Rome, 30 May
2003 - FAO is helping Eritrean farmers restore their
productive capacity through the distribution of cereal and
legume seeds for the 2003 cropping season.
The drought of 2002 - the worst in ten years -
severely weakened the productive capacity of farmers and
affected all regions, including Debub and Gash Barka, which
constitute the breadbasket of Eritrea.
overall harvest of cereal crops realized in 2002 represents only
11 percent of the expected annual cereal harvest.
In many regions, the quantity of wheat and barley
harvests was lower than the amounts of seed required to be saved
for planting the 2003 crop.
still suffer from the impact of the border war with Ethiopia.
They have little cash left to buy seeds. Often, their limited
seed stock becomes the family's only remaining source of
In Eritrea, the food situation is
alarming as nearly two-thirds of the country's population
of 3.4 million people face severe food shortages. Of these, an
estimated 1.4 million need emergency food assistance.
A $400 000 TCP project
Under its Technical Cooperation Programme
(TCP), FAO just launched a new US$400 000 project in Eritrea.
The Organization will provide technical assistance services and
inputs to help rural communities resume farming.
FAO will distribute 400 tonnes of cereal and legume
seeds to about 30 000 families. This will enable about
15 000 ha of land to be cultivated, ultimately yielding
about 12 000 tonnes of food worth about US$5 million.
The emergency provision of cereal and legume seeds
project starts in June 2003 and should end by January 2004. It
complements the efforts of a Swedish-funded seeds distribution
project in the Debub and Gash Barka regions.
A huge gap
The calculated cereal and legume seed requirement for
Eritrea is 16 247 tonnes, covering wheat, barley, sorghum,
finger millet, peal millet, maize and teff, being the main
cereals, and chickpea, horse bean and sesame, being the main
In Eritrea, FAO is
working in close cooperation with NGOs. So far, FAO, NGOs and
donors have pledged or provided 5 640 tonnes. The Ministry of
Agriculture of Eritrea has already purchased 2 862 tonnes.
Taking into account the 20 percent of seeds
(3 250 tonnes) to be raised by farmers themselves, a gap of
6 333 tonnes remains to be filled.
Some further 2 000 tonnes of seeds are likely to be
purchased by the Ministry of Agriculture. This leaves a huge gap
of 4 000 tonnes to be filled.
urgent assistance is provided to bridge the gap, about 100 000
farmers would remain without seeds and be unable to resume
farming when the rains return in June 2003.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570