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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) honours World Food Day (16 October) by reaffirming its dedication to work with communities, civil society, governments and the private sector to end hunger in our lifetimes.

Over the last year, communities on almost every continent have felt the devastating impacts of high food prices, natural disasters, climate emergencies and conflict, which have exacerbated hunger and poverty. Fortunately, working with partners across the globe WFP’s food assistance has brought hope and relief to millions.

“WFP faces many challenges as we work to ensure that the hungry poor receive the right food at the right time,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “From the Sahel region stricken by the third drought in recent years, to unrest in the Middle East, to communities whose imported staple foods have become inaccessibly expensive, WFP delivers life-saving food assistance where it is needed most.”

In 2011, WFP reached almost 100 million people in 75 countries, including over 11 million children who received special nutritional support and 23 million children who received school meals or take-home rations.

“Here in Kenya, WFP is giving food assistance to nearly 3 million people, including about 560,000 refugees,” said WFP Country Director Ronald Sibanda.  “WFP is putting more emphasis on food-based and cash-based activities that promote sustainable food security by investing in and developing communities’ ability to create assets that will help them cope better with climate change and invest in sustainable hunger solutions.”

The theme of this year’s World Food Day is “Agricultural cooperatives—key to feeding the world.” WFP works with agricultural cooperatives and farmers’ organizations in many countries around the world, providing training to help improve crop quality, strengthen business practices and increase access to markets. In particular, WFP’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) pilot project has worked with more than 800 farmers’ organizations, comprised of more than one million smallholder farmers, in 20 countries to build capacity and maximize developmental impact of food procurement.

“Through P4P in Kenya over the last three years, WFP has empowered 10,000 smallholder farmers to improve the quality of their produce through best post-harvest handling practices and to negotiate for better market prices. WFP has bought close to 9,000 metric tons of food commodity valued at US $3,000,000 from farmers’ groups and small scale traders,” Sibanda said.

During 2011, WFP bought food locally in Kenya totalling some US$23 million, of which US$3 million worth was purchased from smallholder farmers.

WFP celebrates World Food Day along with its sister UN food agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The three Rome-based agencies often work closely together to invest in and boost the production of smallholder farmers and increase people’s access to nutritious food.