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UN agency supports struggling farmers in Swaziland affected by food price crisis

UN agency supports struggling farmers in Swaziland affected by food price crisis

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced plans today to help cash-strapped farmers in Swaziland, affected by the global food price crisis, buy seeds in time for the next planting season.

The combination of the sudden hike in food prices – more than 50 per cent in the last year – and the high cost of fuel and other agricultural inputs threatens to leave Swazi farmers with no harvest, food or income.

FAO is preparing to deliver emergency assistance to farmers in the southern African country who cannot afford to purchase seeds and other raw agricultural materials, under its Initiative on Soaring Food Prices (ISFP).

Starting at the end of the month, farmers in the landlocked region will receive vouchers they can use to choose seeds and other agricultural supplies from local producers at markets set up by FAO, known as Input Trade Fairs.

Swaziland is on of a growing list of countries around the world targeted by a coordinated UN-wide effort to combat the effects of months of spiralling food prices.

“We are stepping up the momentum, from one country to the next,” FAO Director-General, Jacques Diouf, told reporters at a school-based farming project in Boyane near the capital, Mbabane.

“We must work together to produce more food where it is urgently needed to contain the impact of soaring prices on poor consumers,” Mr. Diouf added.

In Boyane, AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children showed Mr. Diouf some of the sustainable agricultural practices, handicrafts and other skills they have learned through Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools initiative, sponsored by FAO and other UN agencies.

Mr. Diouf used the occasion to call for further investment in agriculture and programmes designed to tackle problems contributing to the overall increase in food insecurity throughout the region.

According to FAO, the hardest-hit countries, most of them in Africa, will need at least $30 billion annually to ensure food security and revive agricultural systems that have been neglected for several decades.