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Crisis in the Central African Republic
In the Central African Republic, 2.5 million people require immediate humanitarian assistance, and one in five is internally displaced. Consequently to the conflict, millions are at risk of a full-scale food and nutrition security crisis due to low production in 2013 coupled with a prevailing situation of chronic countrywide malnutrition, extreme poverty and inappropriate sanitation.
The results of the Multisectoral Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) undertaken by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its partners confirm that food reserves are almost non-existent. People are eating just one meal a day and communities report that livelihood assets have been lost - abandoned or looted.
The 8th round of Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) carried out in late April 2014 indicates that 45 percent of the rural population (1.7 million people) is food insecure; 26 percent has been classified as Crisis (phase 3) and 19 percent as Emergency (phase 4).
In a country where agriculture provides the main source of livelihoods and income, it is crucial to respond to the urgent needs of affected farmers, whose vulnerability continues to rise and whose livelihoods are increasingly at risk.
At the onset of the crisis, in order to better respond to the deteriorating humanitarian situation, FAO strengthened its team in the Central African Republic. A multidisciplinary team of experts has been deployed in Bangui and three suboffices have been opened in Bambari, Bossangoa and Bouar to serve the most affected areas of the country.
The Organization has already distributed seeds and tools for vegetable production to displaced people in camps in the outskirts of Bangui, enabling them to harvest in six to eight weeks. FAO has established strategic partnership with NGOs to distribute tools and 2 200 tonnes of seeds to assist more than 80 000 farming families for the current agriculture season (main cycle) in 14 of the 16 prefectures across the country. Each family is receiving 25 kg of crop seeds and two hoes which will allow the production of 500 kg of groundnuts, maize and rice, contributing to feed a family for around four months. Many families in need will not receive assistance for this planting season (by the beginning of July given the late rainy season). Nonetheless, FAO will support 40 000 additional households for a second cycle with tools, vegetable seeds and late planting crop seeds (sesame, sorghum and niebe).
FAO is working to revitalize the agricultural sector and increase farmers' abilities to cope with crises as part as longer-term support to the country. Furthermore, FAO has trained about 250 young professionals from the Ministry of Rural Dvelopment on general agriculture topics.
Livelihood support will be provided to the population immediately after the planting season to build resilience through activities that generate regular income before the first harvest and enable families to purchase food. Activities include cash transfers, short cycle vegetable, fishery and small livestock production, integration of savings and loans schemes for women's associations. FAO is also supporting the construction of small storage facilities, as a cash-for-work activity, with the double aim of reducing post harvest losses and provide income to farmers before the harvest. To revitalize local markets, FAO will also promote seed production; part of the seeds produced will then be bought and sold at local markets through seed fairs organized by NGOs.
The security situation in Bangui is volatile and not improving in the rest of the country. Attacks on convoys and looting of inputs have been reported. Insecurity represents the main challenge to relief operations. Nonetheless, pre-emptive measures have been taken to ensure timely delivery of agricultural inputs and distributions are taking place within the current planting season; all seeds are expected to be distributed to identified beneficiaries by the beginning of July 2014 for the main cycle.
Of the total funds requested by FAO under the Revised Strategic Response Plan (USD 45 million to support 150 000 farming families), FAO has received over USD 30.5 million; however, an additional USD 14.5 million is required to provide livelihood support to the population immediately after the agricultural season. The objective is to build resilience through asset diversification and activities that will generate regular income before the first harvest, enabling families to purchase food from the market.
As co-lead of the Food Security Cluster, FAO plays a crucial role in food security coordination, as well as needs assessment and analysis, thus enabling timely decision-making. Strategic partnership between FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) is essential in order to prevent duplications in the crisis response, ensure a greater impact of implemented projects and increase cost-efficiency of both agencies operating in the country. In fact, people benefiting from FAO's assistance also received food rations from WFP to reduce the risk that families will eat the seeds instead of planting them.