Farmer co-operatives around Ethiopia are set to deliver one of the largest amounts of maize to a food development programme that will redistribute the food to country's most vulnerable.
As part of a pilot project to promote small farmers' access to local markets, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) buys food from local co-operatives and this harvest will feed 1.8 million Ethiopians for a month.
Abdou Dieng, WFP Country Director, said 28,000 metric tonnes of maize will form part of the UN's relief distributions. He said: “Our goal here is to support Ethiopia feeding itself. Buying food for our Ethiopia operation right here in Ethiopia makes sense in cost-effectiveness, and in providing a boost for the local economy by helping small farmers to get closer to markets.”
WFP signed contracts with 16 co-operative unions last year, before the planting season began. The first deliveries on those contracts started to arrive at WFP warehouses last week.
To support the co-operatives in fulfilling their contracts, WFP provides technical assistance in storage and post-harvest handling and logistical support.
Through agreements with local banks, several agricultural co-operatives were able to use their WFP contracts as collateral for loans to buy new equipment and aggregate more maize from their members.
The project is part of WFP's Purchase for Progress initiative (P4P), financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented in collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia through the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA).
In Ethiopia, WFP buys food grown locally in two ways: It buys from small-scale farmers and farmer co-operatives through P4P, and also buys large quantities of locally grown commodities through its regular procurement tender process.
In 2012, WFP purchased more than 112,000 metric tons of food in Ethiopia, more than any other country on the continent.
About 90 percent of this food has been used directly for WFP operations within Ethiopia. For example, more than 37 schools taking part in the WFP school meal programme in Ethiopia receive food harvested nearby.
WFP’s purchases from Ethiopia in 2012 included more than 23,000 tons of locally produced Super Cereal, a nutritious blend of enriched corn and soy flour that WFP uses to prevent and treat nutritional deficiencies among young children, pregnant woman and nursing mothers.
The Ethiopian Government last year started to build resilience and food self-sufficiency for the population amid increasingly challenging climatic conditions.
The Horn of Africa experienced a food crisis last year that left an estimated 13 million people dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Halving the proportion of hungry people in the world by 2015 was among the objectives within the eight globally agreed anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Last year WFP assisted more than six million people throughout Ethiopia, including refugees.