Yesterday I attended a packed event in the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament to hear His Excellency John Kufuor, Former President of Ghana and 2011 World Food Prize Laureate, speak on the progress his country has made on extreme poverty and hunger.
His Excellency John Kufuor won the World Food Prize in 2011 for his international and domestic leadership on promoting the value of agriculture in reducing poverty. Ghana is now recognised as the first developing country to reach the First Millennium Development Goal: Halve Extreme Hunger and Poverty.
His Excellency explained to the crowd how this remarkable progress was no accident. He recognised the role of Ghanaian debt cancellation, prioritising agriculture, putting in place clear and comprehensive plans of action and receiving donor support from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation in allowing Ghana to achieve this. However it was the economic reforms, a national school nutrition programme strengthened and substantially increased public investment in agriculture that took place under his stewardship that resulted in the greatest benefit. It was this public investment in agriculture that was a major factor behind the halving of hunger and poverty and the increase in Ghana’s gross domestic product, which quadrupled from £2.6 billion in 2000 to £11 billion.
However the former president was keen to stress to the crowd that investment alone did not bring about this change but Ghana’s comprehensive “joined up” agriculture plan. His Excellently told the crowd how providing farmers with education and farming tools isn’t enough without access to markets, and how diversification may not be possible without access to credit and micro finance. The Ghanaian plan considered all of these things in a holistic way, but ensured agriculture was the priority.
This agriculture prioritisation is crucial. Two-thirds of Africa, and in particular the poorest Africans, rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, and therefore, His Excellency said “The best way to break the back of poverty is through agriculture”.
His Excellency John Kufuor’s leadership has helped lift millions out of poverty and hunger, but former present also noted leadership is needed at all levels to tackle hunger and poverty around the world. That is why we call on the G8 and the G20 to maintain their commitments to agricultural development and to align their investments with the plans of African countries. Together by fulfilling these pledges and building local knowledge we can ensure agriculture remains a global priority and so help lift millions out of hunger and poverty.
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