Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New head of IFAD wants food that provides more than sustenance

In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development Kanayo Nwanze talks about food production as a security issue. Nwanze wants to guide the IFAD past simply raising production of food into food production that provides income.

Writer Howard LaFranchi interviewed Nwanze on his goals for the IFAD.

"People now have a clear sense of the linkages between food security and national security," says Dr. Nwanze. That understanding is helping bring questions of hunger and rural development to a broader audience, he says, "as well as to some very high places."

Hunger now can mean increased cross-border and international migration. And the riots that accompanied recent food shortages and price hikes in several parts of the world show how hunger can destabilize governments in regions of critical importance to the international battle against extremism.

That's why issues of rural hunger and food security are increasingly cropping up in venues ranging from the US Congress to the G-8 group of industrialized countries, Nwanze says. It is the emergence of food as an international security issue, Nwanze adds, that raises the odds that the international community will help developing countries come up with sustainable answers to food production challenges.

"Sustainability is determined inside a country, the answers to food production and development have to come from within," says the agronomist who studied in Kansas State University and who is recognized for developing a high-yield, drought-resistant rice for Africa. "But we also need the participation of the broader international community to answer these challenges that today have an impact on everyone."

In Washington recently in advance of this month's World Summit on Food Security in Rome, Nwanze noted that the security dimension of hunger and food production is translating into greater interest in places like the US capital. IFAD, which Nwanze describes as a cooperative among 160 countries that provides grants for rural development projects, benefited from a US-led initiative this year to increase the organization's funding by two-thirds to about $100 million.

At the same time, the US Congress is considering the Global Food Security Act, a five-year authorization that seeks to improve US response to food crises, provide new funding for university research in agriculture and for rural development projects.

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