Special Programme web pages highlight progress in 30 countries

Eritrea: a Special Programme farmer ploughs his field in preparation for planting a new variety of wheat

The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) - one of FAO's most important programmes - has launched new web pages to give people access to the latest news and background information on the campaign to combat hunger and undernourishment in the Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs). The new pages include case studies on Special Programme activities in Nepal and Zambia, a News page, and background information about topics such as management of the programme and donors.

Launched back in 1994 by newly elected Director-General Jacques Diouf, it was conceived to sharpen FAO's focus on food security, by

  • increasing food production,
  • improving the stability of food supplies, and
  • generating rural employment

all of which will contribute to raising rural incomes. The Programme emphasizes small-scale, simple and sustainable technologies chosen in collaboration with the local farmers.

So far, 30 countries are participating in Special Programme Pilot Phase activities. The Pilot Phase emphasizes four areas:

  • improving on-farm water control,
  • crop intensification,
  • diversification of production systems, and
  • constraints analysis and resolution.

The last in this list - working with farmers to understand and, where possible, solve the problems that prevent them from producing more food - is crucial. In Burkina Faso, where the SPFS has been in place for three years, a rural radio station has been making programmes with local people to promote discussion of constraints.

Extension of SPFS activities is taking place gradually, with several countries now starting work at new sites and diversifying into new activities, such as aquaculture and poultry rearing.

Work with women farmers is a high priority for the Special Programme. In many developing countries women produce well over half the basic foods. Despite this they only benefit from around 5 percent of agricultural extension services. In Nepal more than 800 women farmers - at 19 SPFS pilot sites - have been trained in quality seed production. Good quality seed alone can increase production by 15 to 25 percent.

The SPFS News page will be regularly updated to keep readers informed of progress in the field. External contributions are welcome.

1 April 1998

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