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EU grants €106 million to boost agriculture in developing countries

afrol News, 15 May - The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has hailed the European Union donation to help some of the world's poorest nations, saying Europe remains firmly committed to help poor countries boost agricultural production.

FAO today signed a historic €106 million ($144 million) donation from the European Union in support of farmers hardest hit by the global food crisis.

The assistance package signed today in Brussels will ten countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean who suffered most from the 2007-2008 food price crisis. FAO said it will be a major boost to efforts to turn the tide of worsening food security, expected to deteriorate even further this year as the financial and economic crisis deepens in developing countries.

"This is the biggest agreement ever signed between the EC and FAO," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

"We are extremely pleased that in these times of turmoil, Europe shows an unwavering commitment to the plight of around one billion people who go to bed hungry every night," said Mr Diouf adding that even though international food commodity prices have gone down recently, high and volatile food prices continue to plague developing countries.

The aid package is part of the EU's €1 billion response to the food crisis, dubbed the ‘Food Facility'. FAO said as the economic crisis is pushing more people into hunger and poverty, it sends the urgent message that the time has come to get agriculture back on its feet, responding to FAO's calls for increased investment in agriculture after three decades of decline.

"The Food Facility is the result of extraordinary collaboration between the European Commission and the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, where FAO played an important role, to identify and develop programmes that will have a quick, but lasting impact on food security," said José Maria Sumpsi, FAO's Assistant Director-General for Technical Cooperation.

He added that it is also an enormous stimulus to FAO's efforts in dealing with the impact of high food prices in developing countries.

FAO is currently engaged in over 90 countries, in most cases supporting food production through the supply of improved seeds, fertilisers, other agricultural inputs and technical assistance of around $350 million in 2008.

According to FAO, nearly seven million smallholder farmers and their 35 million dependents - the majority being women and children - have benefited directly from this support.

Among some of the programmes that will benefit from the EU doantion are the Central African Republic, for seed multiplication, conservation agriculture, reintegration of ex-combatants in the agricultural sector, and the opening of 80 input shops.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the programme will also help in the seed distribution, rehabilitation of agricultural assets, support to farmer organisations, and food security information.

The programme will also help in Guinea Bissau for the provision of agricultural inputs, lay-out of 300 school gardens, rehabilitation of agricultural infrastructure; Liberia: a joint programme with UN partners, capacity building of extension agents and farmers, agricultural input supply, school gardens; Mozambique: quality seed production and distribution; establishment of seed production plant; Sierra Leone: establishment of 100 agribusiness centres; Zimbabwe: provision of agricultural inputs to 150 000 vulnerable farming families.

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