WFP Executive Director pledges ‘maximum positive impact’ on poor from food purchases on Africa visit

Published on 23 April 2007

The new Executive Director of WFP, Josette Sheeran, has called on farmers, grain traders, and government officials to support WFP in developing “better models with food aid purchases” that can help poor farmers access markets and assist in solving chronic food insecurity.

The new Executive Director of WFP, Josette Sheeran, today called on farmers, grain traders, and government officials to

I am convinced that strategically directed local purchase can benefit not only the hungry, but also poor farmers producing food
WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran

support WFP in developing “better models with food aid purchases” that can help poor farmers access markets and assist in solving chronic food insecurity.

Sheeran, on her first field trip as WFP Executive Director, spoke to a wide variety of economists, traders and market experts at two roundtable discussions about local food assistance procurement and its potential for making a positive impact on human development.

Food security

“I am convinced that strategically directed local purchase can benefit not only the hungry, but also poor farmers producing food,” said Sheeran. “Food security requires access to food and sustainable production of food.”

Sheeran started the first day of a three-country trip to the Horn of Africa with a visit to the Ethiopian capital’s central grain market, Sheeran talked with traders in the bustling market, from farmers selling a few sacks of wheat carried on the backs of their donkeys to traders dealing in tens of thousands of metric tons.

"Huge market presence"

Sheeran noted that WFP has a “huge market presence” with its cash-based purchases in Africa. WFP today buys 20 times more in Ethiopia than it did in 1990.

Last year, WFP bought 158,214 metric tons from Ethiopa at a value of U.S. $37 million. One-third of the food WFP sources for its operations in Ethiopia is purchased in the country.

“We’re hoping to take a more strategic look at our purchases to see that we are doing all we can to have the maximum positive impact on development,” she said.

Supporting farmers

Sheeran emphasised the need to support the African farmer: “How can we mitigate the risk for the African farmer, particularly the risk of waiting for rainfall that may not come?” she asked.

Sheeran, who told the grain markets experts that her intent in coming to Ethiopia was to “listen and learn,” said WFP is determined to create a “virtuous circle of food security” – from the small-scale farmers to the ultimate beneficiaries of food assistance.

Sheeran met today with Deputy Prime Minister Addisu Legesse and is scheduled to meet tomorrow with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. On Wednesday, Sheeran travels to Sudan, where WFP has its largest operation.