Australia to help boost African food security

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 15th April 2010

Federal Minster for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith yesterday announced a $20 million dollar program to assist African farmers in improving food security by developing drought and disease resistant crops and educating farmers on new crop varieties and technologies.

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 the program’s five partner countries, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, to help boost food security in eastern and southern Africa.

With a population of 400 million, more than half living in extreme poverty and 70% depending on agriculture, food availability and access is a major concern for this region.

Demand for the staple crops, maize and legumes, is likely to increase considerably in coming years; however, poor weather conditions and weaknesses in crop management and varieties are holding back crop yields.

The program, which aims to lift crop productivity by 30% and reduce yield fluctuation by 30% within ten years, will work with around half a million farms.

It will also offer short-term training opportunities and postgraduate fellowships to participating African scientists.