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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - African Farmland Found to be Severely Infertile

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This is Shep O'Neal with the VOA Special English Development Report.

A new report says seventy-five percent of farmland in southern Africa has lost nutrients needed to grow crops. The highest rates of nutrient loss are in Guinea, Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. More than sixty kilograms of nutrients per hectare are being lost each year. The study also warned that food imports to Africa would need to increase if immediate action is not taken.

The international nonprofit organization I.F.D.C. released the report at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City last month. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo headed the event. He called on African leaders, aid groups and farming organizations to support a meeting in Nigeria in June to discuss Africa's soil crisis.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo at a Rockefeller Foundation news conference, March 30.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo at a Rockefeller Foundation news conference, March 30.

The meeting would discuss ways to increase agricultural productivity across Africa. These include reductions in nutrient mining, limits on cutting of trees, less use of infertile grassland, and better farming methods that protect the environment. The meeting also would aim to increase the use of natural and manufactured chemical fertilizers in Africa.

Lack of rain is also harming soil fertility in Africa. The World Meteorological Organization says dry weather conditions in East Africa will continue in April. Several of the worst affected areas have recorded their driest months since nineteen sixty-one. The United Nations warns that more than eleven million people in the area urgently need food assistance.

The World Food Program has launched a new program that could help pay for a possible humanitarian emergency in Ethiopia this year. The U.N. agency has purchased an insurance agreement that will pay money if rainfall does not reach a certain level this year. The insurance policy is reported to have cost nine hundred thirty thousand dollars. It was awarded to a French insurance company.

The company will pay the World Food Program about seven million dollars if rainfall between March and October in Ethiopia is below a certain level. The money would be used to get emergency aid more quickly.

James Morris heads the World Food Program. He says the insurance program could help change the way governments think about emergency aid.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. I'm Shep O'Neal. Our programs are online at www.unsv.com.

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