From: Associated Press
Published June 14, 2007 12:00 AM

Kofi Annan Named as Head of New Body To Boost Agriculture in Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is to head a new organization intended to boost agricultural production in Africa and curb mounting hunger, soil erosion and lack of water.

Annan said Thursday that he has agreed to be chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, set up last year by a grant of US$150 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The alliance says its most pressing priorities are to improve seed varieties; help women, who form the backbone of the continent's farmers; and improve water management.

"Sub-Saharan Africa is the only area of the world where food production is worsening each year," said Annan. He said that three quarters of the land is without fertilizer and the soils are the most depleted in the world. The number of underweight children has increased by 10 percent in the past three years, he said.

The situation is likely to worsen with climate change, expected to wreak havoc with crop yields that already are well below the global average, he said at the annual African meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Aid agencies are sounding the alarm that drought is expected to devastate this year's maize harvest in southern Africa, leaving millions of people in countries like Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho dependent on foreign handouts.

"Africa is not responsible for emissions" of greenhouse gases, said Annan. "But we are paying the highest price. We are paying for the crimes of others."

Annan was U.N. chief from 1997 to the end of last year.

Source: Associated Press

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