By Ronald Njoroge
NAIROBI, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will spend approximately 120 million U.S. dollars in Somalia in 2014 in order to improve the nation's food security, the UN food agency's local representative told Xinhua.
Speaking to Xinhua late Saturday, Luca Alinovi said the funds will be used to support the livestock, fisheries and agricultural sectors of the Horn of Africa nation.
"We want to ensure that Somalia is resilient so that it can prevent the re-occurrence of famine," Alinovi said on the sidelines of a Somali investment conference.
The one-day event brought the private sector, government, donor officials to examine opportunities in the private sector in Somalia. He said Somalia has one of the largest livestock sectors in Africa, despite decades of civil strife.
"It has a stock of between 15 to 20 million livestock consisting mainly of goats, sheep and camel," he said.
"Somali exports approximately five million live animals to the Gulf nations annually," the country representative said. Somalia is also a major importer of wheat, sugar, maize, potato and sorghum.
The Horn of Africa nation has massive marine resources but the country's fishing industry remains largely underdeveloped and its fisheries unexploited. This is partly due to decades of conflict and piracy on the high seas, and partly because fish does not form part of the traditional Somali diet.
Consecutive droughts have affected the country in the last few years while the ongoing conflict has made it extremely difficult for aid agencies to operate and access communities in the south.
The combination of the massive scale-up in humanitarian assistance and an exceptional harvest has helped to improve the humanitarian situation in Somalia where famine conditions are no longer present. But any significant interruption to assistance would reverse the gains made since famine was declared in July 2011.
The country is still emerging from a food security crisis following the drought and famine of 2011 that left many thousands dead.
Alinovi said his organization is currently constructing slaughterhouses in Somalia. He noted that Somalia's domestic livestock market has not been fully exploited.
"We want to encourage producers to develop the local market," he said.
The United Nation Development Programme (UNDP)'s Poverty Reduction and Environmental Protection (PREP) Programme Manager in Somalia Jonathan Brooks said that private sector development is crucial in order to stimulate livelihoods in Somalia.
Brooks said that the private sector will also play a key role in the generation of employment opportunities as well as in the provision of basic services to the citizens.
"However, Somalia is a challenging environment for most local and foreign investors as it yet to fully recover from its civil war," Brooks said.