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FAO Press Release 02/12

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FAO Regional Conferences

Cairo, 8 February 2002. - Agriculture Ministers and delegates from 45 African countries today urged world leaders to attend the World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl), in Rome, Italy from 10 to 13 June, 2002. The call came as they concluded the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) 22nd Regional Conference for Africa meeting in Cairo since 4 February.

The WFS: fyl was called to mobilize political will and the monetary resources needed to reduce by half the number of the hungry in the world by 2015, in line with a commitment by heads of State and government of some 186 countries at the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome. At the time, the number of hungry people in the world was believed to be 841 million. To reach the goal of the World Food Summit, the ranks of the hungry would have to be reduced by 20 million people a year. But, FAO statistics show that since 1996 hunger number is declining annually by only 6 million.

African agriculture ministers and delegates welcomed the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and noted with appreciation the important role FAO plays in support of the new initiative. Set up in July 2001 at the OAU Summit in Lusaka, NEPAD attaches great importance to food security and aims at encouraging agricultural policies that increase investment in agricultural development and intra-African trade in agricultural commodities. Ministers and delegates also called on countries to participate in FAO's Special Program for food Security as a NEPAD program.

The Conference expressed appreciation for FAO assistance in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, particularly in the important fields of water management, animal health and land reclamation. During the Conference, FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf called for increased investment in Africa aimed at infrastructure, including small-scale irrigation, rehabilitation and conservation of soils, storage and processing facilities, rural roads and markets. He said an estimated US$37 billion are needed for water control and land improvement infrastructure alone.

The Cairo Conference called for increased assistance to strengthen surveillance efforts in the fight to combat illegal fishing off the shores of African countries and expressed satisfaction with FAO's assistance to fisheries and aquaculture, including the Organization's work on the Code of Conduct for responsible fishing.

The ministerial meeting underlined the need for reform and harmonization of African economic policies at a moment when several African countries are hit with serious economic difficulties. Africa is the only region in the developing world where per capita food supply has fallen for the last four years, exposing vast sectors of the population to food insecurity and malnutrition

Participants also warned against HIV/AIDS which jeopardizes rural development and threatens the lives and livelihood of millions of rural people in Africa. The epidemic has taken a heavy toll on the agricultural labour force. Some 7 million agricultural workers have already died from the disease in sub-Saharan Africa and another 20 million could die before 2020.

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