By Akanimo Sampson
DIRECTOR-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), an agency of the United Nations, José Graziano da Silva, has offered tips on how to achieve enduring peace in Central African Republic.
The FAO boss was speaking when he met the Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera, on Monday. Their talks focused on rebuilding the country’s agriculture sector and making it an engine for peace and sustainable development.
In particular, they discussed ways in which to tap into the Central African Republic’s considerable agricultural potential and how to support family farmers and small holders to improve food security and nutrition and strengthen rural livelihoods.
Years of conflict and political instability have hampered agricultural activities on which nearly 75 percent of the country’s population rely for food and income. Some 1.3 million people in the Central African Republic are severely food insecure.
President Touadera, who took office last month, has made boosting agriculture and the rural economy one of his policy priorities. The President warmly thanked FAO for its continuous support during the crisis and acknowledged the current programmes and projects being implemented by the Organization in his country.
“Implementing our ‘Disarming, Demobilisation and Reintegration of armed groups’ strategy requires that we put all our efforts into the agriculture sector so that our population can meet their immediate and longer term needs. That is the main priority of my government,” President Touadera said.
For his part, Graziano da Silva congratulated the President on his recent election and underscored how the establishment of a new constitutional order “brings hope for the country’s stability and sustainable development.”
“FAO, through its knowledge and experience, is ready to provide support in building a peaceful and inclusive society in the Central African Republic in particular for the young people in the context of a post conflict situation,” Graziano da Silva added.
The FAO Director-General called on the international community to play its part. “What is crucial right now is maintaining food production and rebuilding the agricultural sector– as it is key to employment, peace and stability — while we have this window of opportunity. FAO will be part of that process,” he said.
Without food security, no lasting peace can be achieved, and without peace, we cannot have improved food security and nutrition, FAO’s Director-General added, echoing comments he made to the UN Security Council last month.
Considerable agricultural potential
The Central African Republic has a dense network of water resources, abundant rainfall and a vast surface of land suitable for agriculture, but to date, only 5 percent of arable land is exploited each year, while only half of the available pastoral land is used for livestock.
There is a need to improve agricultural technologies and inputs, including seeds and fertilizers, but also strengthening rural policies such as land tenure reforms to allow wider access to rural jobs and livelihoods.
During the past three years of crisis, FAO has supported vulnerable communities affected by the conflict by helping to build up their resilience.
The organization has also engaged in trainings and capacity building of public officers and national partner non-governmental organizations in various sectors including income-generating activities, savings and loan schemes and food security analysis.
Plans for 2016 include: policy and strategy formulation for the development of the agriculture sector; restructuring of the Central African Republic’s Chamber of Agriculture, Livestock, Water, Forests, Hunting and Tourism; development of small businesses to promote youth employment; and support of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration process through the engagement of communities in the recovery of the agriculture sector.
In 2016, FAO is appealing for $86 million to assist 1.5 million people. $36.5 million are immediately needed to support 550,000 of the most vulnerable farmers during the next planting season.