From Pledges to Progress: G8 Leaders Must Take Action Now

On the eve of the G8 summit, G8 and African leaders met to discuss new commitments on food security and the opportunity and benefits of private sector investment in African agriculture and food sectors. With the likes of President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Presidents of Tanzania and Ghana, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, corporate leaders and agricultural organizations all in attendance, the message is abundantly clear. Groups from farmers to development agencies have made it clear: If we don't act soon, the situation will worsen and not only from climate change and political instability, but from economic factors such as rising food prices and unemployment.

By 2050, there will be 9 billion people living on our planet, and to feed these people we are going to need 70 percent more food to meet demand. That's a big challenge, and one that requires commitments and investment from world leaders to help overcome. The decisions made over the past few days were critical in determining the food and nutrition security of current and future generations.

In 2009, leaders pledged to partner with global governments to improve agriculture and bolster food security through $22 billion worth of new investments, over three years, towards a comprehensive strategy focused on sustainable development. Three years later, and world leaders have failed to keep their pledges, with donors delivering only 22 percent of the funds promised. G8 leaders must take action and build on these pledges through renewed investment that is coordinated, transparent and farmer-centered. They must highlight the importance of both productivity and diversity in ensuring food and nutrition security.

In the future, the majority of food is expected to come from developing countries. But farmers face a variety of constraints in their ability to increase productivity, including degraded soils, low yields and lack of access to inputs such as fertilizers and seeds as they struggle to support their own livelihoods, yet alone a growing populations'. To increase the productive capacity of farmers in food insecure countries, G8 leaders must focus on land tenure security, access to technologies, inputs and financial services as well as agricultural extension services to share knowledge among farmers, reduced post harvest losses and improved rural infrastructure.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the situation is critical, with many regions facing a food crisis as they struggle to cope with high levels of drought, poverty, high grain prices, disease and environmental degradation. One in four of its 856 million people are undernourished -- making it the world's most food-insecure region. Building a food-secure future will only be achieved if efforts are spread across the entire global development agenda and support national food and nutrition strategies that include farmers, the private sector, NGOs and other key stakeholders. G8 leaders must recognize and support farmers as stewards of ecosystems through farming practices and technologies.

It's also crucial that we do not forget the role of women in global food security. Women are the backbone of the rural economy, especially in the developing world. Rural women globally face persistent gaps in access to resources, knowledge and services, underpinned by persistent inequalities in rights. Women lag behind on every Millennium Development Goal, except for the fourth goal of reducing the mortality of children under 5. Lack of access to services and infrastructures takes away time from education and other opportunities and this gap in access disproportionately affects women and girls. Governments must seize this opportunity to set in motion concrete actions and programs to truly address rural women's needs.

Robynne Anderson is UN Representative for the World Farmers Organisation and a Farming First spokesperson.