Press Release 00/44 Joint WFP/FAO
ABOUT 3 MILLION PEOPLE ARE FACING HUNGER AND UNDERNOURISHMENT IN TAJIKISTAN
Rome, 27 July - Tajikistan is facing a serious food crisis caused by severe drought, continuing economic problems, deteriorating agricultural production and damage to the irrigation system, according to a joint mission report issued by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
Urgent food aid assistance and the provision of seeds are needed to avert a major food crisis in the country, FAO/WFP said.
An estimated 3 million people, half of the total population of the country, are facing severe food access problems and are at risk of hunger and undernourishment, the report said. "The situation is likely to worsen as the 2000/01 marketing year progresses. If assistance is not provided by the international community, these people will not be able to meet their basic minimum nutritional requirements".
The country is very poor, with an estimated 85 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Access to food through self-production has been sharply reduced. There are not enough employment opportunities and other sources of income that would enable people to buy food from commercial vendors.
Since 1997 cereal production has steadily declined as a result of persistent economic and security problems, lack of availability of quality seeds, and deterioration or breakdown of irrigation systems. Agricultural machinery is in bad shape. In addition, a severe drought has hit the country in the past months.
The FAO/WFP mission noted that this year, both the winter and spring wheat crops have almost totally failed because of drought. Irrigated wheat has also been affected. Lack of rain, the chief source of water for crops, has also affected barley production and is constraining the yield of rice and maize.
FAO/WFP estimated the 2000 total cereal output at 236,000 tonnes, down by 47 percent compared to 1999. This is the third consecutive year since 1997 that output has declined, but this year's drop has been the largest. Cereal production will be sufficient to meet the national requirements for only 3 months.
The cereal import requirement in 2000/01 (July/June) is estimated at 787,000 tonnes. Commercial imports are anticipated at 400,000 tonnes and food aid pledges so far amount to 74,000 tonnes. This leaves an uncovered gap of 313,000 tonnes, according to FAO/WFP. "A food deficit of this magnitude, if unmet, will inevitably result in widespread, serious nutritional consequences and even loss of life."
Around 1.8 million people are in critical need of food assistance with 136,000 tonnes of wheat and wheat flour required for six months, FAO/WFP said.
Non-availability of quality seeds is a major problem and a main reason for low-yields, the report said. Urgent assistance is needed to provide seeds for the next winter wheat planting season that starts in October. The country also has no significant scientific seed multiplication programme. "A major effort is needed for seed development, multiplication and distribution."
To rehabilitate and improve the agricultural sector in Tajikistan, the report called for repairing and enhancing irrigation systems, the installation of tubewells for groundwater abstraction for irrigation and the acceleration of the ongoing land reform programme to expand private farming and remove uncertainties in the agricultural sector.
The FAO/WFP report is available on the Internet at http://www.fao.org/giews/. For more information please contact Erwin Northoff, FAO, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105, e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@fao.org or Francis Mwanza, WFP, tel: 0039-06-6513 2623, e-mail: Francis.Mwanza@wfp.org