The Malian government and a U.N. agency plan to try to revive farming in the desert northern region, which has been badly hit by drought and conflict, and have pledged $5 million for the first phase of the scheme, U.N. officials said.

The farm support programme will focus on the farms and livestock of 33,000 families affected by fighting in northern Gao, Mopti and Timbuktu regions, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official Etienne Juvanon Du Vachat said.

The money will be used to pay for animal feed, seeds, technical advice on desert farming and veterinary services, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation late on Wednesday.

“It will support vulnerable households affected by various shocks – from extreme climate to conflict and insecurity,” he said.

The scheme is part of a broader $100 million recovery project for Mali, backed by the World Bank.

Three quarters of Malians depend on agriculture for their living, the World Food Programme reported last month.

Nearly two million people in the country have difficulty feeding themselves and their families.

“Our goal is to feed 16 million Malians,” Rural Development Minister Bokary Treta said in a statement, referring to the country’s whole population.

Along with food production problems, Mali’s desert north suffers frequent militant attacks despite a French-led operation to drive out Islamist fighters following an uprising by ethnic Tuareg separatists in 2012.

Peace talks between the government and nationalist Tuareg-led insurgents in the north collapsed in March and the security situation remains tense.

Insurgents accuse the government in Bamako of allowing poverty and hunger to fester in the arid north.

“Without security there cannot be food security and where there’s food insecurity, conflicts often erupt,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a statement.

This article is published in collaboration with The Thomson Reuters Foundation trust.org. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Chris Arsenault covers global food security and agricultural politics for the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Rome.

Image: A man waters beet plants in a garden in Gao, Mali March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney.