Science - April 7, 2011

'Spend more development money on agriculture'

The Netherlands should spend one billion euros over the next ten years on improving food security and combatting hunger in developing countries. This is the advice of Worldconnectors, a group of influential people from the Dutch NGO world, to the State Secretaries Ben Knapen (development) and Henk Bleker (agriculture).

This funding is desperately needed to help the one billion people suffering from chronic hunger and undernutrition, say Worldconnectors, which is chaired by ex- Rabobank executive Herman Wijffels and Greenpeace Netherlands director Sylvia Borren. It would also be a good investment to produce enough food for a world population of 9 billion people, says the group.

Wolrdconnectors' recommendations are based on a series of consultations with experts in the fields of poverty alleviation and agriculture, including Wageningen professors Rudy Rabbinge, Arie van Kuyvenhoven and Hans Eenhoorn (also an ex-Unilever executive). The group acknowledges that more attention has been paid to agriculture for some time now, but thinks it is high time that this attention led to a shift in priorities. The proportion of development aid spent on agriculture needs to rise sharply. That would be done at the expense of other posts in the development budget. Currently about half a billion euros goes to agriculture or agriculture-related topics.
The Worldconnectors even go so far as to stipulate exactly how the money should be spent. They would like to see the government spending 250 million euros on 'agri-hubs': regional centres where governments, scientists and development organization collaborate. Another 150 million euros should be spent, they say, on combatting hunger, with an emphasis on supporting small-scale farmers and vulnerable groups in a select group of developing countries.

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