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General News Thu, 14 Feb 2008

Veep tasks international community to tackle widespread poverty r

From Nana Kodjo Jehu-Appiah, GNA Special Correspondent, Rome

Rome, Feb. 13, GNA - Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama on Wednesday noted that the lacklustre approach adopted by the international community to reverse poverty and hunger by half in the next seven years, in line with the Millennium Development Goal is making the process very daunting.

He said agriculture production in Sub-Saharan Africa still depended on rainfall and the use of simple tools with minimal adoption of improved mechanisms resulting in low productivity. Vice President Alhaji Mahama expressed these views when he addressed the 164 delegates that had converged in Rome for a two-day annual Governing Council conference of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the eight replenishment deliberations of the global organisation.

The conference also marks the 31st anniversary of the specialised body of the UN, established in 1977 to eradicate rural poverty and hunger.

"Market infrastructure and institutions required to aid in the disposal of farm produce for reasonable revenue generation are fairly limited," he said.

Vice President Mahama said the plight of smallholder farmers was worsened by the lack of skills and opportunities for alternate sources of income during the off-farm periods, which contributed towards the vicious cycle of poverty.

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He called for pragmatic and well-resourced policies that are geared towards the development of the agricultural sector to support rural development with appropriate public infrastructure like irrigation facilities, roads and marketing systems and research and extension services.

"Capacity building of the rural population is also essential to empower them to adopt improved technologies and practices. The issue of poverty can also be addressed through the promotion of sub-regional and regional trade."

Vice President Alhaji Mahama called for effective collaboration and partnership between the developed and developing countries, stressing that the essence of such partnership is becoming more pronounced in the face of emerging global challenges, which affected all nations.

Shifting his attention to bio-fuel production, which is part of the agenda of the conference, he said the product was environmentally friendly and had the potential of boosting rural incomes and lower the cost of energy.

Vice President Alhaji Mahama called on member countries of IFAD to be proactive during the replenishment meeting by fulfilling their obligations towards the fund.

He lauded IFAD for the enormous support it had provided to Ghana, citing the Volta Region Agricultural Development Project, which was pioneered by the organisation 28 years ago.

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"Currently the areas of IFAD project intervention in Ghana embrace some 2.4 million people. Its scope includes the development of rural infrastructure, provision of potable water, credit and financial services, building the capacity of farmer groups and extension agents and promoting the development of small scale non-agricultural enterprises."

Mr Lennart Bage, President of IFAD said IFAD-supported programmes had reached well over 300 million rural people across Africa and Latin America, helping the people to obtain access to land, water, finance, markets and technology.

He said nearly 50 percent of IFAD funding went to Africa, placing the organisation among the top three multinational institutions in the Region.

The UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon and the President of Cameroon, Mr Paul Biya were present at the meeting that was addressed by Mr Fahad Bin Abdulraman Balghunain, Saudi Minister of Agriculture and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director of the World Bank. Mr Donald Kabeuka, President of the African Development Bank Group, said the bank had an active agricultural portfolio of 2.1 billion dollars with IFAD, which represented 35 per cent of on-going interventions.

The meeting would later tackle other issues such as the administrative and capital budgets of IFAD and its office evaluation for 2008.

Source: GNA