WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME
An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited Sierra Leone from 27 November to 9 December 1996 to estimate the production of 1996 and the national food requirements for 1997, as well as to assess the food aid needs for that year.
The Mission held discussions and interviews in Freetown with various officials from Government , National Farmers Association of Sierra Leone, UN agencies, bilateral and multilateral donor agencies and both international and local NGOs. Specifically, the Mission held wide-ranging discussions with the planning and technical staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Environment (MAFE), the newly formed Ministry of National Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (MNRRR).
Outside Freetown, the Mission made an extensive tour of the major food producing areas as far as the prevailing security situation in the country permitted. Indeed, the team managed to visit all the provinces, namely Northern, Southern, Eastern and the Western area around Freetown. Although the teamís visit coincided with the signing of the peace agreement, the security situation in the country was still fluid, particularly in the Southern and Eastern Provinces where hostilities had been more intensive at the height of the civil war. The Northern province and the Western area, however, were judged to be relatively safe and were therefore extensively toured by the Mission to assess the crop situation and the impact of the civil war on agriculture and marketing. During these visits, the team conducted interviews and held discussions with farmers, farmersí associations, womenís groups involved in farming, government officials, chiefs and representatives of local NGOs at the provincial, district or village level. However, in order to assess the crop and food supply situation in the Southern and Eastern Provinces where the security situation was still uncertain, the team had to split to make separate trips by air to the respective provincial capitals of Bo and Kenema. In both cases the team members managed to hold discussions with regional and local officials from government , donor agencies and NGOs. Field visits outside these provincial headquarters were restricted to villages, farms and IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) camps regarded as safe, where again crops in the field were assessed and interviews conducted with village chiefs, farmers, IDPs, traders and extension agents from government and NGOs.
The Mission found that agricultural production like all other productive sectors of the economy, had been badly affected by the civil war which started in the Southern and Eastern parts of the country in 1991 and spread to the rest of the country by the end of 1994, becoming most devastating in 1995. The civil war caused large-scale displacement of farmers, thereby cutting off large portions of land from production.
Apart from being displaced, many farmers, particularly those in areas which were under frequent attacks, also lost their seeds, tools, on-farm storage facilities and other productive assets to the extent that even those returning from the displacement camps have not been able to resume normal production without help from relief agencies and NGOs. It is estimated that about 180 000 farm families were directly affected by the conflict. As a result, agricultural production has drastically dropped throughout the country in the last five years.
The Mission estimates that foodcrop production for 1996 will be an improvement over the previous year, with paddy production forecast at about 391 000 tons (261 000 tons milled rice), 10 percent above last year. Production of root crops is also projected to increase to an estimated 328 000 tons, 7 percent above that of last year. The total cereal import requirement in 1997 is estimated at 259 300 tons. Commercial imports are expected to total 180 000 tons, leaving a food aid requirement of 79 300 tons.
During the 1960s after independence up to the first half of the 1970ís, the Sierra Leonean economy grew at about 4 percent per year. However, between 1975-1980, the growth rate slowed down to about 1 percent per year. In the 1980s, the economic situation deteriorated further due to falling production in the mining sector, poor fiscal management and the rising costs of oil and inputs. The 1990ís civil war which started in 1991 aggravated the situation and brought an additional burden to the weak economy. The civil war significantly reduced agricultural production, which had hitherto employed about 60 percent of the population and contributed about 35 percent of the GDP. Furthermore, as the civil war escalated, mining and coffee and cocoa production and exports dwindled, thereby weakening the economy even further. The rebel forces targeted the mines and export cash crop producing areas in the Southern and Eastern provinces. As the economy weakened further, the military took power from the civilian government with the aim of ending the civil war and restructuring the economy. 1996 ushered a sense of optimism among farmers as prospects for peace became brighter with the ceasefire agreement followed by the restoration of multiparty democracy in March. The signing of the peace agreement on 30 November marked a new era which should see even greater improvement in agricultural production if the peace settlement is given the opportunity to take root. The Mission observed significant improvement in the overall farming situation with much enthusiasm displayed by farmers and the IDPs returning for resettlement in their villages. In February and March 1996, multiparty parliamentary and presidential elections were held and a new civilian Government was installed.
The donor community, the international relief agencies and the NGOs the Mission consulted are equally optimistic about the peace settlement and its likely positive impact on the economy. It is hoped life will soon return to normal with IDPs and refugees being resettled to start a new life. The Government, through the Ministry of Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (MNRRR), has formulated a blue-print on National Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction programme which will be used as a policy guide for government , UN agencies, bilateral donors and NGOs for socio-economic and rehabilitation strategies and plans they may initiate with respect to agricultural inputs, food aid, health, education, water supply, roads and other infrastructure.
Sierra Leone is a country of great agricultural potential, given its rich soil, good rainfall and plenty of water resources which could be exploited as irrigation to supplement rainfed crop production. However, much of this potential had not been fully exploited even before the civil war, to the extent that the country has had to rely on imports to supplement its domestic production of rice, the staple food. In the past the Government used to provide machinery services to farmers at concessionary rates and some fertilizer subsidy which led to some paddy yield improvements. These services were withdrawn following the introduction of the structural adjustment programmes towards the end of the 1980s. The current average paddy yield levels are estimated at 900 kg/hectare for upland production and 1 700 kg/hectare for the swamp production.
During the Missionís visit to the National Rice Research Station at Rakupr, the researchers there pointed out that the paddy yield potential for the varieties they have released to the farmers is between 3 000-5 700 kg/hectare. The scientists also pointed out that the current national farm level yields could be improved up to 2 000 kg/hectare through proper extension services that would enable farmers to follow recommended agronomic practices.
During the civil war, the agricultural extension services were handicapped by insecurity and lack of mobility and farmers were left virtually on their own. Many of the farmers interviewed also pointed out that they also faced other production constraints, such as lack of seed, poor seed in terms of viability and varietal mixtures for those who could get seed, lack of fertilizers, high fertilizer prices and transportation cost, lack of machinery hire services, especially for land preparation for the swamp production areas, and a poor marketing system. It was pointed out, for example, that during harvesting time farmers in remote areas sold their rice at about Le. 5 000 per 50 kg bag, when such rice could fetch as high as Le 15 000-20 000 in other parts of the country or later in the year.
The main constraints during the war and during the cropping season under review were:
Farmers in areas which were accessible to donor agencies and NGOs during the war were helped by these organizations with tools, seed and planting materials. Visibly present offering such services were organizations such as CRS, EU, CARE, AFRICARE and World Vision.
Although the war has destroyed most of the production system and infrastructure
in the rural areas, the Mission reckons that, with the current optimism
prevailing in the country, full rehabilitation and normal production should
be possible within a period of about 3-4 years.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Environment (MAFE), through the Production, Evaluation, Monitoring and Statistics Division (PEMSD), produces official statistics and forecasts of annual production for planning purposes (see Table 1). According to these estimates, it would appear that despite the large-scale displacement of farm families and the reported shortage of seed, farm tools and fertilizers, production dropped only slightly over the last five years. MAFE statistics show that there was a 24 percent drop in paddy production at the beginning of the civil war, from 543 700 tons in 1990 to 411 100 tons in 1991. Production thereafter has been on an improving trend until 1995 when it is estimated to have fallen sharply as a result of an escalation of disturbances in the rural areas that year. The same production trend is depicted for the other food crops such as maize, millet, sorghum, beniseed (sesame), cassava and sweet potatoes, with the production of the latter two roots surpassing their pre-civil war levels.
However, considering the overall impact of the civil war on the rural population and on farming activities in particular, these estimates should be treated with great caution.
Table 1: Sierra Leone: Production of major crops (thousand tons)
|ROOTS & TUBERS|
1/ Production figures for 1994 are based on the crop survey carried out from October to December 94 just before the war spread to all parts of the country.
2/ Production figures for 1995 are projected from those for previous season but adjusted downwards to reflect widespread disruption of farming activities during that year.
Rice is the main food crop in Sierra Leone and when the Sierra Leoneans talk about food shortage, they invariably mean the scarcity of rice in the country. Other crops like millet, sorghum, maize, beniseed, cassava and sweet potatoes are also grown extensively to supplement rice in the diet. Table 2 presents paddy production estimates for 1996 in terms of area planted, volume of production and yields by agricultural region. A summary of production estimates for other crops is given in Table 3.
As mentioned earlier, 1995 was the worst year of the five-year civil war. The Mission estimates area under paddy in that year at 274 500 hectares and total production at about 355 500 tons, with an average yield of about 1 295 kg/hectare. Taking the pre-civil war production in 1990 as the base year output, estimates for 1995 show a large drop in production of about 35 percent at the height of the war. A comparison between the figures in Table 1 and 3 indicates that root crop production increased significantly from the pre-war production level in 1990. Cassava production in 1995 is estimated at about 261 700 tons while sweet potatoes is put at 45 200 tons, indicating increases in production of about 43.5 percent and 16.4 percent respectively above the pre-war base year production. These increases are attributed to the farmers switching from the risky paddy to these relatively safer crops during the war period.
The 1996 crop year started on an optimistic note, with the ceasefire agreement followed by the peace agreement. Moreover, rainfall was normal and satisfactory throughout the country during the critical crop growing season. Some dry spells were reported in the central region during the month of August when upland paddy was at the grain formation stage but this had no perceptible effect on paddy and other crops, except groundnuts which were stressed and may record a lower yield.
1996 has also witnessed quite a number of displaced people trying to go back to their farms and start food production with assistance from different donors, relief agencies and the Government. Indeed, currently and in the recent past as the war situation eased, most of these agencies and NGOs, e.g. WFP, USAID, FAO, EU, CRS, AFRICARE, ICRC and ACF have been in the forefront trying to help resettle the farmers and rehabilitate their farms. Some of these agencies have been providing farmers with tools, seeds (mainly for rice) and planting materials (cassava and sweet potatoes).
With all these positive developments during the year, the Mission estimated some increase in the area under paddy and other crops in the 1996 season and in total food production for the year. Similar but perhaps better increase in area planted and production is also forecast for cassava and sweet potatoes, and to a lesser extent maize, sorghum, millet and beniseed. During field visits, the Mission observed that crop production in the Northern Province was quite extensive, showing visible signs of quick recovery from the war. It was only in the Southern and Eastern provinces, where the security situation was still uncertain, that recovery of food production may take some time, although some reliable informants who have visited these areas have reportedly seen some signs of recovery in areas which were not under rebel control for long. Taking these observations into consideration, it is estimated that the area under paddy in 1996 is 289 200 hectares, a slight improvement over the estimates for 1995.
Throughout its field survey, the Mission extensively examined standing paddy crops and other crops in the field and also inspected recently harvested plots to verify and corroborate quantitative and qualitative information gathered through interviews with farmers, NGOs and government officials. As noted in other sections of the report, widespread complaints from farmers were noted regarding non-availability of fertilizers, inadequate seed supply and poor quality of seed in terms of low viability and varietal mixtures.
Despite these complaints and the insecurity in some parts of the country, paddy yield is estimated to go up marginally to about 1 354 kg/hectare in 1996 as compared to 1 295 kg/hectare estimated for 1995.
Taking into consideration the increase in planted area and the anticipated marginal yield improvement, the paddy production for 1996 is estimated to be about 391 700 tons which is 12.2 percent lower than the official crop sample survey estimate of 445 300 tons for 1994 and about 10 percent above the Missionís estimate of 355 500 tons of paddy for 1995. This is about three-quarters of 1990 pre-civil war production level. The disaggregated estimates for paddy hectarage and production by the seven agricultural regions of the country are shown in Table 2. As can be seen from the table, the Southern and Eastern regions, which had borne the full brunt of the war till recently have lower production estimates compared to the Northern region which has experienced relative calm and some semblance of peace over a longer period of time.
Table 2: Sierra Leone: Planted area , production and yield of paddy rice for 1996
|AREA (Ď000 ha)||YIELD (kg/ha)||PROD (Ď000 tons)|
|South West||54.2||1 844||99.9|
|North Cent.||48.6||1 284||62.4|
|North West||62.8||1 495||93.9|
|SIERRA LEONE||289.2||1 354||391.7|
As was noted in the case of 1995 crop production estimates, root production is estimated to have expanded significantly as an emergency food. The insecurity that prevailed during the civil war prompted the farmers over the last five years to shift their food habits and cropping patterns to accommodate crops hitherto regarded as minor, such as cassava and sweet potatoes. Production of cassava, which stood at about 182 000 tons in 1990, had, by the time of the 1994 farm survey, increased by 33.5 percent over the four year period or about 7.5 percent per year over the same period. Sweet potato production followed a similar trend as that of cassava. The 1996 production estimates for the two crops (Table 3) are 281 400 tons and 46 600 tons for cassava and sweet potatoes respectively.
Table 3: Sierra Leone: Production of major food crops in 1996
1/ Equivalent to 261 300 tons of milled rice.
Six years of civil strife has dealt a heavy blow to all sectors of the economy. In the case of agriculture, production has been seriously undermined and distribution of food seriously disrupted resulting in severe food shortages in some areas.
The marketing systems of most crops in the country have been drastically disrupted during the civil war with some parts of the country being completely cut off from the commercial centres of the country. Apart from physical destruction of roads, bridges and storage facilities, the war brought about the limitation of free movement of foodcrops and other merchandise from farm or production centres to the major consumption centres. Even after some of the displaced farmers went back to their farms, the little surpluses they realized in their production have not been easy to sell.
The Mission interviewed several farmers and local traders who were unable to sell their surpluses of cassava and sweet potatoes, which they have been advised and assisted to grow by the NGOs and relief agencies.
For a long time, rice marketing, which included importation and domestic purchases, was under the control of the Government, first under the Rice Corporation up to 1979 and later under the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB). However, following the structural adjustment programme and market liberalization, the monopoly of SLPMB was ended in 1988, when private traders were allowed to import rice and trade in it locally. At the time the FAO Mission visited the country, the urban shops and markets were well stocked with imported rice which was selling at a lower price than the local variety. Interviews with traders and consumers indicated that there were three types of rice available at the market:
i) High quality imported rice selling at about Le. 30 000 per 50 kg bag, for expatriates and urban high income groups;
ii) Medium quality imported rice selling at about Le. 20 00 per 50 kg bag;
iii) Local variety of rice which is popular with the majority of Sierra Leoneans.
Rice importation is in the hands of four privately owned companies,
which import rice from Pakistan, India, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Thailand and
the United States. The importers have wholesale outlets in Freetown and
the major provincial and district urban centres where the produce is sold
in 50 kg bags to retailers who then sell to consumers in smaller packets
or in small butter cups at Le 100/cup.
The pre-civil war population in Sierra Leone has been estimated by various sources at between 4.2 to 4.5 million with an annual growth rate of about 2.3 to 2.6 percent. For the purposes of this report, the Mission adopted a projected population figure for mid-1997 of 4.6 million, with a growth rate of 2.4 percent. Although the country has been devastated by the war, the Missionís assessment after consulting with local experts and examining official population estimate is that the effect of the war was more in terms of human displacement and physical destruction than in terms of the demographic growth trend.
It is reckoned that between the end of 1994 and 1995, the war precipitated a major human crisis characterized by i) violent and indiscriminate attack on civilians and destruction of their property, ii) massive displacement of people, iii) destruction and/or dislocation of local production capacities, iv) destruction of infrastructure, v) social and economic disruption thereby impairing most of the traditional coping mechanisms.
It is estimated by some sources that at the height of the crisis about 2.1 million people were internally displaced from their villages and farms, cutting any direct access to their traditional means of livelihood. A further 368 500 people are known to have sought refuge in Liberia and Guinea. Altogether, about 47 percent of pre-war population are estimated to have been internally displaced or taken refuge in neighbouring countries. The number of people killed during the war is officially estimated at about 10 000.
Most of the IDPs are found in camps and in urban centres where security and assistance are more certain than in rural areas. The massive movement of IDPs to the urban centres has swelled the urban population to the extent that the basic facilities and amenities in these towns are stretched to the limit. Freetown, for example, is now home to about 1.2-1.5 million people up from its pre-war population of about 750 000. Apart from having to cope with its IDPs, Sierra Leone is also host to about 6 000 Liberian refugees in Freetown/Western area (3 220) and Kenema (2 800).
Most of the IDPs and returnees are receiving assistance from the UN
agencies, bilateral donors and NGOs in the form of food aid, food for work
and agricultural inputs. The Mission believes that if the recently signed
peace accord can hold, the majority, if not all, of the IDPs and refugees
should be able to return to their homes during 1997. If this happens, agricultural
production in the country should fully recover within the next 3-4 years.
The total cereal production (including milled rice) for 1996 is put
at 313 900 tons (see Table 3) .
Lack of accurate data on on-farm and tradersí stocks precludes precise estimate of food stocks in the country. It is assumed that with the wide disruption in the rural areas, farmers are literally carrying no stocks. Interviews with importers revealed that some importers are carrying some stocks of about one to two monthsí supply, levels being quite variable depending on the market situation. Wholesalers and retailers were found to be carrying only short term trading stock. The Government on the other hand has not been carrying any stocks since the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB) withdrew from grain trading following introduction of the structural adjustment programme and trade liberalization. Using this scanty information, it is estimated that the stock drawdown in 1997 is nil.
Total cereal availability is therefore estimated at 313 900 tons for
4.3.3 Total utilization
The total human consumption for cereals is based on mid-year projected population of 4.62 million in 1997. The per caput cereal consumption is estimated at 110 kg per annum, a figure close to the last five years average. On the basis of these assumptions, food requirement is estimated at 508 200 tons in 1997.
Other uses are:
Therefore, total (rounded) for other uses and losses are estimated at 63 000 tons for 1997.
Table 4 gives a breakdown of the cereal supply/demand estimates for 1997 (January/December) marketing year.
Table 4: Sierra Leone: Cereal balance sheet for 1997, (Ď000 tons)
|TOTAL DOMESTIC AVAILABILITY||313.9|
|TOTAL DOMESTIC UTILIZATION||573.2|
|Other uses and losses||63.0|
4.4.1 Food aid distribution
In light of the recent signing of the peace agreement, food aid will constitute a critical component in supporting the processes of resettlement, reconstruction and rehabilitation in 1997. Given the importance of food aid in supporting these processes, the total quantities required in 1997 will be marginally greater than in 1996. The food distribution will be targeted to feeding programmes. For the first three months of 1997, food aid resettlement packages will be provided to returning IDPs and refugee returnees to help their resettlement in their areas of origin. Thereafter, food aid will be provided through food for work and institutional feeding mechanisms to support rehabilitation of communities affected by the war. Vulnerable group feeding programmes will also cater for individuals and households who are eligible for either therapeutic or safety net rations.
There has been a very good level of cooperation in developing food aid policy and strategy and its implementation in Sierra Leone through the local Committee on Food Aid (CFA). This Committee is chaired by WFP and has the membership of the donors, food aid supplying NGOs, HACU and Government through the Ministry of Reconstruction, Resettlement and Rehabilitation. The CFA has developed a local Food Aid Strategy to support resettlement and rehabilitation in 1997. This strategy is in keeping with the ongoing assessment process in the country, including the Annual Joint WFP/UNHCR Food Aid Assessment Mission with donor and NGO participation. The conclusions and recommendations of this Mission have been proven by events to be very accurate and timely in terms of ensuring that adequate preparations were quickly made to support the resettlement process in 1997.
According to the Joint WFP/UNHCR food needs assessment Mission, the total food requirements to support resettlement/rehabilitation activities in 1997 are 87 513 tons. The breakdown by commodity is as follows: cereals: 60 515 tons, vegetable oil: 6 679 tons and CSB: 14 160 tons. These are the total food requirements of both WFP and CRS, the two food aid supplying organizations in Sierra Leone. The breakdown by agency is as follows: CRS, 29 476 tons and WFP: 43 018 tons to assist IDPs and other internal caseload populations and 15,019 tons to assist Sierra Leonian refugees in Guinea and Liberia returning to Sierra Leone.
Food aid will be used to support three major post-conflict rehabilitation priorities : i) demobilization of ex-combattants, ii) resettlement of the countryís 1.2 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), iii) repatriation of the 360,000 (UNHCR estimate) Sierra Leonian refugees from Guinea and Liberia.
Of the total estimated 1.2 million IDPs in Sierra Leone, 830 000 people have been receiving food assistance through the following resource channels: WFP : 562 000; CRS 242 000 and Concern Universal : 25 000. It is estimated that a total of 660 000 of the total assisted IDP caseload will return to their home communities during 1997. This is calculated on the basis that 100 percent of the camp populations and 75 percent of the town population will return; 25 percent of the town IDP population having become urbanized.
For returning IDPs, one to three month separation package of the individualís basic ration (6 kg of cereals, 0.75 kg of vegetable oil per month) will be provided during the January-March period to facilitate the resettlement of IDPs back to their home villages. The size of the package would be determined by the departure date. The ration will be provided at the points of return. Upon return to their home communities and based upon the principle of a community based assistance programme, equal food and non-food entitlements would be provided to resettled IDPs, repatriated refugees or reintegrated ex-combattants.
The following targeted Feeding Programmes will be established during 1997 for both on-site and resettled IDPs, for a total caseload of 442 000 beneficiaries: vulnerable group feeding including Therapeutic feeding (TFPs) : 209 000; Emergency School Feeding : 126 000 and Food for Work/Food for training : 107 000. The latter category will support agricultural rehabilitation, community infrastructure and vocational training.
For Sierra Leonean refugees repatriation, UNHCR estimates that some 173 000 assisted refugees could return home during 1997, primarily from Guinea (127 000). These refugees would receive a one month ration on departure or arrival package to facilitate their return. Upon return to their home communities and based upon the principle of a community based assistance programme, equal food and non-food entitlements would be provided to resettled IDPs, repatriated refugees or reintegrated excombattants. The very small caseload of 11 340 Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone will continue to receive a basic ration of cereal and vegetable oil during 1997.
Food aid will be used to support the demobilization and reintegration
of ex-combattants within the context of a comprehensive demobilization
plan which has recently been prepared and circulated to members of the
international community. Effective disarmament guarantees must be ensured
prior to the distribution of any food aid entitlements to ex-combattants.
4.4.2 Food delivery/distribution and monitoring
Food aid policy and strategy will continue to rest with the Committee on Food Aid. The CFA will work with MNRRR to ensure that the necessary implementation capacity exists at both national and local levels to effectively initiate the Targeted Feeding Programme in 1997.
WFP and CRS will continue to be the major food suppliers and will coordinate on the supply and delivery of food to beneficiary communities through their respective partners. Existing logistics infrastructures will be used and expanded especially to rural areas as beneficiaries return to their districts of origin. Long haul transportation of food commodities to extended delivery points will continue to be contracted to local private transporters. Transportation of food to rural areas and final delivery points will require the combined capacities of private transporters, NGO fleets and the WFP/GAA trucking fleet.
The Committee on Food Aid, through its Technical Committee, is planning to implement nutritional and socio-economic surveillance systems to respond to beneficiary needs. At present a vulnerability scoring mechanism has been developed and household surveys are being conducted among the current assisted population. This process will be expanded to rural areas and will be complemented by further socio-economic survey data to support programme planning during 1997. Community groups and local governance structures will also be involved in selecting households for safety net feeding and in the prioritization of food for work activities.
Existing monitoring capacity will be expanded, especially to rural areas to oversee the resettlement and targeted feeding programmes.
This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources and is for official use only. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required.
Jean Pierre Cebron
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