UN official urges responsible investment in agriculture in poorer countries

UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi

26 April 2010 – Responsible investment in agriculture in developing countries can help them tap the enormous potential in farming in the wake of the recent food crisis, the head of the United Nations trade and development said today, calling for both national and international efforts to ensure domestic economies benefit.

“There is an urgent need to invest more in agriculture both to ensure food security and as the basis for long-term economic development,” said Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), when he addressed a meeting of the agency’s investment, enterprise and development commission.

The five-day meeting in Geneva will focus on the role of States in improving efficiency in public investment for development.

“Smart laws and procedures, organizational schemes, and e-government tools that have demonstrated their efficiency in one country could be helpful to other countries confronted by the same problems,” Dr. Supachai said.

According to last year’s UNCTAD World Investment Report, global foreign direct investment (FDI) in agricultural production has been increasing.

Dr. Supachai, however, stressed that that such mounting investment must be not only encouraged, but well managed. “We also have to recognize that the actual amount of FDI in the [agricultural] sector is still low, and that potential risks, such as land grab, may pose serious threats to developing country farmers,” he added.

He said national governments need to have comprehensive measures in place to ensure that FDI works to the benefit of domestic economies and agricultural sectors. A global set of principles should also be established to guide the agricultural investments of transnational firms, Dr. Supachai added.

UNCTAD took the opportunity of the meeting to announce this year’s winners of the agency’s Empretec Women in Business Awards. The Empretec programme trains entrepreneurs in developing countries, many of whom go on to found their own businesses.

This year’s winner is Beatrice Ayuru Bvaruhanga of Uganda, who founded Lira Integrated School in northern Uganda in 2000.

Ms. Bvaruhanga's school now has 1,500 students, some of whom board at the school, and its integration of nursery, primary, and secondary classes is one of its strengths, she said. She has plans to expand the school to include a university. She received a $6,000 study tour as a prize.

Second among the 10 finalists was María de la Luz Osses Klein of Chile, an entrepreneur who established Biotecnologías Antofagasta SA, which creates biotechnology products for the mining industry. Joy Simakane of Botswana won the third-place award. Her company, Extramile Express PTY Limited, provides customs-clearing and messenger-delivery services.

The winners were chosen by an independent panel of 20 judges, comprising corporate executives, entrepreneurs, academicians and gender specialists.


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