The food outlook for sub-Saharan Africa in 2002 is generally mixed. In eastern and western Africa better cereal harvests have improved the overall food outlook, while in southern Africa the outlook is bleak due to a sharp drop in the 2001 maize harvests coupled with anticipated falls in this year's cereal production in nearly all the countries of the sub-region.
The tight food supply situation in most countries of southern Africa, following sharp falls in cereal production in 2001 due to prolonged dry spells, floods and disruption of farming activities, is set to deteriorate with the anticipated fall in cereal production for the second year running. In February 2002, FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System issued a Special Alert warning of impending serious food shortages threatening the lives of some 4 million people in the sub-region.
In Zimbabwe, the food supply situation is extremely tight as a result of the poor cereal harvest last year, delays in importing maize and the general economic and financial crisis prevailing in the country. Against Government plans since November 2001 to import 200 000 tonnes of maize, only 80 000 tonnes had arrived in the country by late March, mainly due to the country's severe shortage of foreign exchange. The Government has appealed for international food assistance. WFP has pledged close to US$60 million to provide 94 000 tonnes of cereals to some 558 000 rural and urban people facing acute food shortages until November 2002. However, by late March pledges covered 30 percent of the requirement and only 5 000 tonnes had arrived to the country.
The outlook for the country's food security is bleak. The 2002 maize harvest is expected to be poor as last year due to reduced plantings and severe dry weather. The depletion of official maize reserves and the continuing deterioration of the economic situation point to a looming food security crisis in 2002/03. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is scheduled to visit the country from 23 April to 11 May 2002 to assess the food situation and estimate food import requirements, including food aid needs, for 2002/03 marketing year (April/March).
In Malawi, the Government has declared a state of emergency in the country and has appealed to the international community for food assistance to avert famine. This is the result of a poor harvest in 2001, the depletion of the strategic grain reserve and late planning of maize imports. Deaths by starvation and acute nutritional problems have been reported. Against planned maize imports by the Government of 150 000 tonnes only 83 000 tonnes had arrived in the country by the end of March, mainly due to transport constraints. Prices of maize have increased several fold, curtailing access to food for large sections of the population. WFP is distributing relief food to the most affected households.
Prospects for this year's cereal harvest have deteriorated following a prolonged dry spell, with maize production likely to be reduced for the second consecutive year. Widespread consumption of maize in green form due to severe hunger will also reduce domestic maize supply in 2002/03 marketing year (April/March). An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission will visit the country from 22 April to 10 May 2002 for the same purpose as for Zimbabwe.
In Zambia, the food supply situation is also extremely tight as a result of a poor cereal crop last season and delays in importing maize. Out of planned imports of 150 000 tonnes of maize, only about 60 percent is expected to have arrived in the country by the end of April, the close of the current marketing year. Prices of maize meal are at extremely high levels, seriously restricting access to food for large sections of the population. The Government has appealed for international food assistance for 2 million people in districts declared to be in a state of emergency. WFP started relief food distribution in late January, and pledges until the end of March covered 60 percent of the requirement. However, only some 20 000 tonnes are expected to be distributed before the next harvest.
Prospects for this year's cereal harvest are poor. A prolonged dry spell in the southern parts since late January is reckoned to have seriously reduced yields over large growing areas. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is scheduled to visit the country from 6 to 24 May 2002.
In Mozambique, the food situation continues to be serious in the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane, where the 2001 cereal harvest was significantly reduced. Emergency food assistance is being provided to 172 000 vulnerable people in these provinces. Recent estimates indicate that as a result of a severe dry spell, 40 000 households have lost over 60 percent of the expected production. This will be the third consecutive reduced harvest for these provinces.
An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is scheduled to visit the country from 22 April to 10 May 2002.
In Lesotho, the food supply situation is also tight due to reduced cereal production in 2001 and commercial imports falling short of requirements. Food reserves are at a minimum and food shortages are being experienced by vulnerable households affected by last year's poor harvest. Relief agencies are distributing food to 36 000 most affected people. The situation is likely to worsen with the deterioration of prospects for the 2002 cereal harvest, following persistent heavy rains in recent months. Production is forecast to be below average for the third consecutive year. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is scheduled to visit the country from 25 April to 4 May 2002.
In Swaziland, prospects for this year's cereal harvest have deteriorated as a result of a severe mid-season dry spell that adversely affected yields. This would be the third consecutive year of a below-average harvest. The food supply situation is very tight, reflecting last year's poor harvest and imports falling short of requirements. The Government is providing some food relief to vulnerable households most affected by successive poor harvests. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is scheduled to visit the country from 15 to 24 April 2002.
Elsewhere in the sub-region, the food situation remains precarious in Angola, due to the long-running civil conflict, and in Namibia due to a reduced harvest last year. In Madagascar, marketing of food and non-food commodities is being adversely affected by the current political crisis. By contrast, prospects for the 2002 maize crop in South Africa, the largest producer and exporter in the sub-region, are favourable and production is anticipated to recover from last year's below average level.
Despite improved cereal harvests in 2001/02 in most parts of eastern Africa, the effects of recent devastating droughts and past or ongoing conflicts continue to undermine the food security of an estimated 11 million people.
In Eritrea, despite a strong recovery in grain production during in the 2001 main cropping season, the food situation of large numbers of people affected by the recent war with neighbouring Ethiopia and drought remains precarious. Overall, nearly 1.3 million people continue to depend on emergency food assistance. Continuing drought conditions in parts of Anseba, Debub, Northern Red Sea, and Southern Red Sea zones, are also cause for concern.
In Ethiopia, a bumper main season grain harvest late last year preceded by a favourable short rains ("belg") crop have significantly improved the food supply outlook for 2002. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in December 2001 forecast a main season ("meher") cereal and pulse harvest of 12.3 million tonnes, about 9 percent above the average for the previous five years. Consequently, cereal market prices have fallen sharply in main producing areas, resulting in severe financial difficulties for farmers. However, despite the satisfactory harvest, an estimated 5.2 million people face severe food shortages and need food assistance. Unseasonable migration of people and livestock is reported in the pastoral areas in the south-eastern parts due to persistent drought.
In Kenya, overall food supply has improved considerably following favourable rains in major cereal producing areas. However, a sharp decline in maize prices is negatively impacting on farmers' incomes. In northern and eastern areas, hopes of recovery for pastoralists from the effects of the recent devastating drought have once again been dashed by insufficient rains during the current season.
In Somalia, despite the recently harvested better than expected secondary ("Deyr") season cereal crop, up to 500 000 people are threatened by severe food shortages. Poor 2001 main ("Gu") season crops coupled with slow recovery from a succession of droughts in recent years and long-term effects of years of insecurity have undermined households' ability to withstand shocks. The continuing ban on livestock imports from eastern Africa by countries along the Arabian Peninsula has sharply reduced foreign exchange earnings and severely curtailed the country's import capacity.
In Sudan, food supply is generally adequate following a good 2001 main season cereal crop in both southern and northern parts of the country. Bumper harvests in central and north-eastern parts have led to a sharp decline in prices, adversely affecting farmers. By contrast, several zones in southern Sudan, particularly in Western and Eastern Eqatoria and Bahr el Ghazal, face severe food shortages mainly due to population displacement and insecurity. In addition, parts of Greater Darfur and Kordofan in western Sudan have suffered crop failures due to erratic rainfall. Large numbers of people in these areas are expected to depend on emergency food assistance until the next harvest.
In Tanzania, the food supply situation is generally stable. However, prices of maize continue to rise in the south due to increased, largely informal, exports to neighbouring countries (Malawi, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo) which are facing serious food shortages. Price increases are also observed in the east coast and northern parts due reduced "vuli" season harvests.
In Uganda, the overall food supply situation is favourable following recent good harvests and improved pastures. However, food difficulties persist in parts of Katakwi and Moroto Districts, due to localised drought conditions and/or insecurity.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, economic and agricultural activities continue to be disrupted by the persistent civil war and consequent population displacements. The food and nutritional situation of over 2 million internally displaced people, particularly in north-eastern parts, and of over 330 000 refugees from neighbouring countries, is cause for serious concern. It has been estimated that about 64 percent of the people in the eastern provinces are undernourished. Overall, poverty is reported to have reached very high levels, with 16 million people or one-third of the country's population estimated to be seriously food insecure. While access to government-controlled regions has improved as a result of simplification of procedures for international agencies, distribution of humanitarian assistance in rebel-held areas remains constrained by insecurity and violence.
In Burundi, the overall food situation has improved following a satisfactory 2002 first season harvest, particularly of non-cereal crops. This reflects a relatively better security situation in most of the country and generally favourable weather during the growing season. Prices of staples in the main provincial markets have declined significantly compared to their levels a year ago. However, production was constrained by insecurity in eastern provinces and parts of Bujumbura Rural.
Despite the peace agreement reached in mid-2000, the security situation remains volatile in these provinces. Heavy fighting between government forces and rebel groups in March resulted in the displacement of large numbers of people, and it is estimated that as many as 80 000 civilians have been displaced since January 2002.
In Rwanda, the overall food supply situation has improved significantly as a result of a one-third increase in the 2002 first season harvests. Markets are well supplied with food staples.
Food prices, which were at their lowest levels since 1994, declined further with the arrival of the new harvest into the markets last January and have since then stabilized. Nevertheless, despite the satisfactory food supply situation, many households remain food insecure, particularly in the provinces of Gikongoro, Butare and Gisenyi.
In the nine Sahelian countries, the 2001 aggregate cereal production has been estimated at a record 11.7 million tonnes, some 26 percent higher than in 2000 and about 20 percent above the average of the previous five years. Records crops were harvested in Burkina Faso, Gambia and Niger, while Chad, Mali and Senegal harvested above average crops. Production in Cape Verde was lower than in the previous year but above average. However, in early January, unseasonably heavy rains and cold weather affected parts of the sub-region, causing some loss of life and leaving thousands of people homeless, especially in Senegal and Mauritania.
Following the good harvests, the food outlook for 2002 is generally favourable. Households are expected to replenish their stocks, which had been depleted in some countries. However, access to food for some sections of the population may be difficult as above-normal grain prices have been reported in some countries due to flooding or drought. In Mauritania, a joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Mission in October 2001 estimated aggregate cereal production in 2001 at some 160 000 tonnes, lower than the previous year and below average. This decrease was mostly due to inadequate availability of irrigation water. The resulting tight food supply situation has been worsened by the unseasonably heavy rains and cold weather in January which affected the regions of Brakna, Trarza and Gorgol, causing casualties and leaving thousands of people homeless and more than 120 000 head of livestock dead. Prices of cereals, which were already higher than a year ago, have risen considerably in most local markets.
In Liberia, the 2001 paddy crop is estimated slightly above the 144 000 tonnes produced in the previous year, reflecting generally favourable weather. However, the general security situation has deteriorated in recent months compelling the Government to declare a state of emergency on 8 February 2002. About 60 000 IDPs have been reported around Monrovia and in Bong County nearby, while at least 12 000 Liberian refugees have been registered at the Sierra Leone border town of Jendema. With frequent eruptions of violence and resulting displacement of the farming population, Liberia will continue to depend on international food assistance for the foreseeable future. WFP is currently assisting 75 000 IDPs troughout the country.
In Sierra Leone, cereal production in 2001 has been estimated at 348 000 tonnes, higher than the previous year, reflecting increased plantings by returning refugees and farmers previously displaced, as well as improved conditions for the distribution of agricultural inputs. The security situation is reported to be relatively calm. Over 47 000 ex-combatants, including hundreds of child soldiers, have handed in their weapons, and on 18 January the President declared the end of the disarmament process. However, Sierra Leone will continue to depend on international food assistance for some time until full recovery in food production can be realized.
In Guinea, the overall food supply situation is favourable following satisfactory harvests in 2000 and 2001. Aggregate 2001 cereal production is officially estimated at 1 026 000 tonnes, slightly lower than in the previous year but above average. Markets are well supplied, except in the south-east where recurrent rebel incursions from Sierra Leone continue to disrupt agricultural activities. The presence of a large refugee population and the persistent instability in neighbouring countries have exacted a heavy toll on the country. Armed clashes in and around the country have resulted in increasing numbers of internally displaced people. A UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal was launched on 26 November 2001 to assist the country cope with the serious humanitarian situation.
Elsewhere in western Africa, the food supply situation is satisfactory, notwithstanding localized food deficits, such as in northern Ghana.
With improved cereal harvests in parts, cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2001/02 are expected to be lower than last year but still remain high. This reflects mainly the anticipated poor crop in southern Africa in 2002 coupled with last year's significantly reduced crop. GIEWS latest estimates of 2001 cereal production and 2001/02 import and food aid requirements are summarized in Table 1. Total food aid requirement is estimated at 1.7 million tonnes, about some 36 percent less than in 2000/01. Cereal food aid pledges for 2001/02, including those carried over from 2000/01, amount to 0.9 million tonnes of which 0.8 million tonnes have so far been delivered.
The serious food supply situation in several countries of southern Africa gives cause for serious concern. Food production is anticipated to decline for the second consecutive year, mainly due to adverse weather. In eastern Africa, despite improved food supply prospects, the effects of recent severe droughts, coupled with conflicts in parts, are still being felt, with nearly 11 million people in need of food assistance. Furthermore, civil strife continues to disrupt food production in Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan, necessitating food assistance for the affected populations.
Against this background, the attention of the international community is drawn to the following priority areas requiring action:
First, high priority should be given to food assistance for southern African countries facing a looming food crisis, particularly Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, but also Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Second, continued food assistance is needed for populations in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa affected by conflict and adverse weather, including Angola, Burundi, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.
Third, donors are urged to give priority to local purchases and triangular transactions wherever possible for their food aid programmes in sub-Saharan Africa in order to support domestic food production.