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September 14, 2008

FAO to assist Swazi farmers to buy seed

Subsistence farmers in Swaziland will get help from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to buy seeds as rising prices put agricultural inputs beyond the reach of many.

Speaking at a school-based farm project outside the capital Mbabane, UN FAO director-General Jacques Diouf said the agency would give farmers vouchers to buy seeds from local producers to ensure they grow food, a UN press release said. The UN said the rising cost of staple foods such as rice, maize meal and fuel in recent months was hampering farmers' ability to buy seeds and fertilizer, jeopardizing their livelihoods and food supply.

Most of Swaziland's around 1 million people live off the land on less than a dollar a day.

Rising prices have compounded food insecurity in the country that is regularly beset by drought and where able-bodied workers are being lost in droves to HIV/AIDS.

Swaziland is one of a number of countries where the UN is trying to mitigate the effect of rising food prices.

Seed vouchers were already used during the severe drought of 2006- 07.

'We must work together to produce more food where it is urgently needed to contain the impact of soaring prices on poor consumers,' Diouf said.

Over 8 million people in seven southern African countries - Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe - are expected to face food insecurity between now and March 2009 and require some kind of assistance.

Food insecurity was a key factor behind recent protests in Swaziland over King Mswati III's lavish birthday independence celebrations.

Many Swazis said the millions of dollars spent on the party held on September 6 would have been better spent on food or medication for HIV patients.

The Citizen

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