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Press Release 97/42


Rome, October 13 -- As external development assistance to agriculture continues to fall for the ninth consecutive year, about 150 countries will observe World Food Day, October 16, with a variety of events that underline the theme: Investing in Food Security.

World Food Day ceremonies will begin at FAO Headquarters Rome, where the King of Nepal, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Lamberto Dini and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf will speak on Thursday, October 16. A message from Pope John Paul II will be read by Monsignor Alois Wagner, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO. Actress Gina Lollobrigida will make an appeal in support of FAO's new initiative -- TeleFood, the first global television appeal to the general public to raise funds for food security projects and activities .

World Food Day, an annual observance on October 16, the founding date of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Quebec City, Canada, is aimed at raising public awareness of the world food situation, hunger and malnutrition and actions that can lead to improved food security in the world.

In his World Food Day message released earlier, Dr. Diouf said, "By choosing 'Investing in Food Security' we will highlight the need to create conditions and incentives that will promote investment both by private and public sectors to enhance food supply as well as ensure adequate access to food by all. We will also recognize the valuable efforts of farmers, producers, rural workers and women, in particular. The contributions of women in land preparation, water systems, new equipment, development of livestock herds and tree plantations are substantial and significant."

Dr. Diouf added, "However, this is not enough. All sectors of civil society must work together if we are to succeed in our objective to achieve food for all. Investing in food security means that grassroots and local efforts together with government, the private sector, multilateral and bilateral efforts at national level should all be focused on a common vision and agenda for food security."

FAO estimates that $166 billion will be needed each year to generate the increased in food production required in developing countries over the next 15 years.

TeleFood will be carried live beginning at 13:00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on October 19 by Italy's RAI 2 and RAI International, which will link some 70 countries into the event. The program will include sports and news reports, a football match between singers and magistrates, features and interviews with supporters of FAO's Appeal Against World Hunger and music from a variety of international performers. The same evening a TeleFood Gala Concert will be broadcast by RAI 2 beginning at 19:00 GMT from the "Aula Paolo VI" in Vatican City. The program will include Andrea Bocelli, José Carreras and other leading artists and personalities.

On Tuesday, October 21, FAO Director-General Diouf will address a World Food Day ceremony at United Nations Headquarters in New York where Haitian President René Préval will deliver the keynote address. Other scheduled speakers include: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, President of the UN Economic and Social Council Vladimir Galuska, and Vice-President Manuel Tello of the UN General Assembly.

The second World Food Day Concert will take place simultaneously at the Coliseum in Rome and in the city center of Havana, on Sunday, October 26. Italy's RAI 3 will carry the concert beginning at 15:30 GMT.

World Food Day ceremonies around the world will focus on investing in food security, which FAO says will require "identifying and promoting those investments -- private and public -- that contribute to the three dimensions of food security: availability, stability and access by people to food supplies."

According to FAO, this means "investing in measures aimed at poverty alleviation since poverty is a prime cause of hunger and food insecurity."

In order to increase food production in developing countries to match demand until the year 2010, FAO estimates that gross annual investment of about $86 billion in primary production will be needed, $43 billion for processing, storage, distribution and marketing facilities and $37 billion for support services and infrastructure. With external assistance to agriculture declining, FAO says "the way forward will be for governments to work with farmers and the private sector, and with non-governmental organizations and the international community, to encourage investment at all levels from the food producer upwards --- especially to ensure that the poor and hungry get their share of the food that is produced."

World Food Day activities around the world will range from school sponsored poster contests for children in Italy to the 14th annual World Food Day Teleconference focusing on follow-up to the World Food Summit and broadcast from Washington, D.C. over WorldNet satellite on Oct. 16, at 12:00 Eastern Standard Time (16:00 GMT)

Other activities planned around the world will include the presentation of a nutrition medal at a ceremony in Mombasa, Kenya while Barbados will inaugurate an agricultural exposition. Japan is holding a World Food Day Symposium and Tonga has organized what it calls a "healthy weight loss competition." In Sri Lanka, community volunteers will plant trees and repair small irrigation tanks.


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