ROME, Italy, March 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the government of the Central African Republic are joining forces to help prevent a full-scale food and nutrition crisis in the conflict-stricken nation.
The World Bank is funding an $8 million agreement with FAO as part of a $20 million programme to support food aid and agriculture production, which is being implemented in coordination with the World Food Programme (WFP).
Midou Ibrahima, World Bank Resident Representative in the Central Africa Republic, said: “The emergency project is part of the World Bank’s total commitment of $100 million to help restore essential state services, as well as provide food, health care and support to restore the agriculture sector in the Central African Republic.”
Short-term activities under the agreement will focus on providing seeds and tools to 9 000 families for the upcoming planting seasons starting by mid-April.
Most communities reported they do not have seeds to plant after widespread insecurity in the country caused massive population displacements during the 2013 agricultural campaign. These displacements and the impossibility of cultivating crops have resulted in a severe decrease in food production, while food prices in the capital city, Bangui, have rapidly increased due to severe market disruption.
The 9 000 families will each receive 25 kg of seeds, to allow them to harvest an estimated 6 000 tonnes of maize, ground nuts and rice by September 2014.
To further improve the staple crop seed system, the project will support 70 specialized seed groups to produce and sell to FAO and partners an additional 175 tonnes that will be distributed to 7 000 families for the next campaign.
“Farmers need support so that they can produce their own food, restore their livelihoods and take advantage of local economic opportunities.” said Alexis Bonte, acting FAO Representative in the Central African Republic.
FAO and WFP have developed a coordinated plan to ensure that food distribution will complement the seed distribution, to avoid the consumption of seeds by the beneficiary families.
Minister of State for Rural Development, Marie-Noëlle Koyara, said: “Agriculture and rural development are driving the recovery of our country. Currently, agriculture is the main source of our social cohesion and return to peace. On behalf of President Catherine Samba Panza and the Transitional Government, we thank the World Bank and FAO for continuously mobilizing resources in order to overcome challenges and improve socio-economic development”.
In the longer term, the project will focus on empowering over 370 female farmer associations, representing more than 11 000 women.
“The assistance provided will focus on vegetable production and cash transfer activities to recapitalize community-based savings and loans initiatives, called tontines,” said Bonte. “Access to inputs and opportunities for rural finance for women is a priority for FAO. The role of women in food security, nutrition and peace is crucial.”
The approach, developed for building resilience, strengthens the women’s capacities and skills at social, technical and financial levels.
In addition, some 200 technical experts from universities and government agencies will benefit from training on a variety of topics including seed multiplication, cash transfer, rural finance and nutrition to boost local expertise in the rehabilitation of the agriculture sector.
More support needed
Thanks to total funds received so far, including those from the World Bank project, FAO will distribute a total of 2 400 tonnes of staple crop seeds as well as hand tools such as hoes to 105 000 vulnerable families in 15 prefectures by April.
But more funds are needed to help farmers in the country, where agriculture provides income and livelihoods for around 75 percent of the population.
FAO is aiming to provide support to 150 000 families under a plan by the United Nations Food Security Cluster, which is seeking a total of $180 million to assist 1.25 million people.
The Organization has called for $45 million and has so far mobilized $25 million with contributions from the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, Belgium, the Central Emergency Response Fund, the United Kingdom, the World Bank and the United States of America as well as from FAO’s own funding mechanisms.