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World Food Program builds small farmer supply base in Mozambique

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WFP hopes "Purchase for Progress" program will be fully operational by October 2008

In an effort to build a long-term source of food supplies in developing countries while boosting small-scale agriculture, the World Food Programme (WFP) will soon begin buying food from local farmers in Mozambique. WFP spokesman Peter Transburg told IRIN that under the five-year Purchase for Progress Programme (P4P) launched in Mozambique earlier this year, the agency hopes to build a supplier base for cereals and pulses comprising at least 3,000 small-scale farmers in Mozambique. The program will become fully operational by October 2008, and will be rolled out in 19 other countries over the next five years.

The agency is set on making a pilot purchase of 250 metric tonnes (mt) of cowpeas in Mozambique by September, and on buying a total of 1,000mt of maize and beans during the first year of the plan. The purchase amount is expected to increase to 3,000mt in the second year and then to around 6,000mt in the remaining three years. Transburg said 1,000mt of mixed commodities could feed approximately 85,000 people for one month, but "rations vary by program, so this is an average".

The P4P includes a basket of measures, such as an advance contract to purchase food directly from small-scale farmers, thereby ensuring that they have access to funds to reinvest in agriculture; modifying the tender procedure to help small traders compete; and providing technical assistance to mill grain and fortify flour. The program will be active in five Mozambican provinces - Manica, Sofala, Zambezia, Nampula and Tete - and will buy cereals and pulses from smallholder farmers' organisations as well as small/medium traders.

Andrea Alfieri, WFP's Mozambique Country Office P4P Focal Point, said the program, called Building Commodity Value Chains and Market Linkages for Farmers' Associations, would be part of a joint program with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). "On one side, WFP will re-adapt its procurement procedures to widen its supplier basis, offering them [suppliers] an additional market opportunity; on the other side, the three agencies [WFP, FAO, IFAD] will match this opportunity with the delivery of an assistance package, including training, equipment and credit, to tackle issues such as low productivity, storage, post-harvest handling, quality and marketing strategy," Alfieri said.

The program hopes to improve the ability of small-scale farmers to access agricultural markets by contracting food purchases from them, and also to help small and medium traders.

Marc Cohen, research fellow at the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said the scale of food purchases under this programme could be handy in an emergency or school-feeding initiative, besides boosting small-farm agriculture. "But there is a potential risk," he cautioned. "Depending on the harvest in a given year and the commission, the programme could risk contributing to inflation, but in an average year it could be beneficial to farmers."

The agency's attempts to purchase supplies in developing countries has been influenced by many of its donors – mostly members of the European Union - who have been keen to break the link between supporting their farmers and overseas food aid. Most donors now provide WFP with cash and encourage the agency to procure food in beneficiary countries.

In 2007, WFP bought 46,000mt of food commodities in Mozambique for US$13 million, mostly from large suppliers, according to Transburg. "In general, the food is here to buy, and this will continue to be true if production increases in Mozambique. WFP would love to source its programmes (over 52,000 tons of food in 2007) entirely from within Mozambique."

This story, entitled “MOZAMBIQUE: Boost for the small farmer” and datelined Johannesburg 1 July 2008, was written and distributed by IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. For more information on the World Food Program philosophy, see the speech given to IFAD by WFP executive director Josette Sheeran in February 2008. Ms. Sheeran reported that WFP today spends 80% of its cash for food aid purchases in 69 developing nations, representing an investment of more than US$ 612 million a year in developing-world agriculture as well as a "revolution in food aid, where the way we intervene becomes part of the solution". WFP is changing from a "food aid agency" to a "food assistance agency", said Ms. Sheeran, "embedding local purchase and more nuanced, market sensitive interventions alongside life-saving emergency commodity contributions that today, for example, sustain up to 3.1 million people a day in Darfur alone." Ms. Sheeran's full speech is found on the WFP website.


Buffett and Gates will provide $76 million to Purchase for Progress Project

The U.N. World Food Programme, backed by philanthropists Bill Gates and Howard Buffett, said on Wednesday it will buy surplus crops directly from poor farmers in Africa and Central America to feed people facing hunger and starvation. The Purchase for Progress project, which will help farmers produce more food and sell the surplus to increase their incomes in some of the world's poorest regions, has been backed by $76 million in grant funding from charitable organizations, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Howard Buffett Foundation, son of U.S. investment billionaire Warren Buffett.

WFP executive director Josette Sheeran said the project will initially be tested in 21 countries including Liberia, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and Laos. The WFP is the world's single largest purchaser of food for humanitarian operations and spent $612 million in developing countries in 2007, while assisting 86 million people facing starvation. The WFP said it expects to buy 40,000 tonnes of food from about 350,000 small farmers over five years, enough to feed 250,000 people a year.

For the full story, see Gates, Buffett back WFP plan to help poor farmers, by Lesley Wroughton, Reuters, datedlined the United Nations 24 September 2008.



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