July 1, 2008

Boost for the small farmer

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 said that under the five-year Purchase for Progress Programme (P4P) launched in Mozambique earlier that year, the agency hoped to build a supplier base for cereals and pulses comprising at least 3,000 small-scale farmers in Mozambique. The programme will become fully operational by October 2008. P4P 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 programme, 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 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 programme 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 programme, called Building Commodity Value Chains and Market Linkages for Farmers' Associations, would be part of a joint programme 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 programme 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.
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." (IRIN)

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