FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices



Large swathes of Somalia have been without government since the collapse of central authority in 1991, which was followed by some 18 years of civil war. In 2004 an internationally recognized transitional federal government (TFG) was created.  A new TFG president was appointed in January 2009.  

More than 1.3 million people have been displaced by the insecurity. Many are camped out in crumbling and abandoned buildings in Mogadishu, where previously some services were available, while others have fled back into the country.

A fresh round of fighting between rebel groups and government forces broke out in April and May of this year. While most of the fighting occurred in and around Mogadishu, it also spread to several other areas and towns in southern and central Somalia.

Conflict, drought and high food prices

Somalia is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. In addition to conflict and drought, the value of the Somalia Shilling is still low and food and fuel prices are high, making life extremely difficult for the urban and rural poor who struggle to meet basic needs.

In September 2009, around 3.6 million people – an estimated 45 percent of the country’s population – were in need of emergency livelihood and live-saving assistance.

Agricultural production in recent years has been half what it should be due to the drought.

FAO Response

European Union Food Facility

With funds from the European Union worth €9.975 million, FAO launched a two-year project in June 2009 to boost the food security and incomes of impoverished Somalis struggling to cope with high food prices and debt. The project is getting under way in the densely-populated Lower Shabelle and Juba regions.

The objectives are three-fold:  enhance agricultural production and productivity of small farmers; improve market access for agriculture products; and increase incomes and employment opportunities for the country’s rural and urban poor.

Around 60 000 farming households will receive cash crop seeds (sesame) and quality maize and sorghum seeds, accompanied by farming tools and fertilizers, to help boost yields. They will also receive training on improved farming techniques.

FAO-Somalia will work to ensure seed quality control through regular testing and sampling.

Much of the country’s infrastructure is in ruins from years of conflict, neglect and drought. By rehabilitating canals and roads, the project hopes to increase the amount of land under irrigation, thereby increasing agricultural productivity.

Better roads will also make it easier for farmers to get their produce to markets. To cut down on post-harvest losses, farmers will receive training on improved harvesting, transport and storage practices.

The rehabilitation of roads and small irrigation canals will be done partly through cash-for-work activities, giving poor food-insecure households much needed income.

FAO will work closely with a well-established network of local and international NGOs to carry out the project, which is in line with the framework of the United Nations Transitional Plan (UNTP) for Somalia. This is a plan used by the UN to implement peace-keeping initiatives and capacity-building activities while facilitating longer-term development in transition countries.

Other FAO activities

As of September 2009, FAO has been implementing a programme worth USD 58.5 million in Somalia, with 19 ongoing projects. 

FAO is leading the UNTP Priority Outcome relating to Food Security and Livelihoods as well as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Cluster on Agriculture and Livelihoods.

FAO is implementing the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), which has become the main source for information on food security, nutrition, public health and livelihoods in Somalia, and the Somali Water and Land Information Management, which provides timely data on water and land resources.

FAO’s programme also covers large-scale interventions that involve:

  • rehabilitating essential irrigation infrastructure and roads to improve market access;
  • improving agriculture practices through integrated pest management and storage techniques;
  • improving and diversifying agricultural production through the multiplication of quality seeds;
  • supporting veterinary services to improve animal health surveillance and the treatment of animal diseases;
  • increasing the capacity of local institutions to cope with animal disease outbreaks, and promoting the meat livestock export sector as well as the quality of meat products for domestic and international markets;
  • supporting the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, including the internally displaced, through the distribution of agriculture and livestock inputs and the rehabilitation of infrastructure through cash-for-work schemes.



Training on livestock disease surveillance and prevention in Jamama, Somalia.