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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Rwandan returnees put strain on frail food economy; strife and sanctions threaten nutrition in Burundi

Hundreds of thousands of people who returned to Rwanda at the end of last year face the prospect of going hungry in the months ahead, while the influx is likely to increase pressure on the country's already weak food economy.

Despite an overall improvement in food production, says a special report issued in late December by FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP), output remains below the 1994 pre-civil strife average, due to lower cropped areas, low yields of pulses this season and crop losses in areas affected by dry weather.

Overall, root and tuber crops are estimated to be up 23 percent on last year, while bananas and plantains are expected to increase slightly. But the output of beans, the people's main source of protein, dropped 12 percent below last year. This has contributed to higher prices than last year.

"The nutritional situation gives cause for concern in some areas of the country," warns the report. "It is likely to be aggravated with anticipated reduced per caput food supplies in 1997. Food shortages in Gikongoro and Butare prefectures may also lead to an increased incidence of malnutrition."

According to the report, areas planted under crops increased significantly during the most recent planting season which began in September. FAO and WFP estimate that less than 10 percent of total arable land was left uncultivated this season.

The country faces a food deficit (141 000 tonnes cereal equivalent) and only part of this requirement can be met through commercial imports. According to the report, the country will need substantial food assistance in 1997.

And that assistance needs to be distributed to 2.5 million people, one-third of the projected population. These include recent returnees who were not able to plant crops, previous returnees who will have to leave farm areas they are presently tending and vulnerable groups including elderly people, widows and orphans.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Burundi, FAO and WFP report that food production has fallen only slightly from the 1988-93 level, before the crisis in the Great Lakes Region. But continuing civil strife and economic sanctions could reduce food production significantly in 1997, seriously affecting the nutritional status of many people.

The report's provisional forecast is that total food production in the country in 1996 is some 3 percent down from 1995 and 4 percent below the 1988-93 level. Harvests of cereals, pulses, roots and tubers, varied from province to province depending largely on agroclimatic and security factors.

It is estimated that after imports and food aid a food deficit (22 000 tonnes of cereals and 62 000 tonnes of pulses) will remain because of regional economic sanctions. The sanctions have resulted in shortages of essential inputs, such as tools and fertilizers.

FAO and WFP conclude that as a result of the embargo on food imports, the nutritional status of the population and of internally displaced people and dispersed populations in particular is likely to be "seriously affected."

8 January 1997

GIEWS Special reports

Crop and food supply in Burundi (3 December 1996)
Available soon: Rwanda Special Report (23 December 1996)

Rwanda and Burundi archive


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