The world must urgently address a global crisis that now sees more than a billion people going hungry every day, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told delegates at the World Summit on Food Security in Rome, as figures released by UN officials show Cambodia has made some gains in reducing hunger domestically.
Speaking Tuesday at what has been dubbed the world’s “hunger summit”, Hor Namhong tied shortages in food production to the “growing direct impact of climate change”, the global economic crisis and soaring energy prices.
“In this gloomy situation, more people are not able to secure enough income to feed their families,” Hor Namhong told delegates in an address released to the media.
“There is no doubt that this crisis has reduced available national public resources for agricultural development.”
Hor Namhong suggested world leaders institute a global trust fund and a “world rice reserve” to counter short-term food crises – such as the emergencies that hit Cambodia and other Southeast Asian nations after Typhoon Ketsana.
MORE PEOPLE ARE NOT ABLE TO SECURE ENOUGH INCOME TO FEED THEIR FAMILIES.
The foreign minister’s comments came as officials with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released a report showing how 16 nations – including Cambodia’s neighbours Thailand and Vietnam – have managed or are on track to halve hunger rates in their countries, already reaching a target that the world had set for 2015.
Though Cambodia’s progress may lag its neighbours, a UN report from October suggests the number of undernourished people in the Kingdom is also on a downward trend – 25 percent of the population in 2006, compared with 38 percent in 1992.
Oxfam East Asia Regional Director Brian Lund said Cambodia has managed to produce modest food surpluses in recent years. The problem, however, is with isolated shortages sparked by natural disasters or a lack of infrastructure.
“On a national scale, food production is looking pretty good,” Lund said.
“The concern is more with these hot spots around the country.”
Oddar Meanchey province, for example, has seen a population spike in the last decade. The supply of food has, at times, struggled to keep up.
As well, Cambodia still falls behind its neighbours in terms of agriculture technology and infrastructure. Crop yields, measured in kilograms per hectare, are among the lowest in the region, according to a 2006 poverty assessment report from the World Bank, which blames poor technology and irrigation.
The issue is likely to take greater prominence, with FAO figures suggesting that 80 percent of developing countries’ new food production must come from increased yields – not an expansion in farmland.