11 June 2008New funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will help to improve the quality of statistical information in 17 sub-Saharan African countries, contributing to efforts to reduce hunger and poverty in the region, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today. New funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will help to improve the quality of statistical information in 17 sub-Saharan African countries, contributing to efforts to reduce hunger and poverty in the region, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today. The $5.6 million grant over two years will allow the countries, through the FAO country statistics information system (CountrySTAT), to “substantially improve” the quality, accessibility, relevance and reliability of their national statistics on food and agriculture. The 17 countries involved in the project are Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. “With good and reliable data it is much easier to pinpoint where assistance is working, where it may be weak and understanding possible future needs,” said Hafez Ghanem, FAO Assistant Director-General for the Economic and Social Development. “Ensuring reliability of country data is crucial both to governments and to those working with countries to reduce undernourishment and strengthen agricultural and rural development,” he added. In total, some 20 countries and regions are currently involved in CountrySTAT, which focuses on data in the areas of food, resources and economics. The grant from the Gates Foundation will enable FAO to improve its information in 17 countries, nine of which currently use CountrySTAT in some capacity. “Reliable data will help national governments, donors, researchers and the agricultural development community set priorities and policies that will ensure small farmers can access the supplies and support they need to boost their yields and incomes and build healthy, productive lives,” said Dr. Rajiv Shah, Director of Agricultural Development for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program. “Quality data will help us make better decisions so that our investments in agricultural development throughout Sub-Saharan Africa can be as targeted and effective as possible,” he stated.