FAO Regional Conference boosts Africa Solidarity Trust Fund

Calls for renewed vision and expanded Africa-for-Africa cooperation and South-South Cooperation

8 April 2016, Abidjan - Results achieved through Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF) financed projects are adding momentum to the vision of Africa- Africa cooperation to achieve food security across the continent.

The fund, which was set up in 2012, is widely seen as an innovative mechanism for mobilizing resources from one African country for the benefit of another, promoting intra-Africa collaboration, also known as South-South Cooperation.

Since 2013, contributions have reached $40 million, with Equatorial Guinea and Angola being the major financial contributors. To-date, the fund has allocated $ 34.5 million to 15 regional programmes and national projects which are being implemented in 36 countries to boost efforts to eradicate hunger and reduce malnutrition and poverty.

"Based on the successes and lessons learned to-date on ASTF implementation, which are many and for which documented evidence is available at this conference, I would like to express our deep appreciation to those African governments that committed the funds," said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General and Coordinator of Natural Resources, during the Ministerial Roundtable of the 29th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Africa, held in the commercial capital of the Côte d'Ivoire, Abidjan.

Semedo called for expanded partnerships and encouraged other African nations to share their expertise and make additional financial contributions to fund initiatives involving knowledge exchange across Africa.

New beneficiary countries

During a side-event at the Regional Conference it was announced that three more countries will benefit from the fund. These include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, and Swaziland, which have each been awarded a budget of $ 250 000 to support national agricultural priorities.

For the DRC, these funds will complement and scale-up successful FAO participatory interventions that promote rural women and men's socio-economic empowerment.

The project will scale-up Dimitra Clubs that use solar-powered radios as a means to share best practices between local communities. The clubs have demonstrated outstanding results in the areas of rural women and men's socio-economic empowerment, improved food and nutrition security, better access to information.

They have also been credited with increasing women's participation in decision-making and leadership, both at household and community level.

The Gambia project will build on enhancing the agricultural component of the Gambia Women's Empowerment Programme (GAMWEP) on improving the access of women's groups to productive resources and ensuring sustainable management.

Through the Rural Poultry Farmers Association, comprised of more than 450 family poultry farms, the project focuses on poultry feed production at village level. It will support the establishment and management of small enterprises led by women entrepreneurs, by building poultry feed mill structures, providing equipment and teaching women's groups how to operate the mills.

In Swaziland, the funds will support the commercialization of sweet potatoes. The project is expected to expand FAO's work thus far by increasing rural women's access to productive resources such as improved seeds; advancing women's agricultural knowhow and entrepreneurial skills in order to enhance their role in the sweet potato value chain.

Next steps

In addition to country-level projects, the renewed Trust Fund will also aim to support the establishment of an African Centre of best practices, capacity development and South-South Cooperation (SSC). FAO is working with regional bodies such as the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) as key partners to document, catalogue and expand African cooperation and support the development of such a Centre.

The African Centre will serve as a SSC mechanism for increasing learning and innovation through connecting national, regional and global policy makers and practitioners.  It will provide a global platform to highlight African development solutions, best practices and the continent's strengths and capacities.  Thus the renewed ASTF aims to better showcase and mobilize African expertise to achieve food security across the continent.

Photo:©FAO/Caroline Thomas / FAO
Women farmers carrying bundles of harvested rice to be threshed, Kenema, Sierra Leone.