Abolish wasteful world food body: Senegal's president

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is an inefficient money-gobbler and should be replaced by innovative foreign investment and assistance to help Africa end its food aid dependency, Senegal's president said.

Abolish wasteful world food body: Senegal's president
In a speech late on Sunday, President Abdoulaye Wade called the Rome-based FAO, created in 1945, a "bottomless pit of money largely spent on its own functioning with very little effective operations on the ground".

He appealed for new policies stressing food self-sufficiency over charity to tackle the global food price crisis that is threatening millions of the world's poor with hardship and hunger, especially in Africa, the most underdeveloped continent.

He called for the FAO, headed by Senegalese technocrat Jacques Diouf, to be folded into a newer U.N. agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, to create a global agriculture-support body. This, he said, should be located in Africa.

"Food policy -- in which "food" is a nice word for "charity" -- is outdated. It should be progressively abandoned in favour of a 'help to stand up' policy, of help for self-assistance", Wade said in his speech, carried by state TV and radio.

He proposed that traditional food aid handouts should be replaced by "innovative investment in agriculture in Africa" in the form of specialist funding and assistance giving farmers seeds, fertilisers, equipment, irrigation and expert training.

Senegal's octogenarian president is an outspoken critic of what he calls the "huge swindle" of traditional international food aid, which he says spends more money funding the activities of high-powered technocrats than saving the world's poor.

His own country is one of Africa's top recipients of foreign aid and one of the world's biggest importers of food in relation to its size. It is one of several West African states whose poor inhabitants are being squeezed by soaring global food prices.

Sparked by food and fuel price rises, riots and protests against the high cost of living have flared like a trail of gunpowder across West Africa, from Mauritania and Senegal to Guinea and Cameroon.

"Aid-devouring NGOs"

While welcoming a wave of international solidarity to tackle the food crisis, including a $770 million food assistance proposal from U.S. President George W. Bush, Wade said the world had woken up slowly to a problem threatening the entire planet.

He called for a re-think of the way it was viewed.

"We must halt this scenario which exploits the North's altruistic character and the theme of poverty in the South, where titled distributors of aid, or improvised figures recruited to the cause ... have managed to insert themselves between the resources and their destination and start off by largely helping themselves," said Wade, who himself travels extensively.

While singling out the FAO, he also criticised poor use of aid money which he said often ended up with "greedy and aid-devouring NGOs ... which will use it in all sort of tricks, administration, trips and costs of luxury hotels for so-called experts, instead of on concrete actions on the ground".

Despite protests in his own country, Wade said there was "no famine in Senegal, and there won't be". His government spends several hundred million dollars a year on food and fuel subsidies.

He last month announced an ambitious crop expansion plan for his import-dependent nation that aimed to make it self-sufficient in food staples, especially rice.

The plan unveiled by Wade, called the "Great Agricultural Offensive for Food and Abundance", aims to increase Senegal's rice production five-fold to 500,000 tonnes by next season, but many experts consider it ambitious.

Reuters
Last Mod: 05 Mayıs 2008, 18:27
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