TOYAKO, Japan,  - Rising food and fuel prices are topping the agenda for leaders of the world's major industrialised nations as they started a three-day summit in Japan. Leaders including US President George W Bush gathered in the secluded spa resort of Toyako in northern Japan for a three-day session, with seven African leaders joining them on the first day to take up the plight of the continent. It is aimed at battling skyrocketing oil and food prices, as pressure mounted on them to live up to their pledges to help Africa. Riot police with shields stood under pouring rain and blocked some 50 protesters who had camped out in the meadowlands from getting anywhere near the plush hotel where the world's top leaders were meeting. The closest that demonstrators got was the other side of sapphire-blue Lake Toya, where they shouted slogans in the improbable hope that leaders on the hilltop on the other side would hear them. European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso set the tone for the meeting by proposing the creation of a $1.57b EU fund to fight hunger and help farmers in poor countries with seeds and fertiliser. In the closed-door session, African leaders pushed for the Group of Eight nations to make good on aid promises, saying the continent was bearing the brunt of rising food prices, a Japanese official who was present said. "Because of the recent surge in food prices, African agriculture's supply and demand is not balanced and we would like the G8 to fully support" our cause", the official quoted African delegates as telling G8 leaders. Pope Benedict XVI also called on G8 leaders to focus on the world's weakest and poorest people, as they are "more vulnerable now because of speculation and financial turbulence and their perverse effects on the prices of food and energy." But aid groups said that some of the G8 nations - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States - were walking away from earlier commitments. The Oxfam charity said that Canada in particular was working to water down aid pledges, with their position backed by France and Italy. "We can't let them step away from their promises," Oxfam activist Max Lawson said. "For rich countries this is peanuts. For African countries this is life or death." The G8 was joined for Monday's so-called outreach session on Africa by the leaders of Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. The G8 leaders were expected to focus at their main session Tuesday (today) on soaring oil prices, which have imperilled global economic growth by stoking inflation, prompting warnings by aid groups not to forget Africa. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the G8 to tackle the "interconnected challenges" of rising food prices, development, and climate change. In Mali, hundreds of activists from around the world gathered in the dusty town of Katibougou for a poor people's summit organised to counterbalance the G8.