A record cereal crop in 2008 strengthened global cereal supplies; however, 31 countries continue to struggle with food insecurity, 20 of which are in Africa.
Unrest, large-scale displacement, the high cost of quality seeds and fertilizers and a prolonged drought have contributed to the food insecurity of more than 20 million people in Eastern Africa alone.
Local food prices high
Though international prices have dropped from their record-breaking highs, food prices in the most vulnerable countries are stubbornly high. And, the economic slump is making it even more difficult for the poor to cope.
In Kenya, maize prices in September 2009 were nearly double what they were two years earlier. In the Senegalese capital, Dakar, rice and millet prices have continued to drop since the beginning of 2009; however, they still register 9 and 52 percent higher than in 2007 respectively.
Boosting agricultural production
FAO is currently implementing projects worth USD 216 million in 43 African countries to support farmers affected by the food crisis.
Of these, USD 161 million from the European Union is being applied to projects in 16 African countries through the European Union Food Facility. These projects, most of which are for two years, aim to boost the agricultural production and incomes of smallholder farmers.
FAO also launched projects in 39 African countries through its own Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), with a budget of USD 17.4 million, providing seeds, fertilizers, tools and technical assistance to farmers and support to regional institutions. FAO has received a further USD 38.1 million in funding from a broad range of donors.
National assessments of the TCP projects have been conducted and subregional syntheses have been compiled for the offices in Central, Eastern, Southern and West Africa.
Forging partnerships to tackle the price crisis
FAO joined forces early with the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and other partners to ensure a coordinated regional approach to tackling the challenges posed by rising food prices.
FAO is also supporting implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the strategic agricultural framework of the African Union and NEPAD. CAADP is an African-owned programme that strives to increase economic growth in the continent through agriculture-led development and agricultural reform.
In the Near East, FAO collaborates with the Gulf Cooperation Council and Islamic Development Bank.
Regional rice initiative
In June 2008, FAO and the Benin-based Africa Rice Center (WARDA) hosted a workshop to explore ways of significantly boosting the West Africa region's rice production, to help wean those countries off expensive international rice imports. FAO continues to forge new partnerships with other member research centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research like WARDA.
FAO has also partnered with the International Center for Soil Fertility & Agricultural Development (IFDC) on this and similar projects. For more information on what has become known as the Emergency Rice Initiative for Africa, click [here].