From the podium

From the podium

Mr Edward Lowassa (Co-Chair Round Table No.2)

Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As the Chairman rightfully observed, yesterday I had the privilege of co-chairing the Round Table and I was asked to submit to you the Summary of our discussions, and I have the honour to do so now.

In 1996, the World Food Summit adopted the Rome Declaration on World Food Security which said: "We pledge our political will and our common national commitment to achieving food security for all and to an on-going effort to eradicate hunger in all countries with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level not later than 2015."

Round Table 2 addressed two basic questions.

First, why have we not done better to meet the goals of the World Food Summit? What are the barriers to reducing hunger and poverty? Some progress has been made, but much remains to be done. If progress were to continue at the current rate it would take over 60 years to reach the goal of the World Food Summit.

Second, where do we go from here? What needs to be done that we have not been able to do in the past five years? Perhaps there is reason for cautious optimism. There is a growing recognition that hunger poses a direct threat to peace and security. However, our qualitative challenge is to move beyond slogans to actions.

Question number 1was: Why have we not done better to meet the goals of the World Food Summit?

Firstly, the labour we invest in agriculture is too low. This is true, both for domestic investment in many countries and for international investment. This is especially true in low-income countries with an environment of poverty which often face problems of high debt and political instability. There has been a general decline in Overseas Development Assistance investment in agriculture, and in many countries, the private sector is underdeveloped. There is insufficient credit available for agriculture.

Second, some ecology problems are related to global and regular markets. There is a lack of full access to markets in developed countries for many agricultural products, especially those from developing countries. Some of the reasons may be legitimate concerns about the food sector, but in many cases developing countries believe the reasons for trade barriers are not valid. Commodity prices are often too low.

Third, problems related to water are a major obstacle to food security in many countries, including poor water supply, water management or water access. A related issue is the degradation of natural resources, including deforestation, dessertification and contamination of water.

Fourth, assistance in the agricultural sector is sometimes not effective. In some countries, donors promote different strategies in different sectors, which compete with each other. Many projects are top-down and not sustainable after the project is completed. Food aid can be counter-productive by restricting the development of local food production.

Fifth, in many countries, there is inadequate technology transfer or a lower technical capacity, including poor infrastructure, which has a direct impact on agricultural productivity.

Lastly, agriculture is also affected by problems outside the agricultural sector, such as illiteracy, population growth and poor health.

Where do we go from here?

Achieving the World Food Summit goals would require the mobilization of additional resources for investment in agriculture. Resources can come from private and public sources, both from within countries and from external sources. Direct investments are needed in agricultural production, but investment is also needed in reforestation and watershed management to ensure that development is sustainable.

ODA support for the agriculture sector including natural resources, forests and fisheries, must be increased. Partnership must be fair, not one-sided. Projects must be developed from the bottom-up, not from top-down. Access to markets must be improved and trade barriers must be reduced.

It is estimated that the annual loss of income to developing countries from lack of market access exceeds US$ 100 billion, more than twice the amount of assistance to developed countries.

Developing countries and countries with economies in transition need to take steps to address their own problems. National strategies should be both comprehensive and focused. Beneficiaries must be involved in the development of projects. Local NGOs can be strengthened. Women need increased access to land and need to participate in decisions which affect their livelihoods.

There is a need for improved education, extension and understanding of the problems of poverty and hunger. Increased literacy usually leads to increased nutrition and reduced poverty. Investments are needed to increase human, as well as technical capacities. Local institutions need to be strengthened, and appropriate technology transfer needs to be promoted.

Regional approaches such as NEPAD and South/South collaboration should be supported and strengthened. Above all, sustained political commitment is required.

I thank you for your attention.

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