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.
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:
||Total population as of 1/6/97 1/||Total population as of 30/1/98 2/||Total population as of 30/12/98 3/|
|Total regions||(38%)1 131||1 365||1 273|
|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.
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.
|Roots & Tubers||806.5||807.0||810.3|
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.
(before the events)
(during the events)
(after the events)
|Change Dec. 97 over May 97(%)|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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
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).
|Cereals||Pulses||Roots & Tubers||Bananas/Plantains|
|(Cereal equivalent) 2/||95||0||21||2|
|Deficit or Food aid requirement||23||0||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:
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:
|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.
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.|
Chief, GIEWS FAO
Telex 610181 FAO I
|Mr. Ismat Fahmi
Section Chief, OSA/2, WFP
Telex: 626675 WFP 1
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