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Field reports show steady progress under the Special Programme for Food Security

Reports in from the field about progress under FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) show steady improvements in the food security of the participating farmers and their families. Work is currently ongoing under the SPFS in 39 countries, and 34 countries are in formulation, that is, preparing to implement Special Programme activities.

The SPFS website now exists in French and Spanish, as well as English. News about Special Programme activities around the world can be sent to the Editor for publication on the web in any of these languages. All comments and contributions are welcome.

Water users' groups boost yields in Cambodia

Farmers with an irrigation culvert they built in Cambodia

In Cambodia work started under the Special Programme in November 1997 in seven pilot sites. Improved water management, achieved through water users' groups, has had a wide variety of benefits, including improved rice yields, diversification into vegetables and a big reduction in water use conflicts. Treadle pumps have been introduced and low-lift water devices have been provided by TeleFood.

Before the SPFS started in Cambodia, 54 percent of farmers interviewed said that their families were food-deficient. After work began, this figure dropped to 15 percent and the number of food surplus farming families rose sharply from 12 to 41 percent.

Growing numbers of farmers join up in Tanzania

Tanzania was one of the first countries to implement the Special Programme. Since work began in 1995, rice and maize yields in demonstration plots have increased as much as 138 and 98 percent, respectively. Lower increases were recorded for 1997/98 because of El Niño rains. Under the diversification component, more than 14 000 chickens have been vaccinated against the deadly respiratory virus, Newcastle disease, more than 140 chicken and goat shelters have been built and 170 improved cockerels have been sold on credit to participating farmers.

The numbers of farmers joining the SPFS farmers' groups in Tanzania are perhaps the clearest evidence of the programme's steady progress at grassroots level. When work started, 43 groups with 669 members were enrolled. The latest figures show 78 groups with 1 116 members.

Mongolian farmers preserve and store vegetables

Mongolia, hit hard by the collapse of the Soviet Union, is one of the most recent countries to join the Special Programme. A report just in says that results after the first season are encouraging. Rehabilitation works on selected small-scale irrigation systems - one of the top priorities - were completed on schedule and below estimated cost.

Vegetable consumption in Mongolia fell from a yearly average of 25 kg per caput in the 1980s to a meagre 9 kg per caput in 1994/95. Increased vegetable cultivation is therefore a must and in the first Special Programme season farmers grew carrots, turnips, cucumbers, cabbages, potatoes, watermelons and tomatoes. They also experimented with some new types - including courgette, green pepper, radish, dill, aubergine, lettuce and spinach.

After the harvest, farmers pickled large quantities of vegetables in vinegar - either for family consumption during the long hard winter, or for sale at the market, where they fetch ten times their fresh price. Many farmers have also built underground storage spaces big enough to hold five to 10 tonnes of produce, where root crops like potatoes, turnips and carrots keep most successfully. Preliminary estimates indicate that, on average, the Mongolian SPFS farmers earned 69 percent more in 1998 than they did in 1997.

30 March 1999

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© FAO, 1999