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Government launches innovative Africa agri-food development fund

Irish Aid, Press Releases, Africa, 2012

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr Simon Coveney and Minister of State for Trade and Development Mr Joe Costello today launched a €2 million Africa Agri-Food Development Fund.

The fund is part of Ireland’s overseas development cooperation programme and is designed to support the development of new partnerships between the agri-food sectors in Ireland and Africa. The two-year pilot phase (2012 to 2013) will focus on Tanzania and Kenya.

The programme is targeted at encouraging and supporting Irish agri-food companies to transfer knowledge and experience to the African agri-food sector in order to build and strengthen the African food industry and meet the continent’s food needs.

Speaking at the launch, the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said: 

“Africa is growing quickly and now boasts a collective GDP to rival Brazil’s or Russia’s. Business opportunities are opening as African countries build trade links with each other and with world markets. Irish companies are well-placed to play a role in meeting Africa’s increasing food needs.  Our agri-food industries have the skills and the vision to both trade and invest in Africa.

The Irish Government will continue to provide development aid to Africa to fight poverty and hunger. Through my Department’s Africa Strategy, our long term aim is to end dependency on aid and to build a new relationship with Africa based on politics, democracy and trade.” 

Minister Simon Coveney said:

The Irish agri-food sector is highly respected internationally and I believe that many of the skills developed in the establishment of the industry here could potentially be transferred to assist in the development of the food industry in African countries. Irish agri-food expertise, is well established and represents a significant learning resource for the agri-food sector in Developing Countries.

The priority of this Fund must be how can it improve productivity in the agricultural sector in Africa and how can associated market opportunities for that output be developed I’m very aware of the philanthropic goodwill of the Irish agri-food sector and I will be asking them to actively consider what role they might play in the implementation of this Fund.”

Minister of State Joe Costello said:

“During my recent visit to Malawi, I saw how Irish Aid’s support to a programme to increase agricultural productivity has helped to protect 4.6 million people from hunger over the last six years. This was achieved by supporting smallholder farmers to diversify to more nutritious crops. Partnerships with the private sector were critical to this success.

Our policy is to fund cutting edge international research to support the development of drought-resistant seeds, climate-smart farming practices, Vitamin A-rich sweet potato, and the successful control of devastating crop pests.

This innovative pilot programme to support Africa to build an Agri-Food sector has the potential to greatly complement the work that Irish Aid is doing in many of partner countries in increasing agricultural productivity. It is in line with the recommendations of the Hunger Task Force as it helps to link smallholder farmers to research and the private sector, thus assisting them in moving beyond subsistence farming.”

It is intended that initiatives which receive support will be based around themes of food safety, animal health, business development, technology transfer and research and development.

The €2 million allocation to the Africa Agri-Food Development Fund is being drawn from existing overseas development aid budgets in the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  The Fund will be managed by a steering committee comprised of expertise from both Departments.

The Fund’s steering committee will prepare a report for consideration by Ministers which will prioritise areas for support in the pilot phase.