Somalia: Less Than Three Years After Famine Gripped Somalia's Breadbasket, Somali Farmers Bounce Back

by World Food Programme | World Food Programme
Thursday, 13 March 2014 07:50 GMT

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WFP purchases more than 2 million metric tons of food every year worldwide. At least three-quarters of it comes from developing countries. This is because WFP's policy is to buy food as close as possible to where it is needed. By buying locally WFP helps sustain local economies, reduces transport times and saves money. However, until recently, buying food produced in Somalia has not been possible. Frequent droughts, seasonal floods and insecurity have crippled the country’s agricultural sector. WFP is working with its partners to train small-scale farmers and strengthen livelihoods so as to create resilience to climatic shocks that would otherwise push vulnerable small-scale farmers into crisis. 

MOGADISHU- For the first time, Somali farmers are turning themselves into suppliers of high-quality food assistance, which WFP will use to support their fellow Somali people.

Agricultural communities - especially in south-central Somalia, the country's grain basket - have, over the last two decades, been severely affected by conflict and recurrent drought, which has resulted in the widespread failure of crops and poor yields. WFP and partners are working with local farmers to change that.

For over 12 months, experts from WFP and the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) have worked with dozens of farmers in several communities. The farmers were trained in post-harvest handling, storage and warehouse management in a bid to increase the quality of their production and limit losses by keeping the grain free of contamination and pests. Farmers also learned how to grade their grain.

"We learned a lot from the technical training. Before, we never used to grade harvested maize accordingly but this exercise taught us the importance of grading and marketing," said Nafisa Haji Shukri, one of the farmers who received training.

The farmers now produce maize to international quality standards in sufficient quantities to sell to WFP. With the funding from the government of Austria, WFP purchased 200 metric tons of high-quality maize that will be used to provide food assistance to people working to build and restore community infrastructure in WFP food-for-assets projects in Somalia. 

"This is a historic day; the purchase by WFP sends a message to the world that Somali farmers can produce maize that's comparable to other East African countries. We thank WFP for giving us this opportunity to prove ourselves," said Hagi Shukri Ahmed, the Chairman of the farming co-operative. 

WFP Country Representative Stefano Porretti described the initiative "as a significant achievement for the participating farmers" and a milestone for WFP's operations in Somalia.

"Strengthening livelihoods and increasing resiliency is an integral part of WFP's strategy in Somalia," Porretti added. "WFP will continue to support small-scale farmers in Somalia by empowering them to produce and sell more food, so as to become competitive players in local markets."

According to food production data, Somali farmers only meet 40 percent of the country's domestic cereal demand. FAO and WFP will jointly seek to scale up this initiative to ensure that small scale farmers have better opportunities to access agricultural markets, to become competitive players in domestic and international food trade and thus to improve their lives.