Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture
Report No 2 - 10 July 1998


Cape verdeGambieGuinea BissauMauritaniaMaliNigerChadSENEGALBKF

Sensitive Map of the Sahel countries
Click on one country or its name to consult the situation of this country


Following first rains in April in Burkina Faso, the extreme south of Chad, Mali and Niger, rains reached the east of Guinea-Bissau in mid-May and the extreme south-east of Senegal and the east of The Gambia in early June. First rains were also registered in several areas of southern Mauritania. Elsewhere, in Cape Verde, northern Senegal and eastern Niger, seasonably dry conditions continue to prevail. The latest Meteosat satellite image for the early days of July indicates that clouds remain present over most producing areas of Mali, Burkina Faso, western Niger and southern Chad but dry conditions persist in northern Senegal, eastern Niger and most parts of Mauritania.

Land preparation and planting are progressing following the onset of the rains. Crops are generally emerging satisfactorily in Mali, Burkina Faso, western Niger and southern Chad. Rainfall decreased in late June in Burkina Faso but soil moisture reserves are generally adequate.

Grasshoppers are reported in Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger. Limited Desert Locusts activity is reported in Mali. Small-scale breeding is expected to commence with the onset of the summer rains in southern Mauritania, northern Mali and Niger.




Since 7 June, despite on-going international efforts at mediation, fighting continues between rebel armed forces and troops loyal to the elected government of President Joao Bernardo Vieira. It recently spread out from the capital Bissau to other towns, notably Mansoa. 

About 400 000 people, or about 80 percent of the capitalís population, have fled their homes towards the north-eastern regions of Cacheu and Biombo, the Quinara region, coastal islands or to neighbouring Senegal and Guinea Conakry. About 3 000 foreigners, including staff of the UN, diplomatic missions, humanitarian agencies and international NGOs, have been evacuated. Infrastructures have been severely damaged. 

This conflict occurs at the start of the growing season when crops need to be planted or transplanted. If fighting continues and spreads into rural areas, these agricultural activities will be seriously disrupted. Insecurity has also impeded the distribution of inputs to farmers. As a result, food production is likely to fall in 1998 and the food supply situation could be very difficult in 1998/99. There is already growing concern about food and water availability in towns and other locations, which have received large numbers of people. The arrival of the displaced has put pressure on food supplies for both the displaced and the local inhabitants. Current local food stocks are not sufficient and normal food supply channels have been disrupted. In addition, with the rainy season underway, there is a real risk of cholera and malaria epidemics. 

Guinea-Bissau normally imports about 40 percent of its cereal consumption requirement, almost totally through the Bissau seaport. Thus, insecurity and fighting are bound to cause severe food shortages in the capital and its vicinity. Before the crisis, FAO estimated the cereal import requirement for the 1997/98 marketing year (November/October) at 76 000 tonnes, but it is unlikely that this volume can be achieved if insecurity persists. Wider effects may include reduced cereal supply in southern Senegal as substantial quantities of locally produced or imported rice are usually exported there. 

World Food Programme (WFP) has left about 2 700 metric tons of food in Bissau and authorized the ICRC to distribute up to 450 tons of this food through churches or NGOs. At least 30 tons have been distributed so far, mainly in Bissau, Prabis and the Bijagos islands. Churches have been active in distributing drinking water and rice, but food stocks are running out and fuel supplies are a problem. ICRC reports that distribution has been slow due to shelling and problems with trucking capacity. WFP is in the process of preparing an Emergency Operation for 350 000 people, including displaced persons in Guinea Bissau and refugees in the neighbouring countries of Gambia and Senegal. A UN Inter-agency assessment mission recently visited the country. 





In these reports, reference will be made to four different eco-climatic zones based on the average annual precipitation and agricultural features, i.e. Sahelian zone, Sudano-Sahelian zone, Sudanian zone and Guinean zone. They are shown in the map and described below:

Sahelian zone: Where average annual precipitation ranges between 250 and 500 mm. This zone is at the limit of perennial vegetation. In parts where precipitation is less than 350 mm, only pastures and occasional short-cycle drought-resistant cereal crops are grown; all cropping in this zone is subject to high risk.

Sudano-Sahelian zone: Where average annual precipitation ranges from 500 to 900 mm. In those parts of this zone where precipitation is less than 700 mm, mostly crops with a short growing cycle of 90 days are generally cultivated predominantly sorghum and millet.

Sudanian zone: Where average annual precipitation ranges from 900 to 1 100 mm. In this zone, most cereal crops have a growing cycle of 120 days or more. Most cereals, notably maize, root and cash crops are grown in this zone.

Guinean zone: Where average annual precipitation exceeds 1 100 mm. Guinea-Bissau and a small area of southern Burkina Faso belong to this zone, more suited to root crop cultivation.

Reference will also be made to the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), also known by its trace on the earth's surface, called the Intertropical Front. The ITCZ is a quasi-permanent zone between two air masses separating the northern and southern hemisphere trade winds. The ITCZ moves north and south of the equator and usually reaches its most northerly position in July. Its position defines the northern limits of possible precipitation in the Sahel; rain-bearing clouds are generally situated 150-200 km south of the Intertropical Front.

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