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Critical Need For Seeds In Southern Africa - 2002-10-29

Another dire warning about the food situation in southern Africa. The UN World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization say unless critically needed seeds are distributed in the very near future, the region faces what it calls “a massive deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the coming months.”

Six southern African countries have faced severe food shortages this year and many of the UN appeals for emergency funds have gone unanswered.

Richard Lee, a spokesman for the World Food Program, says seeds must be given to farmers within the next three weeks to help ensure a good harvest in April and May of 2003. He says “more than seventy percent of households in Zambia and Malawi have no cereal seeds.” And he says in Zimbabwe the situation is even worse, with “ninety-four percent of households” being without seeds as of last month.

Mr. Lee says it will only take a few million dollars to buy and distribute the seeds -- money he says the farmers and African governments do not have. In fact, many farmers have been forced to sell their hand tools to get money to buy food. The WFP spokesman says if a small amount is not spent now, several hundred million dollars in food aid may be needed early next year.

Richard Lee spoke with English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua.