Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A New Partnership for African Agriculture

The world’s poorest nations are reeling under the burden of high food and fuel prices. Volatility in the food commodities and fuel markets has profoundly destabilized their already fragile economic situation. Millions of families have been pushed deeper into hunger and poverty.

On September 24 2008, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and the government of Belgium have committed US$76 million to a new initiative that could change how World Food Program procures food in developing countries.

WFP is the world’s single largest purchaser of food for humanitarian operations that include relief and safety net programs such as school feeding.

The new initiative, Purchase for Progress (P4P), is expected to guarantee hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers access reliable markets for their surplus produce at competitive prices, increasing household incomes and bolstering fragile local economies.

Transformation in WFP’s local food procurement policies and practices, which are central to the agency’s new business model, aim to strengthen the role of low-income smallholder farmers in local agricultural markets and enable them to prosper from supplying food for WFP’s global operations.

Developed in partnership with the foundations, P4P will be launched in 21 pilot countries over the next five years. Speaking of the initiative, Gates said ”This is exactly the kind of innovative public-private partnership we need to advance the Millennium Development Goals and address extreme hunger and poverty around the world.”

With this partnership, WFP will align its efforts with organizations such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) that are focused on helping small farmers increase their productivity through the use of improved seeds and farm management techniques.

The majority of the world’s poorest people lives in rural areas, and most rely on agriculture for their food and income. Transforming the way WFP to purchases food therefore represents a momentous leap toward a truly sustainable change that could eventually benefit millions of poor rural households, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The expectation is that through P4P, WFP will explore different ways to use its enormous purchasing power in developing countries to maximize gains for small farmers while alleviating any distortion to local markets.

By supporting small farmers’ ability to produce and supply food to WFP’s global operations, P4P will help them increase their incomes, which is critical in addressing rural unemployment, hunger and poverty at their roots.

We hope that P4P initiative will also seek to promote local food processing projects to provide food of high nutritional value, enabling farmers to reap maximum benefit from their crops. Besides supporting farmers to capitalize on the market offered by WFP, P4P must also connect them to other local and regional food markets.

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