The food outlook for sub-Saharan Africa in 2001 is generally unfavourable due to last year's drought in eastern Africa, prolonged mid-season dry spells and subsequent floods in southern Africa, and persistent civil strife in central Africa and parts of western Africa. The number of people facing severe food shortages is now estimated at some 28 million, of whom 18 million or 64 percent are in eastern Africa. In southern Africa, a mid-season prolonged dry spell adversely affected crops in several countries, while subsequent floods in parts, particularly in Mozambique, caused crop losses. In the Great Lakes region, a serious humanitarian situation prevails in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is currently estimated at 2 million. Most of the displaced people are inaccessible to humanitarian agencies due to insecurity. In Burundi, the recent escalation of civil strife will exacerbate the already precarious food situation in the country. Elsewhere in the sub-region, civil strife continues to disrupt food production in Angola, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Sudan.
A long mid-season dry spell and excessive rains and severe floods in parts, coupled with unattractive maize prices at planting time, have resulted in a forecast sharp reduction in cereal production in southern Africa. In addition, thousands of people have been displaced by floods in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia, with considerable damage to infrastructure and loss of life.
In Mozambique, half a million people have been affected by serious floods in the central provinces of Zambezia, Sofala, Manica and Tete and in parts of Inhambane Province in the south. High water levels in the Zambezi River, due to torrential rains in neighbouring countries, as well as incessant heavy rains in the central provinces from the last dekad of January to the first dekad of March resulted in flooding that caused the loss of 77 lives and the displacement of some 200 000 people. Severe damage to transport infrastructure is also reported. Preliminary assessments of the agricultural damage as of mid-March indicate that 42 000 hectares of crops had been lost to the floods, mostly in Zambezia Province. Last year, 48 000 hectares of food crops were lost to floods in the central provinces, while the area lost at national level reached 167 000 hectares, mainly in southern provinces. Since around 12 March 2001, the water levels in the Zambezi and Pungwe Rivers have been subsiding and, consequently, the road linking Zimbabwe to the port of Beira in Mozambique has been reopened. Relief efforts, which concentrated on the evacuation of people, is now focusing on providing humanitarian assistance to the displaced population. The Government has appealed for US$30 million to cope with the emergency in the central areas. Food assistance is currently being provided to 20 000 affected people, including airdrops to inaccessible areas. Agricultural inputs required to enable affected farmers to plant the next crop are valued at US$2.3 million.
In southern provinces, prolonged dry weather in January, and irregular rains since the beginning of the season, adversely affected developing crops, mainly maize. Subsequent abundant rains in the last two dekads of February, and in early March in Inhambane Province where flooding was experienced, were generally too late to prevent reduction in yields. In the main cereal growing areas of the north, good rains in early March benefited crops stressed by dry weather in February. Although the crop losses to floods are not significant at national level, prospects for this year's overall cereal harvest have deteriorated somewhat due to excessive rains in February and early March, the mid-season dry spell in the south and recent dry weather in the extreme north-east. The official forecast of a 6 percent increase in cereal production over last year is not likely to materialize and current indications point to a decline in output. The final outcome will depend on the behaviour of the rains in the remainder of the season.
In Malawi, continuous heavy rains from late January to early March, and high water levels in the Shire river, resulted in serious flooding in southern and central areas, displacing 200 000 people and leaving 60 000 homeless. Serious damage to infrastructure and crop losses are reported. While the worst hit areas are in the south along the Shire River, the floods have affected 13 of the country's 27 districts. The situation is particularly serious in Nsanje and Chikwawa districts in the south, where many villages are reported to have been completely submerged, and in Salima and Nkhotakota districts in central parts. Overall, it is estimated that a total of 346 000 persons have been affected by the floods to varying degrees, and need emergency food and non-food assistance. The Government has appealed to the international community for US$6.7 million to cope with the disaster. WFP has started distributing food to 60 000 worst affected people in six districts, but persistent heavy rains have disrupted relief operations.
Foodcrop losses are provisionally estimated at 50 000 hectares. Furthermore, the excessive rains have caused substantial reductions in yield potential of cereal crops. A dry spell and high temperatures in January in some southern districts, mainly Balaka, Zomba and Mwanza, also negatively affected yields in these areas. Official forecasts of the maize crop, which accounts for some 95 percent of the total cereal production, have been revised downwards to 2.15 million tonnes. This is 13 percent below the bumper crop of last year but still above average and adequate to meet domestic consumption requirements. However, the country's exportable surplus, which amounted to 300 000 tonnes in marketing year 2000/01 (April/March), is anticipated to be sharply reduced if production is at the forecast level.
In Zimbabwe, widespread and heavy rains in February and early March, which followed severe dry weather in January, resulted in flooding in several parts. Serious damage to transport infrastructure, housing and crops is reported. Worst affected are the north-eastern Mashonaland Central Province, particularly in Muzarabani, where 15 000 people have lost their homes and, in general, areas along the Zambezi River system. Other affected provinces include the Mashonaland West and Midlands. Overall, it is estimated that 30 000 people have been affected by the floods. The Government has launched an appeal for US$2.34 million in emergency assistance and is currently airlifting food and non-food items to inaccessible areas.
Harvest prospects for the in 2001 crop are generally poor. The area planted is estimated to have sharply declined as a result of the current programme of resettling large-scale commercial farms and shortages of fuel. Yields are estimated to be reduced due to a prolonged dry spell in January and excessive rains in February. Provisional forecasts indicate a maize harvest of 1.2 million tonnes, about 41 percent below last year's crop. Food supply is anticipated to be tight in 2001/02 (April/March). With the forecast production and estimated carryover stocks, import requirements in marketing year 2001/02 are expected to increase sharply, at a time when the country is facing severe foreign exchange shortages.
In Zambia, heavy rains in February and the opening of the Kariba dam's floodgates resulted in flooding along the Zambezi and Luangwa rivers, leaving 5 000 people homeless and causing damage to infrastructure and housing. Most affected are the low lying areas in various provinces along the Luangwa-Zambezi river basin including Chama district (Eastern Province), Luangwa district (Lusaka Province), Chibombo, Mkushi and Serenje districts (Central Province), Chilubi, Isoka, Mpulungu, Mbala and Mporokoso districts (Northern Province) and Gwembe Valley (Southern Province). Serious crop losses are reported in these areas, where the affected populations are experiencing food difficulties.
Some 84 000 Angolan and DRC refugees in Zambia are also reported to be facing serious food difficulties because food aid pledges have fallen far short of requirements. Shortages of basic food commodities have been reported in six refugees camps, where rations have been cut. More food aid pledges and deliveries are urgently needed.
Prospects for this year's cereal harvest have deteriorated. Excessive rains in February and first dekad of March are likely to have affected yields in many areas. Prolonged dry weather in January in Southern and Western Provinces is also anticipated to have reduced yields. Overall, production of the main maize crop is forecast to decline from the bumper harvest of last year, reflecting adverse weather, lower plantings and late availability of inputs.
In Angola, the food supply situation is extremely tight due to the persistent civil war. New population displacements continue to be reported, particularly in Bie province, but also in Huila, Kuando Kubango, Malange and Uige. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), estimated at 2.5 million people last June, continues to increase. However, food aid distribution is hampered by insecurity and shortfalls in food aid pledges. By mid-March, WFP had received pledges for only 60 percent of its current operation in Angola. This has led to a one-third reduction in the number of beneficiaries, from 1.5 million to 1 million, and to cuts in the rations. More pledges are urgently needed to avoid further ration reductions.
Harvest prospects in 2001 are unfavourable, reflecting erratic rains since the beginning of the season, coupled with continuing population displacements. Prolonged dry spells in parts coincided with excessive precipitation in others. Rains in February after a prolonged dry spell in January in southern parts may have arrived too late to prevent yield reductions. Furthermore, area planted is expected to have been reduced by the intensification of the civil conflict at sowing time. Thus, another below-average harvest is anticipated.
In South Africa, the largest producer and exporter of maize in southern Africa, a poor crop is in prospect. The area planted is estimated at 17 percent below last year's level, reflecting low prices at planting time. Yields were affected by erratic rains since the beginning of the season and a prolonged dry spell in the main growing areas in January and first dekad of February. Preliminary forecasts indicate a maize crop of 7.2 million tonnes compared to 10.9 million tonnes last season. Export availability of maize is expected to be reduced sharply in 2001/02 (April/March).
Elsewhere in southern Africa, a mid-season dry spell adversely affected developing crops in Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana and southern Madagascar. Cereal outputs are anticipated to decrease or to remain around the reduced levels of last year. The sub-region's 2001 aggregate cereal production is forecast at well below the good harvest of 2000 due substantial reductions in planted area and yields.
Despite improved secondary season cereal harvests in parts and forecasts of near-normal rainfall over most of eastern Africa for the period March-May 2001, the effects of recent devastating droughts and past or ongoing civil strife and conflicts continue to undermine the food security of an estimated 18 million people.
In Ethiopia, an improved main ("meher") season crop has been harvested, reflecting favourable weather conditions in main growing areas. The December 2000 FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission forecast a "meher" harvest of 11.61 million tonnes of cereals and pulses, about 7.3 percent higher than the 1999 post-harvest estimate. However, despite the improved overall food availability, food security remains precarious for some 6.5 million people, particularly in pastoral areas which were devastated by last year's severe drought, as well as those affected by the war with Eritrea.
In Kenya, the severe drought in 1999/2000 seriously undermined the food security of nearly 4.4 million people and resulted in a massive relief operation. Despite some improvement, the food supply situation is still precarious. In the northern pastoral districts, where severe shortages of water and pasture resulted in large livestock losses, the failure of the 2000/01 "short rains" season has exacerbated widespread food insecurity. The "short rains" (November-January) are crucial in the pastoral areas for the replenishment of water supplies and pastures, while in agro-pastoral areas they provide the bulk of food supplies. On 15 February 2001, the Government of Kenya together with the UN country team launched an appeal for US$89 million to assist 4.4 million drought-affected people for a period of six months.
In Eritrea, the food supply situation of more than 1.8 million people affected by war with neighboring Ethiopia and drought remains precarious. Mass displacement of farmers from the agriculturally rich regions of Gash Barka and Debub, which account for more than 70 percent of cereal production, jeopardised the 2000 cropping season. The outlook for the 2001 agricultural season, which is about to start, is bleak as farmers are unable to return to their farms so far, and large tracts of land are inaccessible due to landmines. On 22 February 2001, the Eritrean Refugee and Relief Commission (ERREC) launched an appeal for US$224 million to assist nearly 2 million people for a period of twelve months.
In Somalia, a satisfactory secondary ("deyr") season harvest preceded by a favourable main ("gu") harvest has improved the country's food outlook. Consequently, the number of people in need of food assistance has declined from 750 000 in 2000 to 500 000 this year. However, recent nutrition surveys indicate persisting high malnutrition rates, reflecting slow household recovery from a succession of droughts and long-term effects of years of insecurity. Moreover, the recent injection of new currency into the market has caused a sharp increase in prices of food items and other essential commodities. The continued ban on imports of livestock from Somalia and other countries of the Horn by countries along the Arabian Peninsula, due to fear of Rift Valley fever, has also caused substantial loss of income, affecting the livelihoods of large numbers of pastoral households.
In Sudan, serious food shortages have emerged in western and southern parts of the country due to drought. The long-running civil war is exacerbating the situation by impeding farming activities and distribution of relief assistance. In December 2000, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission found that the drought had particularly affected Darfur, Kordofan, North Bahr el Ghazal, East Equatoria, Bahr el Jebel, Jonglei, Juba and Butana province in Gezira state. Food prices have more than doubled over a period of one year in many areas, while livestock prices have slumped. On 13 February 2001, WFP made an urgent appeal for US$135 million to assist 2.9 million people affected by drought and conflict until the end of this year.
In Tanzania, the overall food supply situation has improved following harvests of the "short rains" crop. This has helped to relieve pockets of food shortages in the northern and central regions of the country resulting from successive seasons of poor harvests.
Prospects for the main season coarse grains in the southern highlands are also favourable due to abundant rains. However, successive years of poor rainfall have seriously undermined food production in the northern and central regions of the country, necessitating food assistance for some 1.3 million people across 11 regions.
In Uganda, the overall food supply situation is stable. However, food difficulties remain in Gulu, Kitgum and Bundibugyo districts, mainly due to insecurity.
Food security in the Great Lakes region continues to be seriously affected by civil strife and insecurity.
In Burundi, the escalation of fighting between Government and rebel forces in early March in the area north of the capital Bujumbura, caused a large number of deaths and displaced 54 000 people. Insecurity and violence also persist in other parts of the country, particularly in southern provinces.
Output of the recently harvested 2001 first season foodcrops increased significantly compared to last year, but remained below the pre-crisis (1988-1993) average, reflecting the disruption of agricultural activities by civil strife. Food supply continues to be tight for a large number of vulnerable people, including 394 000 internally displaced people, with limited or no access to land, and people in areas affected by a succession of poor harvests. Recent nutritional surveys in seven provinces indicate high rates of malnutrition.
In Rwanda, the food supply situation has improved considerably with the stabilization of security conditions in most of the country and a recently harvested good crop. Prices of most food commodities, particularly beans, fell significantly after the harvest, allowing improved access for large sections of the population.
However, in the Bugesera region of Kigali Rural Prefecture, production was sharply reduced due to seed shortages following successive poor harvests. Food difficulties are also reported in Butare and Gikongoro Prefectures. In December 2000, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) was estimated to have declined to 6 000. Food assistance continues to be needed for these and other vulnerable groups such as orphans and widows to maintain adequate nutritional levels.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the food situation remains extremely precarious. The number of internally displaced people was estimated last December at 2 million, and the refugees, mainly from Angola, at 333 000. The numbers continue to rise with flare-ups in fighting in both countries, with serious nutritional and health consequences. Access by humanitarian agencies to the IDPs continues to be limited by insecurity. The outbreak and spread of cassava mosaic virus has seriously affected the staple crop, particularly in eastern parts, aggravating food difficulties. Furthermore, the food situation is extremely tight in urban areas, mainly in Kinshasa, where the number of vulnerable people has increased. WFP plans to increase food aid distributions to cover 1.2 million people and has appealed for US$112 million for the relief operation.
The food supply situation in parts of the Sahel is anticipated to be tighter in 2001 than in 2000, following reduced harvests in parts. Latest official figures indicate that aggregate 2000 cereal production in the nine CILSS member countries stands at 8.9 million tonnes, about 21 percent below the record production in 1999 and 8 percent below the average of the past five years. Below-average harvests are estimated for Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, while production was close to average in Mali and Mauritania, above average in Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Senegal, and a record in The Gambia. Prospects for off-season recession crops are less favourable than last year in Mauritania and Senegal due to lower water levels in the Senegal River, following reduced rains in 2000.
Markets remain generally well supplied but cereal prices have increased significantly in parts of Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger, where harvests were well below average. Food distributions have started or are planned in these areas and donor assistance has been requested.
In Sierra Leone, the food supply situation is expected to remain tight in 2001, reflecting a reduced 2000 crop and increased insecurity. The resurgence of civil strife in May 2000 seriously hampered planting of rice, and because of insecurity, input distribution and relief operations were suspended or seriously disrupted, notably in the north. Aid agencies could provide agricultural inputs to only 46 percent of the targeted number of farmers. As a result, rice production in 2000 is estimated to be lower than in 1999.
About half a million displaced people are being hosted by local communities in government controlled areas, while it is estimated that 1 million more are in rebel controlled areas. More than 400 000 Sierra Leonean refugees remain in neighbouring countries, mostly in Guinea and Liberia. WFP and NGOs continue to distribute food in Freetown, Lungi, Bo, and Kenema. A resettlement plan has been launched in Freetown, Port Loko, Kenema and Pejehun districts which have been declared safe for people to return.
In Liberia, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited the country in late November/early December estimated the 2000 rice paddy production at 144 000 tonnes, compared to a pre-war (1988) figure of 259 000 tonnes. The area planted to rice in 2000 was estimated at 135 000 hectares, suggesting an average yield of 1.1 tonnes/hectare. Small plots and poor yields would appear to be the main cause of low production per household. Lack of employment opportunities during and after the war has compelled many families to grow some rice for the first time, in order to survive. As a result, there are many more families in rice production than in pre-war times, albeit with smaller plots. The main constraints faced by farmers include labour shortages, shortage of rice seed, lack of marketing facilities, high post-harvest losses and poor road conditions.
Eating habits have changed dramatically since the war in favour of cassava, which has substantially increased in area and production. The Mission estimated that some 480 000 tonnes of cassava will be available for consumption in 2001, compared to 308 000 tonnes in 1988. The Mission estimated cereal import requirement in 2001 at 200 000 tonnes, with commercial imports forecast at 160 000 tonnes, leaving an uncovered deficit of 40 000 tonnes to be met by food aid. In Lofa county, one of Liberia's main rice producing areas, periodic rebel incursions since August 1999 intensified in late 2000 and have disrupted farming and displaced thousands of people.
Security remains precarious. Thousands of Guineans fleeing hostilities in their country have sought refuge in border towns in Liberia, with more than 15 000 arriving in Bong county and northern Lofa county in recent months. WFP is providing food aid to about 420 000 Liberian returnees, while UNHCR is assisting Sierra Leonean refugees in camps in Grand Cape Mount County.
In Guinea, rebel attacks in areas bordering Sierra Leone and Liberia have severely affected agriculture and marketing activities and necessitated the relocation of Sierra Leonean refugees to new camps. Elsewhere, the food supply situation is satisfactory and markets are generally well supplied, reflecting the good harvest in 2000 and a record crop in 1999.
More than 400 000 refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone remain in the country, located mainly in Gueckédou, Forécariah and N'Zérékore areas. Access to refugees located in the Parrot's Beak, a strip of Guinean territory that juts into Sierra Leone near the Liberian border, is very difficult. UNHCR has built new camps to relocate refugees from Guekédou and the Parrot's Beak.
Cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2001 are expected to remain high, reflecting mainly the lingering effects of last year's severe drought in eastern Africa, and the effects of dry spells and recent floods in southern Africa. GIEWS latest estimates of 2000 production and 2000/01 import and food aid requirements are summarized in Table 1. The total food aid requirement is estimated at 2.8 million tonnes, some 5 percent more than in 1999/2000. Cereal food aid pledges for 2000/01, including those carried over from 1999/2000, amount to 1.5 million tonnes of which 0.7 million tonnes have so far been delivered.
The food supply situation in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa will be very tight in 2001. In eastern Africa, the effects of last year's severe drought, coupled with conflicts in parts, are still being felt with more than 18 million people in need of food assistance. Food production in southern Africa is anticipated to decline sharply, mainly due to adverse weather, while civil strife continues to disrupt food production in Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
The attention of the international community is drawn to the following priority areas requiring action:
First, continued food assistance is necessary in all countries of eastern Africa and the Great Lakes region as well as in Angola, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Second, substantial financial assistance is needed for agricultural rehabilitation and repair of damaged infrastructure in Mozambique, which has been affected by floods in two consecutive years.
Third, sustained assistance is needed for the rehabilitation of the agricultural sector in countries where security conditions have improved following devastation by prolonged civil strife. These include Liberia, Rwanda, Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.
Fourth, populations which face food difficulties in Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger due to poor harvests need food assistance.