WASHINGTON, March 26 U.S. President Barack Obama
hosts the leaders of four African nations this week, all of
which are cited in a new report for effectively increasing
spending on agriculture to combat extreme poverty and hunger.
The report by the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty group
co-founded by Irish rockers Bono and Bob Geldof, said Senegal,
Malawi, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone either met or were close to
meeting targets for increased budget spending on agriculture.
All of the countries, except Cape Verde where there is
little data, are also on track or close to meeting a U.N. target
of halving extreme poverty by 2015, the report said.
The African leaders will visit the White House on Thursday
to showcase their fledgling democracies, but also their
potential in a region where strong economic policies are
attracting increased investment.
A recent World Bank report said Africa's agricultural sector
could become a $1 trillion industry by 2030 if farmers
modernized their practices and had better access to financing,
new technology, irrigation and fertilizers.
"Despite record improvements by select African countries,
Africa overall is still far from realizing its agricultural
potential," said the ONE Campaign report, which assessed
progress by 19 African countries and donors that send them aid.
"For African governments, donors and the private sector
alike, 2013 is the year to deliver on these building blocks that
impact farming and expand economic opportunities for farmers,"
the report said.
This year marks a decade since African governments committed
to allocate 10 percent of national spending to boost
agricultural production, reversing decades of under investment
in the sector. The so-called Maputo commitments expire this
year, giving world leaders the opportunity to lay out a bold new
plan with targets, the report said.
According to ONE's analysis, at least four of the 19 African
countries analyzed - Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Malawi and Niger -
met or exceeded the target of 10 percent total expenditure on
agriculture. Senegal and Sierra Leone are close to the target.
Meanwhile, the laggards are Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana,
which spend less than 2 percent of their budgets on agriculture.
The report also called on industrialized nations - the
United States, France, Britain, Canada, Japan, Germany and
Russia - to make good on their various funding promises to help
African nations increase agricultural production.
The G8, which meets in June this year, has repeatedly
promised to support Africa-led initiatives, yet G8 agriculture
investment plans have only secured about half of their required
financing, and many donors contribute only a small fraction of
their agriculture aid to poor countries, the report said.
The report shows that European Union institutions, Canada
and Germany increased their share of foreign assistance to
agriculture, while Britain, Japan and France cut theirs.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Michael Perry)