The Subregional Office for Eastern Africa (SFE) serves eight countries - Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. SFE is an advisory service centre to the countries it covers, with a core team of professionals based in Addis Ababa and the capacity to also draw upon a large body of expertise in FAO Headquarters and in its Accra-based Regional Office for Africa (RAF).
The sub-region has a population of about 300 million; with this number generally growing faster than 2.5% per annum (and therefore subject to doubling every 30 years). Current pervasive poverty will require extraordinarily rapid income growth for the largely rural populations. The prime challenge for agriculture is therefore to find ways for its accelerated but also profitable growth so it can uplift large numbers of people out of poverty. A related need is to find adequate non-farm income opportunities for currently land-dependent rural households to exit agriculture, so leaving more land per unit farm for economies of scale in commercialising the rural economy. Low input/low output approach to agriculture explains the fact that although the SFE sub-region has less than 4 percent of the world’s population, it consumes the most food aid in the world (19% of 2001/03 global total) in an Africa that in turn dominates the world as food aid recipient (35% of global total) (Table 1).
Another challenge is indicated by FAO production statistics: that SFE countries are generally marginal producers of mainstream commodities that enter world trade but are often among the lead producers of an assortment of locally vital but globally less important products, examples being goat meat, camel milk, camel meat, plantains, sorghum, various millets, sweet potatoes etc. But even for these internationally low-profile products, SFE production is not enough: if it were, there would be little need for reliance on food aid. For commodities used by other countries to achieve economic success, such as sugar, pineapples (Thailand); rice (Thailand , Vietnam), coffee (Vietnam); sugar (Brazil, Thailand); soyabean (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay); palm oil (Malaysia, Indonesia); forest products (Indonesia) etc, SFE hardly features on an international scale (Table 2).