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U.S.-Africa alliance to help small farmer

The partnership between the US and Kofi Annan's farm group reflects the new international emphasis on agriculture.

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Convinced the global food crisis has no quick fixes, the international community is beginning to team up with agriculture experts to find long-term solutions to the challenge – with a particular emphasis on Africa.

Taking some cues from past successes – especially from the first "green revolution" in Asia – and mixing them with new technologies, aid donors and agriculture experts are placing new emphasis on infrastructure development, efficient farm-to-market systems, and distribution of new and better seeds and fertilizers.

The new focus is also increasingly on the small farmer who, as Kofi Annan notes, in the case of Africa is more often than not a woman.

"If we take the food crisis seriously … we can turn many of the African countries into breadbaskets," says Mr. Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general. Noting that the African farmer is "perhaps the only farmer in the world who takes all the risk herself," Annan says addressing Africa's "silent hunger" will require a shift beyond better farming techniques. What is needed, he adds, are partnerships that encompass governments and international donors who can provide better technologies, infrastructure, and inputs such as seed and fertilizer.

The US government signaled its endorsement of such partnerships with its announcement last week of a collaborative initiative between the Bush administration's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, or Agra.

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