FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME

SPECIAL REPORT

FAO/WFP CROP AND FOOD SUPPLY ASSESSMENT 
TO THE REPUBLIC OF CONGO

3 March 1998 




1. OVERVIEW

In view of the intense civil strife in the Republic of Congo between May and November 1997 and the consequent large-scale displacement of the population, especially from the urban to rural areas, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment team, as part of a larger Inter-Agency Needs Assessment Mission, visited the Republic of Congo from 18 to 30 January 1998 to estimate the 1997 foodcrop output, forecast 1998 production and assess the national food import requirements, including food aid, for 1998.

In making its assessment, the mission held discussions and interviews with various government ministries, UN and bilateral agencies and NGOs. The mission also toured food producing areas as far as the prevailing security situation in the country permitted and held discussions with farmers, village chiefs and IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons).

The mission found that livestock production suffered more from the consequences of the civil strife than crop production as cassava, the country’s staple, is a durable crop able to withstand adverse conditions. Production of the main food crops in 1998 is forecast to reach 791 000 tonnes for cassava, 77 000 tonnes for bananas/plantains, 16 000 tonnes for pulses and slightly over 2 000 tonnes for cereals. These production volumes are similar to those obtained in recent years.

On the basis of an estimated total population of 3 124 000 at mid-1998 and after allowing for waste and other food uses, total food production in cereal-equivalent terms will fall short of utilisation requirements in 1998 by an estimated 118 000 tons. Normally, such a deficit would be covered commercially as the country has the requisite import capacity. However, due to the disruption of trading activities particularly in Brazzaville, it is assumed that for 1998, commercial food imports will reach only 80 percent of the 1995/96 level which amounts to 72 000 tons. This leaves an import gap of 46 000 tonnes. This is expected to be filled by a variety of coping mechanisms (increased fishing and hunting, short-cycle crops, etc.) and food aid targeted at vulnerable groups such as IDPs, refugees, victims of floods, unaccompanied children and others.

The urban dwellers of Brazzaville who have lost their jobs in the modern private sector following the destruction of the city business centre will experience difficulty obtaining adequate food. Food prices are still high because of logistics and marketing constraints.



2. MACRO-ECONOMIC CONTEXT

2.1 External trade

Petroleum exports account for up to 85 percent of the country’s total export earnings. The Republic of Congo consistently runs large trade surpluses, a trend which is likely to continue in the coming years. Food accounts for approximately 20 percent of total imports, made possible by the oil export earnings estimated at US$ 800-900 million a year.

2.2 Population

The total population as of 30 January 1998 is estimated at 3 075 000. At the beginning of the civil war, over 60 percent of the population lived in urban centres. The annual growth rate in cities like Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire is around 5.5 - 6 percent. The capital, Brazzaville, had over 1 million inhabitants prior to the civil war while Pointe-Noire had some 647 000. Less than 14 percent of the total population lives in the five northern regions, the southern part of the country being more densely populated. The annual population growth rate for the country is estimated at 3.47 percent. On this basis, a population of 3 172 000 has been projected for the end of 1998.

During the civil war, it is estimated that between 500 000 to 650 000 people fled Brazzaville. Up to 50 000-60 000 people took refuge in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and approximately 30 000 in the Cameroon. Of those who fled the country, it is estimated that only 5 000 to 10 000 people have yet to return.

The population movements essentially relate to internally-displaced persons (IDPs) who fled from Brazzaville, the theatre of the heaviest and most destructive fighting during the civil war. The geographical distribution of the IDPs can be broken down as follows:

Table 1: Republic of Congo: Estimated Population by Region (in thousands)
 
Regions 
Total population as of 1/6/97 1/  Total population as of 30/1/98 2/  Total population as of 30/12/98 3/
Kouilou  87 
Niari  122 
Lekoumou  77 
Bouenza  195 
Pool  234 
Plateaux  134 
Cuvette  164 
Sangha  39 
Likouala  79 
Total regions  (38%)1 131  1 365  1 273
Brazzaville  1 059  759  948
Pointe-Noire  647  772  762
Other Urban  169  179  189
Total Urban  (62%)1 875  1 710  1 899
Total Congo  3 006  3 075  3 172

As of 31 January 1998, it is estimated that between 250 000 and 350 000 people have yet to return to their homes in Brazzaville - approximately 50 percent of those who fled in the midst of the civil war. Hence, Brazzaville's population may be estimated at around 75 percent of what it was prior to the beginning of the civil war. While most IDPs will return gradually to Brazzaville as normal economic activity resumes, a certain proportion are not likely to come back soon for various reasons, including individual insecurity and lost income opportunities. As of 31 January 1998, the distribution of IDPs from Brazzaville may be estimated as follows:
 
Kinshasa and surroundings  5 000-10 000
Pointe-Noire  75 000-110 000
Southern regions  150 000-200 000
Northern regions  20 000-30 000

In the North, Owando has been affected by fighting and it is estimated that 5 000 people fled the city and its surroundings. The displaced persons moved to Oyo and into forests and fishing camps to the north of the river Kouyou. It is estimated that about 50 percent of those who fled Owando have returned. Since large numbers of the displaced people regrouped along the way around key transit points or villages such as Kintele, PK 45, Odziba, Ngo and Oyo, local communities of these transit points have been affected.

In the South, local communities along the Brazzaville-Dolisie axis have also carried the burden inflicted by these population movements. In Dolisie, where heavy fighting occurred, up to one third of the population is said to have fled at some point. More than 50 percent have now returned.



3. AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SITUATION

3.1 Situation before the civil war

Agriculture in the Republic of Congo has been in a process of structural decline over the last few decades. Oil revenues may have contributed to the country's increasing dependence on imported food - food that could have been produced in the country, given an adequate environment of incentives and sufficient public investments in infrastructure.

Agricultural production is essentially concentrated on cassava, by far the main food staple, which occupies at least 50 percent of the planted areas (162 000 ha). Cassava production amounts to approximately 790 000 tonnes a year. With 75 000-80 000 tonnes a year, banana/plantain production is in second place. Cereal production is insignificant. Maize production is decreasing, falling from 5 000 tonnes in 1995 to 4 000 tonnes in 1997. Half of this production is used for feeding poultry. Imports of cheap poultry meat from abroad have discouraged local production, reducing the demand for maize. Despite demand of more than 25 000 tonnes/year, local rice production is insignificant and has been falling for the last five years. Only 300 to 500 tonnes of paddy have been produced in recent years. Marketing, which used to be a monopoly of the state, seems to be a major constraint, along with transportation from field to market.

Groundnut production is stagnant at around 15 000 tonnes a year and bean production is slightly on the rise with less than 1 000 tonnes a year. Annual production of vegetables and fruits amounts to around 30 000 tonnes each.

With two main cropping seasons during the year, the Republic of Congo has a good agricultural potential, given its rich soil, good rainfall and plenty of water. This potential has yet to be exploited to a significant extent. The first and main crop season extends from September/October to January/February. The second season covers the March/April to June/July period.

Food production also encompasses fishing and meat. Fish production is estimated at around 50 000 tonnes a year, including river, sea and fish farm production, while the potential is estimated to be close to 150 000 tonnes a year. Its full exploitation would be more than sufficient to cover the national demand for fish of about 100 000 tonnes a year. Fish is a staple food in the Republic of Congo, with a consumption of 30 kg/caput/year, estimated to contribute 22 percent of total protein intake [ République du Congo, Consultation sectorielle - Agriculture, Forêts, Pêche, Eaux, Environnement et Recherche Agronomique , Document de synthèse, Février 1997] of the population.

The diet is composed mainly of cassava and, to a lesser extent, bananas/plantains, fish and rice. Meat is also part of the diet. In rural areas, game meat constitutes an important source of protein. Estimates made by UNICEF in 1992 put the average caloric intake at 2 393 kcal/cap/day.
 

Table 2: Republic of Congo: Production of Major Crops, Marketing Years 1995-97 (in thousand tonnes)
 
1995  1996  1997
Roots & Tubers  806.5  807.0  810.3
Cassava  790.0  791.0  795.0
Other  16.5  16.9  15.3
Bananas/Plantains  74.5  75.5  76.0
Pulses  15.3  15.5  14.9
Groundnuts  14.5  14.6  14.0
Beans  0.8  0.9  0.9
Cereals  5.8  5.0  4.3
Maize  5.0  4.5  4.0
Paddy  0.8  0.5  0.3
 

3.2 Impact of the civil strife

In the short term, the civil strife had three effects, on: i) food production; ii) purchasing power in urban centres; and iii) food prices. In the medium-term, population displacements may have disruptive effects on rural communities.
 

3.2.1 Food production

The impact on food production seems to have been limited. Production of roots and tubers, bananas/plantains and pulses did not suffer to a great extent from the civil strife. Cereal and pulse production has been affected to the extent that seeds were used for human consumption upon the arrival of displaced people in the rural areas. In addition, soil preparation activities for the first planting season (September-October) were hampered by the prevailing insecurity in many production areas. With the arrival of displaced people, cassava may have been over-harvested in some areas of concentration of displaced persons. As a compensation, however, the latter provided a pool of extra labour in their home villages that contributed to agricultural activities, which in turn may lead to additional production in the second half of 1998. Livestock, particularly sheep, goats and poultry have been much more affected by the civil war than crop production. This should have a negative effect on meat production, estimated to be around 5 000 tonnes in a normal year. In addition, in January 1998, flooding damaged crops and housing in the Cuvette and Likouala regions. According to preliminary estimates by CICR, up to 792 households in 71 villages are said to have suffered crop damage due to floods. Fishing activities have been disrupted by insecurity, destruction of equipment and the lack of access to markets. On the whole, however, it is estimated that the main food staple, cassava, has suffered only limited losses.
 

3.2.2 Purchasing power in urban centres

A second impact of the civil strife relates to the access to food by urban dwellers, particularly in Brazzaville, who lost their jobs with the destruction of the city's business centre. This drop in purchasing power will reduce access to imported food products which provide up to 50 percent of their food needs. It may also have a negative impact on the marketing of local products.
 

3.2.3 Food prices

It can be observed from Table 3 that prices of staple foods rose sharply during the civil strife. A survey of Brazzaville markets in December 1997 revealed that prices were still high even after the civil strife had ended. As of late January, it appears that prices tended to decline, but they are likely to stay high for next few months. This is not because of a fall in food production, but because of the higher marketing costs due to the destruction of transport vehicles, higher costs of fuel, continuing insecurity in certain production areas and a deteriorating feeder road system.
 

Table 3: Republic of Congo : Prices of selected food crops in three markets of Brazzaville, (Bifouiti, Ouenze, Kintele), 1997 (in CFA Francs/Kg).
 
Product 
May 1997 
(before the events) 
September 1997 
(during the events) 
December 1997 
(after the events) 
Change Dec. 97 over May 97(%)
Cassava (Tchikwangue)  242  580  465  192
Bananas/Plantains  527  883  697  132
Wheat flour  327  507  523  160
Rice  273  380  387  142
Fish (Congo river)  1 425  1 958  1 738  122
Powder milk  2 600  3 958  3 277  126
Beans  917  1 945  1 195  130
 

These high food prices may prevail for most of 1998, and it may take time before the situation returns to normal. High food prices may result in nutritional problems if they persist for too long.

3.3 Production prospects for 1998

It is forecast that agricultural production in 1998 will be slightly lower than in 1997. The Ministry of Agriculture does not foresee a decrease in planted areas, except for maize and paddy, whose production is already insignificant.

Production of cassava is forecast to reach about 790 000 tonnes in 1998, a decrease of 5 000 tonnes when compared with 1997. Overall, root and tuber production should reach 807 000 tonnes, 3 000 tonnes less than in 1997. Bananas/plantains are anticipated to remain at their 1997 production level. Groundnut production is expected to reach a higher level in 1998 because of well distributed rainfall in the main producing areas (Bouenza and Lekoumou). Production of maize is forecast to be as low as 2 000 tonnes in 1998, half its 1997 level and 40 percent its level of 1995.
 

Table 4: Republic of Congo: Production of Cassava by Region, Forecast for 1998
 
Regions 
Volume 
(thousand tonnes) 
Percentage 
share
Kouilou  38.7  4.9
Niari  86.9  11.0
Lekoumou  52.9  6.7
Bouenza  153.3  19.4
Pool  241.0  30.5
Plateaux  83.7  10.6
Cuvette  99.5  12.6
Sangha  12.2  1.5
Likouala  21.8  2.8
Total  790.0  100
 

4. REGIONAL ANALYSIS

4.1 Pool

This is the main region in terms of agricultural production. It accounts for 30 percent of the country’s annual cassava production. It also produces most of the vegetables marketed in Brazzaville. This region was directly affected by the displacements of population from Brazzaville during the civil strife. Vegetable production particularly suffered from the concentration of population and armed militia. Even if most of the IDPs have come back to Brazzaville or moved away to their home villages, it is estimated that around 50 000 people are still in the Pool region. Half of them are said to have engaged in agricultural activities and additional areas have been cultivated. As for cassava, by far the biggest crop, the displacements of population resulted in an early harvest. Production in 1998 is forecast to reach about the same level as for the last couple of years, about 241 000 tonnes.

Livestock has been hard hit by the civil strife. Its number is estimated to have dropped by more than 20 percent from 1996. Given that the Pool region has 44 percent of the national herd, this loss may also have medium-term effect on the production of meat.

4.2 Bouenza

Bouenza is the second largest producing region of cassava, with almost 20 percent of the national annual production. It is the largest for groundnuts and maize, accounting for 33 percent and 48 percent of national total respectively. The rural population has been increased by IDPs who returned to their home villages. It is reported that many have engaged in agriculture in order to survive. Much of the supply of maize seeds has been consumed following the arrival of IDPs.

Livestock, particularly sheep, goats and poultry, have been lost in large numbers, but cassava and groundnuts were not much affected. Cassava production in 1998 is forecast to reach about 153 000 tonnes. Subsistence fishing is on the rise.

4.3 Kouilou

This region encompasses the second largest city in the Republic of Congo: Pointe-Noire. Kouilou region was spared the ravages of the civil strife. Agricultural production and herding have been untouched. On the other hand, the region has received a major proportion of the IDPs, particularly the city of Pointe-Noire. It is estimated that up to 250 000 people moved to this city. The figure is now likely to be less than 100 000. The region is not a very important contributor to national food production. It represents only 5 percent of the national cassava production and less than 15 percent of the groundnut and maize output. In 1998, cassava production is forecast to be around 39 000 tonnes. Fishing is one of the main economic activities and provides a significant proportion of the food intake by the population.

4.4 Niari

This region contains 18 percent of the country’s planted area with 29 000 ha. The main food crops are cassava, bananas, groundnuts and beans. This is another region which has received a flow of IDPs, up to 80 000. Of those, 30 000 are said to have converged on Dolisie and the surrounding areas. Many displaced people from Brazzaville have engaged in agriculture. Some are said to be considering establishing themselves in the region as farmers. Cassava production for 1998 is forecast to reach the recent annual level of 87 000 tonnes.

4.5 Lekoumou

With 25 percent of the national groundnut production, Lekoumou is second to Bouenza. On the other hand, it is not a significant cassava-producing area, with only 7 percent of national production. For 1998, cassava production is estimated to reach 53 000 tonnes, close to the 1997 level. Fish farming is also an important activity in this region.

4.6 Plateaux

The Plateaux, along with the Cuvette region, is considered to be one of the best agricultural regions of the North. Cassava comes first with 11 percent of national production, but groundnuts, maize and beans are also cultivated. Potatoes and yams used to be produced as well, but degenerating seeds and the lack of road access to urban markets have adversely affected those crops. Djambala, Gamboma, Lekana and Ngo have received around 20 000 IDPs.

Small livestock and poultry suffered heavy losses during the civil strife. Fishing is well developed along the rivers, particularly in M’Pouya and Makotipoko. Cassava production in 1998 is forecast to reach 84 000 tonnes.

4.7 Cuvette

Cuvette is the third most important region in terms of cassava, with 13 percent of national production. Many villages have experienced massive arrivals of IDPs. Owando itself was the theatre of severe fighting and destruction. Up to 5 000 fled the town . Many of those refugees went to Oyo which, at some point, was inundated by IDPs (6 735) from Brazzaville as well. In the western part of the region, household plots are small and agriculture is more of a subsistence activity. Many of the IDPs have begun farming new lands which should lead to an improvement in food availability in this landlocked region.

Flooding affected four out of six districts in January 1998. Part of the cassava area will probably suffer from this flood. It is too soon to measure the consequences yet, but it is estimated that 790 families may have suffered housing and production damages caused by the flood.

Hunting and fishing are practised on a wide scale in the region. It is estimated that 87 percent of the population is engaged in fishing for subsistence and economic reasons. Cassava production, which occupies between 90 and 99 percent of cultivated areas, is forecast to reach 100 000 tonnes in 1998.

4.8 Sangha

Due to a low density of population, agriculture is based on shifting cultivation and practised mostly for subsistence. Planted areas are small. Plantain is the main crop. Cassava represents only 2 percent of the national production. Yields are low.

Ouesso was affected by the civil strife, with intense fighting occurring at a military camp near the town. The fighting caused the town's population to cross the Cameroon border to hide in the forest.

4.9 Likouala

This region has also experienced flooding to an extent that is not yet well known. Protein intake by the population is mainly from game meat. Cassava production is forecast to reach around 22 000 tonnes in 1998. Fishing is an important source of food for the population.



5. THE FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION

5.1 Marketing arrangements for major foodcrops

The share of the national food production that is marketed is very low. A long period of state monopoly of food crop marketing has hindered the development of the private sector. Liberalization of trade in agriculture is a recent development. In addition, income from oil, coupled with an overvalued CFA up to January 1994, favoured food imports. As of today, it is estimated that up to 40 percent of the country’s annual food supply, expressed in terms of cereal equivalent, comes from imports.

Food distribution is characterized by a road system that is in a dire condition and a scattered supply system dispersed over long distances. Pointe-Noire is supplied by the Niari and Lekoumou regions, while Brazzaville is supplied from three main areas of production:

The railway Congo-Ocean is the main artery bringing products from the south to Brazzaville and to Pointe-Noire, together with the RN1 road. The main entry points for food imports into the Republic of Congo are Pointe-Noire for European, West and South Africa products; and the port of Yoro and Main Bleue Beach for the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) products. The main food products imported through Pointe-Noire are wheat flour, salted and smoked fish and vegetable oil. These products are imported by a few big traders and passed along to wholesalers and retailers for secondary distribution. Cross-border trade with DRC is important and probably underestimated.

The civil strife has affected the marketing of food, both local and imported: i) it disrupted the rail transportation from Pointe-Noire to Brazzaville; ii) it hampered the movement of goods throughout the country because of security problems; iii) it reduced the number of transport vehicles; iv) it caused deterioration to the road system. The rail service is now back in operation, but the other constraints have yet to be completely removed.

5.2 Food supply/demand balance, 1998

The 1998 marketing year (January-December), takes into account the crops of the first season which were harvested in January 1998, but planted in 1997, and the crops of the second season (February-March/June-July 1998).

Carryover stocks of grains were low at the beginning of the year given the disruptions in imports during the second half of 1997. WFP had grain stocks of about 2 500 tonnes in Pointe-Noire at the time of the mission. The small reserves that may have been kept by the producers have been drawn down by the militia or the presence of IDP’s. The only significant reserves in the country are stocks of cassava kept in the soil. The size of these reserves is not known, so they were not taken into account in assessing the supply of food.

Estimates of food imports for 1998 differ according to source. From a macro-economic standpoint, there is no impediment to reaching a level of food imports that is comparable to recent years. Foreign currency is available and the CFA Franc's rate of exchange has been kept more or less steady. The problem may come from the lower purchasing power of the Brazzaville dwellers who were employed in the modern private sector prior to the civil strife. The mission has estimated that the level of food imports for 1998 would reach 80 percent of what it was for the period 1994-96 .

Food consumption requirements are calculated on the basis of actual consumption for the period 1994-96 of 30 kg of cereals per caput per year, 5 kg of pulses, 276 kg of roots and tubers and 26 kg of bananas/ plantains. These figures are somewhat lower than the calculations in some consumption surveys. That would tend to confirm that either national production and/or food imports may be underestimated. Feed use of grains has been estimated at 50 percent of maize production (itself negligible). Non-food use and losses of pulses and roots/tubers, as provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, are assumed to be 2 percent and those of bananas/plantains are estimated at 3 percent.

The population estimate used for the food balance is 3 124 000 people for the year 1998. It takes into account that most of the 90 000-100 000 people who had fled out of the country (to Kinshasa and Cameroon) are now back. This figure is the average of the estimated population for January 1998 and December 1998 (see Table 1).
 

Table 5:Republic of Congo: Food Supply/Demand Balance: 1998, Forecast (thousand tonnes)
 
Cereals  Pulses  Roots & Tubers  Bananas/Plantains
Domestic Availability  16  807  77
Opening Stocks1/  0
1998 Production  16  807  77
Total Utilization  100  16  879  83
Food use  94  16  862  81
Other uses/losses2/  .3  17  2
Closing stocks  0
Import requirement  95  72  6
(Cereal equivalent) 2/  95  21  2
Commercial imports3/  72  0
Deficit or Food aid requirement  23  21  2
 

The food deficit derived from the food balance amounts to 23 000 tonnes of cereals, 72 000 tonnes of roots and tubers and 6 000 tonnes of bananas/plantains. When roots and tubers, and bananas/plantains are converted into cereal equivalent, the total food deficit for 1998 is estimated at 46 000 tonnes.

The deficit can be met from the following sources:

5.3 Emergency food aid

Following the five-month civil strife that resulted in the displacement of an estimated 750 000 persons (of whom up to 650 000 came from Brazzaville alone), and in light of the needs assessment carried out by the Government, WFP and other institutions, a Letter of Understanding was signed on 20 November. This pledged WFP to provide 8 235 tonnes to assist 400 000 affected people over six months. As of 20 January 1998, a total of 1 433 tonnes had been distributed to 61 000 recipients in Pointe-Noire and the southern part of the country, and 670 tonnes to 54 300 in Brazzaville.

Distribution started in Pointe-Noire in October (before signature of the Letter of Understanding) and in November in Brazzaville. The recipients in Brazzaville included 51 000 IDPs and 3 312 vulnerable persons, comprising unaccompanied children, elderly people, lactating women and malnourished children in hospitals. It also included 2 500 Rwandan refugees in camps and about 2 000 Congolese returnees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. UNHCR put the number of returnees at 25 000, who will receive a three-month ration as a return package, of which two-thirds will be issued in Brazzaville.

While the first estimates put the number of potential recipients at 400 000, the caseload currently receiving WFP food is about 58 000 persons. This does not include the caseload in Pointe-Noire where the distribution was suspended in order to re-organize. Also, recent estimates and field visits in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire indicate the current caseload receiving WFP-donated food is far below the number of people requiring food assistance. In fact, a great number of IDPs who recently returned to Brazzaville to find their houses destroyed have yet to be listed as potential beneficiaries.

Despite the improvement in the security situation, it is still difficult to access some areas for food needs assessment. As a result, getting accurate figures on the caseload of IDPs remains a major concern. The situation has been aggravated by recent heavy rains and flooding, which have reportedly destroyed crops and houses in the north of the country, leaving thousands of people with very few resources to live on.

In view of the current situation, it is estimated that some 50 000 persons will still need assistance at the end of the current project. The overall objectives for this assistance will be to prevent suffering, and to provide sufficient assistance to enable internally displaced and conflict-affected persons to return to normal economic and social activities. It is assumed that the security situation will stabilize in about three months and most of the food will be used for reconstruction work. Starting in May 1998 (the current project will terminate on 20 April 1998), the recommended food aid intervention is as per the following table:
 

Table 6: Republic of Congo: WFP Three Months Planned Programme for 1998
 
Category 
Caseload  Food requirements 
(tonnes)
IDPs (living in sites) and vulnerable  50 000  2 430
Rwandan refugees 1/  8 000  1 706
Food-for-work  75 000  1 102
Total  133 000  5 238
 

Food can be brought into the country through the ocean port at Pointe-Noire, which has adequate facilities for the reception and storage of the quantities envisaged. A train connection is functional for transport of foodstuffs to the capital. For transport of the food from Pointe-Noire or Brazzaville to other locations, private transporters can be used, as the transport sector is in the process of recovering from the effects of the conflict.



6. IMMEDIATE REHABILITATION OF THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR

The conflict affected directly urban and peripheral areas and resulted in commercial stores being looted. Farmers on the outskirts lost their seeds, and thus the opportunity to grow vegetables and other food crops during the main planting season which began in August/September. Fishermen operating from the Brazzaville area were also affected and most of them lost their fishing gear and nets.

With the end of the conflict and the retreat of defeated paramilitary forces to the southern regions, farmers on the main roads were looted and lost assets such as cattle and small ruminants. The military intervention and the spreading of armed paramilitary forces over the regions of the Pool, Bouenza and Niari in the south and Sangha, Plateau and the basin in the north, prevented many farmers, particularly women, from going to the fields to plant the crops usually grown during the main season.

Furthermore, the displacement of between 250 000 and 340 000 persons in the rural areas all over the country stretched the resources of rural families to the limit. The displaced had to stay with relatives, friends or acquaintances and following spontaneous and continuous hospitality, the local population hosting IDPs was put under considerable pressure. Food, which was already short in supply, had to be shared among more people and many farmers were forced to consume their seeds.

The varied nature of the local farming systems based on extensive root and tuber crop farming in extraordinarily fertile conditions, the availability in most regions of forest food products, and the possibility of hunting and fishing saved the affected population from famine and a major humanitarian disaster. However, the consequences in the medium-term of this crisis on the production system should not be under-estimated and should no adequate corrective measures be taken in time in rural areas, the country may be faced with a dramatic increase of the already serious problem of exodus from rural areas, especially taking into account the future unskilled labour opportunities for the reconstruction of the devastated capital city.

For several reasons, it is likely that a large number of people will remain in rural areas; they will require immediate support for setting up farm activities. Of particular concern is the number of young paramilitaries who will not be admitted into the national armed forces and who could turn to banditry, plunging rural and urban areas into the chaos if an alternative enabling them to earn a living, is not offered to them.

Mention should also be made of the dramatic institutional collapse with the systematic looting of Government support services’ equipment, archives in Brazzaville and the urban centres mentioned above, which will without doubt, affect the Government’s capacity to lead the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction in the short term.

FAO is thus proposing the implementation of a relief and rehabilitation programme which should enable the country to pass the transition from the current emergency situation to full rehabilitation of the sector, taking into account development challenges ahead as clearly prioritised in the Rural Development Master Plan prepared by the Government and presented in 1996 to the international community at a donors’ round table.

The top priority is to provide those directly affected economically with basic seed and hand tools to resume their production activities. The same approach applies to fishermen of Brazzaville who lost their equipment and gear.

Once farmers and fishermen, the most affected economically, have been assisted, some programmes which will have some positive impact on the agriculture, livestock and fisheries development should be launched urgently. This would help to mitigate the impact of the crisis and support the settlement of the population in rural areas; this would include support to seed multiplication activities, restocking with poultry and small ruminants, rehabilitation of animal feed, artisanal production, urgent rehabilitation of the fish industry and support to farmers’ organisations with the provision of small-scale agro-processing equipment.

Finally, the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to take the lead in the sector and to co-ordinate the interventions for the recovery of agriculture should be rebuilt.

To address the priorities mentioned above FAO has prepared seven project profiles for immediate funding for a total amount of US$ 3 903 500 which will be included in the 1998 UN Consolidated Interagency Appeal under preparation.
 

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required. 
Abdur Rashid 
Chief, GIEWS FAO 
Telex 610181 FAO I 
Fax: 0039-6-5705-4495
E-mail:GIEWS1@FAO.ORG 
Mr. Ismat Fahmi 
Section Chief, OSA/2, WFP 
Telex: 626675 WFP 1 
Fax: 0039-6-6513-2839
E-Mail: Ismat.Fahmi@WFP.ORG

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