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CHONGWE, Zambia (AP) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen went from a small farm on a rural red clay road to a ramen noodle factory in Zambia’s bustling Capitol on Tuesday to showcase Africa’s potential to help solve the world’s food shortages. .

Yale, in the middle of a 10-day tour of Africadevoted his day to highlighting the agricultural investment potential of underdeveloped African countries, especially as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated hunger and food costs around the world.

“As we address acute needs now, we must also take a longer view and increase investment in long-term food system resilience. Africa is the perfect example of these dual challenges,” said Ellen in Chongwe, a village an hour outside of Lusaka. He stood at his iconic pulpit, surrounded by lush green cornfields and chickens grazing nearby.

The continent’s potential is evident in one statistic. Africa has 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land.

“We want to develop a future where Africa participates more fully in global food and fertilizer markets and supply chains,” Yellen said as the farmers, mostly women dressed in brightly colored wax cloth dresses, stood and listened.

They told Yellen stories of how they sustained their communities by sharing goats for mating, creating a sustainable livestock supply, and building collective savings groups and silos for grain.

Echinah Mfula, a farmer in Chongwe and a member of the Twalumbu Savings Group, which helps its members raise money to buy livestock and food, said: “It was a challenge. It was a big challenge for us, but we are successful.”

In Zambia, approximately 2 million people face acute food insecurity, more than half of the population lives below the poverty line, and almost half of the population fails to meet minimum calorie needs.

“It’s a continent facing acute food needs,” Yellen said. “But it’s one that also has the potential to not only feed itself, but to help feed the world if the right steps are taken.”

Solving the country’s well-documented debt crisis is more important than ever if funding for new agricultural projects is to be possible.

Zambia becomes first African sovereign state to default amid coronavirus pandemic when it failed to make a $42.5 million bond payment in November 2020. Negotiations continued over how to deal with the debt burden.

Experts say a prolonged debt crisis could permanently prevent countries like Zambia from recovering, sending an entire nation deeper into poverty and unemployment.

Food insecurity is increasing worldwide due to COVID-19, Russia’s invasion, the invasion of Ukraine and rising food prices, according to a report released on Tuesday. by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other United Nations agencies. Almost half a billion people were undernourished in 2021, and more than 1 billion faced moderate to severe food insecurity, the report said.

In addition, fertilizer and natural gas costs have exploded, and global food prices such as grains and vegetable oils have been at record highs. in 2022.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February worsened the food insecurity crisis, as the two countries were leading suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other commodities, especially to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia already struggling with hunger.

In the US, the Treasury Department has imposed thousands of sanctions against Russia to allow agricultural deals and trade linked to access to humanitarian aid and communications. The hope is to prevent the most dangerous effects of war on vulnerable populations.

But in Zambia, Yellen said she sees solutions in home-grown companies like Java Foods Limited, a woman-owned company that makes low-cost, nutritionally fortified instant noodles. It targets low-income urban consumers and sources 100% of its wheat from Zambian farmers.

Java Foods founder Monica Musonda told Yellen at a roundtable on Tuesday that staying afloat has been difficult because her company is one of the only food manufacturers in Lusaka. “But we are trying to make an impact in our community. you can see what we women can do.”

Java has worked with USAID’s Feed the Future program and the US Partnership for Food Solutions, a non-profit organization founded by General Mills.

Ellen started her tour of Africa in Senegal and is heading to South Africa after Zambia.

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