United Nations Agency chiefs and top international personalities met today to celebrate World Food Day, whose focus this year is on the recent wave of food price swings which threatens to push millions more people into hunger.
"Food prices - from crisis to stability," was chosen as the World Food Day theme for 2011 following five consecutive years of unstable and often rising food prices, which currently stand close to record levels.
Commemorating FAO's founding in 1945, World Food Day is celebrated in at least 150 countries across the globe. This year it also marked the 60th anniversary of the Organization's move from its first seat in Washington to Rome.
In a message to the World Food Day ceremony at FAO headquarters, Pope Benedict XVI said that fighting famine and hunger required both immediate and long-term solutions.
Horn of Africa
In a clear reference to the crisis in the Horn of Africa, with famine declared in southern Somalia, the Pope said: "In the face of the death of entire communities due to hunger and the forced abandonment of people's lands of origin, immediate assistance is essential, but it is necessary also to intervene in the medium and long-terms so that international activity is not only responding to emergencies.
He described as "lamentable" the idea gaining ground that food was just merchandise and thus "subject to speculative movements".
Agriculture promoted economic growth, he declared: "Agricultural work should not be considered as a secondary activity, but rather as an object of all strategies for growth and integral development."
"Liberation from the yoke of hunger is the first concrete manifestation of the right to life," he added.
More investment needed
Inaugurating the ceremony FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said that more than $80 billion of additional investment is required annually in agriculture and related activities to ensure food supplies for the world in 2050. Greater investment is the key to mitigating food price fluctuations and building poor people and nations' resilience, said, adding:
"The background to the devastating impact of soaring and volatile food prices on the livelihoods of the poor is 20 years of under-investment in agriculture and neglect of the sector."
The crisis in the Horn of Africa shows that both short and long-term responses are needed and that predictable financial resources are required to tackle the root causes of famine and food insecurity, Diouf noted.
Make it happen
"The world has the knowledge and financial means needed to ensure food security for all, and thus a more stable world. Now is the time to make it happen," he concluded.
Michelle Bachelet, former President of the Republic of Chile and current UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women, said in a keynote speech that a significant cause of food insecurity is "the poverty and discrimination faced by women and girls, including women farmers".
"Since women are on the frontlines of food security, we need to put their needs and rights at the forefront of trade and agricultural policies and investments to move from crisis to stability," she declared.
"If the world is to meet the challenge of feeding people today and 9 billion people by 2050, we must invest in girls and women, who are key to food security... Empowering women and girls is key to progress in development, food security and improved nutrition," she added.
In a message read to the ceremony, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and current Chair of the African Union, said that Africa and sub-Saharan Africa in particular is bearing the brunt of the food price crisis.
He identified the priorities for Africa as "improving productivity and competitiveness of small farmers, investment in agriculture and policies related to land tenure". He called for a spirit of national and international solidarity to reduce the number of people suffering hunger round the world.
Info ati: FAO
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