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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Govt to mark World Food Day as food crisis worsens

Govt to mark World Food Day as food crisis worsens

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Meanwhile, local civil society groups promote an alternative 'World Foodless Day' to focus attention on the global poor

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON

Farmers in Choam Chao district on the outskirts of Phnom Penh struggle to get a cow out of a ditch.

THE UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and government officials are to hold a joint ceremony today to mark the 28th World Food Day, drawing attention to food security concerns in a year that has seen spiralling inflation push more Cambodian families below the poverty line.

"We are holding a ceremony in Kampong Speu province, and we will provide rice seed and fertiliser to 600 families," said Chan Sarun, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, who will attend the event with FAO country representative Omar Salah Ahmed. The event will feature visits to farms and the distribution of agricultural goods to local residents.

"The goal of the event is to advise stakeholders on how to develop agriculture in a sustainable way," said Chuop Paris, assistant representative in charge of programs at the FAO. "In Cambodia, 21 percent of the population lives under minimum dietary requirements," he said.

The FAO announced last month that the global number of malnourished people rose by around 75 million in 2008, on the back of rising food prices.

Today, however, local agricultural NGO CEDAC are to take part in World Foodless Day, an alternative event organisers claim better represents the reality confronting millions.

"While governments and intergovernmental organisations such as the FAO will talk about the World Food Day ... the reality is that there are more hungry people today than ever before - over 150 million," said Antonio Tujan, co-chair of the People's Coalition on Food Security, in a press release Monday.

CEDAC spokesman Him Khortieth said the organisation would use the event to set out its own strategy for improving Cambodia's food security.

"We're going to give our own recommendations to the government about how to increase food security," he said.

"In Asia, this day is World Foodless Day."

But Chuop Paris said the FAO was well aware of the challenges.

"We acknowledge their concerns that ... millions of people lack food. That's why the FAO tries to mobilise funds to help farmers," she said.

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