FAO assists 5,400 war-affected farmers

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) signed an agreement on Thursday under which the FAO is to provide US $269,321 to enable 5,400 war-affected farmers to resume their activities, an FAO official told IRIN on Thursday.

FAO Programme Officer Etienne Ngounio-Gaba said the move was aimed at reducing the risk of food insecurity in the provinces of Ouham, Ouham Pende and Kemo, where farming was affected by a six-month rebellion led by Francois Bozize, now the CAR leader. The war ended on 15 March 2003 when Bozize ousted President Ange-Felix Patasse but most activities in the affected provinces are not yet fully back to normal.

The farmers due to benefit from the FAO funding are divided into 216 groups known as "Groupements d'Intérêts Ruraux", or Rural Interest Groups. They will receive seeds and farming tools.

The farmers will get a donation of 39 mt of groundnuts; 9.3 mt of maize; 2.4 mt of paddy; 3.15 mt of sorghum, which will enable them to plant some 1,570 ha, Ngounio-Gaba said.

He added that from the donation, the farmers would be expected to harvest some 390 mt of groundnuts; 465 mt of maize; 480 mt of paddy and 845 mt of sorghum. They would also receive farming equipment and training to enhance their farm management practices.

Ngounio-Gaba said the FAO assistance would help reduce the country's food imports. He added that the project would be in addition to interventions by the UN World Food Programme and the UN Children's Fund, which, combined, would lead to a further reduction in the cost of food and improve living standards.

The October 2002-March rebellion devastated the northwest of the country where agricultural production was adversely affected and centres supplying farmers with seeds looted. This situation led to the lack of seeds, risk of food shortages and the increased threat of disease outbreaks as a result of lack of food.