UN agency distributes seeds to droughtaffected farmers in Eritrea

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is distributing cereal and legume seeds to Eritrean farmers to help restore their productive capacity after they were hit last cropping season by the worst drought in 10 years.FAO said today the 2002 drought severely weakened the productive capacity of farmers and affected all regions comprising Eritrea’s breadbasket. Only 11 per cent of the expected annual cereal was harvested, making it impossible to save the seed required for planting this year. Still suffering from the impact of the border war with Ethiopia, farmers have little cash left to buy seeds, FAO said, noting that often their limited seed stock becomes the only remaining source of food. Under its Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), FAO recently launched a $400,000 project to distribute, starting this June, 400 tons of cereal and legume seeds to about 30,000 families. The agency said it would also provide technical assistance services and inputs to help rural communities resume farming. Though this assistance will go a long way – enabling about 15,000 hectares of land to be cultivated, ultimately yielding about 12,000 tons of food – FAO said that Eritrea needs 16 247 tons of seed to adequately meet its farming requirements.FAO also warned that the food situation in Eritrea was alarming, as nearly two-thirds of the country’s 3.4 million people face severe food shortages and an estimated 1.4 million need emergency food assistance. Unless urgent assistance is provided, about 100,000 farmers would be unable to resume farming this June when the rains are expected to return.

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