Lula da Silva, Kufuor: Political Commitment crucial to end hunger and food insecurity in Africa

Sound social policies also key

19 March 2013, Accra - Former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and John Kufuor of Ghana have called for strong political will to bring an end to hunger in Africa, while participating in a high-level forum organized by the FAO's Regional Office for Africa based in Accra. 

"It is entirely possible to guarantee that every human being is able to eat three meals a day," said Lula da Silva.

At the meeting, Lula, Kufuor and Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, stressed the importance of political leadership in fighting hunger and food insecurity.

"Poverty and hunger are part of history but are not our destiny, therefore Africans -- like Brazilians - are not fated to starve. Political will, visionary leadership and the force of women and men together can change a history of hunger and poverty just by the force of their determination," said Maria Helena Semedo as she opened the debate on 16 March, adding that the success stories recorded in Ghana and Brazil could be replicated in other countries.

The Brazilian experience

Kufuor and Lula da Silva outlined the strategies used in reducing hunger and combating food insecurity during their administrations. Kufuor was president of Ghana from 2001-2009, while Lula da Silva was president of Brazil from 2003-2010. Both achieved significant progress against hunger.

Lula da Silva said that his government's policies helped lift about 30 million Brazilians from extreme poverty and moved 40 million from the lower class into the middle class. He pointed to Brazil's Zero Hunger programme and social protection as key to the country's success, including the Bolsa Familia (Family Grant) for Brazil's poorest people, the Food Purchase Program and the School Feeding Program. Rates of child malnutrition have plummeted under the School Feeding Program, which provides 47 million free school meals daily to children in all grades of Brazil's public schools. At least 30 percent of the food is supplied by local farms. 

Ghana: MDG1 Champion 

Kufuor echoed statements that strong political leadership is needed to reduce hunger and address food insecurity. Social policies such as the Ghana's School Feeding Programme, support for smallholders and for agricultural commercialization, adoption of best farming practices and fertilizer subsidies helped Ghana make impressive progress in the battle against hunger. Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to achieve UN Millennium Development Goal 1 on halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and to have reached and even surpassed the 1996 World Food Summit goal of reducing by half the number of undernourished people by 2015.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, also participated in the  High Level Dialogue that was attended by government officials, the international community, representatives of farmers' groups, civil society organizations and NGOs, cooperatives, private sector, and academia.

Photo: Ricardo Stuckert/Instituto Lula
Left to right: Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, UN Resident Coordinator, Ghana; Lula da Silva, Brazil; John Kufuor, Ghana; M-H. Semedo, FAO-Africa