W.F.P. partners with foundations to help poor farmers

by Eric Schroeder
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NEW YORK — The United Nations World Food Programme (W.F.P.), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation unveiled an initiative designed to help poor farmers across the developing world significantly increase their incomes by selling surplus crops at competitive prices.

The initiative, Purchase for Progress (P4P), will help change the way the W.F.P. purchases food locally, strengthening the role of smallholder farmers in agricultural markets, enabling them to gain more from supplying food to the W.F.P.’s global operations. The initiative will be launched in 21 pilot countries over the next five years, with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America. According to the W.F.P., the aim is to increase the incomes of at least 350,000 farmers in the pilot countries, with an ultimate goal of connecting the farmers to other local and regional food markets.

The foundations, along with the Belgian government, have committed $76 million to the initiative.

"The world’s poor are reeling under the impact of high food and fuel prices, and buying food assistance from developing world farmers is the right solution at the right time," said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the W.F.P. "Purchase for Progress is win-win — we help our beneficiaries who have little or no food and we help local farmers who have little or no access to markets where they can sell their crops."

As part of the initiative, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed $66 million for projects in 10 African countries while the Howard G. Buffett Foundation committed $9.1 million for projects in seven countries. The Belgian government contributed $750,000 for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three countries have not yet been funded.

"Developing new ways for W.F.P. to purchase food locally represents a major step toward sustainable change that could eventually benefit millions of poor rural households in Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "This is exactly the kind of innovative public-private partnership we need to advance the Millennium Development Goals and address extreme hunger and poverty around the world."

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