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Niger will invest nearly $620 million dollars in agriculture during the 2012-13 growing season, a figure equivalent to just over 20 percent of this year's budget, the government said.

Landlocked Niger, which straddles the south of the Sahara desert, has faced chronic food shortages due to poor rains and failed crops. According to the United Nations, 6 million people are going hungry this year after a cereal deficit of 700,000 tonnes.

The rains have been better this year and the investment is part of a programme aimed at increasing irrigation use to improve harvests and provide farmers with better incomes.

According to a government statement issued late on Tuesday, 47.34 billion CFA francs would be spent on agriculture between now and the end of the year with another 265.7 billion set aside for the sector next year.

In 2003 African governments set themselves a target to invest 10 percent of their annual budgets in their agriculture sectors.

Aid workers say good rains this year mean the country will not face a similar crisis to last year, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, but long-term investments must be made to break the cycles of hunger.

Source: Reuters



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