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The United States and other leading industrialized countries have joined together in a major effort to fight global hunger. Spurred by President Barack Obama in meetings of the so-called G-8 nations in L'Aquila, Italy, the effort will commit these countries to a goal of providing $20 billion in new assistance for agriculture and food security.
"We do not view this assistance as an end in itself," President Obama said. "We believe that the purpose of aid must be to create the conditions where it is no longer needed."
The United Nations recently reported that the number of people in the world suffering from hunger has grown since 2007 and is expected to exceed 1 billion this year. The global economic downturn is expected to make matters worse, and world leaders used their annual economic summit to address the crisis.
Africa has in abundance a key requirement for food security – arable land, but it lacks other needs such as high quality seed stock, irrigation equipment, and storage and transportation systems. The new initiative aims to boost food production by facilitating farmers’ access to necessary inputs and technical training. Investment in agricultural storage and infrastructure will be part of the strategy as well.
Last year, high food prices caused unrest in some nations, highlighting the dilemma facing current food aid programs. When global food stocks are low there is often not enough to go around in the world's poorest countries, and even when stocks are high, they are often available only at unaffordable prices. The initiative announced last week aims to break this cycle by helping farmers, and the nations they feed, produce more of the needed resources themselves.