New UN initiative aims to boost food security in West Africa

23 January 2008

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched projects in five West African countries, considered to be among the world’s poorest, to help increase agricultural output and create new markets for products.

Launched as part of the FAO Trust Fund for Food Security, the projects are taking place in Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone, thanks to a $10 million contribution from the Italian Government.

All five countries suffer from “alarming” levels of poverty and malnutrition, FAO noted in a news release, adding that that in some cases, up to 70 per cent of the population is living below the poverty line.

The projects focus on agriculture as a primary vehicle for reducing poverty and increasing food security, while recognizing the need for a dual approach – boosting output and improving market access for products.

Key elements of the projects include promoting crop diversification to avoid over-reliance on a single commodity, as well as teaching farmers how to store and conserve products so that they are not forced to sell all their crops straight after harvest.

“In countries where between 40 and 50 per cent of the adult population has never been to school, farmers will learn more efficient agricultural practices, but also how to set up a small enterprise, how to make the most of the few resources they have available and how to produce value-added agricultural products for the market,” said Kevin Gallagher, a senior FAO expert for programme development.

The new initiative in West Africa follows a number of other FAO/Italy projects already under way in Central and East Africa (Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda) and in Southern Africa (Malawi and Zambia).

 

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