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Lack of investment in agriculture hinders overall economic growth in developing countries
Agricultural investment needed to build the foundation to alleviate hunger and poverty - says FAO Director-General
20 September 2004, New York/Rome -- As world leaders meet today at the United Nations to discuss action against hunger and poverty, the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called for increased investment in agriculture and rural areas of developing countries to improve economic opportunities and reduce hunger where most of the world's poor live.

Dr. Jacques Diouf said: "Despite a growing body of evidence that shows most poor and hungry people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, many developing countries continue to spend far too little on agriculture and rural development. In countries where undernourishment is most widespread, the share of government spending devoted to agriculture falls far short of matching the sector's importance in the economy."

According to one FAO study, countries which performed best in terms of reducing undernourishment had realized significantly higher investment and productivity in agriculture than others.

Cause and effect of poverty

Diouf called on leaders meeting at the UN to invest more in agriculture and rural development. As hunger and malnutrition are both a cause and an effect of poverty and 70 percent of the poor live in rural areas, he called for direct measures to support improved access to food especially through income generated by employment in secured, productive and thus competitive agricultural activities.

"Many of the poorer developing countries are starved for investment resources. For these countries, international assistance, including a lasting solution to the debt problem, would be a tangible sign that the world intends to honor the commitments made to reach the World Food Summit goal and the Millennium Development Goals," said Dr. Diouf.

World leaders from 186 countries agreed at the 1996 World Food Summit to reduce the number of hungry people in the world, then 841 million by at least half by the year 2015. The first of eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals is the same, but also calls for reducing the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day to half the 1990 level by 2015.

Building the foundation to alleviate hunger and poverty

Dr. Diouf called on the leaders to "muster the political will to fight hunger on a sustainable basis and to take a firm commitment to reform agricultural and rural development policies in order to build the critical foundation needed to alleviate hunger and poverty in the world."

According to FAO studies, investment in rural areas is also necessary to slow immigration from rural to urban areas. "In fact," said Dr. Diouf, "the legitimate concern about rapid urbanization and the costs this imposes on entire societies may have even worsened the rural handicap by diverting investments from rural to urban areas. When investment in agriculture and rural development is neglected, the rural-urban gap will further widen and the resulting increase in rural to urban migration becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy." Such movements later translate into massive immigration to developed countries.

Continued hunger precludes economic advancement

Dr. Diouf warned: "As long as a significant proportion of a country's population remains hungry, developing countries will not be able to attain the high rates of economic growth that could bring down poverty."

The FAO Director-General said the leaders of the world face an enormous task to reduce hunger and poverty, but added: "We should not forget that every dollar invested in reducing hunger pays a huge economic and social bonus."
Contacts:
John Riddle
Information Officer, FAO
john.riddle@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53259

Michael Hage
Regional Information Officer, FAO
Liaison Office for North America
michael.hage@fao.org
(+1) 202 468 8800

Contact:

John Riddle
Information Officer, FAO
(Rome)
john.riddle@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53259

Michael Hage
Information Officer, FAO
(United States)
michael.hage@fao.org
(+1) 202 468 8800

FAO/S. Casetta

FAO's Director-General calls for increased agricultural spending to reduce hunger and poverty.

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Lack of investment in agriculture hinders overall economic growth in developing countries
Agricultural investment needed to build the foundation to alleviate hunger and poverty - says FAO Director-General
20 September 2004 - World leaders meet on action to fight hunger and poverty. FAO's Director-General calls for increased investment in agriculture and rural areas of developing countries to improve economic opportunities and reduce hunger where 70 percent of the world's poor live.
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