Emergency programme in Benin kick-starts farm production after floodsListen /
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is supporting farming families in northern Benin who lost crops, livestock and fishing grounds when the Niger River overran its banks in August, just as many villagers were only barely getting back on their feet from the last floods in 2012.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva on a visit to Benin met with President Yayi Boni.
Graziano da Silva lauded the impressive progress Benin has in achieving the first Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of the nation's hungry, while the country is also near to achieving the World Food Summit goal of halving the actual number of people who are undernourished.
The FAO chief also voiced his hope that Benin, which has vast agricultural potential and water resources especially in the country's south, could become the future home of a regional food reserve that can offset shortfalls where production is weaker, such as in the arid Sahel.
Graziano da Silva also took part in an official signing ceremony Sunday to immediately activate emergency assistance to the northern villages of Malanville and Karimama, the communities worst affected by flooding. Nearly all agricultural production was wiped out, and farmers were left with no crops and no seed for planting anew.
The government of Benin has funneled some of its own resources into helping those people worst affected by the floods. Crop losses are estimated at some $20 million, not to mention the hundreds of livestock animals lost and damages to fisheries.
Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of nationwide employment in Benin. In the rural and impoverished northern region, families are even more dependent on agriculture and less able to cope with repeated set-backs.
Donn Bobb, United Nations.