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Mauritania Receives 500 Tons of Seeds As Part of Food Security Measures

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is taking emergency measures to help African countries become food secure. Many of them are facing high prices and food shortages.

In Mauritania, for example, the FAO says millet prices are 50 percent higher than a year ago, while the price of sorghum has doubled and the cost of maize has risen 60 percent. It says Mauritania does not even produce enough food to meet 30 percent of its needs.

As part of its emergency measures, the FAO, in cooperation with the government, is distributing 500 tons of seeds. Luca Fornasari is the agency's emergency coordinator for Mauritania. From the capital, Nouakchott, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.

"This program is to provide assistance to…vulnerable farmers in Mauritania. Mauritania is very much exposed to the effects of soaring food prices on the international market. And we are going to provide an emergency assistance in order to allow them to cope with this situation. And the immediate plan is to increase national production, providing inputs, especially in this case. This kind of emergency assistance that we're talking about (is) seeds of traditional crops. This is to allow them to rebuild their stocks that were damaged by drought and other climatic problems during the past year. And also the objective of the government is to increase the production…expanding the area cultivated. Our program is complimentary to the government program," he says.

The seeds are being distributed in the regional capitals at the beginning of the rainy season. "We are working in six regions of the country, the most important agricultural regions. The action of the government is taking place at other sites in order to be complimentary," he says.

Seeds for sorghum, millet, maize and cowpea are being taken to various parts of the country by trucks.

The FAO official adds, "Mauritania is a big country, but the area cultivated is a very small amount. It's about 0.5 percent. This is mainly along the Senegal River Valley, and the agricultural area during the past year has been affected by several climatic stresses like drought…heavy floods…. Then the country is exposed to other problems, like locusts."

The government hopes to eventually double agricultural production. Fornasari says it may be 2012 at least before Mauritania is food secure.