WASHINGTON, April 22 A new World
Bank-administered agriculture and food security fund will get
$880 million in initial contributions over the next two years,
the U.S. Treasury and other donors announced on Thursday.
The Treasury said the United States committed $475 million
to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, Canada
contributed $230 million and Spain $95 million. South Korea
will contribute $50 million and the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation will deposit $30 million.
The fund was created to implement part of about $22 billion
in pledges made by leaders of the Group of Eight wealthy
nations last year in Italy to support food security in poor
"A global economy where more than one billion people suffer
from hunger is not a sustainable one," U.S. Treasury Secretary
Timothy Geithner said in a statement. "At a time of limited
resources and large global challenges, this fund will leverage
support from around the world to achieve lasting progress
against hunger and bolster agricultural productivity and
The United States has already contributed $67 million to
the fund and has requested another $408 million for it in
President Barack Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request. If
approved, those funds would be available after October 1,
Canada and Spain have already made deposits, and South
Korea and the Gates foundation will make their contributions
shortly, a Treasury official said.
The fund aims to finance medium-to long-term projects to
boost agricultural development in low-income countries. It will
focus on raising agricultural productivity through investments
in land use planning, better irrigation infrastructure and
development of farm machinery leasing markets.
It also will focus on development of rural roads to better
connect farmers to markets and improve other infrastructure to
better handle harvested crops. The fund also aims to provide
better technical assistance to farmers, boost distribution of
agriculture inputs such as seeds, and strengthen producer
The World Bank will work through a number of other
agencies, including the African Development Bank and the
International Fund for Agricultural Development, to implement
projects financed by the fund.
A Treasury official said the need for the fund came from a
recognition that agriculture development has largely been
ignored in the past 30 years, and there are nearly 1 billion
chronically hungry people in the world.
A sudden increase in food prices in 2008 drove nearly 100
million people into poverty and brought the problem into sharp
Korean Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-Hyun said Korea's
contribution was motivated by its own severe food shortage and
poverty in the 1960s. "The experiences made Korea recognize the
importance of food security," he said, adding that this was
"deep down in the heart."
The U.S. Treasury official, speaking on a background
conference call, declined to provide a time frame for how long
it would take to make good on the $22 billion in pledges made
last year toward agricultural development or when more
contributions were expected.
He said the United States had pledged $3.5 billion toward
agriculture aid over three and a half years and the Obama
administration was committed to fulfilling that.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)