Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture

Report No 3 - 10 August 1998


Cape verdeGambieGuinea BissauMauritaniaMaliNigerChadSENEGALBKF

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


The rainy season is now well established in most countries of the Sahel. Following reduced rains in late June, precipitation remained generally widespread in July over most producing areas of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, becoming more abundant and reaching quite northern areas during the last dekad of July. By contrast, precipitation remained limited over Senegal and The Gambia and rains started only in late July in northern Senegal. In Mauritania, sufficient rains after mid-July permitted plantings in the main producing zones. Rains started in Cape Verde in late July. Rainfall decreased in Guinea-Bissau but remained widespread. The latest Meteosat satellite image for the early days of August indicates that clouds remain present over most producing areas of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger where precipitation should remain adequate. By contrast, rains remain more limited over Senegal and The Gambia.

Reflecting good rainfall in late July and early August, crops are generally developing satisfactorily in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. Cereals are emerging satisfactorily in Mauritania. In Senegal and The Gambia, crops are severely affected by reduced precipitation. Many plantings failed and improved rains are urgently needed to avoid extensive crop failure.

Grasshoppers are reported in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal. Grain-eating birds are also present in Mali and Senegal. Limited Desert Locusts activity is reported in Niger. Small-scale breeding is expected with the onset of the summer rains in southern Mauritania, northern Mali, Niger and Chad.




After eight weeks of fierce fighting between government of Guinea Bissau forces and army rebels, a truce negotiated by a contact group of Portuguese speaking nations was signed on Sunday 26 July. It called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, formal negotiations, a de-militarised zone around the strategically located town of Mansoa, north of Bissau, the deployment of peacekeeping troops from Portuguese speaking countries and the opening of corridors of humanitarian aid. Since then, the capital Bissau, largely deserted after weeks of heavy shelling, is reported to be quiet.

It has been estimated in late July that about 288,000 people, most of them from Bissau, were displaced in the country by the conflict and are in need of assistance. About 156,000 people were concentrated in urban areas of Bissau, Bolama and Prabis, and 134,000 camped in the countryside, mainly in the Bafata and Gabu regions.

This conflict occurred at the start of the growing season when crops need to be planted or transplanted (for rice). These agricultural activities were seriously disrupted. Insecurity disrupted also the distribution of inputs to farmers who, in many cases, consumed their seed stocks. As a result, food production is likely to fall substantially and the country will be faced by a serious food deficit during the next marketing year.

The World Food Programme (WFP) distributed some 2 800 tonnes of food through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), churches or NGOs. As of 4 August, about 500 tonnes of WFP food has been delivered to Bafata and Gabu from Guinea Conakry, and 25 tonnes from Senegal. Another 175 tonnes are en route from Senegal but heavy rain is reported to have delayed the WFP convoy. FAO is in the process of buying and dispatching of some 60 tonnes of seeds and 36 tonnes of fertilisers. An appeal for US$ 29 million has been issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on 10 July to provide aid to 350,000 displaced people in Guinea Bissau over the next six months. The FAO section of the appeal foresees assistance to 40 000 farm families in Gabu and Bafata region for a total amount of US$ 2 686 900. A UN Inter-agency assessment mission visited the country on 2 and 3 August.





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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