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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 20th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Food Crisis Accelerates Africa’s Rural-Urban Drift, UN Says.
By Eric Ombok

June 19 (Bloomberg) — Stagnating agricultural production in Africa is fueling a population drift from rural areas to the cities that may lead to civil unrest, the head of the United Nations Human Settlements Program, Anna Tibaijuka, said.

“If we do not secure the African farming system, all these people will be heading to urban areas,” Tibaijuka told a regional meeting of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization today in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “Where are the hungry? Where are the rioters? You will find most of them in urban areas.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the Food Security Summit this month in Rome that the world needed to spend as much as $20 billion a year on agriculture to tackle a 60 percent rise in food prices over the past 18 months that has sparked riots in more than 30 countries.

The percentage of Africans living in urban areas will rise to 60 percent in the next two decades, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki told the meeting. That compares with about 37 percent as of 2004, according to the UN settlements program, known as UN- Habitat.

“Those engaged in agricultural production will be fewer than is the case today” and will be expected to feed more people, Kibaki said.

He called for greater investment in developing irrigation and water-supply systems, which he said could triple crop production on the continent.

Water Resources

About 4 percent of Africa’s renewable water resources have been harnessed for irrigation, hydropower and domestic and commercial use, compared with between 70 percent and 90 percent in industrial nations, he said.

“While the African continent is considered to be a water- deficit region, we have some of the largest global water basins which are yet to be fully exploited,” Kibaki said.

Right now, most of Africa agriculture depends on “unreliable rainfall,” FAO Executive Director Jacques Diouf told the meeting.

Most African governments are failing to meet the commitment made at a 2004 meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, to spend 10 percent of their national budgets on farming, Kenyan Agriculture Minister William Ruto said. He also called for increased research into high-yield, drought-resistant seeds and the production of fertilizer.

“Unless we invest in and finance agriculture, we are unlikely to change the tide” of food insecurity, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Ombok in Nairobi via Johannesburg at  pmrichardson at bloomberg.net.

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We must repeat – go to Malawi and learn how it is done. Start with a government that wants to do it.       In case of crisis, remember, sending out food rather then teaching how to grow the local food – is just a temporary crutch that makes the recepient even more dependent on crutches.  

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