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U.S., Other Donors Commit $880M For New World Bank-Hosted Global Food Security Fund

The U.S. Treasury Thursday announced $880 million in contributions from the U.S., Canada, Spain, South Korea and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the new World Bank-hosted Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, Reuters reports (Lawder, 4/22).

“The United States has already contributed $67 million to the fund, and has requested another $408 million in President [Barack] Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget proposal. If approved, the new money would be available when the federal fiscal year starts on Oct. 1, administration officials said,” according to the New York Times (Cooper, 4/22).

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said the U.S. is backing the program because “a global economy where more than one billion people suffer from hunger is not a sustainable one,” CongressDaily writes. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “said the United States would provide assistance for basic research, extension services, irrigation, cold storage and financing mechanisms to make sure the food that is produced is accessible to hungry people in those countries. Vilsack emphasized the U.S. commitment is an ‘all government effort’ that stretches across agency lines,” according to the publication (Hagstrom, 4/22).

Canada’s $230 million commitment and Spain’s contribution of $95 million have already been deposited at the World Bank, according to officials, Agence France-Presse reports. A Treasury official said South Korea’s $50 million pledge and the $30 million expected from the Gates Foundation will be deposited “shortly,” the news service writes (Zeitvogel, 4/22).

“The World Bank fund is aimed at increasing agricultural development in Africa and other poor areas of the world that were especially hurt in 2008. That crisis was discussed at the 2009 meeting of G-8 leaders in L’Aquila, Italy. Later that year, G-20 leaders meeting in Pittsburgh pledged a total of $22 billion over a multiyear period to increase global food security,” CongressDaily reports (4/22).

According to Reuters, the money will be used to “finance medium-to long-term projects to boost agricultural development in low-income countries.” The fund will “focus on raising agricultural productivity through investments in land use planning, better irrigation infrastructure and development of farm machinery leasing markets.  It also will focus on development of rural roads to better connect farmers to markets and improve other infrastructure to better handle harvested crops. The fund also aims to provide better technical assistance to farmers, boost distribution of agriculture inputs such as seeds, and strengthen producer organizations,” the news service writes.

Reuters also notes that for implementation, the “World Bank will work through a number of other agencies, including the African Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development” (4/22).

Ahead of the formal announcement, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, told journalists that investment in small farms “is an incredibly effective way to combat hunger and extreme poverty,” the Globe and Mail reports (Koring, 4/22). “Other countries meeting at the European, G8 and G20 summits in June, and at the U.N. Summit in September should join the four founding partners and make good on their pledges. If we all sustain focus until the job is done, hundreds of million of people will lead better lives,” Gates said, Inter Press Service reports (Clifton, 4/22).

A Treasury Department press release includes quotes from other leaders involved in the effort (4/22).

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