Special Programme for Food Security expands in Ethiopia
Japan commits $1.3 million to fight malnutrition, poverty and food insecurity
17 September 2004, Rome -- Around 6 000 poor rural households in severely food insecure, drought-prone regions of Ethiopia will benefit from a new project that aims to increase agricultural production and incomes, FAO announced today.
The two-year $1.3 million project, funded by the Government of Japan, will enable the expansion of FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) activities in the country. The project will target vulnerable households in seven districts in the Oromiya and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples regions.
Persistent rural poverty
The population of Ethiopia, at some 63 million, is the second largest in sub-Saharan Africa, and its per capita income of around US$150 is the second lowest. Some 45 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and the incidence and severity of poverty is much higher in rural areas -- home to over 80 percent of the population.
The land area is among the largest in Africa at over 1.2 million square kilometres, but only about 10 percent is arable. The more advantaged rural areas face extreme population pressure, often with over 300 people per square kilometre and with most land holding sizes below 1 hectare -- and many as low as 0.25 hectares.
Agricultural development leading the way
The agricultural sector accounts for over 45 percent of gross domestic product, employs more than 80 percent of the population and provides 90 percent of export revenues.
Since 1993, the Ethiopian government has been pursuing a policy of agricultural development-led industrialization, focused on intensification of the production system -- the idea being that higher rural productivity will raise rural incomes and provide a market for consumer products and inputs, and, at the same time, allow for improvements in nutrition and food security of farming households. Increased rural incomes will generate savings that can in turn be mobilized to finance investment in activities that yield higher returns.
The strategy calls for greater recognition of the importance of smallholder agriculture as the foundation of the economy and the devotion of more money and manpower to the rehabilitation and expansion of the sector, with emphasis on better techniques, rural roads, security of land tenure, greater use of improved seed and other farm inputs, and developing means of small-scale credit delivery.
The objectives of the SPFS, which aims to help farmers in low-income, food-deficit countries increase production and food security through simple, low-cost and environmentally friendly farming techniques, are in line with the government's strategy.
Strengthened cooperation, integration of activities
The new project will draw on experience gained through earlier SPFS activities in Amhara and Tigray in introducing improved irrigation technologies and agricultural practices. Principal components will be water control and management, sustainable improvement/intensification of crop production, diversification of farming activities, and analysis and resolution of socio-economic constraints. Emphasis will be given to supporting participatory farmers', water users' and women's groups.
One of the project sites will include an area covered by an ongoing Japanese-assisted project in order to strengthen opportunities for cooperation and integration of activities aimed at addressing rural poverty and food security issues.
Cooperation will also be established with other donors contributing to the SPFS, in particular with the ongoing Italian-funded project in Amhara and Tigray, where the government also receives support from Chinese experts under the FAO-sponsored South-South Cooperation initiative.
Information Officer, FAO
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