Brussels/Rome -- Less than two years before the deadline set to achieve international development goals, the European Union (EU) and FAO step up their efforts to reduce world hunger assisting two million people in six countries with agricultural development activities worth nearly €60 million.
The funding comes from a €1 billion EU initiative that aims to foster speedier progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
'So close to the deadline, when there is still so much to do, this good investment in agriculture will enable FAO to increase its efforts to eradicate hunger and do even more to help countries halve the proportion of hungry people by 2015,' said FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva at a special event on the Millennium Development Goals during the UN General Assembly.
'I find it unacceptable in the 21st century that some 870 million people are still going hungry and malnutrition is responsible for over 3 million child deaths annually. This funding underlines our commitment to stepping up our work on hunger and to meeting the MDGs', added EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
Under the so-called MDG-initiative, the EU and FAO focus on agricultural development involving smallholder farmers and their families, targeting two million people in six countries.
The initiative strongly promotes partnerships with UN agencies, governments and civil society to ensure that key goals, including improved nutrition and the support for agricultural policies, can be attained.
Agricultural development and better nutrition
In Burundi, activities will focus on the production and processing of food stuffs, such as cassava and corn, as well as cash crops, including palm oil and tea. The four year €2.1 million operation will benefit an estimated 25 000 people.
Promoting the production and marketing of staple crops, such as sorghum and millet, as well as vegetables and products from trees like the baobab, is at the heart of a three year €16 million programme in Burkina Faso, aiming to improve the livelihoods of over 500 000 people.
In the Gambia, FAO and the EU will help farmers grow vegetables and develop their skills to sell them on the market. An estimated 70 000 people will benefit from the three year €4 million operation.
Farmers in Haiti are being trained to increase their production of peanuts and fish under a three year €4 million programme involving some 12 000 people. They also learn how to set up small agribusinesses.
A three year €12.5 million operation in Madagascar targeting 750 000 people aims to provide small famers with quality seeds of rice, coconut and sweet potatoes and help them in setting up a small business. It will also rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure and reduce post-harvest losses with better storage facilities.
A five year, €19 million programme in Mozambique aims to increase agricultural production, help farmers get better access to markets and improve nutrition with an array of activities ranging from the provision of quality seeds and fertilizers to training in health, hygiene and nutritional practices.
Bringing back agriculture
The EU is one of FAO's most generous and steadfast donors. Recently, FAO honoured the EU for the 'EU Food Facility', a €1 billion initiative in response to the food price crisis of 2008-2011, partly implemented together with FAO. The Facility helped improve the livelihoods of 59 million people in 50 countries.
By promoting agriculture as a solution for the crisis, FAO's Director-General Graziano da Silva noted, the EU played an important role in bringing back agriculture and food security on top of the international development agenda as entry points for growth and development in many countries.
The EU recently committed to spend as much as €3.5 billion between 2014-2020 on building long-term resilience among the most vulnerable, tackling the root causes of hunger and poverty and improving nutrition in some of the world's poorest countries.