Helping farmers in Zimbabwe grow food

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has started a major operation in support of small scale farmers in Zimbabwe as part of its joint efforts with the European Union (EU) to fight hunger this year.

FAO has procured 26,000 tons of seeds and fertilisers for distribution to 176,000 vulnerable farmers - representing between 10 to 15 per cent of communal farmers in the country. Each farmer will receive sufficient maize or sorghum seed and compound and fertiliser to plant a 0.5 hectare plot. "With good seasonal rains, timely implementation and effective coordination, farmer's production in Zimbabwe could feasibly more than double this season, compared to the previous year's national average production level," said Jean-Claude Urvoy, FAO's Emergency Coordinator in Zimbabwe.

Food Facility responds to global crisis
Under the so-called the EU Food Facility, the EU has committed €1bn over three years to respond rapidly and on a large scale to rising hunger around the world that due to high food prices and compounded by the global economic crisis. The EU Food Facility aims to bridge the gap between emergency aid and medium to long-term development aid. The funds are being channeled through UN agencies and other organisations. FAO has received a total of around €200mn for work in 25 countries, of which €15.4mn goes to Zimbabwe.
According to Ambassador Xavier Marchal, Head of Delegation of the European Commission to Zimbabwe, "the Zimbabwe allocation will contribute to the Short Term Recovery Strategy to be implemented by the European Commission following the visit of Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his Governmental delegation to Brussels. It responds to the priorities tabled by the Zimbabwean Government and included in the Short Term Emergency Recovery Plan (STERP)."

Farmers lack capital to buy inputs
In the coming weeks, inputs will be loaded onto trucks and shipped out to 21 districts of the country. FAO has contracted 13 non-governmental organisations to carry out the input distributions. The NGOs, along with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development will provide extension services and training to the farmers. Extension services will promote good farming practices, especially timely planting, appropriate application of fertiliser and the importance of weeding.
According to Jean-Claude Urvoy, "Many farmers in Zimbabwe can't afford to buy enough inputs. The EU-funded inputs are aimed at giving vulnerable farmers timely assistance so that they can move from subsistence to having some surplus to sell for basic household needs, such as paying school fees."
The EU Food Facility is part of a larger programme in Zimbabwe that brings together the humanitarian community to reach a total of 620,000 farmers with agricultural inputs this year. Donor pledges so far for this collaborative effort total over €41mn (US$60mn).
"This year's push for inputs will allow FAO and other organisations to make a real difference in the lives of many rural Zimbabwean families," Urvoy said.
Other countries receiving EU-funded Food Facility support through FAO are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Togo and Zambia.

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