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SOUTHERN AFRICA: Agri-assistance from Norway

The government of Norway has announced its intention to increase support for agriculture in developing countries. Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique are among the potential recipients.

The government of Norway has announced its intention to increase support for agriculture in developing countries. Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique are among the potential recipients.

Under a new programme, "Fighting Poverty through Agriculture", assistance for agricultural development would be "scaled up considerably", said a statement by the Norwegian government.

The plan sets out 50 measures for promoting agricultural development in developing countries.

"One of the priorities is to improve food security, [as] long-term food security cannot be achieved without sustainable agricultural development. The sustainable utilisation of natural resources is a priority in Norway's efforts in all areas and through all channels," the statement explained.

"Three-quarters of the world's poor live in rural areas, and most of them have farming as their livelihood. Thus, improving conditions in this sector is a central tool in the fight against poverty. Norwegian assistance to the agricultural sector is now 3.9 percent of its total development assistance - this is much too low. The government's goal is therefore to increase support for agricultural development considerably in the next few years," the Minister of International Development, Hilde F. Johnson, was quoted as saying.

Norway said its plan of action took a "holistic approach, in which agricultural development is part of a broader strategy for private sector development that considers the entire production chain from field to table".

Support for increasing productivity will mainly be directed at small and medium-sized farms, "since improvements here will have the greatest impact on rural poverty".

Norwegian assistance will be "in line with the countries' own poverty reduction strategies, and the specific measures to be employed will be chosen in close co-operation with the partner countries' governments and other donors, so that a broad range of measures is implemented that will cover the entire production chain and the relevant framework conditions".

This would include competence-building, education, health care, land use and property rights, infrastructure and organisational structures.

"Research and education are essential for effective agriculture. Norway will therefore seek to ensure that agricultural development is based on up-to-date knowledge," the government added.

Norway aimed to enhance the capacity of developing countries to enable them to benefit from the multilateral trading system by improving their negotiating capacity and ability to participate in regional and international trade.

"Ensuring formal access to international markets for developing countries is important but not sufficient in this [regard]. They [developing countries] also need considerable technical and financial assistance to develop production methods and products that meet Western quality and safety standards," the statement concluded.