Results achieved through the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF) projects are beginning to add momentum to the vision of Africa- Africa cooperation to achieve food security across the continent.
The fund, which was set up in 2012, is widely seen as an innovative mechanism to mobilize resources from one African country for the benefit of another, promoting intra-Africa collaboration, also known as South-South Cooperation.
Since 2013, contributions have reached USD 40 million, with Equatorial Guinea and Angola being the major financial contributors. To-date, the fund has allocated USD 34.5 million to 15 regional programmes and national projects which are being implemented in 36 countries to boost efforts to eradicate hunger and reduce malnutrition and poverty.
“Based on the successes and lessons learned to-date on ASTF implementation, which are many and for which documented evidence is available at this conference, I would like to express our deep appreciation to those African governments that committed the funds,” said Ms. Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General and Coordinator of Natural Resources. during the Ministerial Roundtable of the 29th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Africa, held in the commercial capital of the Côte d’Ivoire, Abidjan.
Ms. Semedo called for expanded partnerships and encouraged other African nations to share their expertise and make additional financial contributions to fund initiatives involving knowledge exchange across Africa.
New beneficiary countries
During a side-event at the Regional Conference, it was announced that three countries will benefit from the fund. These include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Gambia, and Swaziland, and each been awarded a budget of USD 250 000 to support national agricultural priorities.
For the DRC, these funds will complement and scale-up successful FAO participatory interventions that promote rural women and men’s socio-economic empowerment.
The project will scale-up Dimitra Clubs that use solar-powered radios as a means to share best practices between local communities. The clubs have demonstrated outstanding results in the areas of rural women and men’s socio-economic empowerment, improved food and nutrition security, better access to information.
They have also been credited with increasing women’s participation in decision-making and leadership, both at household and community level.
The Gambia project will build on enhancing the agricultural component of the Gambia Women’s Empowerment Programme (GAMWEP) on improving the access of women’s groups to productive resources and ensuring sustainable management.
Through the Rural Poultry Farmers Association, comprised of more than 450 family poultry farms, the project focuses on poultry feed production at village level. It will support the establishment and management of small enterprises led by women entrepreneurs, by building poultry feed mill structures, providing equipment and teaching women’s groups how to operate the mills.
For Swaziland, the funds will support the commercialization of sweet potatoes. The project is expected to expand FAO’s work thus far by increasing rural women’s access to productive resources such as improved seeds; advancing women’s agricultural knowhow and entrepreneurial skills in order to enhance their role in the sweet potato value chain.
In addition to country-level projects, the renewed Trust Fund will also aim to support the establishment of an African Centre of best practices, capacity development and South-South Cooperation (SSC). FAO is working with regional bodies such as the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as key partners to document, catalogue and expand African cooperation and support the development of such a Centre.
The African Centre will serve as a SSC mechanism for increasing learning and innovation through connecting national, regional and global policy makers and practitioners. It will provide a global platform to highlight African development solutions, best practices and the continent’s strengths and capacities. Thus the renewed ASTF aims to better showcase and mobilize African expertise to achieve food security across the continent.
In Sierra-Leone, Salamatu Bangura, Chairlady of the Tawopanneh ABC in Bombali District
“The cash transfer has replenished our depleted fund which has enabled us to buy more farming inputs and agricultural produce to meet the demands of our clients even more than the previous years when businesses were normal. We have established a seed bank which has saved the cost and time of many farmers from traveling to the city to procure farming inputs”.
Haja Sundu Marrah, Chairlady of the Koinadugu Women Vegetable Farmers’ Cooperative
“We have revived our village savings, serviced an overdue bank loan and procured quality vegetable seeds that has produced better yield for us. We have also got a generator to power our refrigerator for preserving vegetables, and that has saved us from the lose we used to incur as most of our produce got perished they reached the market”.
Madam Anna in Lira, Uganda, recalls: “I had never, since the last ten years that I have been in fish farming, seen the quantity and quality of fish harvested like this time since the intervention of FAO. I now see the value of fish farming and in reality I see money! I am extremely happy because I learnt a lot about making nutrition complete in the lives of children and I was inspired to start a poultry unit and a vegetable garden.
Source: FAO, Abidjan