This edition of the university newspaper is dedicated to the FAO World Food Summit, which will be held between 13 and 17 November in Rome. FAO president Diouf organised the Summit in order to bring attention to the pressing need for intensification of agricultural production in a world which will have to feed 8 billion mouths by the year 2015. Diouf is calling for a new Green Revolution to eliminate world poverty. The current number of people suffering from hunger is estimated at 800 million worldwide. The food situation in Africa has become critical: the population has grown while production has decreased over the past ten years.
The Dutch government, summit participant and one of the major FAO donors, claims that strengthening national policies in the Third World is one of the major tasks in the fight against poverty. Solid development programmes have little chance of success in countries with weak legislation, corruption, social unrest and unstable markets. The authors of the statement believe it is unlikely that poverty will disappear in the next twenty years, as building strong and democratic governments takes time. The G77 group of Southern countries claim that the Dutch statement is neo-colonial.
Researchers at international CGIAR agricultural institutes should contribute more to the alleviation poverty. The sixteen institutes, which have emerged over the past 25 years, have focused too much on developing basic knowledge and technologies, which should automatically provide benefits to farmers and the receiving country as a whole. They have misjudged the social and economic constraints. New CGIAR president, Ismail Serageldin, wants the institutes to focus on natural and social resources in the region where they are located. They need to concentrate on interdisciplinary research and should collaborate closely with national agricultural research bodies, which are weak in many developing countries.
Large amounts of vegetables and fish can be grown intensively in big cities, providing extra income to producers and nutrients to the urban poor. It is estimated that fifteen percent of world agricultural production takes place in cities. The promoters of city farming claim that their programmes can provide sufficient food to the 300 million underfed people living in cities and slums.
In their FAO action plan the European countries state that a further liberalisation of food trade will benefit poor countries. Several NGOs have criticised this statement: they fear that the rich countries and multinationals will be the ones to benefit. Countries with a weak agricultural infrastructure cannot compete with imports from abroad and need protection, according to the NGOs. Food trade is not on the agenda for the FAO Summit. Later this year the World Trade Organisation, WTO, will meet in Singapore to negotiate terms of trade. During the last GATT meeting, the European Union managed to extend export subsidies for its agricultural products.
The winged bean can become an important food source for Africa and Asia, according to Ghanaian plant breeder George Klu, who carried out research on this difficult tropical plant in Wageningen. Many African scientists are trained abroad and do not return to their home country, because of the lack of research facilities. If western countries don't help us, this training is of little use." He wants to meet other scientists studying the winged bean. An English translation of this article is available from Albert Sikkema, tel. 484790. You can also read it on the internet: http://www.wau.nl/wub/wsphome.htm