Six African countries on Friday in Tunis signed agreements with the Food and Agriculture Organisation as the first beneficiaries of the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the agreements were signed on the last day of the 28th African Regional Conference of the FAO, organised in collaboration with the Government of Tunisia.
The fund, suggested in 2012 at the 27th edition of the conference in Brazzaville, Congo, is the first of its kind and is designed to improve food security across the continent.
The countries are Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Niger and South Sudan and each of them is to receive $2m from the fund which is domiciled in the Rome-based FAO.
“The ASTF shows that African countries are ready to step up and work with their neighbours.
“This is to build a sustainable and food secure region, and to have the future we want,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva at the ceremony.
Silva urged other African governments to join the effort and contribute to the Fund.
He said the contributions would be used to boost a wide range of projects to improve food security, nutrition, agriculture and rural development.
Others are policies and programmes to increase opportunities for youth employment, improve natural resources management and the quality of food production.
It also includes increasing the resilience of livelihoods in conflict-affected areas and fund projects.
Such projects are designed to rapidly increase the availability of nutritious food through cash transfers, school feeding and school gardens.
The trust fund was originally proposed by President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo and inaugurated in June 2013.
Equatorial Guinea provided the first funding package of $30m with Angola putting in an additional $10m.
NAN learnt that a group of civil society organisations in the Republic of the Congo have also added to the fund.
Cameroon has pledged an undisclosed amount while other countries are expected to join in the coming months.
The Assistant Director-General/Regional Representative for Africa, Mr Bukar Tijani, said “The political will to end hunger in the region can be transformed into effective action, thanks to ASTF’s initial contributors.
“This will help to increase FAO’s cooperation with African governments and other partners to better coordinate their efforts to help vulnerable families improve their lives.”
Central African Republic would use the fund to support ‘livelihoods resilience opportunities for conflict-affected rural communities.’
Specifically, it would assist in diversifying agricultural production and the development of financial services.
Similarly, the money would be committed toward enhancing livelihoods and poverty reduction through economic diversification and decent work opportunities for rural communities in Ethiopia.
Malawi is expected to commit the fund to integrated approaches to building the resilience of vulnerable communities to climatic shocks in one of the most affected districts in the country.
Mali obtained the money to improve employment opportunities for young men and women in rural areas, using, for example, FAO’s Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools to increase training in agribusiness.
In Niger, the money would support the 3N initiative designed to improve nutrition, support natural resources management and increase access to financial and social protection services.
South Sudan is expected to channel the fund toward providing information, equipment, seeds and livestock services to protect and restore livelihoods.
Accordingly, FAO will provide technical assistance for the implementation of the projects in cooperation with its partners.