FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report No.2, August 1999 4

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A severe drought, persistent civil strife, insecurity and pest outbreaks have seriously undermined food production in several parts of sub-Saharan Africa. In eastern Africa, Somalia faces a grim food outlook as result of the failure of the main "gu" season, and an escalation of factional fighting. Similarly, the failure of the "belg" season in Ethiopia has drastically increased the number of people in need of food assistance. In southern Africa, the food outlook in Angola is very bleak, as a result of intensified civil conflict. In the Great Lakes, civil strife, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, continues to displace large numbers of people displaced and to disrupt farming activities.


In Somalia, a serious food crisis prevails. The cumulative effects of adverse weather, the long-running civil war and uncontrolled crop pests and diseases have precipitated famine conditions in the country, particularly in the southern regions. The current main "Gu" season has largely failed due to erratic and insufficient rains, armyworm outbreaks, and unusually high temperatures. Intensified inter-factional fighting has compounded the problem. The failure of the current crop follows six consecutive poor harvests since 1996, resulting from droughts and the unprecedented floods of early 1998 associated with the El Niño phenomenon.

The food outlook for 1999 and beyond is extremely grim. Water levels in the Shabelle River are reported to be below normal, reflecting below-average precipitation and reducing irrigation possibilities. An outbreak of armyworms has been reported in Lower and Middle Juba, Lower Shebelle, Bakool and Hiran regions. Traditional coping strategies for most households have been virtually exhausted, while commercial and economic activities have been severely curtailed by factional fighting and insecurity, forcing large numbers of people to move in search of food and safety. Cereal prices are on the increase while prices of livestock continue to fall. It is estimated that more than 1 million people face serious food shortages, with over 400 000 at risk of starvation.

For the 1998/99 marketing year (August/July) total food aid requirements were estimated by FAO at 125 000 tonnes, including about 52 000 tonnes of emergency food aid. As of early July, only a quarter of the emergency food aid need had been delivered. With the failure of the main season, however, continued large scale food assistance will be required well into 2000. Most households will also need seeds and other inputs for planting during the next growing season.

In Ethiopia, the 1999 "Belg" crop, normally harvested from June, has largely failed due to inadequate rainfall. The magnitude of food shortages in the country has, therefore, increased in terms of numbers and areas affected. The worst hit area is the north-western Amhara Region, where some 2 million people face severe food shortages. The Government has recently appealed for 425 000 tonnes of food aid for an estimated 5.3 million vulnerable people, including those affected by the failure of the Belg season, as well as 385 000 internally displaced people due to the ongoing conflict with Eritrea. Despite some rains in recent months, the southern and eastern pastoral areas are yet to recover from consecutive years of drought and the shortages of water. An Emergency Operation worth US$40.5 million to provide food assistance to 1.2 million people was jointly approved by FAO and WFP on 31 May 1999.

Early prospects for the 1999 "Meher" season crops are uncertain, despite beneficial rains in June and July. Inadequate rains in April and May delayed land preparation and planting of long-cycle crops in some parts of the country. Furthermore, about 350 000 hectares have so far been treated for armyworm infestations but the extent of crop damage is not yet known.

In Tanzania, recent official reports indicate that there are serious localised crop failures in several regions, particularly in Shinyanga Region, where cash and food crop production is anticipated to fall by as much as 40 percent from last year's. Preliminary estimates indicate total cereal production (maize, rice, wheat, sorghum and millet) in 1999 at 3.76 million tonnes, about 9 percent below last year's output due to erratic rains, reduced use of improved seeds and fertilisers and an outbreak of armyworms. However, prospects for non-cereal crops (pulses, potatoes, cassava and plantains) are reported to be satisfactory.

With the onset of the dry season in central and northern parts of the country, the outlook for pastoralists is unfavourable due to reduced pasture and water supplies. In Dodoma and Singida Regions, where many households have been receiving food assistance since October 1998, the food supply situation has improved with the new harvest. Nationally, maize prices have declined since April with the harvest and arrival of cereal imports, but still remain much higher than at the same time last year. The Government is building up stocks, with import plans of 175 000 tonnes, of which 50 000 tonnes have already arrived.

In Eritrea, despite a satisfactory harvest in 1998, the food situation is very tight for the displaced people from the areas of conflict with neighbouring Ethiopia. Farmers displaced from border areas of Gash-Barka and Debub will not be able to grow crops in the current season, exacerbating the food supply problem. Under an Emergency Operation jointly approved by FAO and WFP in April 1999, food assistance will be provided to 268 000 people most affected by the war, including 21 500 deportees from Ethiopia, for a period of nine months.

Planting of 1999 crops is underway. Early prospects are uncertain following below average rainfall in June in most parts of the country. First season rains from March to May were erratic and inadequate. An outbreak of army worm was reported in late June in some parts of the country, with Anseba province particularly affected. Control measures are underway, but a further spread is forecast.

In Kenya, the 1999 main season maize crop has been affected by erratic rains, inadequate agricultural input supply and armyworm infestation in some parts. Preliminary official estimates indicate a maize output of about 1.95 million tonnes compared to 2.44 million tonnes last year and 2.5 million tonnes average over the previous five years. Significant output reductions are reported for the Eastern, Central and Rift Valley Provinces.

The food supply situation is critical in the northern and north-eastern pastoral districts where rainfall for the current season has been too erratic and insufficient for adequate pasture and water supplies until the next rains in October. Severe food shortages are also reported in parts of Central and Eastern provinces. The Government has provided about 4 000 tonnes of relief food to vulnerable households in Eastern Province and the pastoral districts. The situation is likely to deteriorate in the coming months with the depletion of food stocks and, therefore, further food assistance will be needed for the affected population.

In southern Sudan, intensified civil strife, particularly in Bahr El Ghazal, and a recent influx of returnees which coincided with the lean period, has aggravated an already precarious food supply situation. However, crop growing conditions are favourable so far due to abundant rainfall in May and June. Pasture conditions are reported to be satisfactory in most regions, especially in the Upper Nile State which was flooded last year.

Elsewhere in the Sudan, planting of 1999 main season crops is in progress. Early prospects have improved with good rains in July.

In Uganda, the western parts of the country are reportedly facing food shortages due to a prolonged drought which has affected crop production and livestock. More than half a million farmers are in need of urgent assistance. Thousands more are reported to be moving to northern Tanzania in search of water and pasture. The worst hit counties are Nyabushozi, Kashari and Ibanda in Mbarara District, and Ruhinda and Ruhaama in Bushenyi and Ntungamo districts respectively. Food difficulties also persist in northern and western areas, where large numbers of people are continuously displaced by insurgency.

Elsewhere, the outlook for the 1999 main season crops is generally favourable. In the Lake Victoria basin and the Eastern Region, a normal harvest is anticipated, despite dry weather in late May and June. In the north, where the rainy season extends through November, crop conditions are reported to be normal. Crop production is expected to increase in Kitgum and Gulu due to abundant rainfall, availability of inputs and improved security that allowed increased access to cultivable land.


Despite favourable climatic conditions during the 1998/99 main growing season, serious food difficulties are being experienced in Angola, reflecting the escalation of the civil war since December last year. Emergency food assistance is urgently needed for about 1 million newly displaced people by renewed hostilities. Constant population movements prevented normal agricultural activities and resulted in reduced harvests even for settled farmers. The food situation gives cause for serious concern in the provincial capitals and municipalities which are accommodating huge numbers of IDPs but have become virtually isolated as a result of the closure of most roads. Food prices are on the increase in these urban areas and the situation is expected to deteriorate in the coming months. Costly air transport of emergency relief food distribution is now the only alternative for most cities.

An Emergency Operation for 180 000 tonnes of food worth US$38 million was jointly approved by the FAO Director-General and the Executive Director of WFP on 14 June 1999 for 798 000 people.

Elsewhere in southern Africa, the food supply situation is anticipated to tighten in several countries where erratic rainfall resulted in reduced cereal harvests. In South Africa production declined below last year's reduced crop, while in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe, estimated cereal outputs are below average for the second consecutive year. However, the overall food position is forecast to remain stable, reflecting the import capacity of these countries.



A recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Angola found that renewed fighting in late 1998 had resulted in large-scale population displacement in the rural areas estimated at 1 million people, increasing the total number to 1.7 million, with more expected. This had adversely affected food production, despite very favourable crop growing conditions.

Hostilities were being experienced in virtually all provinces but the areas worst affected were the main maize growing central provinces. The escalation of violence and most of the displacement occurred in December, when planting operations had been completed or were well advanced. Although overall planting reductions were not dramatic, significantly reduced yields were expected in many areas due to abandonment of fields. Even for settled farmers yields were reduced in areas where fighting has been intense. In particular, in the provinces of Bie, Huambo, Malange, eastern Kuanza Sul, north-eastern Moxico and northern Huila, constant population movements prevented normal agricultural activities.

The Mission forecast the 1998/99 cereal production at 533 000 tonnes, which is 11 percent below last year's. Production of cassava, an important staple, was estimated to have declined slightly from last year, while bean production was estimated to have declined by 21 percent.

For the 1999/2000 marketing year (April/March), the Mission concluded that domestic cereal supply, estimated at 562 000 tonnes, would seriously fall short of national consumption requirements. Cereal import requirement was estimated at 505 000 tonnes compared to actual cereal imports of 420 000 tonnes in the previous marketing year. Of the estimated cereal import requirement, the Mission estimated that 325 000 tonnes would be imported commercially, leaving a deficit of 180 000 tonnes to be covered by food aid.

The renewed civil strife had further constrained the already inefficient marketing system. Transfer of surplus produce to deficit areas between and even within provinces is undertaken at high risk and cost, as is the distribution of other basic household necessities. This has resulted in large variations in commodity prices among provincial markets. At the time of the Mission, prices of maize ranged from 150 000 KZR/kg in Malange to 555 000 KZR/kg in Benguela. Similarly, in Huambo, prices were twice those in the adjacent Huila Province. Prices of basic staples are on the increase in urban areas also reflecting isolation of the cities in the interior of the country. The trend in prices in Huambo markets over the past 12 months indicated that prices of basic commodities have increased up to five times, well above the 1998 inflation rate. The rapid increase in prices is seriously affecting access to basic foods for a large segment of the population.

Displaced people are, in most cases, the most food insecure. However, the renewed conflict has had an adverse impact on the food security situation of the majority of the population. The total number of people in need of food assistance, as assessed by the mission, represents an increase of approximately 50 percent over 1998 estimates. In addition, there is need to allocate land for cultivation by IDPs and to provide the necessary agricultural inputs for the next season starting in October. Food distribution by surface transport is severely hampered by the conflict, making costly air transport the only alternative. Urgent additional logistical support is, therefore, needed to accelerate the distribution of humanitarian assistance.



In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it was hoped that the cease-fire agreement signed on 10 July in Lusaka would improve the security situation. But with the refusal of the rebel movements to sign the agreement, its effective implementation is in doubt.

Persistent fighting has caused substantial population displacement in various regions, with the number of IDPs currently estimated at 660 000. There are also an estimated 285 000 refugees from neighbouring countries (Angola, Sudan, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi). In Katanga province, in the south-east, military activities have forced thousands of people to abandon their homes and seek refuge in Lubumbashi, where limited assistance is available.

In both North and South Kivu province, reports indicate that some 240 000 families (1.2 million persons) have been affected by recent civil strife. Attacks on villages have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of refugees to Tanzania. In Kivu, the B-season crops have recently been harvested and production is expected to remain well below normal.

In Kinshasa, the food supply situation remains difficult. A recent nutritional survey indicated that almost 10 percent of Kinshasa's population are suffering from acute malnutrition compared to some 6 percent in 1998. As a result of increases in fuel prices, prices of basic food commodities have increased sharply, and insecurity and economic problems limit transportation of food to the capital.

In the Republic of Congo, renewed fighting in mid-May between Government forces and Ninja militia resulted in fresh population displacements within Brazzaville. It is estimated that at least 10 000 people have been displaced. Food distribution and marketing systems have been seriously disrupted and the health and nutritional situation of IDPs is reported to be serious.

In Burundi, the recently harvested 1999 B season crops were affected by a late start and early cessation of the rains, coupled with armyworm attacks. Most affected crops were pulses, which are estimated to have decreased by 22 percent from the same season last year. Cereal output declined by 10 percent. Production of other basic staples such as roots and tubers, bananas and plantains also decreased but only slightly and, overall, food production is estimated at 6 percent below the 1998B harvest.

The reduced grain output follows a below average harvest in first season early in the year. As a result the supply of cereals and pulses is anticipated to tighten in the coming months. Prices of beans are reported to be on the increase in Bujumbura markets from their already high levels. The suspension of the regional economic embargo in January this year has not yet stimulated a recovery in economic activities. Instead, a further devaluation of the national currency has resulted in increased prices of imported goods, worsening access of a large section of the population to basic food and non-food items.

The security situation has deteriorated in recent months with attacks on staff of humanitarian agencies working in the country. This has led to a temporary suspension of food aid distributions by WFP outside the capital city since early July. The number of displaced people still living in re-groupment camps is estimated at 543 000 people.

In Rwanda, the output of the recently harvested 1999B season crops is estimated to have declined compared to 1998B season, particularly cereals and beans. A delay in the start of the rainy season resulted in late plantings, which, combined with an early end of the rains led to yields reductions, particularly for cereals in high altitude areas. Food production has also been negatively affected in some areas by a shortage of agricultural inputs, mainly seeds. A final assessment of the season production is not yet available. Food prices which declined in the first half of the year have recently started to increase.

In the North-western prefectures of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri, as well as in parts of Kibuye and Gitarama, despite improved security conditions food production remains seriously constrained by large-scale population displacement.


In the Sahelian countries, the rainy season started generally on time and even early in southern Senegal, but after generally above normal rains in early to mid-May, rainfall decreased significantly from early to mid-June in the centre and east of the Sahel, particularly in Burkina Faso and Niger. However, widespread and above normal rains from late June over most producing areas of the Sahel compensated for the reduced precipitation in the first half of June.

Plantings are well underway. The dry spell in June in Burkina Faso and Niger delayed plantings and necessitated replanting in some areas. This could reduce production if rains do not continue late in the season. The Desert Locust situation remains calm so far.

In Sierra Leone, the signing of a peace agreement in early July between the government and the rebels is expected to lead to an improvement in the security situation, facilitating emergency and rehabilitation activities in the country. However, since the agricultural season is well underway, the beneficial impact of the peace agreement on 1999 crop output may be very limited. Current indications are that the output may not change significantly from last year's level despite favourable climatic conditions so far.

Food distributions are underway following the reopening of the main roads from Freetown, but are insufficient for the large number of displaced persons. Food shortages are reported in many areas of the country, notably in the north and east, and food prices are still extremely high. Humanitarian assessment missions are currently evaluating the needs in the areas that could not be entered before the cease fire. However, even in the event of a successful implementation of the peace agreements, the country will continue to rely heavily on food assistance for the next few years.

In Guinea-Bissau, the security situation has greatly improved and agricultural activities have resumed under favourable growing conditions. However, seed shortages are likely in some areas following 1998 below average harvest.

A CILSS/Government crop assessment mission in late April estimated aggregate 1998 cereal production at a below average 131 300 tonnes, including 87 200 tonnes of paddy and 44 100 tonnes of coarse grains. Guinea-Bissau normally imports about 40 percent of its cereal consumption requirement, almost totally through the Bissau seaport. The cereal import requirement for the 1998/99 marketing year (November/October) is estimated at 87 000 tonnes against 76 000 tonnes imported in 1997/98.

In Liberia, with favourable climatic conditions and improved security, crop prospects are better than last year. Rehabilitation activities and input distributions, as well as food assistance, have improved the food supply situation. However, the country continues to rely heavily on humanitarian food assistance.


The grim food supply situation in Somalia gives cause for serious concern; more than a million people are in need of urgent food assistance. In Ethiopia, the magnitude of people facing severe food shortages has increased due to the failure of the "Belg" season. The escalation of the civil conflict in Angola has resulted in large-scale population displacement, seriously disrupting food production. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the food supply situation remains precarious due to persistent insecurity and violence. In Sierra Leone, food supply difficulties persist, but the peace accord signed recently is expected to improve the situation.

Against this background, the attention of the international community is drawn to the following areas requiring assistance:

FAO/GIEWS - August 1999
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