More investment in agriculture golden opportunity to ease Somalia crisis

by Katy Migiro | @katymigiro | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 15 October 2010 19:04 GMT

NAIROBI (AlertNet) Â? Investing more resources into SomaliaÂ?s promising agriculture sector will help ease one of the worldÂ?s humanitarian crises faster, a top U.N. official in the country said on Friday.

The number of Somalis dependent on aid fell by 25 percent in 2010 to two million, thanks to rains which boosted food production to its highest level since 2001.

Farmers took advantage of the rains and increased the area under maize and sorghum by 119 and 80 per cent respectively in the Gedo region of northwest Somalia.

"Investing in agriculture pays back. If you put money in agriculture it costs less (than food aid or cash transfers), and it produces an enormous amount of food for people,Â? Luca Alinovi, officer in charge at the FAO in Somalia told AlertNet.

Â?Investing in agriculture is one of the greatest opportunities we have to lift Somalis out of crisis and strengthen livelihoods,Â? Alinovi said.

The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) of the FAO compared figures from 2010 and 2006 because they had similar levels of rainfall.

It provided seeds and tools and rehabilitated canals to support farmers in the region. Some 1,053 hectares of maize were cultivated and 360 hectares of sorghum. These two cereals are the staple food in Somalia.

Â?The economic impact is extremely positiveÂ? Food was costing less and farmers were getting richer because of the volume of increased production.Â?

As food was cheaper, more Somalis were able to buy it. In food crises, people often go hungry because they cannot afford to buy food which is available in local markets.

Â?People focus so much on the conflictÂ? people lose sight of the successful story that requires attention to be built upon,Â? said Alinovi.

He called for donors to continue to invest in agriculture in Somalia in next yearÂ?s Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), the humanitarian communityÂ?s principal tool for coordination and strategic planning.

The 2010 appeal for $689 million was 57 percent funded as of July. The next CAP will be launched in early December.

Â?Now is the right time to continue to invest in supporting agriculture so that we donÂ?t drop back,Â? Alinovi said. Â?We should not kill the baby when itÂ?s just born.Â?

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