$ 25 billion per year, due to the food crisis affecting billion of people in the world,” Diouf said (5/7).

Angola approved a $350 million credit line this year to support farming and fishing, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, Angola’s vice president, said at the opening of the FAO conference, AngolaPress/allAfrica.com reports.

“According to the deputy president, apart from credit policy, the government is also promoting agro-industrial poles in several zones of the country and projects for relocation of people in order to improve agriculture production, either family or business one.” He also spoke about a water resources program to support agriculture, the newspaper reports (5/6).

Reuters Examines Drip Irrigation

In related news, Reuters examines drip irrigation, which is being used in some parts of the “semi-arid” Sahel region and has helped produce “bumper” harvests. The systems, which are “made up of water tanks and rows of black pipes,” are an “Israeli innovation that some predict could end the area’s aid dependency. Others however, including supporters of the system, warn of caveats,” Reuters writes. The article looks at how drip irrigation is being used and notes some of the concerns of implementing it more widely, including the cost (Lewis, 5/6).

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