FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report, November 1997:

Previous Page TOC Next Page 


As 1997 draws to a close, food supply difficulties persist in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Current indications are that aggregate cereal production in 1997 will be somewhat lower than in 1996, largely due to weather adversities. In eastern Africa, a severe drought at the beginning of the year substantially reduced secondary season food production in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia and large parts of southern Ethiopia, while late or erratic rainfall later in the year has led to reduced main season harvests in some countries, particularly in Tanzania and Uganda. In the Great Lakes region, dry weather in parts of Rwanda and Burundi, coupled with insecurity in conflict-affected areas, has contributed to slow recovery in food production, while in southern Africa, aggregate cereal production is estimated to be some 9 percent lower than last year, due to unfavourable weather. In western Africa, a mid-season prolonged dry spell in Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania severely affected crops, although good rains later in the season have reduced potential crop losses and improved harvest prospects.


While still reeling from the impact of a severe drought early in 1997, eastern Africa has again experienced adverse weather conditions in many parts later in the year.

In Tanzania, following sharply reduced cereal production in 1997, an early warning of which was given in a GIEWS Special Alert in April, the food supply situation is very difficult in the areas where a poor harvest was gathered, especially in the bi-modal rainfall areas of the north where the "long rains" season crop was the second consecutive reduced harvest. The Government has estimated that about 3 million people face severe food shortages and has recently appealed to the international community for 76 000 tons of emergency food assistance. The most affected regions include Mara, Shinyanga, Kagera, Kigoma, Tabora, Singida, Dodoma, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Morogoro, Coast, Lindi and Mtwara, where food supplies will remain tight until the next harvest from January in northern areas and from May in central and southern parts. Food aid is urgently required for the affected population.

Overall, the decrease in the 1997 cereal production, coupled with the currently low level of the Strategic Grain Reserve following the failure of the "Vuli" crop early in the year, has resulted in a national cereal deficit of 900 000 tons for marketing year 1997/98 (June/May), taking into account consumption substitution with non-cereal foodcrops. Most of the deficit is expected to be covered by commercial imports. Prices of maize, rice, sorghum and cassava have already more than doubled since the same time last year.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to the country is scheduled for early January to appraise the "Vuli" crop in northern areas and assess the prospective food supply situation in the country in 1998. The outcome of the "Vuli" season will be crucial for food supply in the north and north-east areas affected by two consecutive reduced cereal harvests.

In Ethiopia, despite an overall satisfactory food supply situation, it is officially estimated that some 4.6 million people are in need of food aid. This figure includes people in traditionally food-deficit areas where the main season harvest of 1996 was insufficient to meet food needs, people in pastoral areas of the east and south affected by the failure of the "short rains" early in the year, and 1.9 million people affected by the recently harvested poor "Belg" crop.

There is cause for serious concern over several of the "Belg" growing areas where prospects for the next "Meher" harvest (from December) are unfavourable. In areas of southern Tigray and North and South Wello, as well as in some southern parts, below-average precipitation in the past months has adversely affected crop development. Localized reduced harvests are forecast and protracted food assistance will be required in 1998.

Although prospects for the 1997 "Meher" harvest are generally favourable elsewhere, preliminary indications point to a crop substantially below the above-average crops of the previous two years. The outlook could deteriorate as a result of recent heavy rains. An FAO/WFP mission is currently in the country to assess the 1997 "Meher" crop and the cereal import requirements for 1998, including food aid.

In Somalia heavy rains in late October resulted in floods in agricultural areas, mainly along the Juba Valley. Prospects for the 1997/98 "short rains" cereal crops are uncertain. The 1997 main "Gu" cereal crop was estimated at the same level as for 1996, still below the pre-war level, due to dry spells, uncontrolled pests and diseases, and persistent insecurity in most areas. This is the third poor crop in a row and farmers’ stocks are exhausted. The food supply is tight throughout the country. Although sorghum and maize prices have declined following the harvest, they remain substantially above last year’s level.

Assuming a normal 1998 secondary "Deyr" crop (to be harvested in January), the cereal deficit for 1997/98 (August/July) is estimated at 247 000 tons of which 215 000 tons are expected to be covered commercially and 32 000 tons by food aid. However, insecurity in the important southern growing regions continues to impede the movement of local surplus grain and imported goods, as well as the distribution of food aid. The food situation is reported to be particularly serious in districts of the central Hiran region and in the Bay, Bakool and North-West regions, where cereal crops were sharply reduced. Child malnutrition at high levels is reported in some districts in southern areas. (See Box on page 3)

In Kenya, the previously tight food supply situation is easing with the ongoing harvesting of the 1997 "long rains" season crops. Following generally favourable weather conditions in the main growing areas, production of maize is forecast to recover from the reduced level of 1996 and to be about average. As a result, maize prices, which increased steadily in the past year, started to decline from September. However, in areas of Lake Victoria basin, particularly Nyanza province, where rains were erratic, production has been reduced. Moreover, excessively wet weather from mid-October, coinciding with the maize harvesting, may cause substantial losses due to inadequate drying of crops and may also negatively affect the recently planted 1997/98 "short rains" season crops. In northern and eastern pastoral areas, affected by a severe drought early in the year, the food situation has also gradually improved with the recovery of pastures and livestock.

In Uganda, the 1997 second season harvest was adversely affected by a late start of the rainy season and dry spells in May and first dekad of June; production is estimated to be well below average. Reflecting two consecutive reduced crops, the food supply is tight and food prices, which normally decline after harvest, have increased during the past month. The situation is particularly difficult in the east and north-east where harvests in previous seasons were also poor, and in the northern districts of Gulu and Kitgum, where persistent civil strife continues to disrupt economic and agricultural activities. Increasing insecurity is also reported in the western district of Bundibugyo, where substantial population displacements have occurred.

In Eritrea, early forecasts for the 1997 cereal crops indicate a below average harvest for the third consecutive year. The situation is likely to be aggravated by substantially lower export availabilities from neighbouring Ethiopia. The food security of large sections of the population, who even in normal years do not cover their subsistence requirements, may deteriorate.

In Sudan, the tight food supply situation in the southern parts of the country affected by a prolonged civil conflict has deteriorated following the first season’s reduced production. Thus, despite an overall satisfactory food supply position and favourable prospects for the next harvest, increased food aid is required in the southern parts of the country.

Page Top


A recent FAO/WFP Mission to Somalia found that while the 1997 Gu season started early and with good rainfall in most parts, precipitation declined to below-normal levels in May - to pick up again in June and early July. Following major increases in cropped area last Gu season, this season’s harvested area decreased by 6 percent over last year’s to 423 000 hectares, which is 17 percent below the pre-civil strife average (1982-88). Factors contributing to this decline in certain areas included the extremely poor nutritional status of farmers, abandonment of fields or not harvesting crops due to insecurity, damage by pests and dry weather. While average yields increased during this Gu season, compensating for the decline in area planted, they remained below the 1982-88 pre-civil strife levels, mainly reflecting moisture stress at the critical point of crop development. 

With a forecast of 241 000 tons, total sorghum and maize production of the 1997 Gu season is about the same as last year’s and the third consecutive well-below pre-war average crop. Of this estimated total, sorghum accounts for 123 400 tons (51 percent) and maize for 117 672 tons (49 percent). There are considerable variations in regional performance, comparing this year’s Gu season with last year’s: significant improvements, generally both for sorghum and maize, have been achieved in Lower and Middle Shebelle, Lower and Middle Juba, Gedo and Hiraan, although there are in some cases great variations between districts. Major production decreases are estimated for the important Bay and Bakool growing regions; production is also expected to be lower this Gu season in the Northwest region. Five districts are particularly at risk of food shortages because of poor harvests: two in the Bay region (Baidoa, Bur Hakaba), two in the Bakool region (Xuddur, Tieglow) and one in Hiraan (Bulo Burti). These districts will need special assistance. 

As far as the nutrition situation is concerned, malnutrition among children under five continues at high - even alarming - levels in the Bay and Bakool regions and in Mogadishu. However, although in these and other districts a great number of locality-specific surveillance activities are under way, it was impossible at the time of the Mission to draw any conclusions on the overall nutrition situation. 

With the arrival of this year’s Gu harvest, sorghum and maize prices, which had increased since May 1996, fell sharply between May and late July 1997. The increases in retail prices for sorghum over the past year ranged from 17 to 100 percent (May 1997 over May 1996). Those for maize range from increases of up to over 4 percent to decreases of up to 28 percent. These differences partly reflect marketing difficulties in certain regions due to insecurity. Goat and cattle prices generally declined significantly. Countrywide, the picture of access to food as influenced by market prices varies considerably by product and region. 

Assuming an average 1997/98 Deyr season production of 95 000 tons sorghum and maize (to be harvested in January/February 1998), the total cereal deficit for the marketing year August 1997/July 1998 is estimated at 247 000 tons, of which 215 000 tons are forecast to be imported commercially. This would leave a cereal food aid requirement of 32 000 tons. Early planning of food aid is needed considering that insecurity continues to hamper the movement of food and humanitarian relief in several parts of the country and therefore commitments can often not be fulfilled on time. 

 Page Top


Despite the easing of the refugee crisis in the Great Lakes region, serious food supply difficulties persist, largely due to the impact of large-scale population dislocations, persistent insecurity, as well as reduced harvests due to unfavourable weather in some parts.

In Burundi, while the food supply situation has improved somewhat following an increase in production last season, it remains tight. Food output still remains below the pre-crisis average, and economic and commercial activities continue to be restricted by the embargo imposed by neighbouring countries. The food situation is particularly serious for large sections of the population in regroupment camps with limited or no access to land. Persistent insecurity, mainly in Bubanza, Cibitoke, Makamba and Bujumbura rural prefectures, continues to hamper agricultural activities. Prospects for the next harvest from December are uncertain following a delay of three weeks to the start of the rainy season. This is likely to have caused a reduction in the area planted and to have rendered crops more vulnerable to an early cessation of the rains. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission will visit the country in late December/early January.

In Rwanda, the food supply situation has deteriorated in recent months. Prices of basic staples have increased sharply and serious food shortages are reported in some areas, particularly in the south. Although food production increased last season, the output remained below the pre-crisis average despite the need to feed the greatly increased population following the massive return of refugees last December. In the north-western prefectures, especially in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri, insecurity is disrupting agricultural activities and relief distribution. The outlook for the 1998 A season crops is uncertain following a delay of three weeks to the start of the rainy season. An FAO/WFP Mission to assess the 1998 A season foodcrops and to estimate the 1998 import requirements, including food aid, is scheduled to visit the country in late December/early January.

In North and South Kivu provinces of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), insecurity continues to be a major problem, adversely affecting agricultural activities and provision of relief assistance. Instability and civil strife have increased along its border with Rwanda in recent months, and the Government has decided to close all entry points to prevent a return of refugees. The fate of the remaining Rwandan refugees is uncertain following the recent forced departure of UNHCR from the region.

Page Top


The food situation in Sierra Leone has continued to deteriorate since the coup on 25 May 1997. Food prices have sharply increased and serious food shortages are reported, in spite of small quantities of relief items entering the country in recent weeks. For a large section of the population there is now very limited access to expensive commercial food and malnutrition is reported to be on the increase. With the recent ECOWAS-imposed embargo and ensuing blockade, already seriously affecting fuel supplies, the food situation is likely to get worse. Moreover, the security situation has become increasingly volatile, and a further deterioration cannot be ruled out, unless the recently agreed restoration of the civilian administration materializes.

In spite of the favourable weather conditions for food production, insecurity continues to hamper farming activities and, for planted crops, the reduction in crop management activities at a critical period in the crop growing cycle, coupled with a shortage of inputs for many households, will sharply reduce yields and total production. Initial GIEWS estimate of cereal import requirement for 1997 was 260 000 tons, including 80 000 tons in food aid. With the disruption of commercial and humanitarian activities since May, it is now very likely that a large part would not have been received by the end of the year. There is an urgent need for an on-the-spot assessment of the food supply situation, conditions permitting, to determine the food requirements for 1998, including needs for relief assistance.

There are currently more than 92 000 internally displaced people in need of food assistance, up from 65 000 prior to May. An estimated 20 000 people fled to neighbouring countries immediately after the coup, and later thousands of others crossed into Liberia from Pujehun area to escape the fighting for the control of the border.

In neighbouring Liberia, food production in 1997 is expected to improve somewhat due to the prevailing relative peace and stability and the return of refugees and displaced people to their home areas. Crop growing conditions have also been favourable. Nevertheless, the country will continue to require food and input assistance for the immediate future.

Page Top


In the western part of the Sahel, harvest prospects have improved following abundant and widespread rains in late August/September which to a large extent compensated for earlier drier conditions. After an early start of the rainy season in May/June, precipitation was well below normal from mid-July to mid-August over most parts of Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania, severely affecting early planted crops. Abundant precipitation in late August/early September replenished soil moisture reserves in these countries and filled dams in Mauritania, improving prospects for recession or irrigated crops. Abundant rains in September and October also benefited crops in Guinea Bissau. In the central part of the Sahel, reflecting mostly favourable growing conditions, harvest prospects are generally good in Mali and western Burkina Faso but less favourable elsewhere in Burkina Faso. In the eastern part of the Sahel, harvest prospects are mixed in Niger with pockets of anticipated poor harvests. In Chad, generally widespread and regular rains were received but African Migratory Locusts are threatening crops in the north-west. In Cape Verde, a poor maize crop is again anticipated this year. The latest satellite images show that cloud cover has disappeared over most parts, marking the end of the rainy season.

A series of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions visited the nine CILSS member countries from mid-October to discuss with national services and early warning units first estimates of 1997 cereal production. Latest available information points to below-average harvests in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia and Senegal, average harvests in Mauritania and Niger, and above-average harvests in Chad, Mali and Guinea-Bissau. The aggreate output of cereals for these nine CILSS member countries is currently estimated at 9.1 million tons, which is 1 percent less than 1996 production and close to the average fo the past five years.

Page Top


Total cereal output for 1997 is above average, but some 9 percent below last year’s. With large carryover stocks from the 1996 harvest in several countries, the overall food supply situation is expected to remain generally stable for the 1997/98 marketing year, except in parts of Malawi where supplies have become tight due to drought-reduced cereal production. Despite locust damage to crops in the southern parts of Madagascar, the production shortfall in the affected areas has been offset by good harvests in other parts where over 90 percent of cereal output is produced.

However, there is general concern in the sub-region about a possible drought during the upcoming season due to the El Niño phenomenon, the impact of which is already being felt in parts of Asia and Latin America. Governments have initiated contingency planning and are encouraging planting of drought-tolerant crops as well as adoption of improved water conservation measures. Also, some of the previously contemplated regional import and export plans are being reconsidered.

Page Top



Between November 1997 and January 1998, a number of GIEWS Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions will be fielded to several countries in eastern Africa, the Great Lakes region and Central Africa. As of mid-October, at the start of preparing this report, a series of Crop Assessment Missions were in the Sahel to assess harvest prospects as the cropping season comes to an end and to make a first estimate of cereal production in the nine concerned countries - Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. These Missions were organized jointly with the DIAPER (Diagnostic Permanent) programme and the Agrhymet Centre of the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS). Their results will be presented at a meeting of the Network for the Prevention of Food Crises of the Club du Sahel (OECD) in late November. 

Eastern Africa: In view of the erratic behaviour of rainfall in many parts of eastern Africa during 1997 and the likely adverse impact on crop production, Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions are planned for the Horn and Tanzania to review the food supply and demand situation and outlook and estimate cereal import requirements, including food aid. In the case of Tanzania, the outlook for the just-started "vuli" season, will also be assessed. 

Great Lakes Region : In early January, GIEWS Missions will also be fielded to Rwanda, Burundi and, conditions permitting, to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to assess the outcome of the 1998 first season crops and estimate import requirements, including food aid, for 1998. 

Central Africa: With the easing of the conflict in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, GIEWS will participate in an Inter-Agency Needs Assessment Mission scheduled for early December 1997. 

Page Top


The level of cereal import requirement in sub-Saharan Africa in 1997/98 is expected to increase, reflecting reduced harvests in eastern and southern Africa. For the 16 countries which have already entered the 1997/98 marketing year, GIEWS preliminary estimates of 1997 production and 1997/98 import and food aid requirements are summarized in Table 1. The total food aid requirements of these countries in 1997/98 are estimated at some 0.8 million tons, the same as last year. Cereal food aid pledges to these 16 countries for 1997/98, including those carried over from 1996/97, amount to 562 000 tons, of which 264 000 tons have already been delivered.

For the 32 countries of sub-Saharan Africa which are still in the last stages of the 1996/97 marketing year, food aid pledges amount to 1.4 million tons of which some 1.2 million tons have actually been delivered.

Page Top


The situation in Sierra Leone continues to deteriorate, while food supplies remain well below needs in the Great Lakes region. Due to erratic and inadequate rainfall in eastern Africa and parts of southern Africa, food supply difficulties have emerged in Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi. Against this background, the attention of the international community is drawn to four main areas requiring assistance.

Previous Page Page Top TOC Next Page