KIGALI – People in many African countries can recover from conflict faster and even have their lives transformed through a revolution in the fight against hunger including greater opportunities to harness the power of markets, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said yesterday.
In Rwanda’s capital at the end of a four-nation tour, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said she was inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment for change she heard from almost everyone – ranging from African Union leaders at a summit to victims of violence and poverty.
“In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda, people are looking to the future rather than being dragged down by past bloodshed,” she said. “The poor, displaced and small farmers are very keen to use new methods to seize some control over their own lives and livelihoods.”
Sheeran said WFP was building on peace in many places because no one wanted to be dependent. “In northern Uganda, people thanked us for providing food during conflict for 20 years, saying they would have perished without our emergency rations,” she said. “Now WFP is helping to empower them to sell their surplus crops at a fair price and feed hungry children elsewhere in Africa.”
She said this overall revolution in how and what assistance was delivered was empowering people to overcome hunger while helping to defeat hunger in Africa. At the same time, however, she saw in drought-stricken Niger, millions of people who were still caught in an emergency and in need of food and other essentials just to save their lives.
“We must help Niger to provide emergency food to 7.9 million people through to the end of the year due to a devastating drought,” Sheeran said. “We are urgently appealing for more than US$200 million to help people until the next harvest. Many lives depend on it.”
She noted however that WFP’s new strategy is also working in emergencies with more effective tools and special foods being provided to help malnourished children. In the longer-term these reforms will allow WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization and other partners to help stimulate local food production and smallholders joining forces in cooperatives to be more competitive and help many people survive sudden shocks without being made destitute.
WFP buys 80 percent of the food it purchases globally in developing nations and Uganda its top purchase market where WFP operates. Under its Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard Buffet Foundation, and governments, WFP is building the capacity of smallholder farmers by connecting them to markets and raising their incomes.
Other WFP projects such as Food for Assets and Food for Work are also key to helping people achieve self-sufficiency by using WFP’s range of tools tailored to different situations.
“It’s clear the world must produce twice as much food by 2050 as it does now in order to feed the world,” said Sheeran. “And Africa is at the heart of the potential for increasing yields and farming undeveloped land. So the world increasingly needs Africa to help feed Africa and the world.”