Local farmers' cooperatives in Ethiopia are beginning to deliver what is expected to be the largest amount of maize they ever sold to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), as part of a pilot project to promote small farmers' access to local markets.
"Our goal here is to support Ethiopia feeding itself," WFP Country Director Abdou Dieng said in a press release issued today.
The 28,000 metric tons of maize is enough to feed 1.8 million people for a month through relief distributions in the country.
"Buying food for our Ethiopia operation right here in Ethiopia makes sense in cost-effectiveness, and in providing a boost for the local economy by helping small farmers to get closer to markets."
WFP signed contracts with 16 cooperative unions last year, before the planting season began. The first deliveries on those contracts began arriving at WFP warehouses last week.
To support the cooperatives in fulfilling their contracts, WFP provides technical assistance in storage and post-harvest handling and logistical support.
Through agreements with local banks, several agricultural cooperatives were able to use their WFP contracts as collateral for loans to buy new equipment and aggregate more maize from their members.
The project is part of WFP's Purchase for Progress initiative (P4P), financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented in collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia through the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA).
The Ethiopian Government was praised last year for its innovative and effective efforts to build resilience and food self-sufficiency amid increasingly challenging climatic conditions.
The Horn of Africa experienced a food crisis last year that left an estimated 13 million people dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Halving the proportion of hungry people in the world by 2015 was among the objectives within the eight globally agreed anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).