Ethiopia and Niger get $84 million agricultural assistance

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The development agenda set by the G20 leaders at their meeting in Seoul, South Korea, November 12, calls for members to help countries reduce their dependence on foreign assistance by mobilizing foreign investment and domestic capital to foster sustained economic growth.

A new fund aimed specifically at improving global food security is a tool that is helping to accomplish that goal.

Partners in the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a new fund to increase agriculture productivity and reduce poverty, announced November 4 that Ethiopia, Niger and Mongolia will receive the fund’s second round of grants totaling $97 million. The grants will help each country increase food security, raise rural incomes and reduce poverty by enabling small-holder farmers to grow more crops and earn more.

Twenty developing countries from regions including Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America applied for the fund’s second round of grants, with a total request of nearly $1 billion.

The grants “demonstrates the promise of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. “These investments will improve access to better seeds and soil, build rural infrastructure and connect farmers to markets. While three countries have been granted funding, many more compelling proposals were not financed due to lack of resources. In order to sustain this fund, we urge our G20 colleagues to join us in this endeavor.”

Launched in April 2010, GAFSP is supported by the United States, Canada, South Korea, Spain, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Australia recently joined the fund with a $50 million contribution.

The fund represents a global effort to revive the agriculture sector in poor countries, and is a key element of the Obama administration’s initiative to enhance global food security, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In the fund’s first six months, it allocated $321 million to support a total of eight countries.

“Last year, the G20 pledged $22 billion to reverse decades of neglect of small farmers in the developing world,” said Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “It’s time to follow through on those promises. The overwhelming demand for this fund proves it’s a smart and effective way to support countries that are prioritizing agriculture. Helping family farmers be more productive and profitable will have a massive impact on hunger and poverty.”

The recipient countries were selected based on recommendations of an independent review by global agriculture experts. In addition to having strong needs, the successful proposals demonstrated a comprehensive national agriculture strategy, technically sound interventions to increase agricultural productivity, and a commitment to invest their own resources in the agriculture sector.

“Korea is committed to working with developing countries to strengthen their agriculture sectors. As G20 countries gather in Seoul this week, these grants send a powerful message: we are fulfilling our promises to end chronic hunger,” said South Korean Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun. “The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program is a critical partner for developing countries. We urge new G20 donors to contribute to this fund.”

The fund granted awards to:

• Ethiopia ($51.5 million): The fund will bolster agricultural production by increasing agricultural productivity and reducing soil degradation. GAFSP will also accelerate agricultural commercialization and agro-industrial development, improving nutrition and food security and protecting vulnerable households from natural disasters.

• Niger ($33 million): The fund will finance the construction of new irrigation and water-harnessing infrastructure aimed at improving crop productivity.

• Mongolia ($12.5 million): The fund will assist in linking farmers to markets, raise livestock productivity and quality and provide technical assistance, allowing herders more easy marketing of their livestock.

The sudden increase in food prices in 2008 drove an estimated 100 million people into poverty. Even before the food price spikes, 850 million people in poor countries were chronically malnourished. With the outlook for future food prices still uncertain, GAFSP seeks to improve food security and reduce poverty by delivering rapid and predictable financing for the agriculture sector in low-income countries.

The fund was created in response to a call by G20 leaders in Pittsburgh in 2009 for the World Bank Group to work with interested donors to set up a multidonor trust fund to implement some of the $22 billion in pledges made by G8 leaders at their meeting in L’Aquila, Italy.

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