Tuesday, October 19, 2010

United against hunger


Research organisations and governments working together. Such is a positive move against  hunger in PNG
The need for greater collaboration and partnership at all levels in the fight against world hunger is a strong call at this year’s World Food Day, which took place last weekend – October 16.
This is the message from the theme, ‘United Against Hunger’, which was chosen to recognise the efforts made in defeating world hunger at national, regional and internationals levels. This theme is closely related to last year’s in ‘achieving food security in times of crisis’.
Uniting against hunger becomes real when state and civil society organisations and the private sector work in partnership at all levels to defeat hunger, extreme poverty and malnutrition, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.
There are regional and international partnerships emerging around this course.
International organisations, particularly the Rome-based United Nations agencies [Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP)] have realised the key strategic role they play in directing global efforts to reaching the Millennium Development Goal # 1 - eradicate extreme poverty and hunger – which calls for halving the hungry people in the world by 2015.
The World Food Security initiatives are shouldered by the UN system and other players in the area of food security and nutrition.
They include the civil society, NGOs and representatives of all relevant people affected by food insecurity, international agricultural research institutions, financial institutions and development banks, donors, trade organisations, and will be open to the private sector and philanthropic foundations.
In some 30 countries, national alliances composed of civil society organisations and government agencies are actively collaborating together to promote advocacy and awareness-raising activities.
In 2009, the World Summit on Food Security, or hunger summit, adopted a declaration renewing the commitment made at the 1996 World Food Summit to eradicate hunger sustainably from the face of the earth.
The declaration also called for an increase in domestic and international funding for agriculture, new investments in the rural sector, improved governance of global food issues in partnership with relevant stakeholders from the public and private sector, and more action to face the threat climate change poses to food security.
In 2009 also, the “1 billion hungry project” commenced reaching out to people through online social media to invite them to sign the anti-hunger petition at www.1billionhungry.org.
The petition is a reflection of the moral outrage of global hunger situation.
The PNG Department of Agriculture and Livestock announced the concept last week, inviting citizens to participate in signing the hunger petition in Port Moresby.
Immediate dialogue and collaborations in PNG and the Pacific are paramount.
This is so especially when the country is faced with challenges in climate change, pest and disease outbreak (potato late blight, cocoa pod borer), El Nino and La Nina cycles, land degradation and population pressure.
 The country is classified among 80 with Low Income Food Deficit by FAO, a categorisation based on the increasing quality of food imports, particularly cereal, as well as the per capita energy supply.
Further, the malnutrition rates are among the highest globally.
There is widening gap between the growing demand for food, particularly in the urban areas, and static domestic production which is largely filled by food imports, according to PNG National Food Security Policy 2000-2010 (PNGNFSP).
 This is the blueprint developed to create awareness and seek support to increase and diversify food production, processing and preservation, marketing and distribution in order to achieve greater self-sufficiency in food and attain for security at the national, provincial, district and household levels by the year 2015.
Threats to food security may arise from shortfalls in subsistence food production, very low cash income or both, according to agricultural expert, Mike Bourke.
The threats may be long-term (such as those caused by an extreme climate event) or short-term (such as a very low cash income and no access to land).
However, when there have never been so many hungry people in the world on this World Food Day 2010, FAO encourages the world population to reflect on the future.
“With willpower, courage and persistence – and many players working together and helping each other – more food can be produced, more sustainably, and get into the mouths of those who need it most.”
PNG also has the chance to improve its production and productivity of food and livestock and become food-assured and self-reliant.
PNG must not only produce enough for her own consumption but also for export to many needy countries.
PNG has the advantage because of its huge resource base and potential which are yet to be explored.
 This nation has just six million people with enormous agricultural resources such as vast land mass, fertile soils and favourable climate for various types and kinds of crops.
PNG has a rich bio-diversity and a variety of food species, fruits and nuts, and cash crops. Farmers can grow various crops including cereals and pulses together with a range of livestock species.
There are also abundant land and bio-mass, creating opportunities for bio-fuels as well.
PNG has made modest advances on the technology front in terms of improved varieties and practices for a range of agricultural commodities and environments.
This also means that there must be favourable policies towards agriculture with adequate funding.
These must be supported by governance and management of agricultural programmes and projects at all levels.

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