Brussels, 15 October 2012
Statement of Commissioner Andris Piebalgs on World Food Day: Helping farmers to help themselves
Tomorrow, 16 October, will mark the World Food Day. It is unacceptable that tonight, across the world, close to 870 million people - more than one and a half times the population of the European Union - will go to bed hungry.
As I travelled in Kenya, in Djibouti or in Burkina Faso, I have seen the effects of hunger and under nutrition. It is a terrible and tragic thing to witness. The EU is strongly committed to catalysing real and permanent change in this area. During the London Hunger Event in August, I have pledged to reduce the number of stunted children (those who haven't grown and developed enough due to a lack of access to the right sort of food) by at least 7 million by 2025. The EU is already at the forefront of the fight against hunger, as every year, we invest around €1 billion in agriculture, food and nutrition security.
But my commitment is more than an emotional response to witnessing such personal tragedy; dealing with under nutrition is a first and basic precondition to creating the conditions for development and growth to take root; it is vital to equip the world's poorest with the chances to pull themselves out of poverty.
I wholeheartedly support this year's focus on "Agricultural Cooperatives". Agriculture is the lifeblood of African economies– more than half a billion Africans, or some 65 per cent of the population (more than 80 per cent in some countries) depend on small or micro-scale farming as their primary source of livelihood. These farmers grow crops on small plots of land, often far away from markets, roads, assets or even electricity. Therefore they are extremely vulnerable to shocks and have difficulties in providing food for themselves and their communities.
The EU actively helps those farmers to organise themselves and generate decent income through their work.
Farmers' organisations have a crucial role to play: they increase food security and can promote the empowerment of women and young people in agriculture. That is why I am glad to announce that we will launch a new €26.9 million initiative "Farmers Africa" to further support farmers' organisations to empower smallholders and help them to participate in decision-making that influences their lives. In Zimbabwe, for instance, one of our projects, carried out through the three main farmers unions, will reinforce the health of animals through vaccination programmes.
We are improving the way we work on the ground, turning funding into sustainable results. I believe that the Scaling-Up Nutrition initiative (of which I am a proud member), which mirrors the way in which the European Commission has been promoting new, modern, agricultural partnerships, can really drive change. In addition, the EU is very active within the G8 "New Alliance" which aims at boosting productivity, private sector investments and supporting innovation and technology in Africa. To this end we will invest €3 million in HarvestPlus to develop rich seeds to benefit the poor in Africa and India.
I strongly believe that a tide has turned in the fight against under nutrition and we are closer to realising the aim of a "hunger free" world.
The statement was made one day ahead of European Development Days (EDDs) – Europe's premier forum on development aid organised by the European Commission. EDDs take place in Brussels on 16-17 October 2012.
EuropeAid is European Commission's Directorate–General responsible for designing EU development policies and delivering aid through programmes and projects across the world. The main objective of EU development policy is to fight poverty around the world. Results of EuropeAid's work include: 32 million people connected to drinking water, more than 10 million children enrolled in primary education, 600 000 families provided with access to electricity. We also helped to immunise more than 5 million children against measles and provided antiretroviral combination therapy to around 800 000 HIV-infected patients, thanks to our Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The budget of EuropeAid is ca. 12 billion euro a year.