Six African countries on Friday signed an agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to receive 2 million dollars each from the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund to improve food security on the continent.

The beneficiary countries are the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Niger and South Sudan.

The agreements were signed at the FAO Regional Conference for Africa currently underway in the Tunisian capital, Tunis.

Graziano da Silva, Director-General of FAO who signed the agreement with the Ministers of Agriculture of the beneficiary countries urged African governments to contribute to the Fund.

He said the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund initiative was an indication that African countries were ready to work with their neighbours to build a sustainable and food secure region ?and to have the future we want.?

The Director General indicated that the contributions would be used to bolster a wide range of projects to improve food security, nutrition, agriculture and rural development.

Bukar Tijani, Assistant Director-General/Regional Representative for Africa said the Fund would help to increase FAO?s cooperation with African governments and other partners to better coordinate their ongoing efforts to help vulnerable families improve their lives.

?They include policies and programmes to increase opportunities for youth employment; improve natural resources management and the quality of food production; increase the resilience of livelihoods in conflict-affected areas; and rapidly increase the availability of nutritious food through programmes like cash transfers, school feeding and school gardens?.

The trust fund, which is housed at FAO, was originally proposed in 2012 by President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo during the previous Regional Conference for Africa in Brazzaville.

The Fund was launched officially in June 2013 with a funding package of $30 million from Equatorial Guinea. Additional funding from Angola ($10 million) and a group of civil society organizations in the Republic of the Congo have added to bring the total amount to $40 million. Cameroon has also pledged to add to the Fund, while other countries are expected to join in the coming months.

The US$2 million allocated to each country will support projects including livelihoods resilience opportunities for conflict-affected rural communities such as those in Central African Republic; enhanced livelihoods and poverty reduction through economic diversification in Ethiopia; building the resilience of vulnerable communities to climatic shocks; and improving employment opportunities for young men and women in rural areas.

The others are providing support to the Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens (or 3N) initiative in Niger; and providing information, equipment, seeds and livestock services to protect and restore livelihoods in South Sudan.

FAO will provide technical assistance for the implementation of the projects in cooperation with partners.

Representatives of the beneficiary countries expressed their appreciation and gave the assurance that the funds would be put to judicious use. GNA

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