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28 March 2014, Tunis - A unique, Africa-led fund designed to improve food security across the continent has become a reality for the first six countries slated to benefit from the initiative.
The Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Niger and South Sudan signed agreements in Tunis with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to receive $2 million each from the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund.
"The Africa Solidarity Trust Fund shows that African countries are ready to step up and work with their neighbours to build a sustainable and food secure region, and to have the future we want," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
The agreements were signed during the FAO Regional Conference for Africa. At the ceremony, Graziano da Silva encouraged other African governments to join the effort and contribute to the Fund.
The contributions will be used to bolster a wide range of projects to improve food security, nutrition, agriculture and rural development. They include policies and programmes to increase opportunities for youth employment; improve natural resources management and the quality of food production; increase the resilience of livelihoods in conflict-affected areas; and rapidly increase the availability of nutritious food through programmes like cash transfers, school feeding and school gardens.
The trust fund, which is housed at FAO, was originally proposed in 2012 by President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo, during the previous Regional Conference for Africa in Brazzaville.
The Fund was launched officially in June 2013 with a funding package of $30 million from Equatorial Guinea. Additional funding from Angola ($10 million) and a group of civil society organizations in the Republic of the Congo have brought the total amount to $40 million. Cameroon has also pledged to add to the fund and other countries are expected to join in the coming months.
"Thanks to the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund's initial contributors, the political will to end hunger in the region can be transformed into effective action," said Bukar Tijani, Assistant Director-General/Regional Representative for Africa.
"This will help to increase FAO's cooperation with African governments and other partners to better coordinate their ongoing efforts to help vulnerable families improve their lives."
The US$2 million allocated to each country will support projects including:Central African Republic: Livelihoods resilience opportunities for conflict-affected rural communities in Central African Republic, such as support in diversifying agricultural production and development of financial services; Ethiopia: Enhanced livelihoods and poverty reduction through economic diversification and decent work opportunities for rural communities; Malawi: Integrated approaches to building the resilience of vulnerable communities to climatic shocks in one of the most affected districts in Malawi; Mali: Improving 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; Niger: Support to the 3N initiative (Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens). Improving nutrition, supporting natural resources management and increasing access to financial and social protection services; South Sudan: Providing information, equipment, seeds and livestock services to protect and restore livelihoods.
FAO will provide technical assistance for implementation of the projects in cooperation with partners.