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Brazil, China and India should participate more in the international donor system if the problem of global hunger is to be adequately addressed, according to the head of the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The number of hungry people continues to increase, said Shenggen Fan, speaking to SciDev.Net on the eve of the G8 Summit of world leaders — to be held in Canada tomorrow (25 June) —  which will be followed by the G20 summit of the world's major economies.

Fan said new players are needed in global development for food security — including emerging economies, philanthropists and industry — to enable concerted action.  

"The traditional donors — the US Agency for International Development, the [UK-based] Department for International Development, and the World Bank —  need to include the Brazilians, Chinese and Indians in dialogue."

These three countries are increasingly funding agriculture and providing technical expertise to other developing countries, and have a wealth of experience in grappling with food security, Fan said.

For example, China's overall aid to Africa is estimated to have almost quadrupled from US$684 million in 2001 to US$2.5 billion in 2009 according to 'Halving Hunger', a report launched by IFPRI yesterday.

But although some work has been done, for example, within the G20, to include Brazil, China and India, "these are baby steps — there is still a long way to go".

Fan acknowledged that recent acquisitions of land — particularly in Africa — by countries such as China, India and the Gulf states in order to export cheap food for their own populations, had raised suspicions about their intentions.

The solution is better coordination with international players, and more transparency.

"We do need a code of conduct to guide investment in Africa ... to ensure that recipients of investments should not suffer from food security issues," he said.

But there is no code because of a lack of political will "on a global level".

"I personally think these countries' investment in Africa and Latin America can benefit [everyone] so that it is win-win," he said.

Fan also called on philanthropic organisations to be "fully integrated in the global food security agenda".

He said he was referring in particular to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been active in international agricultural research. "They should be more prominent on the G8 platform. They take risks, they innovate and they do things differently [from governments]."

Halving Hunger warns that food security is slipping down the G20 agenda.  

"Five years after G8 leaders promised at Gleneagles to increase development assistance, and one year after they promised to advance global food security at their summit in L'Aquila, the number of poor and hungry people is increasing," the report says.