6 February 2003, Rome - FAO on Thursday launched a $3.2 million appeal to fund emergency projects in drought-stricken Ethiopia where over 11 million people face food shortages.

The UN food agency said that currently 11.3 million people needed food assistance.

An acute drought has caused herds of animals to die due to lack of water and pastureland and led to outbreaks of diseases as animals migrate in search of water.

The lack of rainfall has withered the maize and sorghum harvests which account for 40 percent of Ethiopia's total agricultural production.

"Due to the rapid deterioration of the food security situation, there is urgent need for emergency interventions in most fields," FAO said, "If agricultural and livestock production activities in Ethiopia are not restored soon, the food security situation of the most vulnerable people will continue to deteriorate."

FAO's nine projects, in collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia, aim to:

* increase food production;
* enable farmers to respond to drought conditions;
* assist livestock farmers by supporting affected animals;

They will include supplying livestock, seeds and feed, tools, technical equipment and training in water management techniques to reach food security and boost the agricultural sector which accounts for 45 percent of the Ethiopian economy.

Over 11 million hectares are farmed in the country but less than 200 000 hectares are irrigated, leaving farmers highly vulnerable to changes in rainfall and fluctuations in the prices of crops.

In 2002 alone, Ethiopia produced 25 percent less cereals and pulses than the previous year.

The FAO emergency projects will include:

* distribution of wheat, barley, sorghum, maize and teff seeds and training to deal with drought to 400 000 farmers in the Amhara and Oromiya regions;
* provision of crucial veterinary instruments and refresher training for government vets in Amhara, Oromiya, Somali and Afar to benefit 600 000 farmers.
* livestock to replenish herds for 120 000 livestock farmers in Afar and Tigray, in northern Ethiopia.

The projects, which focus on the needs of farmers, female-headed households and landless young people, aim to strengthen farming techniques and bolster production to free Ethiopians from their precarious state where drought spells disaster.

Stephanie Holmes
FAO Media Relations Office
Tel: (+39) 06 570 56350