Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan has called for a global effort to help feed hundreds of millions of poor and hungry people in Africa, the Associated Press reports.
A 50 percent jump in staple food prices in the past year, said Annan, has deepened the crisis for the average African farmer rather than helped him. Farmers who lack the resources to purchase fertilizers, have limited access to high-yield seeds, and are finding it ever-more difficult to move their crops to the market because of rising fuel costs do not benefit from higher farm prices, he noted. Indeed, to address those and other problems, Africa needs to revolutionize its entire food chain — an effort that "will require one of the largest efforts in human history."
According to Annan, the underlying cause of African poverty is the neglect of agriculture by donor governments and Western aid programs. External aid to agriculture amounted to 16 percent of total aid to the continent in 1980, but fell to less than 4 percent twenty-five years later, in part due to "misguided" World Bank policies that, until recently, urged African governments to restructure their economies. To help address these issues, Annan agreed to lead the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, founded two years ago with funding from the Gates and Rockefeller foundations. The group has committed $330 million to help small-scale farms in Africa. Most farms on the continent are less than a hectare (2.5 acres), while only 20 percent of the rural African population has electricity.
Recent reports have attributed the global food crisis to poor grain harvests in Australia, Ukraine, and Europe; increased energy costs; the diversion of some food crops to bio-fuels; and rising demand for beef among the growing middle class in developing countries such as India and China. Development experts expect staple food prices to decline over the coming months but to remain well above the levels of a year ago.