G-8 nations pledge to boost food supplies

LAQUILA: Leaders of the G8 developed nations have pledged $20 billion for efforts to boost food supplies to the hungry, on the final day of a summit in Italy.

The investment, which is $5 billion more than had been expected, will fund a three-year initiative to help poor nations develop their own agriculture.

US President Barack Obama said the issue of food security was of huge importance to all nations in the world.

Rich nations had a moral responsibility to help poorer nations, he said. African leaders had earlier urged G8 nations to live up to past aid pledges.

The idea is to put more emphasis on helping people feed themselves. That is to be achieved with more investment in the agriculture of developing countries, and the G8 nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US — will provide significant resources, our correspondent adds. However, although the total amount of overseas development aid (ODA) was increased in 2008, the rich countries are still behind on their target to double aid that was made at the G8 Gleneagles Summit in 2005 - and Italy is among

the laggards.

Not all the money pledged to the agriculture initiative at the summit in the Italian city of L’Aquila will be new funding.

Kanaya Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, said that he welcomed the announcement of more investment in agriculture in the developing world.

“It is time for us to switch because food security is not just food aid,” he said, adding,”It is the ability of people to produce food locally and for them to be able to have access to local markets.”

The US will reportedly contribute some $3.5 billion to the programme.

Obama met representatives of Angola, Algeria, Nigeria and Senegal in L’Aquila. He will also meet Pope Benedict XVI in Rome before embarking on an African tour later today.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who also attended today’s talks in L’Aquila, told Reuters news agency beforehand that the key message from African nations was that the G8 had to live up to its commitments.

Aid organisations have criticised some members for failing to deliver on the promise made at the 2005 G8 summit to increase annual aid levels to sub-Saharan Africa by $25

billion by 2010.

Italy, the present summit host, has come under particular pressure for cutting, rather than increasing, aid this year.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said the global economic crisis and Italy’s mounting debts are responsible for a delay in Rome meeting its promises.

Yesterday when the summit focused on climate change, leaders from both developed and developing nations agreed that global temperatures should not rise more than 2C above 1900 levels.

That is the level above which, the UN says, the Earth’s climate system would become dangerously unstable.

Obama said the G8 and developing nations had made important strides in dealing with climate change.

But the G8 failed to persuade the developing countries to accept targets of cutting emissions by 50 per cent by 2050.

On Wednesday, the G8 agreed its own members would work towards 80% cuts by the same date.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the G8 had not done enough and should also set 2020 targets for emissions cuts. The declaration is a significant step, with all big countries agreeing there is a scientific limit on the amount we can warm the climate.