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Press Release 01/18


Rome, 22 March 2001.- "It is within the capacity of the countries concerned and the international community to eliminate famine and tackle food insecurity in the Horn of Africa," says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at the start of a meeting of donors on the Horn of Africa initiative.

The FAO is actively participating in a UN inter-agency Task Force initiative launched by the Secretary General, Kofi Annan, just a year ago to eliminate food insecurity in the Horn of Africa.

The World Bank has convened this two-day donor meeting, hosted by FAO, and attended by representatives from other UN agencies, delegates from OECD countries, the European Union, some African countries and officials from the African Development Bank and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). It is chaired by Hans Binswanger, Director of the Environmental, Rural, and Social Development Department of the African region at the World Bank.

The purpose of the meeting is to reach agreement on a follow-up mechanism for the implementation of the Task Force strategy and to obtain indications of funding. When the Task Force report was presented to the UN Secretary General, it was agreed that the World Bank should be responsible for resource mobilisation.

"Both multilateral and bilateral donors need to pledge long-term funding in support of national efforts to end famine and food insecurity at a level that is commensurate with the scale of the problem. In addition to traditional mechanisms such as soft loan or grant-funded projects and sector programmes, this will require a longer-term commitment on the part of donors as well as innovative funding mechanisms allowing greater responsiveness to local-level initiatives," according to the UN inter-agency Task Force.

A final report by the Task Force on what needs to be done to improve food conditions in this region underlines that "it is essential to secure the commitment of governments, regional organizations, UN agencies, donors and civil society, all of whom have key roles in translating common policies into concrete and concerted action."

At the national level, governments must assume full responsibility for eliminating food insecurity by ensuring such conditions as good governance, health and education services and their people's empowerment.

Together with the governments concerned, intergovernmental organizations should formulate and implement a Regional Food Security Programme (RFSP), encompassing conflict resolution, technical cooperation, the promotion of interregional infrastructure development, the fostering of trade and the liberalization and harmonization of trade policies, economic integration and an integrated early warning system for the region, the Task Force report says.

UN agencies are assisting governments in setting priorities for development programmes and formulating investments aimed at achieving food security and disaster preparedness and mitigation, in particular in the Horn of Africa.

Each government will need to formulate a Country Food Security Programme (CFSP), building on the recommendations of the World Food Summit Follow-up Strategies, as well as existing national food security initiatives and Poverty Reduction Strategies. The CFSPs will have two main thrusts: one to eliminate famine; the other to tackle chronic food insecurity. At the World Food Summit, convened by FAO in November 1996, Heads of State and Government from 186 countries pledged to reduce by half the number of undernourished in the world by 2015.

One of the main elements of each CFSP should be a programme for disaster preparedness and the elimination of famine. Early warning systems will need to be restructured so as to give better coverage of pastoral and agropastoral areas, and also be linked to regional systems. They should be based on active two-way communication between local communities and national and international decision-makers. Farmers and pastoralists should be able to tell decision-makers when and where their food stocks are running low and their cattle are dying, while international agencies, who have access to meteorological forecasts, should ensure that this information is delivered rapidly to local communities.

The immediate focus would be on enhancing the livelihoods of small resource-poor farmers, through a combination of agricultural technologies and support services, access to markets and credit, along with rural enterprises and agroprocessing. Such farmers, as well as pastoralists inhabiting the arid and semi-arid parts of the region, and the urban food insecure, are the principal targets of the programme.

For those in the highland areas, for example, this will mean making better use of water by adopting small-scale irrigation techniques, building on the experience of FAO's Special Programme for Food Security. In the drier areas, on the other hand, the focus is likely to be more on the promotion of drought-resistant crops as well as the conservation of both soil and water. At the same time farmers should seek to diversify their sources of income, rearing more short-cycle livestock, taking advantage of non-timber forest products and, in some places, developing ecotourism.

The CFSPs will need substantial funding. Much of this can come through conventional channels of bilateral grants and concessional loans but it will also be necessary to create new, decentralized mechanisms to offer community-based initiatives more direct and flexible access to funds.


For further information, please call FAO media relations branch tel.: 0039.06.57052232.

For an up-date on the work of the Task Force for the Horn of Africa, visit the following Web site:

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