Jordan marked World Food Day on Monday with high hopes of overcoming drought and chronic scarcity of water. Both problems have seriously affected Jordan's agricultural results and food production in the last few years, experts believe.
“Jordan believes it ought to work towards increasing its food production, particularly in the interest of alleviating hunger problems,” said Jihad Abu Mushref, head of the International Cooperation Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Although Jordan enjoys only limited natural resources, he said, it has succeeded in increasing its food production to exceed self-sufficiency in some vital products. “The Kingdom's production of vegetables, fruits and eggs has reached, respectively, 140 percent, 100 percent and 101 percent [of domestic consumption],” said Abu Mushref. This is a result of Jordan's sustainable agricultural policy, which aims to manage resources and preserve the environment, he added.
The event will be launched with a strong emphasis on a “Millennium Free from Hunger,” he said. The current number of 800 million hungry, most of whom live in the developing world, was expected to decrease by 50 percent by the year 2015. “But war and natural disasters, especially successive years of drought, are hindering the decrease in this number,” the official said.
The world population today enjoys better nutrition compared to 30 years ago, a report issued recently by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed. Since 1970, people suffering from malnutrition in developing countries decreased by around 130 million, from 920 million to 790 million. The same period, however, witnessed a world population growth of over one billion.
“The event is to deepen public awareness of hunger problems worldwide and consequently to draw attention to world agriculture and food production issues,” states the FAO report. According to World Bank statistics quoted by the FAO report, around one-and-a-half billion people live on $1 a day or less.
“Telefood,” an FAO program, is an annual campaign to enhance assistance to the hungry by encouraging self-reliance and self-sufficiency. “Each Telefood project, on a small scale, costs $5,000-10,000,” the report states.
“In Jordan, the Telefood program is likely to be adopted soon in collaboration with the Greater Amman Municipality,” said Abu Mushref. Since its establishment in 1997, Telefood has succeeded in collecting $9 million.
Ministry of Agriculture secretary general, Mazen Khasawneh, said, “The government and the World Food Program (WFP) have collaborated to implement development projects to enhance the agricultural sector, family food security and the income of rural families.”
Experts believe that systematic efforts to conserve and recycle water could significantly contribute to alleviating drought and chronic scarcity of water, problems that have seriously affected Jordan's agricultural results and food production in recent years. However, the fluctuation of climatic conditions coupled with erroneous agricultural practices adversely affects the ecological balance, particularly natural resources and water.
In Jordan, WFP led the first development and relief efforts, mainly through food assistance to feed primary schoolchildren, clean the slums in old Amman and restore the Hijaz Railway.
Since then, WFP's aid to Jordan totalled about $192 million through a total of 32 development projects and 17 emergency operations.
The WFP acting representative in Jordan, John Murray, said Jordan is blessed with a relatively strong civil society. The overall number of registered NGOs is more than 800, spread over the 12 governorates. Among these, 95 — constituting 11 percent of the total — specialize in women's issues.
“Unfortunately, the system is not perfect, as men are often the main beneficiaries of development assistance — even though women produce 60 to 80 percent of food eaten in the developing countries,” he said.
The Second International Food Summit in Rome next year will study what has been done worldwide to alleviate hunger and its consequences. Tomorrow also will mark FAO's anniversary. The organization was established in 1945 to enhance people's living standards and food productivity. — ( Jordan Times )
By Khalid Dalal
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)