Food security initiative launched

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have launched a major initiative under which they have identified eight countries to cofinance agriculture projects that would go a long way to ensuring food security.

Lebanon, Yemen, Algeria, Senegal, Sudan, Morocco, Bosnia and Mauritania will be covered under the initiative, which will secure food supplies, a fundamental component of global peace.

“This initiative will further consolidate the partnership between the Kingdom and IFAD in ensuring food security, combating poverty and providing rural employment,” said Kanayo F. Nwanze, IFAD president, following talks with senior Saudi officials here yesterday.

This is Nwanze’s first visit to the Kingdom after he took over as IFAD chief a couple of months ago with a mandate to map out new strategies to boost investment in the agricultural sector.

Nwanze, who held wide-ranging talks with Agriculture Minister Fahd Balghunaim and senior officials from the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) yesterday, said the SFD would be IFAD’s partner in promoting agriculture projects in those eight countries.

Nwanze also met several other high-ranking officials, including Deputy Finance Minister Hamad Al-Bazie and Chief of the OPEC Fund for Development Suleiman Al-Herbish.

“The issue of food security, the need for increased investment in agriculture, the issue of water scarcity and concerns featured prominently during my talks with Saudi officials … The talks also covered cooperation between IFAD and Saudi Arabia, including how to increase the cofinancing of agricultural and rural development projects through the SFD, precisely in the eight identified countries,” he added.

The talks also focused on Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s initiative that seeks to ease the burden of high food prices for people in Saudi Arabia through investment partnerships covering strategic farm products in several countries. The IFAD chief also briefed Saudi officials on the “Eighth Replenishment of IFAD’s Resources” for which Saudi Arabia made a $50 million pledge.

Saudi contributions will be made available to IFAD within a few weeks from now, he said. Referring to training programs for young Saudis for work in agriculture, the IFAD chief said a plan was discussed with Saudi officials. To this end, he noted that an IFAD workshop would be held in Doha in September. A conference on food security has also been planned to be hosted in the Qatari capital on Nov. 17.

Saudi Arabia was the first IFAD member state to announce its contribution of $50 million in April 2008.

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