World Food Day to highlight declining food aid

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food and agriculture organization

The theme of this year's World Food Day, 'Investing in agriculture
for food security', underlines growing concern that aid to this
particular sector has been declining for years.

"In spite of the importance of agriculture as the driving force in the economies of many developing countries, this vital sector is frequently starved of investment,"​said the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) in a statement.

"In particular, foreign aid to agriculture has shown marked declines over the past 20 years."

Foreign aid to the sector has fallen dramatically, from a total of over US$9 billion per year in the early 1980s, to less than US$5 billion in the late 1990s. Meanwhile, an estimated 854 million people around the world remain undernourished.

The FAO said that only investment in agriculture - together with support for education and health is likely to be able to turn this situation around.

Addressing a meeting of the World Affairs Council of Northern California in San Francisco recently, FAO director-General Jacques Diouf said that a major international effort was needed to feed the world when the population soars from six to nine billion.

"We not only need to grow an extra one billion tonnes of cereals a year by 2050 - within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren but do so from a diminishing resource base of land and water in many of the worlds regions, and in an environment increasingly threatened by global warming and climate change,"​ he said.

Good intentions have been made. In 1996, Heads of State and Government from 176 countries attending the World Food Summit in Rome committed themselves to reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015.

As part of their commitment to the 1996 World Food Summit Plan of Action, world leaders identified the objective of exploring "new ways of mobilising public and private financial resources for food security".

Five years later, agreement was reached to establish an International Alliance against Hunger (IAAH). Set up as a voluntary association of local, national and international institutions and organisations aimed at eradicating world hunger and poverty, the IAAH works by mobilising political will and taking practical actions.

Every year, World Food Day is celebrated on 16 October to mark the anniversary of the founding of FAO in 1945. FAO, as the United Nations specialised agency for food and agriculture, is well placed to play a fundamental role in helping bring about such a revolution.

This year's World Food Day will include a musical presentation by an FAO Goodwill Ambassador; a keynote address by a high-level guest speaker, a papal message and a presentation of the World Food Day and FAO Goodwill Ambassadors video messages.

Among the events taking place in over 150 countries will be a five kilometre Run-for-Food race through Romes historical centre.

Heading off from the stadium next to FAO headquarters, the event will take place on Sunday 15 October, and cover the area around the Circus Maximus, Piazza Venezia and the Roman Colosseum, with between 2,000 and 5,000 participants expected to join the race.

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