FAO aids war-affected livestock breeders

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) began distributing on Friday livestock farm inputs, day-old chicks, and pig and rabbit sires for breeding purposes to farmers affected by a six-month rebellion in the Central African Republic (CAR) that ended in March 2003.

"The project, worth 341,000 dollars, will enable the government to assist the most-affected farmers," Etienne Ngounio Gabia, the FAO programme officer, said when he handed over the aid to the minister for livestock, Denis Kossibela.

The aid is to benefit some 7,500 farmers. Gabia said about 31,500 day-old chicks would be distributed to 3,563 poultry farmers in 72 cooperatives; 12 high-quality pig sires to 2,507 farmers grouped in 50 cooperatives; and 28 rabbit sires to 1,430 farmers grouped in 28 cooperatives.

Special training on how to handle the animals was under way, he said, and some 3,500 day-old chicks were expected in the capital, Bangui, on Tuesday.

An FAO livestock consultant, Hamadou Damala, told IRIN on Friday that apart from Bangui, provincial towns such as Bossembele, 157 km northwest of Bangui, and Boali, 80 km north of Bangui, would benefit from the equipment and the imported animals. The equipment includes rabbit hutches, mangers, drinking troughs and nesting boxes, as well as veterinary drugs.

"I had 500 chickens, but all died in October 2002 because I was away from home," Aime Taou, a 38-year-old poultry farmer, told IRIN.

Taou, his wife and four children live in Bangui's third district. He was among the beneficiaries of the FAO aid, which, he said, would help him resume poultry farming.

Damala said that as the animals reproduced, the beneficiaries would share them with other breeders who had not received any, "so that each can have at least 100 chicks, for instance, in the coming months".

Farming was seriously affected by the rebellion that ended with Francois Bozize overthrowing Ange-Felix Patasse on 15 March 2003.

The FAO aid was the first of its kind in the CAR, where most of the population engages in farming. However, the cattle-rearing sector, which was also affected, was not covered by the aid.

"We keep struggling so that cattle herders can also be assisted," Marc Willybiro, the secretary-general of the CAR livestock federation, the Federation Nationale des Eleveurs Centrafricain, told IRIN.

The present distribution followed others in October and November 2003 of fishing tackle and fish feed to Bangui's fishermen who had been affected by an earlier conflict - the May 2001 coup attempt by a former leader, Andre Kolingba.