Australian farming expertise can lead fight against hunger

Australian farming know-how could form a key part of the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) response to the global food crisis, according to a new World Vision report. 

The research reveals the price of basic foods have skyrocketed by as much as 250 percent, increasing the number of hungry people in the world to one billion. 

The report, released in Perth today with Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, calls on CHOGM leaders to reinvigorate efforts to curb world hunger by working with small farmers. It says $10 billion in world aid - previously committed to fighting hunger - has not been delivered. 

World Vision chief executive Tim Costello said Australia could play a leading role in curbing the world food crisis because of its expertise in arid farming techniques. 

“Our research shows there are 430 million small farms in the developing world. Half of the world’s undernourished and 75 percent of Africa’s malnourished children live on these farms,” Rev Costello said. 

“If leaders here at CHOGM and at the G20 provided better support to these farmers as part of a wider global strategy they could put our fight against hunger back on track. And Australia with its agriculture expertise can play a leading role.” 

Rev Costello said innovative technologies created for Australia farmers can be modified for smaller farmers overseas. These technologies include water saving technologies, alternative energy farm technologies, and crop development for dry conditions. Climate change research will help small farmers in developing countries. 

Some of the Australian high production fruit and nut tree varieties are already being used overseas in Asia and Africa, and acacia research is already helping dry countries in Africa (like Ethiopia) to produce more food through World Vision projects. 

The report found that: 

  • Since 2005 the prices of staple foods have skyrocketed including: wheat (up 186 percent), rice (up 252 percent), sorghum (up 191 percent) and barley (up 174 percent). 
  • The price shocks have been caused by low global stocks, speculators, expanded biofuel production, export restrictions, higher oil prices and changes in climate. 
  • Direct assistance to small farms can reduce poverty and hunger, create employment and inject funds into impoverished rural communities. The main steps involve fairer trade rules, building rural roads, providing access to cheap, appropriate technologies and credit especially for the poorest (including women farmers) and extra food or financial assistance to get through crises such as droughts. 

World Vision is calling on CHOGM leaders to step up to the plate to tackle world hunger including taking action to prevent the 7,500 children under the age of five that die every day because they do not have access to enough of the right types of food. 

At today’s event, World Vision Ambassador and cricketer Adam Gilchrist joined Rev Costello in presenting Mr Rudd with a giant plate on behalf of more than 50,000 Australians who signed postcards calling on CHOGM leaders to step up to the plate on child malnutrition. 

“More than half of all preventable child deaths in our world occur in Commonwealth Countries. We can stop this from happening,” Rev Costello said. 

“It is a message we have to get through to the leaders of the more than 50 Commonwealth countries that are meeting here this week.” 

The report, Island Nation or Global Citizen: Solving the Food Crisis by Helping Small Scale Farmers, makes a series of key policy recommendations that CHOGM leaders should adopt to respond to the world food crisis. The report, commissioned by World Vision Australia, was authored by Steve Wiggins a Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, UK, and who has been working on agricultural and rural development in Africa and Latin America for almost 40 years. 


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