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E.Africa in drive to develop neglected drylands

by Staff Writers
Nairobi (AFP) July 23, 2010
A broad initiative to develop East Africa's drylands -- where living conditions are among the toughest on the planet -- was launched Friday by renowned US economist Jeffrey Sachs and regional bodies.

"Under the Drylands Initiative, thousands of pastoralists who have historically been neglected will benefit from animal production, infrastructure, health, education, and business projects," said a statement.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Centre in East and Southern Africa -- which was established by Sachs' Earth Institute at Columbia University -- said the project would be rolled out in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan. It added that it was in talks with Eritrea.

"Poverty levels are extraordinarily high in the drylands of East Africa," said Sachs, who is also UN chief Ban Ki-moon's special advisor on the MDGs. He added that climate change risked making things worse.

The project, whose funding level was not specified, is to be implemented in partnership with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

"Bringing economic improvement and climate resiliency will not only raise living standards but will also promote peace," Sachs said at the launch, attended by several ministers from the region.

"Recent history has amply demonstrated that many of the conflicts in the drylands result from water stress, hunger, and other vulnerabilities of the drylands. Investing in drylands development is therefore also investing in peace and security," he said.

The initiative will implement programmes modelled on the multi-sectoral approach used in Millennium Villages to help communities achieve the UN's eight millennium goals, the MDG Centre's director Belay Begashaw said.

The eight MDGs were agreed by UN members states in 2001 and need to be reached by 2015. A conference will take place in Washington in September to review the world's progress on the goals.

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