25 June 2010, Ouagadougou/Rome - Amid a growing food crisis in the Sahel that is putting millions at risk of hunger, FAO has started providing quality seeds to 100 000 vulnerable farmers in Burkina Faso, as part of an € 18 million operation funded by the European Union (EU).
According to FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) the food situation is of grave concern in parts of the Sahel, where more than 10 million people are at risk of hunger. In Burkina Faso, poor rains led to an estimated 17 percent decline in cereal production in 2009.
"This drought exacerbates an already difficult food security situation caused by persisting high food prices," said FAO's Emergency Coordinator in Burkina Faso, Jean-Pierre Renson. FAO has started distribution of improved seeds to 100 000 farmers for the coming planting season, benefiting about 700 000 people.
Making improved seeds available
The EU-funded operation will improve food security of more than 860 000 rural households, over 6 million people. The aim is to boost food production by making improved seeds available to needy farmers and to promote sustainable seed multiplication and certification.
The effort falls under the auspices of the ‘EU Food Facility', Europe's €1 billion response to the global food crisis, spurred on by soaring food prices in 2007 and 2008.
A win-win situation
FAO is also supporting some 900 seed producers in irrigated areas in southern Burkina Faso. For them, the current crisis could turn into a win-win situation: while increasing their revenues, seed producers will also contribute to improving the food security in the rest of the country.
"Areas with high production levels can compensate for areas which don't produce as much, which lack seeds, and which face food insecurity," says Renson. "So part of the production goes to the high risk areas to fill the deficit."
FAO is working closely with the government and civil organizations in pursuing other priorities, such as the reinforcement of the seed chain by providing institutional and technical support to national public services. This includes the Institute of the Environment and Agricultural Research (INERA) and the national seed service.