UN Project Aims to Fight Hunger, Help Small Farmers

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The United Nations says more than nine hundred million people worldwide do not have enough to eat. Officials say one hundred million more could go hungry this year because of the food, fuel and financial crises.

To deal with the situation, the U.N. World Food Program has launched a project to help small farmers. These farmers are mainly women. Many cannot produce enough food even to feed and support their own families.

Josette Sheeran, in Ghana, says P4P will help fight hunger across Africa
World Food Program's Josette Sheeran, in Ghana, says P4P will help fight hunger across Africa
The new effort is called Purchase for Progress, or P4P. It aims to connect local farmers with dependable markets. That way, they could get a chance to sell their surplus at competitive prices. P4P will be tested in as many as twenty-one countries during the next five years.

The biggest contributor to the project is Bill Gates, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Another donor is the Howard Buffett Foundation, led by a son of American investor Warren Buffett. And the government of Belgium is supporting the project in a former colony, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Together these donors have provided more than seventy-six million dollars for projects in Africa and Central America.

Purchase for Progress will work with United Nations agencies, governments and nongovernmental organizations to help increase crop production. The World Bank Group and other partners are to help train farmers in better crop management and marketing skills.

The World Food Program says it expects to buy forty thousand tons of food in the first year using methods launched by the project. That will be enough to feed two hundred fifty thousand people.

P4P is expected to develop food cooperatives and long-term agreements for buying corn, wheat and other food crops. About three hundred fifty thousand farmers could be assisted.

Officials say the project will change the way the World Food Program buys food in developing countries. Executive Director Josette Sheeran says this is the first time her agency will buy a large amount of food from small-scale farmers. The agency has traditionally bought most of its food from developing countries, but through larger trading organizations.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at 51voa.com.