Kirsty Taylor.

Korea will further help tackle hunger in Africa following the Korean launch of a major UN report on the issue. The Korea International Cooperation Agency said Thursday that it will launch new rural development projects over the next 18 months in African nations including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Ethiopia. The projects to be started by the end of 2013 were announced at the Korean launch of the UN Africa Human Development Report 2012.

Senior Foreign Ministry and KOICA officials were joined by United Nations Development Programme Seoul Policy Centre director Anne-Isabelle Degryse-Blateau and Kenyan Ambassador Ngovi Kitau to discuss ways Korea could help to end food poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Although the region is currently enjoying economic growth, the report warns that this will be unsustainable while hunger still affects almost a quarter of its people. The report calls for new policy approaches to help develop wide-ranging sectors beyond just agriculture, from rural infrastructure to health services.

Deputy Director of KOICA’s Evaluation Office, Park Sook-hyun, agreed with this approach. “Tying politics, food security, tackling agricultural improvements and giving people choices, especially women, together is key to boosting development in a holistic way in sub-Saharan Africa,” she said.

“To help address these challenges, KOICA will launch a number of new rural development projects in Africa in 2012 and 2013, including income-generating projects in northern Uganda with the WFP, water and sanitation projects in rural Democratic Republic of Congo and a range of projects in Ghana, Rwanda and Ethiopia.”

Korea’s support to Africa’s agricultural sector has risen from $400,000 in 2001 to $14 million in 2010. More than 12 African countries, including Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and the DRC have already benefited from KOICA projects. While Korean government contributions continue to increase, Oh Hye-jin of MOFAT’s Humanitarian Assistance Division said that aid budget difficulties must be overcome to further boost funds.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade plans to expand its food and agriculture related projects and cooperation by increasing ODA in this sector, however it is true that we are having difficulties in securing sufficient budget due to domestic political circumstances and difference of perspective with the finance authorities,” she said. “However, we will continue to cooperate with international organizations such as the World Food Program, the World Bank and UNDP and actively participate in discussions on food security issues.”

Warning that GDP growth rates in Africa have not yet translated into eliminating malnutrition, the UNDP’s Blateau said that Korea had valuable resources to help on the issue. “Korea is boosting its overseas development assistance and has many policy lessons and climate-resilient technologies it can share in the context of tackling food security in Africa. It can play an important role in supporting countries to tackle these challenges,” she said.

Ambassador Kitau said that addressing new challenges such as climate change, and working to empower women could help his region. “Despite the fact that Africa has a lot of water, land, the right climate and economic growth, we are still facing difficulties. One of them is that the prevalence of malnutrition in children fell only by 1 percent in the last 10 years as compared to 10 percent in Asia,” he said. “These are some of the issues that need to be addressed and I am happy that the UN is leaning more towards policy and strategy, which can help many of our governments.” The UN report calls for immediate actions in the four key areas of agricultural productivity, nutrition, access to food and empowerment of the rural poor.