FAO wins leading prize for work in Niger
FAO Representative shows the way towards improving Niger’s food security
21 May 2008, Accra, Ghana - FAO Representative, Ms Maria Helena di Morais Semedo received Niger’s highest award for her distinguished service to the field of agriculture and the enrichment of the rural population in a ceremony presided over by H.E. M. Mahamane Moussa, Minister of Agricultural Development of Niger.
The award, was conferred on Ms Semedo who has headed the FAO office in Niamey, Niger since 2003. Since her arrival, the FAO programme has grown to over US$ 40 million in assistance to the country and its largely rural population.
With over 34 percent of the population undernourished, an estimated 4 million people (2006-2007), this landlocked country, which is largely desert and dependent on farming and some mineral wealth, is among the world’s poorest.
In 1995, FAO launched the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS)in the country which is currently active in six of Niger’s eight regions, involving some 198 villages and affecting an estimated 8 000 households or some 60 000 people, 52 percent of which are women. Within the context of the SPFS, Niger also benefits from a programme in which developing countries provide assistance to each other known as South-South Cooperation. Through the programme, Moroccan technicians have been working with farmers in Niger to improve farming conditions.
In 2004, FAO launched the first agricultural and livestock census funded by the European Union and the Government of Niger. It revealed that for many years, the agricultural and livestock resources of the country were substantially underestimated. For example, Niger has over 30 million heads of livestock, 30 percent more than previously assumed. Over the last years, FAO also helped improve agriculture in Niger, especially through the promotion of fertilizers and through the inventory credit system that enabled low income farmers to get access to credit. To date, more than CFA 2 billion have been warranted.
Niger is also among the countries being provided with assistance by FAO against virulent plant and animal pests and diseases which threaten local and regional economies, particularly those like Niger that are primarily agriculture based. These include the desert locust and more recently avian influenza.
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