Vienna, October 15th 2009 – “Sufficient food for all people is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Due to the financial crisis, the background conditions have become more difficult. High prices and natural disasters are increasingly aggravating the food situation. We therefore have to adhere even more strongly to the principle of sustainability and develop innovative approaches towards food security,” stated Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger on the occasion of World Food Day on October 16th and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17th. The world food situation is critical: according to FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the number of people starving has risen by 105 million in 2009, and some 1.2 billion people are malnourished. About half of them are small farmers.
“In the 21st century hunger has many causes. It is frequently a problem of distribution and lack of access. Millions of people are practically excluded from the food market,” continued Spindelegger. Other causes are the continued high prices for staple foods and the high oil price, which increases the price of capital equipment, production, further processing and the transport of agricultural crops. Many farmers can no longer afford these investments. In addition, the effects of climate change such as natural catastrophes, infestation by pests, drought and flooding are increasingly resulting in loss of harvests, thus further endangering the population’s food supply.
In order to safeguard long-term food security and reduce poverty, it is imperative to cooperate at international level, particularly in fields such as capacity development, applied research and agricultural advice. For the projects of the Austrian Development Cooperation programme the principles of ecological sustainability and social justice are of special importance: “Our programmes are based on the immediate needs of the population. Only in this way can we support peasant families in Mozambique, Nicaragua and Ethiopia in agricultural activities based on compliance with ecological sustainability standards. Equal access to land, particularly for women, and sustainable land use planning will also improve the situation,” stated the Foreign Minister. “Only through concerted and persistent commitment can we effectively cope with the challenge of hunger in the world – both in general and particularly in times of crisis.
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