Head of UN rural development agency set to offer help on visit to drought-hit Kenya

By United Nations
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The head of the United Nations rural development agency is set to arrive in Kenya on Saturday to offer assistance to the Horn of Africa nation, where nearly 2.4 million poor people in rural areas are struggling to get enough to eat as a result of the recent drought.

The visit by Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), follows the release earlier this month of a report by the Kenyan Government and its partners showing a rapid decline in food security among some agricultural households.

The report found that the number of people needing food and other assistance jumped by 50 per cent in just six months, from 1.6 million in August 2010 to 2.4 million in February 2011.

During his visit, Mr. Nwanze will discuss issues such as the need to boost the incomes of smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs and better equipping them to manage risks, which will enable them to both feed their families and contribute to economic growth and food security in the country.

He will also address new opportunities for business in rural areas presented by changing agricultural markets. These will require more investment to help rural people deal with issues such as food price volatility, risks posed by severe weather such as the drought and long-term uncertainties due to climate change.

In addition to meeting with Government officials, Mr. Nwanze will also visit projects IFAD is supporting in the central and eastern parts of the country, including those focusing on improving rural livelihoods, especially among women. He will also inaugurate a new maternity facility, a borehole and a water treatment plant built with project funds.

Mr. Nwanze will also review the progress of several initiatives on Mount Kenya, including one that works with community groups to address rising poverty linked to deterioration of natural resources, particularly water, related to poor agricultural practices.

Since 1979, IFAD has invested more than $214 million to support Kenyan Government efforts to reduce rural poverty.