E.U. And U.N. Back Project To Help Somalis To Produce Food Aid

E.U. And U.N. Back Project To Help Somalis To Produce Food Aid

By Peter Mutai
Saturday, March 15, 2014

NAIROBI (Xinhua) — The UN, EU and Austria food agencies are backing a key initiative that turns Somali farmers into suppliers of high-quality food assistance for their fellow Somali people.


In a joint statement issued in Nairobi, the EU, UN and Austria said the initiative has helped Somali farmers achieve this major agricultural breakthrough in a region of the country that was gripped by famine less than three years ago.

WFP Country Representative Stefano Porretti described the initiative “as a significant achievement for the participating farmers” and a milestone for WFP’s operations in Somalia.

“WFP will continue to support small-scale farmers in Somalia by empowering them to produce and sell more food, so as to become competitive players in local markets,” Porretti said.

He said strengthening livelihoods and increasing resiliency is an integral part of WFP’s strategy in the Horn of Africa nation, adding that the initiative enables Somali farmers to produce food assistance.

The initiative has helped Somali farmers to produce maize that meets international quality standards in sufficient quantities to sell it to WFP, which will use the locally grown grain in its food assistance programs for the most vulnerable and food-insecure Somalis.

Experts from FAO and WFP supported by the EU have worked with dozens of farmers in several communities in the past year to train them in post-harvest handling, storage and warehouse management in order to increase the quality of their production and limit losses by keeping the grain free of contamination and pests.

According to the agencies, farmers also learned how to grade their grain, noting that these new skills are aimed at increasing the quality of their produce.

FAO’s outgoing representative for Somalia Luca Alinovi with minimal assistance including agricultural inputs, tools, technical skills in storage, grading and marketing, Somalis can make a great difference.

“This initiative shows that Somali farmers are not helpless,” Alinovi added.

With the support of the EU and FAO, small-scale farmers have boosted the yields and quality of their maize grains, allowing them to sell 200 metric tons of high-quality maize to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), which purchased the grain with funds supplied by Austria.

Agricultural communities—especially in south-central Somalia, the country’s grain basket—have, over the last two decades, been severely affected by conflict and recurrent drought, which has resulted in the widespread failure of crops and poor yields.

The EU, Austria, FAO and WFP said they are working with local farmers to change the recurrent drought which has ravaged the region.

“The EU strongly supports this pilot initiative to empower the Somali farmers and their markets,” said Michele Cervone d’Urso, the EU Ambassador to Somalia. “By enabling them to provide food aid for Somalia, we support the entire Somali economy.”

According to UN’s food production data, Somali farmers only meet 40 percent of the country’s domestic cereal demand.

FAO and WFP will jointly seek to scale up this initiative to ensure that small scale farmers have better opportunities to access agricultural markets, to become competitive players in domestic and international food trade and thus to improve their lives.

“Sustained humanitarian interventions as well as successive seasons of near-average to above-average rainfall in most parts of Somalia have significantly reduced the number of people experiencing severe food shortages in parts of the country from a peak of 4 million during the 2011 drought and famine,” the agencies said.

The Austrian embassy in Nairobi, which also covers Somalia, said that Austria, as one of the partners and sponsors of this project, lauded the initiative which it said had been such a success.

It further added that it was another example that people in need, given the necessary assistance and possibilities, are able to help themselves and thus make a difference to their lives.