11 June 2003, Tumba (Sweden)/Rome -- The private sector must become a driving force in an international alliance against hunger, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today, urging closer collaboration between business, governments and international organizations.

"The private sector must develop a greater social conscience and a sense of corporate responsibility, and with them a structured means of channelling the power within its grasp to those who lack it," said FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf, addressing an international dairy development conference attended by industrialists, scientists and market experts.

Dr. Diouf challenged business at all levels to become actively involved in helping humanity progress towards eradicating hunger, "The private sector must become a key player by providing simple, sustainable technologies that will enable rural communities to create jobs, raise incomes and reduce poverty," he said.

Some 95 percent of the world's poor and hungry live in the developing world, mostly in rural areas. Rome-based FAO aims to improve the livelihoods of rural people by promoting agricultural development, improved nutrition and food security.

But Dr. Diouf said that no single organization was capable, single-handedly, of meeting the challenge of feeding the planet's 840 million hungry and that public and private sectors must join forces with national and international organizations.

Speaking at the dairy development conference, jointly presented by international milking technology company DeLaval and FAO, Dr. Diouf said that the private sector, recognizing the economic growth potential of developing countries, could share the same development goals as the UN.

Pooling resources

"We must be willing to share responsibilities, risks and resources to achieve shared objectives," Dr. Diouf told delegates assembled in the Swedish town of Tumba, some 50 kilometres south of the country's capital.

Progress towards meeting international targets to halve the number of hungry by 2015, agreed during two World Food Summits in 1996 and 2002, was not unacceptable, Dr. Diouf warned. At the present rate the goal would only be achieved by 2150, he said.

There was now both a moral imperative and an economic obligation, he said, to build a joint coalition, where international organizations, governments and the private sector work side by side to span the divide between rich and poor.

"If the 840 million hungry people were to become consumers with real buying power, what a market for industrial goods and services from developed countries!" Diouf said.

Dairy for development

Dr. Diouf said the dairy sector was just one illustration of how the needs of the private sector overlapped with the aims of the UN.

Small-scale development of the dairy sector in poorer countries responded to the area's increasing appetite for milk as well as providing an immediate source of revenue, employment and food for developing countries.

"Churning out a few thousand litres of milk a day, a single small-scale dairy in a poor country can provide income for 400 families," Dr. Diouf said.

Anders Fagerberg of DeLaval agreed. "Milk production provides steady jobs for rural people because it is, by nature, a daily activity," he said.

"Poverty elimination must come through progress. We hope to create customers for the future and that will only happen if we can help them become successful milk producers, which in turn means that they will provide people with the nutrition needed for true development," he added.

Opportunities by the glassful

Dr. Diouf said the role of business in development had been transformed over the past decade.

"The private sector brings with it a broad range of expertise -- in management, policy, technology and marketing as well as project funding and investment finance," Dr. Diouf said, adding that DeLaval had already taken the initiative, providing financial support to FAO's school milk promotion programme and investing in simple, sustainable technologies for the developing world.

Official development assistance continues to fall, with the proportion of support provided to agriculture and rural development plummeting by around 50 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to FAO.

"Each and every farmer in the OECD countries is given an average of 12 000 dollars a year in support whilst farmers in developing countries receive just 6 dollars per farmer per year," Dr. Diouf said. "Support to protect the few prevents market access for the benefit of the majority," he added.

FAO has clear guidelines and policies on private sector collaboration to ensure the process remains transparent.

DeLaval is a global leader in milking technology with operations in 36 countries, covering 115 markets including many across the developing world.

Stephanie Holmes
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 56350