AUSTRALIA will help improve food security in eastern and southern Africa through a new $20 million program to substantially boost agricultural production and improve market opportunities for farmers, the Australia Government’s Overseas Aid Programme (AusAID) has announced.
The programme will operate in five countries, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, with the benefits expected to spill over into other countries in eastern and southern Africa.
Food availability and access are major concerns in this region. More than half the population of 400 million people live in extreme poverty and about 70 percent depend on agriculture. Maize is the staple food crop in the region, with legumes providing a valuable source of dietary protein.
According to AusAID, demand for maize and legumes is likely to increase considerably over the coming years. However, poor weather conditions and weaknesses in crop management and varieties are holding back production of these important food crops.
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) will work with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and national agricultural research institutes in each of the five partner countries to help boost food security in eastern and southern Africa.
Australia’s assistance will support research, testing and development of farming techniques specific to drought affected regions. It will also help develop drought and disease tolerant maize and legume varieties and educate farmers about new crop varieties and technologies.
The programme aims to lift crop productivity by 30 percent and reduce year-to-year produce variation by 30 percent on approximately half a million farms within 10 years.
A number of agricultural research centres, including the International Center for Research in the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and partners including the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Murdoch University and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa will also provide support.
Short-term training opportunities and postgraduate fellowships will also be offered to help build the capacity of African scientists involved in the programme.