Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Agriculture: New UN Internet campaign links rural African farmers to food bloggers

An innovative United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) online fundraising campaign will connect farmers in rural Africa to food bloggers worldwide.

Known as "Menu for Hope," the initiative - now in its fourth year - will be launched today on Chez Pim, one of the world's most popular food blogs.

"It is difficult to imagine two worlds that are further apart - the high-end culinary world and rural African farmers," said WFP Director of Public Policy Strategy, Nancy Roman. "But by coming together, the global community of foodies can make a real difference to poor people who struggle daily with hunger and survival."

The funds raised by the online raffle will support WFP's work in the tiny Southern African nation of Lesotho, where the agency has been helping rural communities by purchasing surplus grain from small-scale farmers.

This grain in then used in programmes such as a scheme to supply school lunches to children in Lesotho.

Conceived by food blogger Pim Techamuanvivit, who uses her popular site for the fundraising campaign, the raffle last year raised more than $60,000 - more than double its target - for WFP programmes through the sale of $10 tickets online that give purchasers a chance to win "foodie" items such as invitations to join world-famous chefs for personal cooking lessons, rare cooking books, opportunities to dine in restaurants around the world and a pizza tour of New York, among others.

Michelin-starred restaurants and internationally renowned chefs, including Ferran Adria of Spain and Heston Blumenthal of the United Kingdom, are among those supporting the initiative.

This is the 4th year that I have run this campaign, but this is the first time that we have tried to make this direct connection between the money we raise and the people who need it in a place like Lesotho," Pim Techamuanvivit said. "The Internet is so much more powerful than other media in the way it can bring these diverse communities together."

By purchasing food from small-scale farmers, WFP -- which buys three-quarters of the food for its operations in 70 developing countries -- is able to offer more direct financial support to them while also lowering the cost of transporting food long distances to where it is urgently needed.

In Lesotho this year, WFP paid 20 small-scale farmers some $2,800 for eight metric tons of maize.

"That might not seem much," Ms. Roman noted. "But when you realize that this is a country where more than a third of the people live on less than US$1 a day, you quickly understand the incredible impact this kind of investment can have."

Source: UN News Centre