The announcement about the new initiative has been timed to coincide with this weekend’s meeting of the G-8 countries, where the US President is keen to include discussion about improving stability and security across the globe. US policy makers believe stability can only be assured if nations are food secure. The new funding will go towards investments made by US companies in African agriculture. The head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) welcomed the initiative, saying he believed a focus on farming could help to “move 50 million people out of the condition of poverty and hunger.”
The announcement follows the recent publication of a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which looks at how African nations need to improve agricultural productivity. In sub-Saharan Africa, a quarter of people are affected by hunger, threatening development and security in the region. A spokesperson for the UNDP said that economic growth had in many places “not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition” and that only through “inclusive growth” and “people-centred approaches”, could food security be improved.
Many countries across Africa are currently facing massive food shortages this year. One such country is The Gambia where 70% of crops have failed since the last growing season. Though Gambia has ridden out previous food crises, a combination of poor rains and high food prices is now causing real concern. After low harvests of crops such as rice, millet, maize and sorghum, many villages are running out of the food supplies which normally see them to the next harvest in October. Appealing for international assistance, the Gambian agriculture minister said that over 1 million people were in need of help.
The situation is the same across many countries in the Sahel region, where more than 15 million people are believed to be at risk. Today, Save the Children warned that the situation in Niger is particularly bad and could tip into a major crisis, with rising numbers of children needing medical assistance. Moving into an emergency response phase in Niger, the charity urged the G-8 leaders to make bold commitments at the summit this weekend to help address food insecurity and work towards solutions which will stop a quarter of the world’s children, many of them in Africa, suffering from chronic malnutrition.