A Nigerian Diplomat and the head of the United Nations agency tasked with combating rural poverty, Mr. Kanayo Nwanze, has cautioned developed countries against cutting down their assistance to smallholder farmers in poorer nations as most food producers across the world were small-scale growers.
“When people cannot afford to eat because they cannot make a decent living, they become desperate, which led to riots during the 2008 food crisis,” said Kanayo Nwanze, the President of the UN International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD).
“The current food price increase has pushed an estimated 44 million people into poverty, creating once again a volatile mix. During the last price increase, when smallholders were assisted in accessing markets for finance, seeds and fertilisers, they were able to benefit from higher prices and both poor producers and consumers were better off,” added Mr. Nwanze.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said that with a population expected to grow by more than half within a generation, Burundi needs to expand its agriculture’s economic potential, calling for continued support from the international community.
“Peace in Burundi can be consolidated by stabilising the country’s rural communities,” the FAO said in a press statement made available to United Nations correspondents in New York.
The agency called for ongoing support for aid to vulnerable farmers and to develop the economic potential of Burundian agriculture.
The agency’s $60 million action plan for Burundi currently assists 1.25 million people under a two-year initiative designed to increase food production, support income-generating activities such as producing poultry, vegetables or fruit for sale and food processing, and encourage farmers to join forces to produce marketable surpluses.
“The aim of our assistance is to support farmers in moving away from subsistence farming to more economically viable forms of agriculture,” said Hubert Chauvet, FAO’s Representative in Burundi.
“Most people eat what they grow, and don’t have the means to buy food,” said Angela Hinrichs, a Senior Operations Officer with FAO’s Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division. “If nothing changes, this is a recipe for disaster.”
Burundi’s population is expected to rise from around 8.5 million today to 13 million in 2025, FAO said.
“Ensuring local food production for a growing population will be a major challenge, as almost all the country’s arable land is already being farmed.”
Burundi’s demographic pressure is exacerbated by a massive return of refugees from the country’s 12-year civil war, while climatic vagaries, crop pests and rising food prices pose additional threats to food security, FAO said.