WB backs response to food crisis

Kathmandu, October 2:

The World Bank approved a $36 million assistance package to support Nepal’s efforts for reducing hardship and speeding up recovery. A statement issued here today by the world food programme (WFP) said that people in at least 33 districts are chronically food insecure, with more than six million people vulnerable. Of them, 2.5 million are in immediate need of food assistance.

Poor road access to mid-western and western Nepal has led to high and increasing costs, aggravated by serious fuel shortage. “The programme will support Nepal’s national strategy to maintain and enhance food security,” said Susan Goldmark, World Bank country director for Nepal. “It will support immediate social safety net measures to ensure food for vulnerable households in districts as well as long-term measures to raise agriculture yields, and consequently the production of staples,” she added.

The Nepal Food Price Crisis Response Programme was developed to help Nepal mitigate the impact of rising global food crisis by improving access to food and strengthening agricultural production, particularly for food insecure districts and smallholders.

Globally, food grain prices have more than doubled since January 2006 and over 60 per cent of this increase has occurred since January 2008 alone.

The impact of high world food prices is compounded by increase in fuel prices, which adds to distribution costs and is resulting in high food price inflation in many countries.

In the short run, the programme will partner with WFP to provide immediate support to vulnerable households in 33 districts. The programme will provide 50-70 days employment a year in public work to about 4,80,000 individuals. WFP and the Ministry of Local Development’s rural community infrastructure works programme have established a strong track record of providing immediate food assistance to vulnerable and marginalised communities under their food/cash-for-work programmes.

“We expect the programme to result in increased self-sufficiency at the local level due to improved irrigation and seed availability with potential for farmers to eventually increase production and benefits from higher prices,” said Gayatri Acharya, senior economist at the World Bank.

The assistance package consists of $31 million in grants and credits from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm, and $5 million grants from the Food Crisis Response Trust Fund.