Even if it has disappeared from the headlines, the effects of the food crisis are still ever-present. The number of people suffering from malnutrition rose to over one billion in 2009. The hardest hit are the landless living in rural areas, the urban poor, as well as single mothers and children.
The combined impact of the economic crisis and climate change has accentuated the imbalance between the North and the South. The development target of halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people suffering from hunger, is receding off into the distance. The majority of those who are starving live in Asia and in the Pacific region, i.e., some 642 million persons, while in Africa, some 265 million people are suffering from malnutrition. Experts fear that, due in some places to the absence of rain, and in others to its overabundance, crop yields could be cut by half within the year 2020. This, in turn, could give rise to conflicts over the ever more scarce resources, and to migration movements. Food security indeed plays a central rule in ensuring international stability.
For years, Switzerland has been vigorously contributing to the fight against hunger. It has, for instance, helped to strengthen small farmers by introducing modern crop cultivation methods, by improving their access to credit, and by assisting in the establishment of local markets. Furthermore, farmers are provided with access to drought-resistant seed, thanks to the support coming from such research institutes as, for instance, the Rice Research Institute in Laos, the Potato Research Institute in Peru, as well as Beans and Maize Research Institutes in Africa. In numerous poverty regions, the food-supply has been sustainably enhanced thanks to the aid of Switzerland.
In addition to the support it provides to international research centres, Switzerland is also directing increased efforts towards direct cooperation between the pioneering research conducted in Switzerland and research centres in the newly industrialized countries. In this way, research scientists from various Swiss universities were able to cooperate within the framework of a long-term research partnership with Indian universities to develop drought-resistant strains of chick peas.
5 years remain until 2015: Interim balance sheet on the Millennium Development Goals
To reduce worldwide poverty by half within the year 2015: this is the ambitious target of the Millennium Development goals agreed upon by the international community 10 years ago. A high-level international conference will be taking place this coming September to conduct an interim assessment on the progress made, and to hold a consultation on the measures that still need to be taken. The SDC is coordinating the position of Switzerland and is actively participating in the preparatory run-up to the conference. Co-chairing the conference will be Joseph Deiss, President-designate of the UN General Assembly. This summer, the Federal Council will approve the report summarizing Switzerland’s contributions to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Andreas Stauffer, Spokesperson FDFA, +41 79 370 14 35
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