India-Africa Summit on food security begins in Delhi

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New Delhi, Nov 10 (UNI) The three-day international conference on ''India-Africa Cooperation for Sustainable Food Security'' began here today to take forward the declarations adopted on food security at April's India-Africa and June's Rome summits with India promising transfer of advanced technology to African countries for achieving the goal.

"India- African cooperation on food security has to be a broad based one covering collaborative reasearch for develoiping new technologies, sharing innovations in agriculture extension and technology transfer besides mutual tie-up in farm produce marketing and credit raising", said Food Minister Sharad Pawar, in an inaugural speech,read out by Alka Sirohi, food secretary in the minister's absence.

In his key-note address, eminent farm scientist M S Swaminathan focussed on the emerging threats to food sovereignty of nations which was adding to the number of hungry people world over.

There is need to bring about a paradigm shift in growing of food crops by putting a check on the over-use of chemical fertilisers and integerating the modern inputs with traditional technique of bio-fertilisers to preserve vanishing biodiversity and fertility of the soil, he added.

Apart from some heads of states and agricultural officials and ministers from 26 African countries including Rwanda's agriculture minister Chritophe Bazivamo, a sizeable number of farmers and private sector representatives are taking part in the conference.

Former Union Minister and MP Suresh Prabhu, Chairman of the Steering Committee for the conference and Ms Tajowoni Gowda also attended the conference.

Mr Prabhu said the conference provided a forum for dialogue between Indian and African leaders, development partners, farmers and private sector to prepare an Action Plan and a roadmap for its implementation while addressing food insecurity and poverty reduction issues.

It is an endeavour at emphasising agriculture's role for deployment towards attaining enhanced , sustained and inclusive growth and food security, he added.

The Conference which follows the earlier such interaction- India-SAARC meet-in last March, is being jointly organised by the Indian government, IFFCO, ICAR and IFFCO Foundation.

It will be followed next year by such conference between India and Latin American countries in New Delhi.

More than 100 experts on food and agriculture will be participating in the six technical sessions on alleviation of hunger, Inputs Management, R and D, Agroforestry, genomics for livelihood security and management for natural resources and climate change.

Prof R B Singh, member secretary for the Conference' committee said the policy makers and ministers attending the meet would identify specific activities for cooperation in the area such as soil testing, soil health, watershed management, water conservation and post-harvest handling.

There are about 950 million hungry people in the world and half of them reside in India and African countries put together, he said.

Agriculture employs 50 to 70 per cent of the workforce in Africa and India which houses two billion, one-third of the world population. Contribution of agricultural GDP has dropped to 13 per cent in China, 16 per cent in India and still high, around 30 per cent in Africa. Percentage of hungry people in India is 21 per cent while this figure is higher in African countries.

But, the rising food prices, diverting of cultivable land to commercial and biofuel crops have threatened the food security world over pushing poor and vulnerable people towards hunger and malnutrition, Mr Singh added.

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